At Age 38


The outhouse I don’t have to use, yippee!

Oct. 15, 1997
7 a.m.
Just listening to the kitchen chair scrape the floor for one full minute as Emil struggles to situate it perfectly so he can get into it. Sitting down in a chair is something he has to work at, not like the rest of us, who manoeuvre without thinking.
It’s an every-day, every-meal occurrence around here. My little boy works to do things for himself, he doesn’t complain, he rarely asks for help. He takes his time, eating, washing, dressing.
It hurts, although he’s not suffering. I wish life could be easier for him, that he didn’t have to work so damn hard at every little thing. It takes him so long.
Oct. 27
Emil went to school today, left his crutches at the door, and walked everywhere. People were shocked or surprised all over the place. When I went back to get him at 3:00, his aide told me he’d had quite a day: he walked past Grade 6 students in the hall and got them all excited; then teachers started coming to their doors to see what all the commotion was about; his Grade 2 teacher cried when she saw him; students were encouraging him everywhere he went; he was so happy and excited himself that he was squeaking and shrieking as he walked.
I get teary myself, watching this dream come true, but I am too overjoyed to cry.
Oct. 28
Called Mom to report on Emil’s day ‑ she was happy and excited too ‑ and to check on Grandma’s progress. Reta is staying at the hospital with her. She has been moved out of IC and into a regular ward, but has some pneumonia and is still exhausted, though up and around. Apparently she was too tired to talk when the doctor said to her, “Smile! You’re doing much better!” and Mom thought it was a good thing because if looks could kill, that doctor would have lain dying on the floor.
Nov. 19
Therapist evaluation says Emil’s receptive/expressive language disorder is severely delayed, at about level of age 4 yrs 9 months.
Passages. I should get that book, see if my anxieties are normal.
First, around age 30, I feared the unexpected could happen to anyone. Then around age 34 I feared anything could happen to my children, you never know when. Now, age 38, and I am not always certain I will even survive the night. Death can come anytime — if not by accident, then by something fucking up in my body. And my will has not been done properly — I worry that my boys might not be provided for the way I would like. Before age 29, or Emil’s birth, I don’t remember even realizing I or my loved ones were mortal beings.
I berate myself, as if I could do better, because I don’t read to Emil or play games with him or even sit in conversation. But maybe I am blaming myself for something that isn’t avoidable at present because Emil is always busy taking forever to dress, eat, wash, undress, brush his teeth; there is no time for much.
But no — Everett is fast, and I don’t often read or play with him either.
I kiss and hug often — I hope that basic expression of love will suffice, but I fear it is not enough — I need to show them that I like to do things with them, that I take pleasure in their company.
Trouble is, I don’t really.
Read to Emil, he giggles all the way through, steady, till I am annoyed and quit. He doesn’t hear the story anyway.
I don’t know what else to do. Play a game? He won’t learn how, or I don’t know how to teach him patiently.
Or I’m just not interested in playing games, especially at their level, though I think it would be good for us and our children to do something together besides just BE.
I have instigated Friday Movie Night again, and they like that — but it’s a passive togetherness, not what I have in mind.
Nov. 24
Helped Emil dress, so he is in the bathroom. I am waiting for him to come out before toasting his bagel; lately I’ve thought he was almost here, prepared his breakfast, and been pissed off when he hasn’t gotten to the kitchen before it’s cold. Always late and hurrying, because I’ve left him to dress by himself and it takes way too long. He needs to do that, and yet … .
Shelly called Friday morning inviting me for the night, so I took the boys and went. Stayed Sat. night, too. Temperatures are above freezing. Sat. was melty and we went out with the kids, made a fire in Shelly’s gazebo, roasted hot dogs and marshmallows, sat around till dark enough to turn on the Xmas lights around her yard. I told her how I’ve been feeling — the frustration with Emil, which has me close to exploding — she could see why, she said, and “I don’t know how you do it. I couldn’t.” Maybe she will think that all I do is bitch about my lot in life, but for now I just needed to get it OUT.
While I was there observing myself through Shelly’s eyes, I saw that it was the small things that angered me, frustrated me: watching Emil blow his nose ineptly over and over again so that his hands were snotty and his face red and raw; waiting for him to do anything or go anywhere; watching and listening to him eat; grunting and sweating while trying to force winter boots over his braces made me almost cry. I feel “I can’t stand it.”
But why are these small things getting to me so much now?
Like now — I’ve had to leave the table because seeing and hearing him chew annoys me. Maybe he can’t help it, but I have the urge to give him shit for it.
Told Gord last night when I came home – I feel this way, maybe I need to get away for a few days or something, I’m at the end of my rope.
His response: Get some more rope.
Nov 26
Everett’s beside me, pissed off because he can’t get married yet and have a wedding. And he asked me how babies are made (and I gave him an introductory explanation) because he is definite about wanting to be a poppa when he grows up.
Dec. 1
Mom and Dad came Sat. and left Sun. before noon. Dad admitted, after talking about moving to Armstrong, B.C., or other places in the Edmonton vicinity, that he could see where it would be nice to live close enough to be able to pop over for short visits — “but in the north, the mosquitoes!”
Mom said there is a town called Paradise and if they just move there, there’d never be a need to move again.
Everett got his 8×10 school picture yesterday and was excited enough to show it around the class (Janice told me) and then all around the cafe where I took the boys for lunch. “I`m handsome, right?”

