Not Forgotten

July 11, 2018

Not Forgotten

Me, in my backyard, lost deep in thought in some imaginary world…

“Where’s Robyn?” my mom asked, sounding a little frantic. I looked around for my sister. A while earlier, she had asked me to watch her as she did some yard work. Robyn and I were playing in the sandbox. Except now it was just me playing in the sandbox, lost deep in thought in some imaginary world, as usual. I looked up at my mom with a mixture of fear and guilt. Because I had lost track of her. I was 4 years old.

As my Mom’s eyes filled with fear and confusion we both heard a loud squeal. Her eyes widened in terror and she went tearing around to the front of the house, screaming. I looked down at the sand creation I was building and quietly set down my tools. I felt a pain in my stomach like a stone as I realized what a horrible sister I was. Slowly, I crept around to the front of the house, going around the opposite side than my mom had travelled. As I rounded the corner I could see Mom carrying my 2 year old sister in her arms. There was a huge truck stopped in front of our house and I came to realize that Robyn had been crawling across the street, completely unattended by her big sister, when this tractor trailer rounded the curve at the bottom of the hill in front of our house. It was going full speed when the driver hit the brakes because of the baby crawling across the street. My mom had arrived just as he was picking Robyn up and carrying her toward our house.

I stood, unnoticed, off to the side of the house, in the middle of the driveway. I watched as my mom gratefully carried Robyn into the house to tend to her and nurse her own guilt and fear. And I remember just standing in that spot staring at the ground for a long time. I didn’t cry. Or run to my mother. I just stood there. Realizing I had nearly caused my sister’s death. Rooted to the ground with guilt and shame and embarrassment, unable to move. I was hoping no one noticed me there, and I understood that I didn’t deserve comforting. My pain was self-inflicted and my mom and my sister were the ones who really needed tending to at that moment.

But also, I felt forgotten.

I think everyone has a baseline fear that drives and informs their life. Most likely it is shaped by some childhood experience or trauma. It might be the fear of being alone, or the fear of being rejected. My son’s baseline fear is not being believed. He experienced a terrible trauma as a child when he lived in an orphanage in India, and when he told the orphanage director about it, she didn’t believe him. Of all the traumas he has suffered, that is the one that affects everything he does: not being believed. He is honest to a fault and will turn on you with violence if you accuse him of lying.

My baseline fear is being forgotten. I only recently realized how much this fear paralyzes me.  One of the things I have loved most about being Rahul’s mom is our closeness. We share everything and have been through so much together. We have a really deep bond that has been created through trials and fighting and a lot of hard work and love. Our attachment to one another is well earned. And because of his special emotional needs, we have spent more time together than most families. Last winter, as Rahul and I were talking about what it will be like for him when he goes to college next year, I suddenly realized what it will be like for me when he goes to college next year. I realized that although he will most likely live at home for the first few years of college, everything is going to change. For the past 10 years I have completely built my life around him. I created my business based on his school schedule and special needs. I sacrificed nearly all of my social life to spend most of the time when I’m not working caring for his needs. I sleep half the amount I used to before I adopted him because he has trouble sleeping and because of the demands of my work. I have no money because his special needs drained all of my savings and investments when he was younger, and I’ve spent the last 8 years digging myself out of that financial hole.

Well, all of that is about to change for me. Which seems like it should be a good thing! I will be able to choose a different work scenario, where I can earn more money and receive benefits. I will sleep more! I will be able to socialize like I used to. But all I can think of is this sinking feeling of being forgotten. I picture this vague, depressing scenario where I’m home alone with my cat and everyone has forgotten about me and moved on with their exciting lives. (My beloved dog Baby Fish Mouth is very old and I anticipate that he won’t be around much longer than Rahul’s high school career.) And that no matter how much I push myself into my friends’ lives and continue to care for my my son’s needs, I won’t be woven into the fabric of anyone’s day anymore. I won’t be the first person anyone sees every morning and the last person anyone sees every night. I don’t fear being alone, I’ve always been comfortable being by myself. But I’m terrified that I will be alone because I’ve been forgotten.

