Thursday, July 10, 2014

How We Do It, Part XLVI : The Real Story

The Commons at Calabasas


I wasn't going to write about it, but I think I will. Yesterday, I had to drive out to Calabasas again for Henry's lacrosse practice. It takes at least an hour to get there, the practice is two hours long and there's another hour to drive back. Basically, I could drive to San Diego and back in that amount of time.

Oh, these kids. Our choices.

Last night, I had to take Sophie with me because I had no childcare. I planned on dropping Henry off and then taking Sophie to the fancy pants grocery store out there in Upper Middle Class Whiteurbia to feed her some dinner. We drove up the 101 and got there early, so I offered to buy Henry one of those coffee drinks from Starbucks. I pulled into a handicapped space and reached for my wallet. My purse wasn't there. It wasn't anywhere in the car, either. I had forgotten it at home, a careless mistake that, to tell you the truth, I rarely do. Honestly. I don't make careless mistakes very often. It's a personal strength. I can't believe I did that, I told Henry. I might be completely losing it! Henry said, What if you are losing it, Mom? I told him to be quiet and then we tried to figure out our options. Should I drop him off and then drive one hour home and then drive another hour back? No, obviously this was not an option. Should I just let Sophie not have any food for the next three hours? No, this could not be an option as she hadn't eaten since lunch. Should I go up to someone and tell them that I had a disabled kid in the car and no wallet or money on me, that she needed to eat, could they give us some cash? This made us laugh. Should I borrow some from one of Henry's coaches, whom I really don't know at all since he plays on a team that might as well be in a foreign country? Henry didn't like this idea, but I thought it was the best one, so I approached one of the coaches, told him my loopy story, gesturing to Sophie in the car, and he was kind enough to give me $20.

Are you still reading? If you want to go, that's fine. There's nothing really great that's going to happen.

I drove off with Sophie to search for a place to eat other than the fancy pants grocery store I'd taken her on Monday. While we drove around (have I ever told you that I have a horrible sense of direction and never go straight anywhere but am always turning around, backtracking, getting lost yet remaining fairly amiable while doing so?), Sophie had a giant seizure in the back seat. I glanced up in the rear-view mirror to keep tabs on her, but I couldn't change lanes or pull over and just had to helplessly make my mouth into a straight line of determination and periodically call out to Sophie that it's ok, it's ok, it's ok. When I finally found a place to pull into, she was finished and hanging limp and clammy in her seat. I looked around and saw that I had entered a fancy Upper Middle Class Whiturban outdoor shopping mall called The Commons, so I pulled into a handicapped spot, got out of the car, popped the trunk and hauled the wheelchair out of the back. I set it up and rolled it around, went to lift Sophie out of the car and realized that she was soaked through her pants. Her backpack was in the back of the car, and I'd already pulled her out of the car, so I lifted her up and put her back in the car and put the seatbelt on her so that she didn't fall out or try to get out. I retrieved the backpack and returned to her seat, unbuckled her, helped her to stand outside of the car and then gently lifted her back in and pushed her down so that she was lying down across the back seats. I wedged underneath her head an ice-cream sandwich pillow that just happened to be in the way back  (that I've probably told those boys of mine to remove from the car countless times, score one for them!), so her head wouldn't fall down in the space between the seats. Do I need to remind you that Sophie had just had a rather large tonic seizure and was in a sort of post-ictal state which, for her, means a lot of twitching and twisting?

Are you still reading? If you want to go, that's fine. There's nothing really great that's going to happen.

I had to pull off Sophie's shoes in order to get her pants off to change her and realized that she wasn't just wet (sometimes, during a seizure, the bowels just -- well -- empty). I also realized that I had forgotten to pack a change of clothes because I am indeed, perhaps losing it, but I did have diapers and wipes and after nineteen years of doing this sort of thing, even in an airplane bathroom (sitting on the toilet with her between my legs, removing a messy diaper), I managed to do it while preserving Sophie's dignity in the parking lot of a place called The Commons in Upper Middle Class Whiturbia (another reason why being not exactly thin comes in handy -- I make a pretty wide shield).

You're still here? I so appreciate your support and patience. I honestly don't have anything much more to report. I put Sophie's soaked pants back on her (with profuse apologies) and wheeled her to the nearest place to eat. Because I didn't have my purse with me, I clutched the borrowed $20 bill in my hand. Because I was out so deep into the valley, it was about 95 degrees with zero humidity, and I was feeling, at that point, a tad disheveled. My hair, too long, was sweaty and stringy, and I needed to clip it up, but I had no clip because I had no purse. My lips were cracked and dry, too, but I had no lipstick because I had no purse. It's amazing how many times I probably reach into my purse a day, pulling from its depths the essentials that I'd go so far as to say are life-affirming. Identity-revealing. Money, hair clips, lipstick. The accouterments of living a certain life in a certain country in a certain millennium. I'd almost feel like a cliche if there hadn't been that seizure, that changing a young adult's diaper in the back seat of a moderate-sized vehicle, that putting soaked pants back on the young adult, heaving her into a wheelchair and then rolling through a phalanx of staring individuals who couldn't possibly know the real story.

29 comments:

Denise Emanuel Clemen said...

Oh holy crap. I'm so sorry that you and Sophie and Henry went through all of that. If Calabassas is a regular destination, maybe we could meet somewhere and hang out next time. it's stupid and lame to say it now, but I would have brought you pants and dinner and cash. Sending love.

Steve Reed said...

