Irreverent Mama

Saturday, February 23, 2008

I hear the giggles as I walk by her room. Bekah is chatting on Skype.

(She has no idea of the luxury of those limitless calls. Limitless long distance calls -- limitless because they're free. What will be the luxuries her children enjoy which bemuse her? What awaits my grandchildren?)

She is chatting with her friend Philippe. Philippe was the very likeable young man who spent a summer with us as an exchange student two years ago when he was 17 and Bekah not quite 13. English-speaking 17-year-olds from Ontario went to Quebec and New Brunswick to improve their French; French-speaking youths came here in exchange. A lanky young fellow, with an exuberant mop of red curls, Pilippe's soft-spoken easy-going ways and good humour endeared himself to the entire family.

Bekah, it seems, endeared herself particularly to him.

They've kept in touch through emails and IM, and most recently with the free phone calls. The conversation just flows between those two. Hours and hours of it. He's held her hand through a boyfriend and a breakup; she gives him (very sensible) advice re: family relationships and the appalling lack of greenery in his diet. I don't know what all else they might talk about over the hours. I'm not told.

I am of two minds about this relationship. I am not entirely comfortable with the amount of time she "spends" with him. Obviously, sex isn't an issue, which is a relief to me, because she's only 14. A physically mature 14, a very sensible and emotionally stable 14, but still fourteen. But still, she spends a lot of time on this one relationship. I worry some about balance in her life. I keep an eye on her, making sure that other activities and relationships are not suffering as a result. They don't seem to be, but I keep a cautious maternal eye on her.

On the other hand, and this hand weighs heavily, I am very pleased that one of the most significant relationships in her life revolves entirely around conversation. They have no shared activities. They have shared interests, but, separated by a thousand kilometres or so, they can't do them together. The can't watch movies together. They do occasionally play internet games together, but not often.

What they do is talk. And talk and talk and talk.

Yes, I do haul her out of her room. She eats meals with the family, chores get done, homework is accomplished, she spends time every day chatting with me. But they talk. Every day.

I recall an occasion when her father came to visit me over Christmas break. We were in our early twenties, maybe even in our late teens, and had each gone to our respective families for the holidays. But ten days was too long for our love-struck hearts to be separated, so he drove over to visit one day.

After visiting with my family, we were desperate for some time together, so we went for a drive, chatting idly about this or that thing out the window, and ended up having a coffee in a roadside diner somewhere. We sat on opposite sides of the table ... and the conversation shrivelled. We had nothing to say to each other. Nothing.

He held my hand. We smiled at each other. But we had nothing to say.

Why did I go ahead and marry this man, when conversation is so desperately important to me? Well, at the time I didn't know that. I didn't know at lot of things at 19 or 20. It took twelve years of a conversation-free marriage to teach me how my soul craves conversation. Not just mindless words, words, words tossed out, cluttering the air -- though there's certainly a place for casual, idle, and functional chatter. But conversation: a steady flow of interest in the other, the exchange of ideas, the building-up of new ideas as a joint creative enterprise.

To me, that's the bedrock of a relationship. Fundamental, foundational, indispensible.

And for twelve years, I lived without it.

I married him because I was young and stupid and "in love". We loved each other! Conversation would come, right? I didn't realize that "in love" would not create something that didn't exist. I didn't realize that "in love" would parch to dust and blow away in the desert of silence and strictly-functional communication.

Bekah, in her room, chatters away. There is no lack of conversation with those two. Their relationship is not, as mine was with her father at the same point in the relationship timeline, built primarily on hormones and the physical.

So, though the amount of time she spends with this one friend does cause me some concern, the quality of the relationship reassures. If he is going to become someone significant in her life -- someone even more significant -- they are going about it the right way.

But I'm still glad he lives in New Brunswick.

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Monday, February 18, 2008

Story from another blog:

Woman looks for parking space. Woman does not find one. Woman parks in a tight niche beside a drive, trying hard (but, it emerges, not entirely succeeding) not to block the driveway. Woman returns to car to find this note on her windshield.


Woman sniggers at spelling and grammar, and determines to park IN the drive the following day. I agree, the "wrigh" is sad and silly, and I, too, would snigger at it. The total lack of punctuation is sad. However, spelling and grammar aside, it was a polite note, and -- hold on to your hat, folks! -- Woman was in the wrong, not the note-writer.

In the comments, several people identify it as a "passive aggressive" note. Huh?

"Please do not park so close to the driveway. It's a right of way. Thanks."