I try to explain this fear to my friends and I realize it doesn’t make any sense. I have friends that are closer than family and will never leave me. My friend Libby started crying when I told her about this fear, because she would never forget me and has proven over and over how much she is willing to do to be there for me when I am in need. I recently went though something really heartbreaking and my friends came swooping in from all over the place to take care of me. Calling me from far away night after night to talk and pray for hours. Traveling long distances and leaving their families behind to come take me out to dinner or go on a picnic to get me out of the house and keep me talking. It was extraordinary and I felt very loved and taken care of. But with all of this proof of love and devotion, I’m still terrified.

It’s irrational, but the feeling I fear is the same one I felt when my sister was almost killed. I fear that other peoples’ needs are going to always be more important than mine. I fear that because I am so fiercely independent people will assume I can always take care of myself. I fear that because I’m not usually the one in the middle of dramatic situations, because I’m not particularly needy or a squeaky wheel, people will assume I don’t need their attention. I fear that because the things I need are simple and quiet: a hug every once in a while, a text or an invitation to let me know I’m on your mind, a visit for no other reason than to spend time together–that people will forget that these things make me feel loved and seen and valuable.

I’ve been avoiding all the things I should be doing to prepare Rahul for his college career. I can’t seem to get motivated to research scholarships or set up school appointments or make travel plans to visit schools. And the time has come. We have a lot to do this summer and I can’t delay any longer. Time marches on and I don’t want him to miss out.

So I am resolving to face my fear and to push through it. I am traveling back in time to visit that little girl standing in her driveway, scared and ashamed, and giving her a big hug. I’m looking her in the eyes and telling her it’s OK and that I see her pain. I’m reminding her that her family loves and cherishes her and that no one blames her for what happened. I’m walking her into the house to find her mother and ask for the comfort and reassurance that she needs and will surely be freely given.

And I’m convincing her that she is not forgotten.


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The Green Monster

November 16, 2010

Four years ago I bought my dream car.  Ever since I was little and I would see the neighbor’s yellow jeep whizzing down Thrall Road I loved Jeep Wranglers.  And when I bought it I had just said goodbye to my very boring Ford Something-or-Other car.  Does anyone else (besides my family) name their cars?  I’ve had a “Chuckie”, named after the Chuckie movies, because that car was a little possessed.  Then of course I had the famous “Putt-putt”.  I bought that car for $100 from a friend and it was a 20 year old Audi that had no working air/radio/odometer/radiator.  It made the putt-putt noise whenever I drove it.  That boring Ford was named Bruce.  I don’t know why–it just seemed like a Bruce.   (Sorry to Libby who’s Bruce is nothing close to boring!  If I’d known him then I would have name my car something else.  Like Bob.)

When Bruce died I was in a bit of a pickle because my job at Aveda required me to drive to salons every day and I was suddenly renting cars and taking long bus rides to the Hamptons to do my job.  I had a boss at the time who was, like, oh, How can I describe him?  Totally incompetent.  I tried to explain to him that when I had been hired, owning a car was not in my job description; over time I had inherited some accounts that I was able to take because I happened to have a car.  I was trying to argue that Aveda couldn’t force me to buy a car and instead should rent me a car twice a week.   He didn’t buy it.  He told me to go buy a Jetta.

Instead, I decided to buy a car that would make me happy.

I named it The Green Monster.  I was on a bit of a Red Sox kick at the time.  (My nephew Jack, who was 3 at the time and is a premium member of the Red Sox Nation was a bit scared of my car because it was a “monster”, but imagining the Green Monster running over Yankees in New York made him feel more comfortable around it.)  The Green Monster really makes me happy.  I LOVE driving it and my hearts swells every time I see it.  I paid it off before I adopted Rahul and when times have been lean I’ve thought of selling it, but I could never bring myself to do it.  And I was juuuuust saying 2 weeks ago that it has never given me a day of trouble.

Then it suddenly developed 5 separate and expensive problems, and it has spent the last week in the shop.  The repairs cost a large chunk of dough, but thanks to Don Glo Auto (if you need a mechanic in NYC, I highly recommend them) it was a much smaller chunk of dough than the first place was going to charge me.  When Rahul and I went to pick up TGM last night, I hugged the car when I saw it on the street and when I got in I scolded it and told it to never do that to me again.  I was so busy last week and my business revolves completely around my car (I’m a mobile hairdresser).  Sans car I was lugging about 30 pounds of hair stuff all over creation, and although I didn’t miss one appointment I was late for about 75% of them.  I was late coming home every night and I missed 3 church services.  And I was pooped.

