Category Archives: Harry

Harry The Bee

People either like costumes or they don’t. I fall squarely in the don’t column, although that wasn’t always the case. I enjoyed dressing up for Halloween when I was a little girl. I remember a few epic costume parties in high school and college. But somewhere in the space between being a kid and having kids, the allure of Halloween costumes faded away.

It was in that middle place that I had a molar pregnancy that resulted in cancer in my uterus and a lot of time to ponder if I would ever have children at all. It was easily the scariest thing that ever happened to me, and it sent me down a deep rabbit hole of fear, anxiety, and depression. Ultimately I healed, but not without a lot of time, therapy, and Harry the Bee.

Harry was the Boston terrier my husband and I got when we couldn’t have a baby. The Bee was the Halloween costume we bought for him on a whim at a chic pet store that sold uber-expensive canine clothing and accessories to people who didn’t have to worry about preschool tuition payments.

We also bought Harry a dry clean-only argyle sweater, but in our defense, we didn’t know about the washing instructions until it was covered in dirt. The sweater was undeniably an impractical purchase, but the bumblebee costume was worth every silly penny.

It’s true that parenthood gives you fresh eyes, which make things like Disney World, Christmas morning, the ice cream truck, and Halloween fun all over again.  Eventually, we had two healthy children, but until that future arrived, Harry was our baby and dressing him in a bumblebee costume for Halloween unearthed a sensation of joy inside of me that had long been dormant.

Harry saved me when I needed to be saved and made me feel safe in a world that without warning had become insecure. For eight Halloweens and through all of the ups, downs, ins, and outs of marriage and motherhood, Harry was my anchor.  Year after year, he and his black and yellow stripes and bumblebee wings reminded me that everything would be okay.

Last year, on Harry’s ninth Halloween, he was too weak to wear his bee costume.  He had insulinoma, a cancer in his pancreas, and despite our best efforts and interventions, we couldn’t save him. October 31st was, in fact, Harry’s last day here on Earth. We whispered our goodbyes all throughout the night and held him close the next morning when he was finally released from his pain and suffering.

In the days that followed, we got rid of or donated most of our pet supplies, but not before letting the kids decorate and fill memory boxes with items, including photos, drawings, and squeaky toys, that they wanted to keep to remember their big (canine) brother. My husband also tucked away some sentimental items. A harness and a tag, I think. I kept something special, too. Harry’s bumblebee costume.

The irony isn’t lost on me that we lost our sweet Harry the Bee on Halloween.  A year later, I’m not sure I’m ready to celebrate this holiday without him, but if Harry’s life and death taught me anything, it’s that joy hides in the most unexpected places and almost always lies at the end of a deep rabbit hole.

~In loving memory of Harry the Bee~

This essay originally appeared on Mamalode.

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Filed under death, Halloween, Harry

God Is In The Picture

I’m as surprised as you are that I’m writing about God. As Dylan would say, “Awkwaaaaaard.” I feel as qualified to talk about God as I do quantum physics or Minecraft mods. What the heck is a mod, anyway? I don’t even know if it’s appropriate to write God or if I’m supposed to write G-d. The whole thing makes me as uncomfortable as watching “Keeping Up With The Kardashians.” I’m going to stick with the “o” over the dash here, because the dash makes me feel even more anxious, if that’s possible.

I believe in an energy that runs through the universe and that if I’m lucky or fortunate or grateful enough, I can tap into it to feel something larger than myself, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I send prayers to friends and family who are grieving or ill, I whisper a prayer for safe travels every time I get on and off an airplane, and I see my beloved Harry in rainbows and sunsets, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

Years ago, a gust of wind knocked me off of my feet after my Great Aunt Glenna died. I felt her presence so fiercely that I lost my breath, but I don’t know if that means I believe in God.

I don’t know why I can’t just say that I do or that I don’t believe in God. Whichever it is, a concrete answer would be a lot easier to live with than the perpetual questioning to which I subject myself. But, I can’t. I simply don’t have an answer, so God and I have an unwritten agreement to keep a safe distance from one another. We avoid eye contact, we’re not friends on Facebook, and we let calls go to straight to voicemail, but regardless of our efforts, something keeps bringing us together.

It’s not motherhood per se. Becoming a mother didn’t sway me one way or the other, although I totally get how it could. I mean, I grew a human being inside of my body! Twice! My molar pregnancy didn’t squash or boost my faith either. It just made me angry and sad. A decade later, it’s a wash. I’ve experienced the devastation of loss and the miracle of life, and I’m still on the fence.

It’s my kids. My children have natural and independent inclinations toward God and the unknown that have nothing to do with me (that I’m aware of). I have parented them the same. I have given them the same foundation of values. I have provided them with the same education. Yet, Dylan questions everything. He’s fascinated with death and insanely inquisitive about the afterlife, so much so that I sometimes wonder if maybe he’s been here (or there?) before. Whereas some kids ask “Why?” on a permanent loop, Dylan’s go-to question is, “What happens after we die?”

Riley, on the other hand, plainly and beautifully accepts God as true. “God is everywhere,” he once told me once while nibbling on Goldfish crackers in the car. “God is in my Goldfish,” he said munching away. How could I argue with that? It was a lovely sentiment, especially considering how many Goldfish cracker crumbs were on the floor of the backseat of my car.

Another time, Dylan asked, “Who makes shoes?”

Riley said, “God makes shoes.”

“Actually,” I piped in, “people make shoes,” to which Riley concluded, “God makes all the things that people don’t know how to make.”

