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Thursday, August 29, 2019

So Many Men, So Little Time

My grandmother had a giant's strength for her petite frame.  She weighed about 105 lbs and I'm convinced that 25 of those pounds were distributed in her very ample bosom.  She owned her beauty and never tried to hide it. She never spoke a negative word about her loud mouth opinionated husband, who was a real-life Archie Bunker,  my Grandpa. Well, at least not with her voice.  But her blue eyes could tell a 50-page story in a single glance.  My grandpa had the bravado of a tough cowboy, but we all knew where his strength came from, and that was her.  One afternoon when my grandpa was cleaning out his gun in the kitchen it fired and a bullet came within inches of hitting my grandma who was sitting in the bathroom across the house, she didn't blame him, but you better believe she damn well made sure those bullets were impossible for him to find.  She didn't stand by her man, she stood behind him, which is totally understandable after he almost shot her when she was on the toilet. But as I grew into a young woman. I never could understand that relationship. And since my teen self knew everything about marriages, I was vocal about that. 

I went college across the country and I came home for Easter and although I was only home for a weekend, I made sure to line up at least three dates.  When I left Easter dinner early she stood up from the table and asked where I was going "So many men, so little time" I yelled.  Her eyes locked with mine, telling me a story at that moment, and what I thought was going to be disapproval, was just a subtle wink.  We laughed and I was off.

Those words were the last thing I ever said to my grandma.

The next time I came home in the summer was for her funeral.   In three months she was gone.
I have said a lot of things I regret in my life, but that one...that one has stayed with me for a while.   Why didn't I say I love you or have a nice dinner or anything but that.
The next few years I continued to date... heavily.  I had a few very bad experiences with men, I wondered if my Grandma in her postmortem was directing this bad romantic comedy I was living out. Before I said those regretful words to her, I had great relationships with guys, they were some of my best friends, and suddenly all the crazy ones came out of the woodwork to find me. 
My bad luck followed me when I moved to Los Angeles to pursue my acting career. There, I had a series of casting couch incidents, the worst one involved a big named producer that worked in the same building as I did. He had called me into his office because he said had an important script to show me. When I walked in, he was holding the script in his lap and asked me to come around his desk to see something and by "some "thing" he meant his erect penis. I stood there for a moment, squinted my eyes and said "That's it?" I left his office and didn't shut the door.  Clearly, he was looking for a different performance than I was willing to give.    At this point, I was considering swearing men off altogether.
Then when I wasn't looking a long-haired, tattooed guy from Hollywood, danced into my life... and he never left.  The type of wholesome guy who would drive across the country and ask a father if he could marry his daughter and to make a good impression he would even pull his long hair back, and cover up his tattoos.   To which, said father would respond,  with an excited "Yes!" quickly followed by "but do you really know what you are getting in to?"
But my husband would never meet my grandmother or any of my grandparents. In just 3 short years, I lost all four of them. 

In seven years we would have four sons.   One late night, after our bedroom was a revolving door of boys needing something, I finally fell asleep in a chair rocking my baby, I had a vivid dream about my Grandma.  She was there with me and was smiling, her dimples, that she passed on to me were clearly visible. At that moment I needed her and I missed her so much.  I woke up crying, and then it hit me. 


My grandma had come through and with a sense of humor that even I can appreciate.  I am surrounded by men every day all day.  I work with men, I workout with men, some of my best friends are men, I have male dogs  and now, I have 4 little men that I have the gift to raise. The challenge to make an army of gentlemen in a world that is at war with exactly what that looks like. 
And there is so little time to do it.  Every day I watch as one of them reaches another milestone,  or when the challenge of raising teen boys escalates and  I find myself talking to a locked bedroom door, tracing the wood grain with my finger asking him to just tell me what is bothering him so I can help.
 I thought that if I can get this mothering thing right,  I could raise boys that didn't experience emotional pain. But as I'm learning, sometimes pain is the catalyst for growth.  I have spent so much energy trying to shield them from it, but that only showed me how powerless I am.

I wonder what am I doing and if there will never be enough time for me to spend with these men in my life.  Time is moving too quickly.

I used to hide my pain from the boys. The times when my life becomes overwhelming with trying to manage a career, family, a passion for empowering others, relationships, endless school forms, trying to give my dog anxiety medicine. This is when my tough exterior breaks. I don't hide it from them anymore.  Granted watching me ugly cry into my wine glass, while simultaneously watching recorded Days of Our Lives episodes might scar them, the fact that I'm admitting I'm overwhelmed won't.

Each moment, whether it is joyful or painful is a lesson.

I have been given this amazing opportunity to show four boys that it's okay to be vulnerable. It's okay to show emotion and it is okay to love a strong, emotional and ambitious woman.  And every day their dad is showing them what it looks like to love and support a woman like this.

What I realize now is my grandma was a product of her generation,  and she wasn't weak in her relationship, quite the opposite. She had to channel her strength in other ways.  She shattered stereotypes when she went to work in a factory. When she chose to bite her tongue when she could have talked back to my grandpa.  When she stayed married when many women of today would have walked out.  When she taught her own daughter to stand up for herself.  Or when in the last decade of her marriage she chose to wear matching polyester tracksuits with my grandpa... in public.  

And when she taught her smart mouth granddaughter 20 years after she had been gone, just what I am capable of doing.

I'm a woman who is raising boys who will serve the homeless food on Thanksgiving.  A boy who will make me a ring made out of a dandelion.  Boys who will pull their pants up to their chest because they want to make me laugh after a hard day at work. A boy who will learn to play Leonard Cohen's, Hallelujah on his guitar just because I said I liked it. A boy who will send me every single dog video on Instagram because he knows it will make my day. Or a teen boy, who even when he is mad at me still makes sure he gives me a hug every night before he goes to bed.  

Even in the hard and crazy times, I never want it to end.

Oh, grandma, so many men, so little time….indeed.