Friday, November 14, 2008

Wit and Wisdom

Stryker wrote this poem when he was 9 or 10:


In the
late late late
A boy leans
Over his gerbil cage
Knowing he should
Have fed them
Much, much, much
Silently grieving
Over poor Bobby

The other one
Will now be
All alone with
No one to
Play with

The boy does
Not know
What to do
He leaves the cage

The bowl is still empty

Yesterday, that poem (which is taped to the wall by the Matronly desk) caught Stryker's more mature, wizened eye.

He said: "That's really disturbing but in a sort of smart way."

Matron: "Yes."

Stryker: "I really wrote that?"

Matron: "Yup."

Stryker: "You know your friend? The mom whose son just killed himself?"

Matron: Silence, because speech is snatched from her, just like that.

Stryker: "I bet she feels like that gerbil left behind. Now she has her own choice to make, right?"

Matron: "Right."

Stryker: "I hope she can fill her own bowl again. But it's going to be hard."

Generally, the Matron sees a colloquialism and takes an instant U turn away. But sometimes? From the mouth of babes. . .

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Post in which One Word Sums up Theology, Psyche and Time Grid Deployed Against Dog Who Believes Outdoor Defecation, Dangerous



In between curses and trips to the laundry room, the Matron pauses to thank everyone for their great generosity of spirit and support yesterday. Buoyed.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Somebody Else's Story

So the Matron can't really tell it.

But that story and hers intertwined a bit and that's where she'll take you. Today, the Matron woke up, punk. The camper? Not happy. She was a bit blue and sort of saw Discouragement around every corner.

She knew what was weighing on her but didn't know how bad until 3:04 in the parking lot at Cub Foods when she a two-year old girl tottering, unmonitored, across the parking lot.

Monitor! The Matron spotted a frantic mother, looking.

And as that child gleefully toddled farther into the parking lot, a parked gray minivan about three feet in front of her fired the engine. The brake lights lit up. The child was DIRECTLY behind that van when the wheels started turning.

And of course, being two, once the van started back out directly into her, the little girl stood still and watched the pretty car go. Instead of continuing to toddle.

Now, you hear people say that you don't think - just act in a flash? Friends, the Matron is here to tell you -that's true! Because she her very fine self SCREAMED and without thinking also ran directly behind the slowwwly moving van so she could stop the vehicle by sheer will or make off with the child. There was no real plan. She just moved.

Boom! In the same instant--the mother and the Matron collided together into that child, and as the mother scooped up her baby and both women turned on a heel to get out of harm's way, the van STOPPED with a terrible jerk.

An elderly man scrambled out, in terror: "Did I hurt anybody?" The Matron thanks Buddha-God-Allah-Oprah that the driver was not a 16 year old in a hurry.

Now, it's logical that the mother of the two-year old should be all shook up and weepy (this child was ONE INCH from death). And she was. She wrapped her arms around her and cried, saying: "Lord, have Mercy!" She hugged the Matron and couldn't stop saying, 'thank you,' even though she was the one who did the actual saving.

But it was the Matron who burst into tears and dissolved into a seamless flat-out-mess. She hugged that mama right back and high-tailed it to the semi-privacy of her own minivan to refill the Red Sea with salt and tear.

Because that near-miss popped the bubble on the grief she'd been carrying all day. The college-age son of one of John's coworkers killed himself on Friday. The Matron has attended many social events with the mother and father. She went to a party at their house. Whenever there was a mandatory Work Torture Event, the Matron sought out this couple for their wit and kindred spirit. She never met their son. She never saw them outside of those strange work/social situations. But she knows how they loved him. They talked about him all the time, with just the right degree of awe and exasperation.

He was their only child.

The memorial service was today. There are always, of course, details and more to the story, but this story, is theirs.

Life, life, life, life! How incredibly precarious. And so today the Matron cried for that mother who lost her son and for all of mothers, who have so much to lose. That's the wicked beauty of love, isn't it?

Monday, November 10, 2008

How's that Search for Rabid Bats Coming Along, Sweetheart?

About a month ago, the Matron found a bat sleeping on the basement stairs. After a few shrieks and faints, she managed to haul her husband down there to remove said villain. Leather gloves were used and cardboard, not human flesh, made contact with the vermin.

But, UGH! My, what teeth you have, Dracula! This is SO a picture from google!

Alas, that bat was to be the Matron's psychological undoing. She remembered the northern Minnesota man who died of rabies this summer: he didn't even know he had been bitten. Still, reason prevailed until she listened to This American Life's Halloween Real Life Horror stories on RABIES. Specifically, about a woman who couldn't rip the rabid raccoon off of her.

Oh My God. While listening, the Matron peeked outside by the garbage can, checking for raccoons. Or skunks. Wildlife, in general.

Then, the radio narrator issued this warning: if you ever find a sleeping bat in a child's bedroom, that child must be vaccinated against rabies! Children or the infirm can be bitten without knowing, while they sleep. Now, being the infirm herself, Matron did what any rational, phobia and panic-oriented person might do at that moment.

She got online and starting researching bats and rabies. Yup. Dropped everything in the middle of a busy day and got going on THAT special project.

The upshot of this endeavor was that the Matron became inclined to - and did! -- type her very own little email message to the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, querying those good folk about the sleeping bat in her basement and the possibility that her entire family was already doomed but didn't know it. Now, do you know anyone else who sends email messages to the CDC?

The CDC is THE hot spot for fueling the Matronly fears.