Rahul on The Green Monster

This morning I had to take Rahul to the doctor, and although the office is right in our neighborhood, we usually drive there.  As we walked past the car, Rahul asked why we weren’t driving.  I told him I had learned the value of walking last week.  And I told him he needed to train for a race he’s running.  But I realized that in actuality I had some unresolved feelings toward TGM that were making me reluctant to drive it.  So this afternoon I took it for a spin and we made up.  It runs so much better now.

And I know its really sorry for inconveniencing me.

Hard Day

April 26, 2010

How can I describe this day?  I spent the day talking with doctors about my son.  Hallelujah, I finally found a psychiatrist who would see us urgently and who understands the particular issues we are dealing with.  It is harrowing to encapsulate my son’s life and experiences into a one hour session.  I’m so grateful I met with our therapist first.  He has been working with us (and I mean–In The Trenches) for 1 1/2 years and I didn’t have much good news to tell him today. The last 2 months have been really bad.  I really can’t go into details and also I don’t want to.  Its too private and too painful.  But believe me, it has been a struggle in just about every way you can imagine.  Prayerfully, this dr. I met with today will have some new solutions for us.  At the end of our very difficult session today, Bob, my therapist, told me something that stopped me in my tracks for a moment.  He has lots of experience in adoption issues and is an adoptive father himself so I feel like he really knows of what he speaks.  And he always has nice, encouraging words to me at the end our our session, and today as he was encouraging me, he said he didn’t think most families in our situation would have made it as far (meaning lasted as long) as ours.  In other words, most people in my situation would have disrupted the adoption or put their child in a facility.  Most people outside of the world of adoption probably think of those solutions as heartless, but to many of us, they are sometimes the best option for the child and the family at large.  I personally have never considered disruption (that’s when you work with your agency to “send the child back” to their orphanage or to a foster family) but I have no judgement for those that do (in a loving, careful way–not flying them back to Russia with a note).  Traumatized children are challenging in ways you literally cannot imagine.  And as a single mom, I bear the weight alone.  And man its heavy.  I’m exhausted.

But always hopeful.



Bang Your Head

April 9, 2010

Today I sat for a few hours in a mental health clinic in the Bronx.  And when I say, the Bronx, I don’t mean Riverdale, where I live, which is very middle class and almost suburban.  I mean The Bronx–the way most people picture all of the Bronx to be.  And it really made me examine myself.

I was there as another leg in a long journey to get my son the mental health assistance he needs.  I never imagined it would be so difficult to find decent doctors and counselors that help children with mental health issues.  I’ve been holding on to our psychiatrist for dear life for one and a half years, even though he sucks and never calls me back, simply because I cannot find anyone else!  I have called pages and pages of doctors, met with some that made me want to run out the door screaming, and gotten nowhere.  Finally, last week, one called me back.  And they take my insurance.  And they scheduled an appointment with me.  Already they’re 3 points ahead of everybody else.

I realized what type of clinic it was, but I didn’t think too much of it.  I was just grateful someone was willing to help me.  Honestly, I am a person who is pretty comfortable in almost any neighborhood.  People are people.  And the people I spent the morning with probably have more in common with me than the families in my neighborhood.  I am poor.  I am a single mom.  I am dealing with mental health issues in my home.  These are the things that bound me to my fellow patients today.  Most of the people registering for services today were referred through the court or through Child Services and didn’t necessarily want to be there–they had to be there.  They were agitated, talking to themselves, mumbling obscenities, and I had several moments where I thought–really, is this the best care I can get for us?  And I had to check myself.  Because I don’t really know anything about the care there yet.  I just registered today. I didn’t meet with a doctor or discuss a plan of action for my child.  The facility was clean and looked new and the staff was friendly and helpful.  My moments of doubt were based only on the other patients there and their socio-economic status.  I had to remind myself that just because I was not sitting in a beautiful, private waiting room in a non-descript office building in Manhattan with several other well dressed mid to upper class people who were waiting quietly reading The Economist did not mean I didn’t belong there just as much as everyone else.