Sat., Jan17, 1998
Emil ChickenBoy went to the fridge, not satisfied with toast for breakfast, and pulled out the plate of leftover chicken drumsticks from yesterday’s supper. I asked last night, “How many do you want?” and he said “Six” That kid loves chicken. I LOVE that kid, and yet I can be hugging and kissing him one moment, and the next be gnashing my teeth and growling at him for dawdling. How come I am so mean? Where is my patience, my acceptance? Where does the love GO in those moments, or is it just not enough?
This I want to think about, from The Accidental Tourist. “It occurred to him (not for the first time) that the world was divided sharply down the middle: Some lived careful lives and some lived careless lives [italics mine], and everything that happened could be explained by the difference between them.”
Feb. 10, 1998
After a week away, I am back home and should be in the kitchen making breakfast, snacks, Emil’s lunch. I should be in the bedroom helping Emil dress. I should be showering and dressing myself. At least I’m out of bed. Less than a day back and already I feel trapped. First it was having to wake up when I was still tired; then it was listening to Emil bang around in his bedroom and make his way into and out of the bathroom and back to the bedroom, all the while giggling this gibberish that annoys me so much. A week of rest and relaxation, without responsibilities, and here I am right back where I started. Already I’m afraid I can’t cope — and I HAVE TO.
Gord didn’t want to go back to work. He thought being at home and just having to get the boys to school and back was a cakewalk, a luxury. “You are a lucky person,” he said to me. He would not be able to understand why I feel burdened, why so ready to explode. I barely understand it myself.
March 1, 1998
Practising writing in the third person:
She was at Shelly’s on Friday and looking in the bathroom mirror when the sunlight from the big window in there lit up a whole sprinkling of silver hairs on the left side of her head, which she hadn’t noticed before. She was excited, like when she was pregnant and felt like her body was doing things without her … a mystery.
March 22
Read Bill Richardson’s Scorned and Beloved- Dead of Winter Meetings with Canadian Eccentrics.
Want to write to him and say, “Bill, you delight me!”

March 24
Eleven-year-old kid in Arkansas opened fire on a schoolyard and killed four girls today.
A cop in southern Alberta shot and killed a nine-year-old boy and his mother, who apparently fired on him first.
My friend asked, What does love mean?
To me it means respecting, being open and kind to, a person. Thinking the best of them, never the worst.
April 7, 1998
Just off the computer, where I’ve spent most of the past three hours. The journal is practically ignored because of the internet, so I was thinking of starting an online journal, and quite seriously, too. Slept on it — fitfully, that night — and woke with the clear question, “What would I want to do that for?”
Wonder how brother-in-law’s court case is turning out. Maybe the verdict is in by now. Tarot cards say he won’t go to jail, but I don’t really believe them and think I must be reading them wrong. If he goes to jail today, we’ll be keeping his dog.
Later that night: Tarot cards right again. He got off on a technicality.
Mom watching Emil: “It’s wonderful to see him walking.”
I’m still writing email letters every day. The novelty hasn’t worn off.
May 11, 1998
For many years I’ve periodically drawn up daily schedules for myself in order to try to fit in everything I want to do. I never managed to stick to them; I finally understood that it’s unrealistic to expect myself to do everything every day.

One time Mom and Dad came to visit us in the small town where we lived.
When I told Mom about my schedule, she said it was all for myself and nothing for anyone else, and I got pissed off, told her there was no reason that I shouldn’t take good care of myself, that my kids are healthy and happy and so is Gord, so I must be doing something right.
She said actually she thinks I’m a very good mother (“Your kids know what’s what”) and that Gord has to be treated the way I treat him, because of his own nature; she agrees with me and will stick up for me whenever anyone feels sorry for Gord and thinks he’s hard done by.
Also, in my anger, when she responded with a “WHAT. EVER.” at one point, I told her I thought it was rude and she’d been doing it rather often. After that she said it as a joke whenever I said anything. Kind of funny.
Later I told her, “I hope I haven’t hurt your feelings. I didn’t mean to,” and she said, “I didn’t mean to hurt yours, either.”
At supper that night we laughed about it.
“I told her not to be so sensitive!” Mom said.
“I told her not to be so rude!” I said.
Dad said, “You have to know when to keep your mouth shut, like I do.”
No you don’t,” I told him, and we all laughed some more.

May 21, 1998
Found myself tearing up while driving into St. Albert, listening to the radio. A veterinarian was talking about having to put a dairy cow to death and how the farmer who had worked alongside her for years, maybe since she was a calf, had hugged her, kissed her, talked to her and said goodbye.


4 thoughts on “At Age 38

  1. I am in awe of journal keepers, and savers. I’ve never done it, wouldn’t know where to start but I love reading yours and since I see her here, WWW’s musings about past days too.


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