I awoke this morning to the smell of....Thanksgiving?
I turned over slowly. When you have RA, you do things very, very slowly in the morning. You test the waters. See what hurts. What doesn't hurt. What hurt yesterday often does not hurt today.
Today? I felt pretty good. I cautiously stretched my legs out. Mmmm. Nice.
But, what was that poultry smell?
And then I remembered. The grocery store last night. Whole chickens on sale. Bing lugging four to our cart, saying that she would cook up one tomorrow and freeze the others for later this year.
I squinted at the clock next to me. 7:49.
WAY too early for the smell of poultry cooking. I stared at the ceiling for a few moments, thinking.
I have a secret. Sven (long story...good-boy-turned-drug-addict-bad-boy-neighbor, read my back posts if you need to catch up...) and I have been texting. Not a lot. But some.
I haven't told Bing. Or Liv. Or his mother. He tells me that he has been clean for over two months. That he is carefully considering coming home in late October to see his mother, pay back the money that he stole from her the last time he came home. He says he is working as a cook in a little cafe in Texas. That he is clean. That he is considering coming home, bringing his girlfriend with him. That he is clean. That he loved Texas, but misses the prairie. That he is clean. That he wants to feel the crunch of leaves in the Autumn. That he is clean.
I am very tentative, very cautious. But, I am responding. He tells me that he tried to text Liv once and she never answered. That the next time he attempted to text her, she had blocked him. I had immediately understood my daughter. She was his lone defender for years and then even she gave up. And when she turns her back, it stays turned. Somewhere inside her, though, she still loves him. I was once looking for some earrings that she had borrowed from me and found an old chicken wishbone in her old ballerina jewelry box where she still keeps her earrings. Sven had given it to her on the day he left for college.
"Save this for me," he told her. "When I graduate from college, we'll see who gets the wish and who gets the bone."
She could have tossed it, but no. She is too much like her mother. Sentimental on the inside to a fault. Some part of her is still hoping that he will come break that wishbone with her.
But, for now, she is protecting herself from him and secretly, I am glad. I am not completely sold on him either. He has said he was clean before and then slid back. Fighting addiction is truly a murderously hard achievement. And it's only been two months.
But, he is reaching out and I am very, very carefully reaching back. We'll see. Something in me, that place that holds my second sense, tells me that the girlfriend may be pregnant. Just a passing twinge. So, we'll see.
But, I am a good secret keeper and until I see his face, touch his face, I am not getting Liv's hopes up. Or mine. Or his mothers.
I heard Bing's tread on the steps and she peeked in.
"It smells like Thanksgiving," I told her. She smiled.
"I thought I would bake the chicken before we left for the game," she told me.
Saturday. Cornhusker game day.
She sat on the bed next to me, smelling like chicken and something else? Tomatoes, I guessed.
"I am baking the chicken with fresh rosemary and basil from the garden," she told me. "I sprinkled olive oil on it and when it is almost done, I'll put some sliced tomatoes and mozzarella over it. We can heat it up for dinner tomorrow, okay? Unless you feel like chicken for breakfast?"
I made a face. Breakfast is not my favorite meal. I only eat to keep my blood sugar up in the morning, usually have a carton of yogurt or toast with peanut butter.
"What time did you get up?" I asked her, yawning and stretching.
She caught one of my arms, held it to her chest. "About 5:00," she said. "I woke up and couldn't fall back asleep, so Socks and I went for a run and then I came home and made chicken. You and Liv are lazy lie-abeds this morning."
She interlaced her fingers with mine. Made her voice softer.
"Hey, about last night......" she began.
I shook my head. No. Didn't want to re-hash.
"You were right," I said. "It helped to sleep on it. Let's forget it, yes?"
She looked relieved.
Bing and I rarely argue anymore. We have now been together long enough to know how to avoid the markers.
Money. Me spending too much. She pinching too hard.
Politics. Me, the liberal Democrat...she....having serious problems with the Democrat party. Anything Obama related is enough to make us leap at each other. She has had it with him, thinks him weak and ineffectual. I think he is a great man with a vision and we all just need to listen.
Health. Me, hating doctors, hating taking medicine, hating appointments. She? Pushing and pushing at me to try this new herbal concoction, to work out more, come to her yoga class.
But, last night, we slipped. We got into a huge argument over nothing. Yes. Nothing. That trap that most couples our age rarely slip into. We were both tired from a long week of working. We should have just sidestepped it, but no.
In my favor, she started it. But, it really doesn't matter. She may have started it, but I picked up the gauntlet that she threw down and I threw it back.
I came home from work and she was annoyed, I could see it on her face. Her welcome home kiss was less than. I sighed. Asked her what the matter was. Actually, I think I crabbily said, "What the fuck is the matter NOW?"
Because I am just subtle like that.
It was trash day. My job is to get the trash together in the morning before work. Hers is to lug it out to the curb after work.
Apparently, I forgot to empty the trash can in my office. She held up a crushed receipt from Walgreens, an empty pen and a candy bar wrapper. A Kit Kat.
"First off," she sputtered, "You ONCE AGAIN forgot to empty the office trash. Why do you ALWAYS forget it? You walk right by the office to get the bedroom trash. And furthermore, WHY is there a candy bar wrapper in here. I can't believe you are eating CANDY BARS."
I'm a type one diabetic. I rarely eat anything sweet, like a candy bar. But, sometimes...I am weak and give in and eat one. I usually hide the wrapper, but this time, I just threw it in my office trash and forgot about it.
I rolled my eyes.