They actually answered! Suggestions for psychiatric care aside, there were reassurances that Official Government Word is on a sleeping bat, far far away from humanity in the household, poses no vaccine-warranting danger.

But there's still that issue of future bats, sleeping in bedrooms. This is a pesky problem because there's that whole issue of finding the sleeping bat in the first place. It occurred to the Matron -- as she rationally thought the entire logistical endeavor through--that one would have to actively seek sleeping bats, keep an eye out. Unless that bat was going to lounge like Satan's Familiar, cozy on the bed or conveniently located on a bookshelf or floor (like, look, over here! here I am, rabid bat!) , the Matron would need to deploy some kind of tactical search and retreive team throughout her children's bedrooms -- every day.

Days like today, when she's on campus, communication with the spouse goes something like this:

"John, I didn't get a chance to search the children's bedrooms, but would you please check for sleeping bats? Oh, and pick up the prescription at the drugstore."

Email message, sent from school: "John, how's the sleeping bat search going? Did I mention that you should look in closets and under doors?"

Phone: "You know, sweetie, the CDC website says to patch holes to prevent bats from entering. There's that huge hole in our smaller closet that needs attention. In the meantime, can you duct tape the bottom of the door shut? We don't need to go in there."

The Matronly state of panicked affairs is reminiscent of Y2K, when a very strange thing happened to her.

She was convinced that there was at least potential for complete global collapse. Anarchy. Food shortages, gas crises, riot in the street. The internet can be a dangerous thing in unstable hands, and the Matron's? Her hands were shaking (literally -- and that's a clue)!

In the six months leading up to January 1 2000, the Matron was a shaking, quaking, weight-losing mess. She spent as much time as possible online, hanging out on survivalist web sites and reading all about the mayhem promised ahead.

Her neighbors did not help. There was much discussion of 'living off the grid.' How to make your own heat, fuel and electricity. Now, the Matron very much liked 'the grid' and had no intention of living off it it: she just didn't want that municipal network of heat and electricity to go away or be threatened!

How about that family slaughtering rabbits for food? Right down the block. All those adorable bunnies' heads hacked off and the rest popped in the freezer. That family butchered and froze bunnies for the entire year of 1999. The backyard was a row after row of cages.

The Matron would stand on street corners with these people, plotting.

The entire situation peaked one fall night when the Matron came downstairs and laid out their survival plan to her husband. They would pack the dogs, children and vital ingredients and flee to Leech Lake Indian Reservation where their dearest friends lived.

Indians know how to live off the grid, she reasoned. We can stay with them. We might not need to, but there's Plan B. Go Native.

Now, the Matron doesn't know how John knew to do this, but he did. He held her hands and said this: "Let me take care of the survival plan. Stop the research. Don't think about it. I'll do everything - - assess the risk, make the plan, stockpile food and water. Please just hand this problem over to me. Trust me to take care of you."

And she did! Literally, just like that. She turned it over, relieved.

Occasionally, she'd check in: "Are we storing fuel in the garage? Do you think canned food would be a good idea?"

John: "I'm all over it! No worries!"

Still, one day, the Matron took her quaking shaking weight-losing, hair-falling out self to the doctor because she just didn't feel quite right, impending apocalypse aside --hadn't, ever since Scarlett was about six months old. Turns out?

The Matron had Graves Disease. Hyperthyroidism. Which can result in? Weight loss. Hair loss. Anxiety. Outright paranoia. FEAR.

Which helped explain her penchant for survivalist web sites. Still, post-diagnosis (and the drama of getting that thyroid in line will be another story), the Matron found herself standing in front of 200 count packs of Q-Tips, dirt cheap on sale.

Naturally, she put 20 packages in her cart. She just had to stock up on something!

On December 31st, 1999, John remembered to fill up the car with gas. He bought nary a bottle of water nor can of corn. And the Matron hasn't purchased a Q-Tip in approximately 8 years.

Maybe she'll check her thyroid levels in between forages for rabid bats.

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Kindergarten Conference

The Matron had been under the impression that young Merrick, following in his older siblings' footsteps, was a reader at 5. Why? About a month ago, she witnessed Merrick rip through three Bob Books for the first time, no problem.

So she was puzzled during his parent/teacher conference. Why did Merrick's report list about half of the alphabet as unknowable to that child?

Teacher (incidentally, exactly as sweet and soft as you imagine a 1950 stereotype of Kindergarten teacher to be): "That's because he doesn't yet recognize the sounds for all of those letters."

Matron: "But he reads Bob books?"

Teacher: "The same two or three?"

Matron: "Like a pro!"

Teacher: "Trust me. He's memorized them. He's not reading."

Earlier today, John and the Matron queried their youngest. They pitted Merrick against the Word.

Matron: "Honey, what sound does this make: I

Merrick: "AH?"

John: "How about sounding out this: K I T

Merrick: "Sun?"





Just this letter? What sound? U

"Ppppppp PEE."

Whereupon the Matron handed her son his favorite Bob Book: "Can you read this?"

Without nary a glance toward the page, from Merrick: "Sam and cat. Mat and cat. Sam, Mat, and cat. Cat sat on Sam. Mat sat on Sam. Sad Sam. Sad Mat. Sam Sat. Mat sat. OK, Sam. OK, Mat. OK, Cat."

Scarlett: "You really are a Meatloaf Head."

Yes, in this household Meatloaf Head -or MLH or Loafie or Meatloafie for short--has been the most enduring term of endearment for Merrick.

The Matron is pleased to see that he is apparently living precisely up to that expectation.