Wow. What a day. There are bad days and then there are crazy, insanely bad days. And yet you always cope, which is so impressive, even if out of necessity and lack of any other options. Thank goodness the coach came through with some cash!

37paddington said...

Oh Elizabeth. We really have no idea, do we? I am glad Sophie has you.

From the Kitchen said...

I stayed with you until the end. I would have given you $40. I'm exhausted.

Best,
Bonnie

suz said...

No wonder you feel you're losing it! Who wouldn't? That's Navy Seal-type parenting right there! I wish I had been hooked up to electrodes measuring my anxiety level. I was with you all the way to the end. I hope you found your purse at home.

Christy Shake said...

oh man. i hear you.

Jill said...

Oh man. I was with you to the end. Remember that - many people are cheering you in your head. Wish you didn't have to do "it", but you can do it and you do.

Alicia D said...

And it is with this story here that I realize we share almost identical lives. that story could have been my own... HAS been my own too. Yet, when I live it myself I feel very little emotion. When I read yours? I feel heartbreak, compassion and deep respect for you. I love how you told it with no self-pity, only humanity. Im sorry Sophie had the seizure :(

lily cedar said...

I don't think you're losing it; I think you have a lot on your mind. What impresses me so much is that you didn't burst into tears, that's my old standby:)

Ms. Moon said...

You are one of the trees that is so very strong it can survive the hardest wind and one of its strengths is that it can bend without breaking.
I know that sometimes you must feel as if you are going to break. But you don't.
And as Angella said, we really do not have any idea.
We are blissfully ignorant until you tell us and then we have new eyes to see that which is around us, to know a little bit more of the real story.
And dammit, we should know.

Noan said...

And this piece is exactly why I believe in the power of writing - and reading.

I wish you had asked me for cash. I would have loved to whip out a wad of cash, a picnic basket full of delectables, and a change of clothes for dear Sophie.

SJ said...

Everything Ms. Moon said.

I had a similar experience not long ago (minus the extreme parenting) when I locked myself out of my house. I was on the city street, in basically pajama's, thankfully with shoes. No money. No phone. It is suddenly and almost pitifully jarring -- identity revealing, as you say.

We're all here and listening--tell us all the parts you wish to reveal.

Francesca said...

you're most definitely not losing it, but keeping it together.

Marylinn Kelly said...

That we have no idea doesn't even begin to cover it. Also the Navy Seal-esque parenting, then your own resilience and adaptabiiity. It is important that you shared the story, How We Do It, whew. You are a wonder. xo

Sara said...

Somehow you never make the unsuspecting public the villain. It's just "here is how we do it ; attention should be paid." Wishing you felt the sea of cash, matching clothes and lipstick surround you if only then was now.

Mary Lou Connolly said...

I stayed as well till the end. I simply can't find words. I'm so sorry about the seizure.

yobobe said...

What Ms Moon said. And...I was with you till the end. Sweaty and drained and grateful for your writing, your example.

Suzanne Edison said...

Keep on writing it real as Sheila Bender says. Here with you in spirit.

tearful dishwasher said...

Elizabeth-

What you do every day takes so much courage, but it takes real courage, too, to share this with the world at large. And we are so much richer for it. Thank you so much for the gift of your writing and for the gift of being able, even just for a moment, to know a tiny bit of "the real story"- it serves as a powerful reminder that each one of us, every day, every moment, passes by a human being who is going through terrors and struggles uncountable, and deserves our love and our support and our help.

We should always be looking for you, with a change of clothes and twenty bucks in our damn hands. We should always be trying to see you wherever you appear, and leap into action to help.

I'm going to keep my eyes peeled.

Thank you.

beth coyote said...

Everyone else said it.

Much loving kindness to you and Sophie. And gratitude for the coach with 20 bucks.

X Beth

Mama D said...

A common enough situation on the face of it--caregiver is pulled in multiple directions by multiple dependents, does the best she can but forgets something important when she leaves the house. What makes the difference here is your extreme parenting element, resourcefulness and courage. I say bravo.

Lisa Lilienthal said...

Why didn't you go look for the Kardashian's house? They would certainly have given you money, and maybe some tacky clothes for Sophie to borrow. Seriously though, that sucked. Let's everybody go stick a $20 deep in the glove compartment right now like our grandfathers always told us to do.

Carrie Link said...

I'm worried you're not drinking enough.

gradydoctor said...

I want to say something witty or poignant. I can't come up with either. Let me just say this: You're the truth. No chaser, never watered down.

You also make me a better doctor. I want you to know that.

Lisa said...

Standing beside you, holding your hand dear friend.

colleen said...

I kept reading, and so will everyone else when it is published. Thank goodness for rich lacrosse coaches....! I can't help but think that the consequences of "forgetting my purse/wallet" are so much larger for you ( and heather) than they are for me as a mom.
Such pressure...all i have to deal w/ is um... a kid who plays lacrosse!I'll put the 20 in the glove compartment right now if you will.

Vesuvius At Home said...

God. I am so sorry you had this horrible day. I feel like Angella said. I'm glad you wrote it, because otherwise, we'd have no idea. And we should know, and you should be able to say it, all of it, as you do.

Deana said...

I got here late, but read to the end. Goodness! What a day. I hope you have had a better few days. I am grateful that you write about "how you do it"...it helps those of us who have yet to get there, and those of us who have been there know we're not alone.

Radish King said...

Reading your accounts of how you and Sophie do it has changed me deeply. Knowing you and Sophie through your writing has changed me deeply. I am so grateful.
Love
Rebecca

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