Polite, yes. Clear, certainly. Passive aggressive? Would they have preferred "aggressive aggressive" and had the woman come back to a shattered windshield? Since note-writer didn't know how to contact car-owner, what are his/her options, other than leaving polite note? Well, obviously, to be passive, full stop, and not object politely to the other guy's lack of consideration. Because bothering us just because we inconvenience you? That's just ... inconvenient! Object to my behaviour?! You passive aggressive, inconsiderate schmuck!

If Woman does park in the drive, I hope note-writer has her towed. Would serve her self-righteous self right.

Several commenters also suggest she visit passiveaggressive dot (something. com? org? net?) In fact, I've been to passiveaggressive dot whatever a couple of times, and stopped because it was so appalling. Its contributors have no idea what passive aggressive means.

Very few of the items cited there could in any way be construed as anything other than clear, polite communication. The real objection, if these people had the integrity/maturity to acknowledge it, is simply that they have been corrected for some small misdemeanor, and they don't like it.

So, if they don't like it, if the communication annoys them, let's just call the other guy's behaviour "passive aggressive" so we can ignore it and continue doing whatever the hell we like -- and it can be the other guy's fault!!

Great system for people who want to go through life without once saying, "Oops. Sorry!" Too bad there seem to be so damned many of them.

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Tuesday, February 12, 2008

I stubbed the middle toe of my left foot a while back. Damned thing would ache. Oh, how it would ache. And hurt when I touched it. Then it got better. Then I stubbed it again. Then it got better. Then I stubbed it again ...

Not that I ever remembered stubbing it, mind you. But that often happens with me. I'll come up with a bruise, and have no idea where it came from. (No, I don't bruise particularly easily, I don't think; I just have a terrible memory. It takes a while for a bruise to emerge, see. Ample time -- AMPLE -- for me to forget the originating mishap.) But whether I remember or not, I must've banged myself, obviously, because I have a bruise.

So, the toe? I must have stubbed it, because it kept aching.

Gradually, however, it permeated even my oblivious consciousness that this toe had been "stubbed" an awful lot for an awfully long time. Perhaps I should take a look? Sadly, not as straightforward a proposition as one might think. Recalling the facts of the back (bad) and the age (fortyplus)... Not a combination that makes for easy access to the underside of one's toes.

Though I don't get as close as I might prefer (who ever thought I'd be nostalgic about the days when I was young and bendy (and disgusting) enough to be able to chew my own toenails?), I do manage to ascertain that this toe, when viewed from underneath, is quite evidently blue. As is a spot on the big toe, two doors down.

One should not google these things. Did you know that there's a sydrome, caused, near as I can make out, by vascular detritus collecting in the tiny veins of the toes, which will make your toes go blue (and eventually, if left untreated) develop gangrene and fall right off?? Well, you do now. And so did I.

I made an appointment with a podiatrist that afternoon.

Three days later, I'm sitting in an enormous red leather reclining chair with my bare feet raised well up. After a mere, oh, 35 minutes, the doctor enters. Before she's even settled her butt onto her small beige stool she says,

"You've got frostbite."

Frostbite? When did that happen? Surely one would notice? Which is pretty much what she said to me when informed that I didn't know when it had happened.

After all, I live in Ottawa. It's cold here. From time to time, despite decent footwear, one's feet do get very, very cold, like when one is standing waiting for a bus that simply never comes. After the tingling comes the numbness. If one decides the damned bus is never coming and walks home, the toes don't much cooperate with the venture for the first half-block until they warm enough that you can feel them once again.

And then, perhaps, when one gets home and, removed from the cold air within the boot, they meet the warm air of the house, they might perhaps ache, sting, and burn like a bugger. This, however, has happened to me any number of times over my life -- not that often, all in all, but our winter are long and cold. There's lots of opportunity for this to happen.

Lots of opportunity, multiple occasions, yet never have I gotten frostbite from it. Well. Never before, at any rate.

Now, apparently, I have it, and will always have it, and the only solution is to avoid extremes of temperature, hot or cold -- no more revivifying, comforting, chill-banishing hot baths! damn!! -- and keep my feet warm. Lest I get it again (which is now more likely), and/or damage the toes further. Lesson learned.

I left her office $200 poorer (!!!) but laden with goodies. I've got creams (to soften and to warm), I've got lengths of natural wool in which to wrap my affected toes, I've got neoprine (sp?) insoles for my current boots, and I've got a shopping list: new, better boots, and new, better socks, and the catalogue from which to order them. Too bad she can't write prescriptions, because $18 for a pair of socks??? And those boots she suggests are twice as much as I usually spend.

Though, if you like hiking boots, they are very, very nice...



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