"You aren't my KEEPER," I snapped. "I am ALLOWED to have a candy bar occasionally. I had one. Big wow. And I am SO FUCKING SORRY THAT I FORGOT ONE TINY WASTE BASKET. What is the freaking big deal?"
Her turn to roll her eyes.
"Maria, we recycle paper. The receipt goes in the shredder or the bag for paper. I also found two yogurt cups in the kitchen trash. THEY GO IN THE PLASTIC can. WHY is it so hard for you to recycle properly? It sets a bad example for Liv......."
I didn't even let her finish, just went upstairs to change clothes. Ugh. I hate it when she goes all preachy on me. And she is right. I am a lazy recycler. Sue me.
I looked in my drawer for my jeans, the soft ones that I love. I had worn them 4 days ago and put them in the hamper. Why weren't they washed yet?
Jobs. Chores. We all have chores in this house. I clean up after meals. Bing does the laundry. Liv feeds Socks and makes sure his water bowl is clean and filled with cool water. Bing does the lawn mowing and snow blowing. I dust and clean the wooden floors. Liv cleans the guest room and basement bathrooms; I clean the bathroom off our bedroom and Bing cleans the main bathroom. Liv and I are responsible for watering and tending the gardens. Bing cleans the mirrors and cars. Liv polishes the baseboards. Bing keeps the dust off the stairs. I water and tend the house plants. Liv is responsible for cleaning her own room, I take care of our bedroom. Bing does the guestrooms. I make dinner on Mondays and Wednesdays. Bing makes dinner on Sundays and Fridays and Liv makes dinner on Tuesdays and Thursdays. Saturday we either go out or eat take out or are on our own. Cook decides what they are making and is responsible for making sure that all the ingredients needed are on the grocery list. We all grocery shop together, usually. Sometimes Liv is excused to do homework instead. Everyone likes my homemade cheese pizza. I cheat and use a premade crust. Bing is prone to hearty vegetarian meals, eggplant parmesan, cheese and spinach quiche, salads with every kind of vegetable imaginable in it and cornbread with it. Liv likes to make soups, the kind where you throw everything in the crock pot before you leave for school and when you come home, the house smells wonderful. She often makes ham and bean soup. I also love to make breakfast for dinner: pancakes, scrambled eggs and sausage. I am really, really good at poaching eggs just right. In fact, Liv swears that she will have withdrawal symptoms when she goes off to college.
Anything else, we all pitch in.
So....since Bing is in charge of laundry...where were my JEANS?
I stomped downstairs in my tee shirt and socks. Threw open the basement door and went down to find....not my jeans hanging up to dry as usual, but sitting in a heap on the FLOOR. I stomped back up the stairs and scowled at Bing, who was doing her best to look like an injured martyr because I had failed at my trash gathering skills.
"WHY THE HELL ARE MY FAVORITE SOFT JEANS ON THE BASEMENT FLOOR?"
(For those of you who are worried that I talk like a sailor in front of my daughter, she wasn't home from school yet, stayed late to...well, I will get to that in a moment...hold tight....)
Bing looked puzzled. She got up and shook her head. "Your jeans should be hanging up with Liv's and mine!"
I informed her that they were NOT. She went defiantly down into the basement to prove me wrong and then came up a few moments later, a deflated look on her face.
"I...must have...forgot...somehow to wash your jeans when I washed jeans two days ago," she said, her voice faltering.
"A-HA!" I yelled, triumphantly. "YOU FORGOT! Well, well, well. We ALL make mistakes and forget to do things, don't we now? Like TRASH baskets in the office!"
I have no idea why I wanted to stomp on her head, I just wanted to SO BAD.
She shook her head, held out her hands. "Ok, a draw."
I reared back. "Wait a minute, missy. I recall that I said that I was SORRY. I didn't hear an apology from YOU."
She rolled her eyes. "OK. I AM SORRY! There. Are you done harping now?"
HARPING? Did she just say I was HARPING?
Thems fightin' words....
Let's just say that I called her a hypocrite and stomped upstairs to pull on my second favorite pants to wear: my grey sweats.
We barely spoke all night. We grocery shopped. Picked up Liv from basketball practice.
Yes, that's my good news. Liv's shoulder has healed so much that her doctor cautiously allowed her to try out for the basketball team and yes, she made it. She is a guard.
Games start in November. They are practicing now, three times a week after school.
Liv is in heaven. She has really missed playing sports, but she also diligently babied her shoulder and did her exercises religiously. And miraculously, has healed well.
But...back to Bing and me. We barely spoke all last night.
The last thing she said to me before she turned over and went to sleep was: Let's sleep on this. I have a feeling that we will like each other better in the morning.
And yes, she was right. She usually is. We don't cotton to the notion that couples shouldn't go to bed mad. We sometimes do go to bed mad.
Things almost always look better after you sleep on them.
And now, we are sitting in our seats in the stadium with Liv, drinking hot chocolate (FINALLY cool enough to have it!) and getting ready to watch our Huskers.
Everything looks better in the morning, don't you think?
I am hopeful about many things. About Sven coming home and beating his addiction. About Liv going back to the little sports fiend that I am used to. About Bing remembering to wash my jeans. About me being a better trash gatherer and recycler. And a better candy wrapper hider.
It's hard not to feel hope when you have a house that smells like Thanksgiving, a blue prairie sky above you, a Husker sweatshirt on, and sitting in between two of the women that I love most in the world.
Life is life. Tomorrow is Breaking Bad and The Newsroom and a Bengals game on television at noon. And Bing has promised to use the chicken she made to make chicken and dumplings.
Life is good on the prairie.