Friday, January 29, 2010

Jason's Deli

I can't for the life of me figure out why I go there. Every time I do, I end up crying.

The day after I got to Houston, Amanda and I trekked out to do some window-shopping. We stopped at Jason's Deli for lunch--neither of us had ever eaten there, and we were FAMISHED. I had a muffaletta, which I'd loved so much at Central Grocery on our trip to NOLA, and we had a great day. An exhausting day, even for me--I can't imagine how much so for her.

And that was the last time we ever ate out at a restaurant together.

Sure, we hit the hotel restaurant on my last night, but that really wasn't eating out, not in the same way that actually leaving the building is. Just like eating at the rodeo really wasn't eating--anyway, you get the point.

So there's a Jason's Deli near work, and I stop there every once in a while for a quarter-muff. They're all decorated exactly the same, so just sitting down at the table transports me back instantly: Amanda sitting at my left, hot & tired from a 2+ mile walk on a very sunny day, us running our mouths trying desperately to avoid discussing her condition.

And as if that weren't enough to undo me every time, yesterday there was a family with a 18-month-old boy sitting near me. He was so cute from behind, with his little toddler mannerisms, and I realized that I'd blinked and missed my son's last couple of years. He's 4 now. How did that happen?

And the man behind me is telling his mother about what matters in life, that money is great and all, but that time is the most valuable asset. Time. How it slips away!

So there I was, trying not to get choked up about Amanda or my no-longer-toddler, when the little boy turned around and I realized he had Down's Syndrome. And I realized that I'd never seen a really young child with Down's, and how many challenges that little boy would face, and I couldn't handle it. I came completely unglued.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

10 and counting

I sat down to write this last night, but the phone rang and it was curtains. So it's a day late. Deal with it.

So Alastair's birthday weekend was 135% awesome. We didn't do everything we wanted to, but that means we have leftover activities for the next couple of weekends, so score!

I came home early Friday to open gifts and play with him, then we did dinner at the Olive Garden, where they sang to him. He opened more gifts at my dad's.

Saturday we did Special Breakfast at River City Diner, hit The Little Gym (it was Show Week, with awards and everything!), had a big birthday party at home, and ended the evening with dinner out with Kim Thies and her two daughters.

Sunday was Maymont, lunch at Crossroads, and bouncies. Bad-ass weekend for any toddler--I mean little boy.

But then came Monday, the 10-month-iversary of Amanda's death. It was an absolutely miserable day at work, and I didn't have any time to think about it. Only later in the evening did I have a moment to begin to reflect on this time of year, her, and what made us compatible.

Amanda and I are/were independent loners. We operated on the periphery of several social groups, but never became central to any. We both hated being the center of attention for too long and tended to withdraw whenever we got too far into any "scene". But for all of it, somehow our introversion did not manifest between us.*

We did not lead, we did not follow, but we forged our own path together, often taking us on wonderful adventures. Like our trip to Chicago. Nobody understood why in God's name we would choose to drive, but doing so put us--completely by accident--at Falling Water. Bonus! And we got to see the Blenko glass factory in West VA and a Lavender festival, which was a lot more fun than it would sound like. Similarly our decision to visit New Orleans in November was questioned by many as being curiously off-season, but the locals all lauded our choice as being the best time of year for the weather and small crowds.

Amanda and I both ardently refuse(d) to join any activity that's overwhelmingly popular, distrusting it as group-think, which has historically been associated with some very dangerous people and activities. We didn't touch Harry Potter. We both distrusted organized religion. We did not--with one exception--attend political rallies.

Our introversion did cost us, though. I got kicked out of a band for not going to Hooters with them (Hooters objectifies women. Period. And I will never step foot in one--I could give half a shit how good their wings may be.). At the government I avoided the parties as non-compensated forced socialization, often remaining at my desk where I could get some work done. Amanda refused--REFUSED--to go out with coworkers at night, not wanting to be ridiculed at work for her behavior outside of work.

In the months since her death, I've gotten pulled further into a few social circles than I've been comfortable with. It has taken real effort to withdraw, but keep the groups at arm's length. And now, for the first time in ages, I feel relatively comfortable again. Just involved enough to know what's going on, and just uninvolved enough to stay above the fray. And I feel like this stance is giving me the freedom to be me again. I like being me. I don't have to "man up" to the appropriate testosterone-level or soft-pedal my views.

But the really cool thing about being myself? When Judgment comes (in whatever form you want to believe), my hands will be clean. I try to live kindly and responsibly with everything I do. As Amanda did. As my son (hopefully) will.

Like Conan said in his final week on the Tonight Show: if you work hard and are kind, amazing things will happen.

*I see this same curious independence forming in Alastair. He likes being around other kids, and interacts with them, but doesn't really join in their play. He plays on the periphery, and doesn't need them to validate his actions. Hopefully this will translate into peer-pressure-resistance, as it did with both of his parents.

Friday, January 22, 2010

He's 4. Holy crap. HOLY CRAP!

Somehow my child has put 4 years behind him. And in that 4 years, so very much has happened.

I don't really need to rehash the last two years. They've been ugly and unpleasant. But through it all, the one constant has been my love for that boy. He's my angel, he's smart as a whip, and he converses like a little adult.

We've conquered some hurdles in the last 6 months that I'm pretty excited about, like the transition to underwear, his adoption of the letter "L", and math skills. He's learning all manner of awesome stuff, and successfully tied a pair of shoelaces for the first time yesterday.

And now he's 4! It just doesn't seem real. My baby boy, my ninja-attack monkey, is counting to 100 by 1's, 2's, 3's (ok to 99...), 5's, and 10's! This morning we had our first count-down from 10.

And this year, we are gonna blow it out of the water. 4 is gonna be awesome. By the time he turns 5, he's just gonna want to take a rest for a while. Beach, camping, hiking, racing, go-karts, gaming, preschool, amusement parks, all manner of awesome. We're gonna rock this bitch.

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Dear God

A Chipotle Receipt, as read by Alastair:

Dear God,
I love you. You made the earth. Please let mommy come back down to earth, because I love her. You are my best friend. Amen.