January 31, 2012
I’m starting a club. It’s kind of like the First Wives Club. But its called Women Who Throw Phones and you can only join if you have done at least 5 of the following:
- Thrown your cell phone across the room, picked it up and thrown it again
- Spoken to your children in an “exorcist voice” and later felt ashamed
- Cried so hard you’ve thrown up
- Experienced an actual hallucination from lack of sleep
- Missed your child so much when they are with a caregiver you spent all your “me time” crying
- Walked the dog, taken the children to school, done all the household chores and worked a full day–all with a fever of 102 or higher
- Caught your child’s vomit in your hands while driving
- Wanted to scratch out the eyes of any number of women who post this on Facebook: “Hubby is taking me for a much needed getaway this weekend. Beach and spa, here we come!!!!!!!”
- Been at a loss for words when a friend says, “I don’t know know how you do it! My husband went away for the weekend and I had to do everything myself!”
- Have built shelves, haggled with a mechanic, taught your son how to pee in the toilet, and received Father’s Day cards.
One time I went to a parenting class at my church. And as I sat there hearing advice that did not apply at all to single parent families or children with special needs I began to realize that I didn’t belong there. I needed to be able to talk with people who had problems bigger than Little Johnny Is Not Obeying His Parents or How To Carve Out More Time To Have Family Dinners Together. The subject of children’s anger came up and as people shared anxiously about the (relatively mild) scenarios they were dealing with I thought, “My God. I don’t think you would last one day with my child.”
One day my best friend Libby and I were at the beach with Rahul. He had just come through a particularly bad patch, and I spent the day telling her all the latest. It was pretty “life or death” and she is one of the few people on the planet who knows some of the most excruciating details. As we left the beach we passed a family bargaining with their toddler to let go of their beach towel because she was dragging it on the ground. Something like, “Betty, if you let go of Mommy’s towel you can hold the sand pail! Come on Betty, let go! Betty, do you want an ice cream? I’ll buy you one if you stop dragging the towel!” Libby and I rolled our eyes at each other I said, “I look at families like that and wonder how long they would last with my child.” She laughed and created a quick shorthand I have used many times since:
Less than two minutes. That’s how long they would last.
I am in Maine right now with one of my best friends and we are totally serious about starting our club. She is a widow with 3 young children and helped me create the above list from her own experiences. Her children are extraordinary–one is in the gifted and talented program, one has special needs and the third is an Indigo Child. She lost her own father when she was a young girl and is now helping her children navigate the same situation. She is the most amazing mother. Another friend who I asked to join our club is a divorced mother of three young children who recently had to sit at a court hearing and hear a judge tell her the upside of her new 50/50 custody agreement (which my friend had spent years fighting to prevent) is that “Mom will finally get some ‘me time’!” She is working 3 jobs and has to regularly hand her children over to a man who I wouldn’t let in the same state as my child.
We need each other. Every once in a while we need to be able to talk about our lives, say “You know what I mean?” and hear someone say, “Yes. Actually, I do.”
You know what I mean?
January 10, 2012
I moved to Riverdale (Bronx) about a month before I adopted Rahul. I had worked here and knew the neighborhood, but the month prior to Rahul’s arrival was chaotic to say the least, so I had no time to meet my neighbors or make friends.
When I went to India to get Rahul, my best friend Libby and my Dad came with me. It was an incredible trip and when it came time to move Rahul out of his orphanage and get him set to travel, he was incredibly distraught. Several thousand blog posts couldn’t accurately describe his anguish and my terror. I was beyond grateful that my Dad and Libby were there to help me. It was at the very least, a three person job to soothe Rahul and get him on the plane in a happy state of mind.