Friends are great.  I love being able to just spill my guts to my friends and its so empowering to me to just have them share in my sadness, embarrassment, joy, etc.  I would say that over the past couple of years there are friends who have literally kept me sane and been an absolute lifeline.  Its so great to just have someone listen and empathize. I don’t feel like I always need them to actually SOLVE my problems, just be by my side as I go through the challenges.

But every once in a while I long for someone to swoop into my life and just magically make my problems disappear.

About a month ago, I interrupted a mouse who was speeding into my room on his way somewhere, and began the Plague of Mice (appropriate for Passover, no?).  Apparently they began fumigating the garbage room, which is right below our apartment, and all the mice were desperately seeking shelter, so they began eating through all our walls and making their homes in my stove, my closets, my couch, even my bed.  I desperately tried to wage war with caulk and steel wool, but every time I thought I had closed up the last hole another mouse sauntered by me.  I was daily tearing apart my closets and furniture on a hunt to find where they were coming from and clean up their messes.  I am desperately afraid of mice and began to constantly feel sick to my stomach and was so jumpy that everywhere I went I thought I saw mice (in my car, in my clients’ homes, on the street…).  Finally, I realized I was going to have to bump up to the next level of attack and borrow someone’s cat to send a message to my invaders.  And as I thought through all of the cats I know, I had a revelation.  I wanted a cat of my own.

I have been longing to adopt another child, and that reality is several years and several thousand dollars away from happening.  So the idea of having another member of our family really appealed to me.  Also, I have met the most amazing cats lately at my clients’ homes, and it has made me realize how cool cats can be.  But really what I wanted–what I NEEDED–was an ally.  Someone to swoop in and solve my problem.

Sport came to live with us a little over a week ago, and since he arrived I have not seen any mice or evidence of mice in our home.  Problem solved.  And he’s really cool. He’s black (my suggestion for his name was Spooky Mulder, but Rahul’s “Sport” won out) and has an amazing personality, somehow meeting all our needs in the household.  For me he’s a mouser, for Rahul he’s a playmate, and for Baby Fish Mouth, he’s a buddy.

Just somebody please tell me if I start to smell like a cat.

One Of Those Weeks

March 29, 2010

Sometimes I have these weeks that are just so insane that I can’t even tell anyone everything because I really don’t think they will believe me.  And I pride myself on maintaining balance despite having a lot on my plate.  I have pretty strict boundaries and guard my time with Rahul, but sometimes life just gets nutty.  So baseline, I’ve got single motherhood and my own business.  Add to that the new business that I’m trying to start and the fact that I have less than zero money.  All of that I can handle.

Problem #1. When you adopt internationally (and under some other conditions, too…) you are eligible for a large tax credit in the year the adoption is finalized.  I couldn’t get Rahul’s adoption finalized until a year after he had been here (due to crazy things like my lawyer filing in the wrong county and New York State losing my fingerprints) so I have had to wait a really long time to qualify for this tax credit.  I have tons of outstanding bills and I need seed money for my new business, so I have been LONGING for tax time so I can get this money.  Long story short, I found out last Thursday that I don’t qualify for this money.  The way my tax preparer broke the news to me was by just kind of slipping it into conversation, as if I wouldn’t notice. Uh, I did notice.  According to her calculations, not only was I not getting this huge chunk of money that I have spent 10 time over, I OWED money to the government!  Needless to say, I did not take her word for it, but I still haven’t found the answer to the question of how I file for this credit and I’m now looking for a new tax preparer!

Problem #2. Mice. I have lived in my apartment for 2 years and have never seen one mouse or evidence of mice, until one just sauntered into my room a month ago. I don’t do well with mice.  They creep me out to a very large degree.  I had the exterminator in my apartment the very next day but have literally been bombarded by mice for the past month.  They’ve gotten into my couch, every closet, my bathroom, my kitchen, they’re everywhere.  Every time I see one, or see where one has been, I become like a crazy person and get out the caulk gun and the steel wool and the plaster and seal up every crack and crevice I can find.  And just when I think I’ve seen the last of them and there can’t possibly be any other way for them to get into my apartment, one goes running past me!  And its usually just as I’m putting Rahul to bed.  Luckily, he’s not afraid of them, so he’s been a big help to me.  But I realized last week that I think my son is going to be in therapy someday talking about how his mom was always crawling around on the floor with plaster all over her hands and vaccumming the living daylights out of every cushion and closet.  I try to make it fun–“It’s like we’re detectives!  Mice always leave us clues as to where they’ve been!”–but come on, there’s nothing fun about watching mommy crying in a heap on the floor because the mice chewed through the bag of dog food.