Fair enough.

These conversations happened when the boys were much younger, but I remember them clearly – in fact, I wrote them down – because I never want to forget the authentic and easygoing relationship they have with God. I remain as confused as ever, but my kids and their unabashed honesty – about their certainty or their doubt – have taught me to appreciate my spiritual journey more and worry about my spiritual destination less.

I no longer cower from or cringe over my boys’ questions about life and death and everything in between. I welcome the opportunity to engage their curiosity and confront my own hesitancy. When Riley says, “God is in my heart,” I’m comforted by his faith (how ever long it lasts), and I’m equally reassured by Dylan’s courage to question it all.

Not long ago, Riley and I did an art challenge after dinner. In an art challenge, we choose a theme and then we each draw a picture. When we’re done, Dylan or Dad picks a winner. (Exciting stuff, I know. At least it’s not Minecraft!) That night, I drew a bird per Riley’s instruction and he drew a truck per his whim.

Several minutes into our battle, he said, “I think I’m going to win.”

“Why is that?” I asked as I feverishly drew a bird with colorful feathers surrounded by fall foliage.

“Because God is in the picture,” he said.

“God is in your picture?” I asked peeking over.

“He’s building a house,” Riley explained.

godriley

Indeed, God was building a house in the sky above the truck, Best Buy, and “Targit.”

My little feathered friend and I were totally screwed, because you can’t win an art challenge if your opponent has God in his picture. Still, I felt triumphant because, thanks to my kids, God is in my picture, too.

godmommy

Not that picture. ↑

This picture. ↓

godboys

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Filed under boys, conversations to remember, death, Harry, molar pregnancy, motherhood, religion

The night we didn’t lose the dog and I failed as a mother.

We were at the park when I asked Riley to hold Gertie’s leash so I could help Dylan with his shoelaces. He wrapped the leash around his body and pretended he was tied up.  “Be careful,” I said.  Moments later, Gertie’s harness slipped over her head from the pulling. All of a sudden, she was loose and running in circles. The sun was setting and there were dense patches of wooded areas in every direction.

My heart leapt out of my chest thinking of all the different ways she could’ve disappeared forever. It took about thirty frenzied seconds to catch her, but it felt like 30 years, and the clumsy, chaotic process caused me to almost hurt her (I had to grab her hind legs) and her to almost hurt me (she tried to bite me when I grabbed her legs).

Partly, I was furious. Riley was irresponsible with the leash. We’ve talked about leash responsibility many times. Mostly, I was terrified. What if we had lost her?

I put Gertie back in her harness, knelt down at eye level with Riley, pointed my finger in his face and said in a quiet and harsh voice, “If we lost her, it would’ve been on you.”

Can you believe I said that to my five-year-old son? In one sentence – in just nine words – I destroyed him, even if momentarily. And what if it wasn’t fleeting? What if it’s a memory permanently imbedded in his brain (and heart), one to be replayed over and over again about the night I blamed him through clenched teeth for the (almost) loss of our darling puppy loved so dearly in part because she embodies the spirit of our beloved Harry. Call me melodramatic, but Riley occasionally reminds me of the time when he was three and caught me crying on the toilet, so there’s a pretty good chance this one will stick.

There was absolutely a lesson to be learned in the park. If you hold the leash, you’re responsible for the dog’s safety, but the way I handled it was shameful. Glennon Doyle Melton from Momastery would say it was brutiful. She’d reassure me that exposing my flaws teaches my kids that perfection is a lie and that there’s beauty in my messy authenticity, but the thought of my enraged words and the image of my finger in his face feel simply brutal.

After my rant, Riley’s eyes welled up, but he didn’t cry. The fact that he didn’t melt into a puddle of tears after my inappropriate outburst, but instead stood tall and prepared to shoulder the responsibility for something that didn’t even happen made my actions even more unforgivable. Yet, he looked up at me and said softly, “Mommy, I’m sorry.”

He was sorry. I could feel it in my bones. I was sorry, too. I spent the rest of the night apologizing to him (and his brother). Over and over again. For my words. For my finger. For my blame. I was manic at the thought of losing Gertie, and I took it out on him. I was scared about what a tragedy like that would do to our family. What it would do to me. In a heartbeat, I placed an unfair burden of guilt on him that would’ve been inescapable had the worst-case scenario actually unfolded, and I did it because I wasn’t thinking about him. I was thinking about myself.

At moments like this, I wonder who the real me is. Am I the mother who panics, yells, and says explosive and regrettable things, but holds it together most of the time? Or, am I the mother who takes deep breaths, thinks before she speaks, and is mindful of the lasting effect of her words and actions, but occasionally loses her shit? I want to believe I’m the latter, but after a night like the one in the park when we didn’t lose the dog but I threw my five-year-old son under the bus anyway, I’m not so sure.

At its core, motherhood is about putting other people first, but eternal selflessness is as unattainable as perfection. When motherhood and humanity intersect, and especially when they collide head on at a high speed, the end result is a crapshoot. The only sure thing is that tomorrow is another opportunity to try again.

Editor’s note:

Don’t finish reading this and tell me not to be so hard on myself because I’m a good mother. That’s like telling a frazzled mom with a tantrumming toddler in the cereal aisle at the grocery store to enjoy every moment because it goes by fast. I know I’m a good mother, but sometimes good mothers fail.  If you want to make me feel better, tell me about a time when you failed, too.

 

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Filed under boys, guilt, Harry, motherhood, pets