Rahul loved my Dad right off the bat. He felt comfortable with him and trusted him, so I asked my Dad to stick around my place for a few extra days after the rest of the family (visiting to welcome Rahul) left. When he finally packed up his bags to go, I snuck him out the door with vague directions to the train station (my mom had taken the car). We didn’t want Rahul to notice he had left –which, of course, was a terrible idea. I distracted Rahul and my Dad went out the door to fend for himself. He asked the first person he saw how to get to the train station (I think I had given him the number for a taxi service–what a terrible daughter I am!!!!). Thankfully, the first person he saw was someone who was to become one of the most cherished neighbors I have ever had. He introduced himself as Mr. Doyle and that is who he has always been to me, despite his many attempts to get me to call him Dennis. When my Dad asked him for directions, Mr. Doyle offered to drive him to the train. Now, in other cities, this may be a typical act of neighborly assistance, but in New York City–in the BRONX–not so much. My Dad was certainly blown away by this act of kindness, and he got a chance to tell me all about it a half hour later when I called him crying because Rahul was freaking out at his absence. I made my poor Dad get in a taxi and come all the way back to my place for a few more days. Those were some rough days. Thanks Buzz:)
Mr. Doyle quickly became a trusted friend and neighbor to me. I have always described him as a displaced beach bum, although he never lived on the beach. He wore shorts until the weather dipped below zero, was incredibly laid back and always seemed like he might be just a little bit drunk. He was one of those people who miraculously appeared to me whenever I was in need. When I was shoveling the snow off my car, he was there to lend me a hand. When I was late to pick up Rahul from school he happened to be driving by me and drove me to PS 24 in half the time it would have taken me to walk. He had jumper cables at the ready when my car’s battery petered out, and in fact, several days after charging up my Jeep, he knocked on my door to tell me he had just bought me a new battery and put it in my car for me!! When a tire was low, he’d knock on my door. When my radiator fluid was running low, he would appear, then disappear to “borrow” someone’s bottle of radiator fluid from our garage, then reappear and replenish my supply.
I am not an easy person to take care of. I have been on my own since I was 17 and am incredibly independent. Mr. Doyle knew this about me and I always felt he respected me for it, but at the same time, he was always looking out for me. He was often at the door of the building to open it when I had my arms full. I remember taking my dog out for a walk one day when Rahul was particularly struggling, running into Mr. Doyle and just crying and telling him my woes. Once, I came home to find that my lock had broken and needed to be replaced. I called a locksmith and settled in the lobby to wait for him. Lo and behold Mr. Doyle walked in the door and waited with me for the hour or so it took for the locksmith to come. On Christmas there would always be an S&S Cheesecake hanging on my door with a card signed “Mr. Doyle”.
I loved talking with Mr. Doyle–I called him the Mayor of Riverdale. He knew everybody’s story. Riverdale had seemed like a bland place until Mr. Doyle started telling me stories about some of the people here. I could name anyone in the neighborhood and he could tell me something about them. He was good-natured–all stories were told with a wink and a smile. His way of letting anything roll off his back helped me to let go of some frustrations I had with people.
And for all his knowledge of other people, he was a very private person. I never exactly knew what he did for a living, although I asked him outright several times. I invited him to every gathering I ever had at my house and he never came. I knew that he loved going to the races. He loved riding his bike all over creation. Nothing could make me happier than when he would quote Bible verses to me verbatum. He would pop them out at the least likely times, and despite the fact that he meant them in jest, they were actually very meaningful to me.
The last time I spent time with Mr. Doyle was when I was in my mad race to get to Disney this past August (see blog post on the subject). I went to him when I needed a ride to the dog kennel to drop Baby off. I knocked on his door, asked him for help, and his reply was, “What time do you you need me?” Of course he was there for me, and drove us through the Hurricane Irene flooding to get Baby to the kennel. I told him about my crazy plight over the weekend and he just laughed and quoted some Bible verse and sent me on my way.
Unbeknownst to me, a few days later he was diagnosed with an illness that took his life on December 16th. Our whole building reeled at the news. What he was to me, he also was to everyone else. He was a neighbor who didn’t just live in proximity to you–he also became a part of your life. He will always be a huge part of my story. A reminder that good, loving people still do exist. That everyone has a story. That its better to let trouble roll off your back. That there are needs all around, every day, and by meeting them, you can change someone’s life.