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LIFE (permalink) 05.09.2012
topsy-turvy - part 2
in all the hubbub i never finished our topsy-turvey tale. i left off with me having knee surgery (see topsy turvey part 1 for the detail). so i had my surgery on a tuesday and everything went fine and well. prior to the procedure i asked what to expect recovery wise. i was told i would walk in and i would walk out. i took that to mean it would be like nothing at all had happened and that my life would resume as soon as the anesthesia wore off. with this understanding, i told my office i'd be be out tuesday and back on wednesday. the first sign this was not the case was the prescription for 60 vicodans they handed marty on our way out the door.

in addition to the prescription there was the direction to keep the knee perpetually iced and elevated for the next 72 hours. while the week was shot to three kinds of hell, on the good side of all this dour news, marty and i discovered downton abbey. while laid up and bored in bed, i trolled the netflix hallways looking for anything of interest. something took me towards downton abbey. i watched the first five minutes of it and hit pause. i called for marty and said she should plan on having lunch with me in bed as i had a show for us to watch. so we sat in bed, my knee wrapped in ice and atop four pillows, eating sandwiches and discovering a 1912 english village while our children were at school. possibly our most quaint and romantic workday afternoon since our college days (and certainly our most peaceful moment in recent weeks).

i gingerly returned to work on friday to begin the dig out. it went slow but steady. at three in the afternoon marty called. she said the principal from the high school she used to teach at called. a teacher had taken ill and they needed someone to fill in for three weeks ... (pause) ... starting monday. after another pregnant pause i noted that by her calling me at work and positing the question, she was expressing interest. yes. after a third pause in the conversation, i said i supported whatever she wished and said we could talk about it further that night.

before children, marty taught for nine years (at this same school that was calling now). marty then took off nine years. returning to teaching is something that has definitely been on her thoughts especially now that our youngest, anthony, is slated for full day kindergarten next year. but next year is the earliest we'd ever thought about her return and would have, in an ideal world, preferred two years to give marty one year to breathe and collect herself before returning to the fray.

marty was interested on several levels which i'm sure i'd botch if i tried to represent them so won't. suffice it to say marty's brain was above an idle with the notion of challenging her mind beyond innovating on what went in her kid's lunchbags or reading a new goosebumps book to her five year old. i get this need. fully. when i returned home that evening and saw how lively her eyes were, i made three points. i asked that she didn't start monday because the still-broken fridge was scheduled for repair on monday. i asked that she not let this sudden jump back into a professional routine, taint her notions of returning for real because she wasn't giving herself a chance to re-enter work life with a proper amount of time to plan and prepare, professionally or mentally. and i said, i could handle the kids in the morning but she had to find places for them, especially anthony, when they got out of school. within twelve hours she returned the call saying she would do it. fortunately, because of paperwork she couldn't start on monday anyway so the fridge got repaired (thank gawd!!! as post-knee surgery is not the time you want to be without a working ice-maker).

her first morning of work she left at 6:00 am. i woke up early to make her breakfast. as she ate i confessed this was only a "first day back to work after nine years off" treatment and she shouldn't expect it everyday. i also made her a lunch and stole a little note in there in case she was getting treated poorly by the day or the kids. then she left. after a short bit of quiet, i started prodding kids out of beds.

the kids knew my getting them ready was going to be different. marty is definitely far more accommodating that i am. she is known for making them pancakes, kraft macaroni and cheese, or even crazy time-consuming waffles. when they ask me for such things, i look at them as if i didn't understand the questions, which in some regards is true. in the early days, they'd repeat the question and i'd tell them to go get a muffin and yogurt. now they don't even repeat the question. they just look at my face and head to the muffin tin all on their own. progress! and, if i'm known for anything in the morning it is when i am ready and they are not i stand in the foyer and yell, "you're putting me behind schedule Dufresne. don't make me come up there and thump you." rabid fans of shawshank redemption might recognize this loose translation of one of my favorite lines from the film. my kids obviously have no idea what i'm talking about or who this Dufresne cat is, but they get the gist that i'm getting irritated and they best up the pace.

i wasn't too intimidated about getting the kids off to school. this is something i usually do on wednesdays so i have a sense for what is involved. but there was one variable i failed to consider. every time i've taken the kids to school on my wednesdays, marty was there, in the house and part of the morning. we'd really not gone through the drill without her. the problem stemmed from anthony's morning ritual, which goes like this. when anthony wakes up you will often here a stretch and a yawn. this gets followed by hearing the creaks of the slats in his upper bunk as he moves to the ladder. once down, you hear a quick patter of feet, and might see a flash in the hall, as he quick steps it to the bathroom. urination. more patters—this time to marty's side of the bed. then you hear one word in a very business like tone: cuddle. with this marty's arm raises the covers like batman might swoosh his cape and anthony lithely slides into the warmth of her space and the covers drop, engulfing him. this is followed by three to ten minutes of silence which is broken, always, by the same question: is it a computer morning. computer mornings are weekend mornings where the kids get a few hours of computer to start the day.

on the first day marty was away anthony woke, he went to the bathroom, then the empty bed, then came and found me.

where's mom?

at work. remember she's going to be working for a few weeks.

but what about my cuddle?

oh. i can do your cuddles while mom's away.

but you don't know how.

i'm sure they won't be as good but maybe you can teach me.

now i'm doing nuthin'! and i'm not going to school!

with this declaration anthony turned and ran back to his room, climbed his ladder and cried for the next ninety minutes. although to say he cried at the news is like saying i was merely disappointed when i re-injured my knee. what he really did was screamed for a full hour and a half that we wanted his mommy. bella, alex and i quietly ate breakfast to this upstairs tirade. as i told bella and alex to suit up to go, alex asked me what i was going to do about anthony. i answered honestly that i didn't know.

i climbed the stairs and entered his room. he repeated his missive that he wasn't going to school. i told him he had to. it was the only choice. no one was going to be home. he said he didn't care. i said i wished i could leave him but i just couldn't. it wasn't safe. he pleadingly said he'd lock the door and not answer it, no matter what. i told him i wished that was enough but it wasn't. he was just too young and he had to go to school. when he said no again i had to pull out the big gun, the one thing for which anthony seems to have no defense: 1-2-3. immediately after i said the single word "one" anthony yelled, "okay stupid head, i'm coming." and he did. he immediately came down the ladder descended the stairs, headed toward the kitchen but i stopped him saying he missed breakfast and now there was no time. without protest he sat down and i put his shoes on. he put his coat and backpack on and headed towards the car without breakfast and still in pajamas.

he sulked on the way to bella and alex's school. he sulked after their drop off and on the way to his school. when we pulled up he got out of the car still fully under protest and began a slow walk into the building. just as we started i saw anthony's best friend grady get out of his car. i called hello to him and when he saw us he yelled a gigantic, arms-in-the-air, ANTHONY!!! he then charged towards us and ripped his coat open showing a large scooby doo shirt. he said his mom let him get one just like the one he gave anthony for his birthday. astonished anthony unzipped his coat to show his scooby shirt and the boys happily marched into school arm-in-arm.

that proved to be the turning point for anthony and i had no more problems after that. in my second week i was heard to say things like "did you get your milk out of the freezer and put it in your lunchbag" and "don't put your shoes there because you won't remember them in the morning." which is really good news because after marty did her three week stint filling in, the school offered her the job, full-time, starting next year ... (pause) ... and, she accepted.

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