Amy Wallace-Detmer, age 38
What am I doing? What does it look like? I’m putting away the goddamned groceries. There’s a guy who loads them into my car at the store but once I’m home I’m on my own. It’s easier than trying to get the boys to help me. I pick my battles.
I remember you. Back when I was young, in that big old first wave of recycling, you all were saying the same thing. And now it’s back, and the bags are back, asking questions: a successful campaign; why wouldn’t it be successful again?
But I’ll ask you a question back: What did it succeed at? Do people shop more at stores with bags that sneer at them? I saw lots of you tumbling empty through parking lots, wadded up in garbage cans. Just what was it you were trying to accomplish?
All you have to do is wait long enough and everything comes back around again.
You can be reused 125 times. Well, we have that in common, at any rate. In fact, I may very well have you beat. And will I reuse you? Not likely. I never think to bring bags along until I’m in the car. They pile up under the sink. So you are not the first bag to ask me that question. I’ll stuff you down there and you can all trade saving-the-planet stories, congratulate yourselves in a crinkly little cocktail-party mumble. I’ll pull one out to carry wet bathing suits, clean the litter box, load up with some stuff to take over to Dad on the days Meals on Wheels doesn’t come, give to Riley and Wyatt for trick or treating.
That snuck up on me. I used to be better about holidays. Now I’m always running along behind them, like the kids. I thought I had parenthood nailed, once: cupcakes one year topped with orange frosting and spiders with gum-drop bodies and licorice-whip legs, a dozen of them, for Riley’s pre-K. I was up until 3. I wanted to do everything for him, which might’ve been a mistake. He’s become so passive. It kept me anchored, the routines, the recipes, the things it was okay or not okay to do or be or read or say.
I am a parent. Everything is my fault.
You’d like Ted, bag. He is saving the planet, or the people on it with cancer, at any rate. Does that count? You and he would get along, trading smug challenges and debating the finer points of planet-saving. He’s always taken care of me, from the time he met me when he was rounding through the psych unit as a med student. I was glad I’d washed my hair. He saved me, I guess you could say–so it would be peevish to criticize. But I sometimes think he loves that he saved me more than he loves me.
I love him. I do.
That said, there’s a whole continuity of care issue–I stole that from him–when it comes to the boys. He’s never around, in other words, to see things and watch things, which to me means that he’s not in a super-good place to worry out loud that our kids are always trying to comfort me and settle me down and that that is bad for them, that I am always trying to control them, and that that is bad for them, when all I am doing is trying to keep them safe, calm, confident, on the right path. And maybe they could want to comfort me sometimes? Is that such a bad thing? Aren’t we all supposed to kind of look after each other? Isn’t loving someone enough to want to comfort them a good thing?
I mean, Ted, stick to cancer, okay? Help me out by not suggesting maybe I should’ve gone back to work, which implies there was work to go back to: B.A. in Music, Minor in Astronomy? As my mother once said, ‘Now, there’s a lucrative career path.’ Maybe only remind me of the psych unit a few times a year, the checking account I emptied to make that model of the universe, the run of not-so-wise intimate encounters, the inanimate objects like cell phones and shopping carts coming to life and trying to hurt me, you know, the suicide stuff after. Holidays, maybe. Mention it on holidays. Halloween. Last year I got that haunted house place across town to close down the room that was supposed to be a mental hospital full of wackos, but it’s funny; I couldn’t really work up a big old head of steam about it. Stigma, it’s called, but that’s just another word for being afraid: their problem, not mine. Crazy people have bigger fish to fry: med compliance, shrink after shrink, bloodwork, behavioral coping therapies, insurance, revolving fucking door policies. I was lucky. The meds finally caught and held, never let go after that, and I never let go of them. I joke to people that I am a professional patient. I am my own job.
There is really nothing wrong with being afraid of crazy. I mean, I have enough trouble with what I think; I have to decide how others think now too? I mean, I try to say the right things, have the right feelings, arrange them neatly, like setting a table for company.
You’ve got enough job for two people, Ted. It all balances out.
Meanwhile, well, yeah, groceries. And the phone call to that woman at the managed care place; my father’s going nowhere fast. And Riley’s waiting for me to tell him what he wants for a costume. Like I would know. I don’t understand why he doesn’t want to decide on his own anymore. I don’t know why Wyatt wants to be a girl.
I just don’t want them to be crazy. That is all I don’t want.
So, yeah. Not real interested in saving the planet. I’ve got other things on my plate. But you go right on ahead.
That is what I am doing.
©2016 Melinda Rooney