Problem #3. Dr. Hertz.  He’s a psychiatrist and his name is Dr. Hertz–I guess I should have been warned.  My son needs medication for some severe mental health issues, and I need this doctor to moniter his health and prescribe the medication.  It is dangerous for him to be off this medicine, so its imperritive that I have good communication with the doctor.  But he never calls me back.  I will text and voice mail him 20 times for every 1 call back.  So I hear you, you’re saying, Hey! Get another doctor, lady!  And I say to you that it is EXTREMELY hard to find a child psychiatrist who will call me back.  I have called probably 50 places and gotten exactly nowhere.  Anyway, Rahul has been having a rough time lately, emotionally, and he was about to go on vacation, so I needed to meet with Dr. Hertz and get a refill for his medication.  I know the drill, so I started texting and calling him a month ago.  Finally, he texted back saying he had an appointment for us at 6pm last Friday.  I took it and cancelled our other plans so we could be there.  Don’t you know he stood us up.  And Rahul was supposed to go out of town the next morning for a week with no medicine.  So I texted him every five minutes, called him, called his collegues and ratted him out, and finally, as I’m driving Rahul to my parents’ house, I get a 3 word text back from him “called in script”.  No apology, no explanation.  Ugh.  I started the search for a new doctor this morning. Wish me luck.

Anyway, life goes on.   I am leaning on Jesus for my strength, and all is well.  I’m very focused on finding solutions for these problems.  I’ve put in calls and emails to tons of doctors and tax experts.

And I got a cat.

Silence Is Golden

February 19, 2010

I just spent 2 days in Kennebunkport, Maine and had such a great time.  At this stage in my life, my idea of a perfect vacation involves a cozy room, a fireplace, a good book and silence.  This was my sixth visit to The Captain Lord Mansion  and it is one of my favorite places in the world.  I discovered this B&B about 15 years ago when I was looking for somewhere for my family to spend Christmas, since my parents’ house was under construction and my sister Robyn and I both lived in small apartments.  Robyn was in law school in Portland, Maine, so I found a couple of places in Maine, sent my sister to check them out and The Captain Lord Mansion was at the top of my list. She (and my dad, if I remember right) visited it first and as soon as they walked in the door they were won over and made our reservation.

I can’t afford to buy milk right now, much less take a vacation, so this trip was my Christmas gift from my parents.  And boy, did I need it.  Since adopting Rahul almost 2 years ago, while I’ve had the occasional break, I hadn’t taken a vacation.  And I have to say, the thing I appreciated the most about the trip, was the SILENCE.  Its amazing how soothing the sound of silence is.  I literally parked myself in front of the fireplace in my room and read the whole time.  The breakfast cook told me about a man named Wilbur who visits there every Fall for 18 days.  He loves reading so much that he ships a big box of books to the CLM before he flies in.  She said he becomes a fixture in the wing backed chair in front of the fireplace in the mansion’s common room and just quietly reads from morning to night.  Sounds like bliss to me.

One of the books I took with me to read was Persuasion by Jane Austen.  I read it years ago, but recently saw a great exhibit of Jane Austen’s letters at the Morgan Library and it inspired me to re-read some of my favorites.  The first time I read it I was traveling on a Greyhound bus and the sun went down just as I got to the best part (the last two chapters are gripping and amazing!) and the light above my head went out.  Panicking, I looked around the bus for another seat and realized that they were all filled!  So I held the book up the window and every time we passed a street light I would read a few words.  I just couldn’t bear to wait until I got home to see how it ended!  So as I re-read Persuasion yesterday and was getting to the end, I realized it was time to check out of my room.  I really didn’t want to get into the car without having finished it.  So after I checked out and packed my car, I sat in the wing backed chair by the fireplace in the common room and dug in.  And just as I was nearing the end I heard the mansion staff whispering about me. Apparently I had earned a new nickname–Wilbur.

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