Two Homes, One Life; Divorce and Childhood

posted by Momo Fali on February 11, 2014

The 1977, brown Cadillac climbs the hill, already narrow from the cars parked on either side of the street; the space made more confined by the girth of the steel box in which I ride.

We pass the green house, on the right, with the sidewalk buckled from the root of an oak tree. As we approach Gram’s house with shrubs running the length of the exterior, the engine slows from a quick hum to a low grumble. This is where my dad lives now. Sometimes he isn’t here, but Grandma always is.

The car pulls to the curb and I climb out onto the small patch of grass between the street and the sidewalk. I bound toward the concrete steps, my hand grazing the sticker-bush that is hanging over the wrought iron handrail. I reach the wooden porch and the gray, peeling paint crunches beneath my feet.

I knock on the thick wood door and peek through the glass window that frames it. I hear the grandfather clock chiming 3:00. Dong…dong…dong.

Gram’s wrinkled hand grabs the key from the its perch and she greets me. As I walk across the shaggy, orange carpet, I catch a glimpse of my reflection in the full-length mirror on the closet door.

I collapse onto the green and white floral love seat and we spend the next hour watching M*A*S*H reruns on the console television that sits in the corner. My dad comes home. My cousins and I shoot rubberbands behind the TV where they pile upon others, covered in dust, which have gathered from one year to the next. At 5:00, two of us go outside, walking over the buckled sidewalk and down the hill to the pizza shop where we have a standing Thursday order.

After dinner, I sit on the porch and watch cars go by. I climb a tree, but only if she isn’t looking. I smell the rose bush in the corner of the backyard, next to the chain-link fence. I shoot baskets on the hoop that hangs on the garage next to the alley. My cousin and I walk a few blocks to a mulberry tree where we gorge on fresh fruit until our hands are purple and our bellies are full.

Upon our return, I go inside and climb the steps to the landing where I look out the window into the neighbor’s yard. I go into Gram’s bedroom and smoothly slide open her top, left dresser drawer.

I remove tiny Avon lipstick samples and look into her mirror while applying a deep red shade to my mouth. I purse my lips together, then rub the top one to its mate and wiggle them around until I am certain they’re evenly coated. I blot them on a tissue and make a popping sound.

I climb over the stair railing and slide down on my stomach to the living room; my ride hastened by the thick layer of wax atop the wood. After settling back onto the love seat, I lay my head against the flat, gold pillow. My eyelids grow heavy and I doze off as the baseball game plays in the background. Johnny Bench is at bat.

I wake to the sound of a car horn blaring. My mom doesn’t come to the door. I stumble to put my shoes on, then cross the room to where Gram is sitting in her corner of the sofa, under the bright light of the table lamp. I kiss her soft cheek.

As the grandfather clock chimes 9:00, I head outside, down the concrete steps with a quick one-two rhythm, then I open the heavy car door. I hear crickets chirping in the bushes.

I climb inside and the car turns the corner as it leaves one home for another.

Well, They are Pretty Frightful

posted by Momo Fali on January 29, 2014

As my 15 year old daughter came out of the bathroom last night, her 11 year old brother was waiting outside the door. When she entered the hallway, he jumped toward her with a loud, “BOO!” and scared the daylights out of her. I laughed. Mostly because she does her fair share of frightening people around here. Paybacks, dear. Paybacks.

I saw everything from where I was in my bedroom so I gave my son a thumbs-up and said, “Good job! You got her, but you’d better be careful because Dad scared me in that exact same spot when I came out of the bathroom one time and I almost pushed him down the stairs.”

He stared at me. “Really?”

I said, “Yes, really. I didn’t do it on purpose. It was just a reflex.”

And, the hearing impaired kid who suffered with belchy acid reflux for years said, “Ohhhh, I get it! So you burped and it almost knocked him down the stairs!”

Chick Magnet

posted by Momo Fali on January 26, 2014

If you’ve ever been to Key West, you know there are certain things you can find there; great Cuban food, the favorite haunts of Hemingway and Buffet, the Southernmost Point, a deliciously strong Goombay Smash, and a t-shirt shop on every corner.

When my family and I were there last year we passed one such store and my daughter stopped in her tracks. “Mom, look! This is crazy!”

On the other side of the glass we saw a t-shirt with my son’s face staring back at us.

chick magnetIndeed, it was crazy. We all just kind of stared at it wondering if some t-shirt manufacturer had stolen his likeness from this site, but I couldn’t think of any similar photo that I had posted online. We chalked it up to extreme coincidence and, because my kid is a chick magnet we bought the shirt. Granted, the chicks are usually middle-aged women, but they tend to have more money than 5th grade girls so I’m fine with that.

Regardless, I forgot about the shirt until I snapped this picture of him at the hospital week before last.

chick magnet 2Someday, someone will be lucky enough to have this real, live chick magnet. Someone will appreciate his strength, sense of humor, quirkiness, OCD, and blatant honesty, and they won’t even have to fly to Key West and pay $5.00 for it.

But, I sure as heck hope they have a low deductible.

Reality Check

posted by Momo Fali on January 16, 2014

Today was our annual reality check.

Before autism, eye surgeries, infections and hospitalizations; before kidney problems, hearing aids, choking and vomiting; before speech, occupational, physical and behavioral therapy. Before it all, there was his heart.

I was six months pregnant when he got his first echocardiogram. I waddled down the halls of our local Children’s Hospital, then laid upon a table while a doctor looked at the right ventricle of his heart. It couldn’t have been much bigger than a peanut. I was decidedly bigger than one.

When his rare heart condition worsened two months later, they took him from my belly and whisked him away to that same Children’s Hospital in an ambulance while I, again, laid upon a table. This time I was miles away and I didn’t get to see him until two days later when they let me leave the hospital for a few hours. It was Mother’s Day. It was fitting, but gut-wrenching.

They told us he would be sedated until he reached five pounds and then he would need open heart surgery. They were wrong. He came home three weeks later without that surgery. Almost 12 years later, though, it’s still looming over our heads.

So each year we trek back to those same halls and now it’s my boy who climbs onto the table. We are all stronger than we once were. He is 52 pounds of unstoppable energy. We are not. But, when we spy parents wearing “CARDIOLOGY” badges we smile, nod, and give each other mental fist bumps.

Echo

He still needs open heart surgery at some point, but we’re waiting. Stalling, if you will. Hoping, praying, and prodding the doctors to improve their technology so they won’t have to cut his chest open, spread his ribs apart and cut into his heart with a knife.

He had a heart catheterization when he was 13 months old and it was one of the easier surgeries he’s had. This is what we hope for. This is why we’re glad he’s small and grows slowly, so that his heart can keep up and each year that passes we know the doctors get closer to fixing this in a less invasive way. Today I chanted, “We want a heart cath! We want a heart cath!” If only my cheerleading could be enough to make it happen.

For today, though, he is stable and that’s really all we can ask for. That, and one more year until we have to walk those halls again.