new york city kid in arkansas
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Thirty-two years ago today my grandpa unexpectedly died. I had just finished my freshman year of college at Wichita State University across town from where he and my grandma lived. The next day we were all heading to Colorado for a family reunion of his brothers and sisters and their children and grandchildren. My dad had just finished teaching all of his summer art classes and right as he announced “Vacation begins NOW!” my mom appeared at the front door with the devastating news that would change all of our plans and all of our lives.

For one thing, we all became very superstitious about saying things like “Vacation begins NOW!” because you just never know what’s about to happen. I come from Anxious People, or at least an anxious dad and sister, and I raised an anxious child. Having Huck took my anxiety to all new levels, because you would not believe what a mother can imagine.

I’d now like to rewind 11 years:

The other day Huck gave me an extra rough kiss and then said in total earnestness, “Sometimes love hurts, Mommy.”

It got us talking about the ways love can make us feel sad, like when Shannon visited last month and then had to leave.  Or like when Max died last November, to which Huck said something awful like, ‘Well, that didn’t really hurt.”

Now Huck’s a professional kindergartener, walking alone into a classroom full of people he doesn’t know at 8:30 every morning and not returning to me till 2:50.  It’s a pretty big stretch for the two of us, seeing as how we usually spend all our days together.

And while I’m very happy to send Huck off to this next big part of his life and while I can’t get enough detail about his very fun sounding 6 hours and 20 minutes without me, I am slowly but surely falling apart.

About a week before he began school I stopped sleeping, finding myself strangely worried about his lunch.  I began searching my friends and various websites for the perfect lunch bag with all the accessories (like easy to open containers) until finally I found myself on the floor of Target with about eight options in front of me as I tried to make the right decision.  After 15 minutes or so Troy came around the corner and practically whispered, “Is everything going OK?”  It was then that I realized I was secretly very worried about Huck going off to kindergarten, and all my anxiety was being shoved into a compact little lunch box.  With thermos.  (Which he had to get an adult to help him open today, despite our many successful practice sessions at home.)

In one week’s time along with the worry-insomnia I also got an ear infection followed by horrible allergies followed by a canker sore that made eating painful and nearly impossible.  And on my first solo grocery shopping excursion I bought him a cheapo butterfly silly-band bracelet from the gumball machine and it broke within seconds of being worn by him.

Huck’s right.  Sometimes love hurts.

And now I’m back to today. This morning Huck got up bright and early so that he could leave our house at 7:30am to pick up his friend Irene across town and take them both to the high school for a week-long “PSAT Boot Camp” in hopes of becoming National Merit Scholars to help with that other big thing looming ahead called college. (Go ahead, take a moment to react to the idea of a week-long PSAT Boot Camp.) Though he got his driver’s license back in early June, this is the first time he’s actually had a place to go, and so last week I produced and directed a production called “Driving Practice to Irene’s and the High School.” It rehearsed every single day and was the modern version of being on the floor of Target, with slightly higher stakes.

And while I’m very happy to send Huck off to this next big part of his life and while I can’t get enough detail about his boring 5-1/2 hours without me, I am slowly but surely falling apart. This afternoon I will see my regular doctor and later this week a TMJ specialist to try to get relief from the ear/jaw pain I’ve been experiencing on and off for many months now.

Because, well, you know. Sometimes love hurts.



July 26th, 2021

Well, grab the shovel and let’s head to the cemetery because I’m dead.

Aunt Jeni

July 26th, 2021

ME TOO – THIS KILLED AUNT JJ! The good news is that the older Huck gets I just keep liking him MORE and MORE!


p.s. Don’t mind my burst blood vessel devil eye…I’m slowly but surely falling apart.

Aunt Jeni

July 26th, 2021

I’m not Aunt JJ I’m Aunt Jeni…SEE? I’m dead.

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