Authors: Sandy James
Tags: #Fiction, #Romance, #Contemporary
By Sandy James
Copyright © 2008 by Sandy James
All rights reserved.
Cover design by Dragonfly Press Design
Book design by Sandy James
Published by James Gang Publishing
All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, stored in retrieval system, copied in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording or otherwise transmitted without written permission from the publisher. You must not circulate this ebook in any format.
This ebook is licensed for your personal enjoyment only. If you would like to share the ebook with another person, please purchase an additional copy for each recipient. If you’re reading this as an ebook and did not purchase it or it was not purchased for your use only, then please delete it and purchase your own copy. Thank you for respecting the hard work of the author.
This book is a work of fiction. Names, characters, places, and incidents either are products of the author’s imagination or are used fictitiously. Any resemblance to actual persons—living or dead—events, or locales is entirely coincidental.
Printed in the United States of America
Second Printing: June 2013
To Jeff—I promised you no mushy dedication, so let me just say one thing.
After all these years, I’m still happy to be stuck with you.
A birthday lament...
What exactly is middle age?
It seems to me that my mother has been middle-aged just about forever. She covers her gray hair with gobs of Miss Clairol, rubs gallons of moisturizer onto her face and hands, and has been retired for a few years. Oh yeah, and she’s been through menopause. Of course, my father and I used to joke that she’d been going through menopause for at least the last thirty years. Funny, but Mom never thought we were very amusing.
Now I realize middle age has come and gone in my mother’s life. She saw its hand waving goodbye in her rearview mirror years ago. Unfortunately, that can only mean one thing.
It’s my turn.
I get to be the woman who is constantly checking the part in her hair to see if a gray hair or two or twenty have sneaked into the mixture. I get to be the one who wonders if the little lines that are forming around the eyes should be called “laugh lines” or “wrinkles.” I get to be the lady who wonders if she is too old to wear the t-shirts with the cute, naughty sayings on them or if that skimpy little skirt shows too many spider veins or cellulite.
You know, birthdays used to be so much fun. Remember when you’d look forward to presents and cards that had checks and ten-dollar bills tucked in them? Well, those days are all over once you hit twenty. Then on your twenty-first birthday, you get to drink legally, and another mile marker passes by on the highway of life.
The rest of your life you use birthdays to gauge exactly how close you’re getting to the magical and tragic age of forty. When a person passes that milestone, birthdays just cause a fight or flight response. You watch the pages of the calendar drop from the wall like some old corny movie showing a rapid advance in time. Your days, weeks, and years are skiing down a slippery slope as you struggle to keep pace.
I turned thirty-twelve today. I’ll just give you a second to catch on. It always takes my high school students a beat or two to do the math. Some even whip out a calculator.
So the question I have to ask myself is...
Am I middle-aged?
And, since I obviously know the answer to that one, I ask myself, what exactly is middle age? Now that one is a toughie!
Is it a chronological phenomenon?
I doubt it. I mean if that’s the case, I
middle-aged. Women born the same year as I was should live to be almost eighty. Divide eighty by two. That would seriously suck. I choose to push that definition of middle age aside and deal with it like any normal human female. I’ll simply wallow in denial.
Is middle age a psychological occurrence?
This is much more likely. If it’s a state of mind, I can fight it. Don’t they always say you’re only as old as you feel? If it holds true and I try to act young, then I can miraculously be young. Maybe I’ll get some body art, a tattoo. Or how about a new piercing? That’ll make me young again. Not! I just wish my boobs believed that tripe about feeling young making you young. Those twin sisters are most definitely middle-aged and falling faster than the thermometer in a Minnesota winter.
Is middle age a sociological event?
Ding, ding, ding! We have a winner!
Of course it’s entirely sociological. People become middle-aged because other people tell them that they’re officially middle-aged. It’s a product of watching the girls in advertisements become thinner and thinner and younger and younger. It’s from watching men trying to feel younger than they are by having an arm around some twenty-something waif with perky boobs and no stretch marks. It’s because women over forty are, in many ways, disposable.
Look at it this way—men turn forty and go on the prowl for a red sports car or a trophy wife. Women turn forty and start hunting for the cheapest Botox clinic and over-the-counter hormone products. That hardly seems fair.
Who exactly made these ridiculous rules? I know that I was not invited to that particular convention. In fact, I would venture a huge leap out on a brittle limb that not too many females were involved in the assigning of “middle age” as the last stop on a woman’s journey through having a fascinating and important life. Everything after that is stereotypically supposed to be wretched. First divorce, then menopause, then death. Seriously depressing.
I have decided that middle-aged women shouldn’t be deemed unwanted. We still matter. Even if we’re over forty, we still matter. I still matter, and I intend to prove it.
So, on my thirty-twelfth birthday, I, Jacqueline Marie Delgado, swear on my cake bearing a tombstone reading “Over the Hill” that my sons bought to help “celebrate” the occasion, that I will not be a clichéd middle-aged woman. I promise to continue celebrating being me regardless of what chronology is telling me to do. I vow to make this a year of self-discovery and productivity.
And I promise to never again drink as much white zinfandel as I did tonight.
Welcome to my year
“Put it in the closet,” Nate ordered as Patrick carried another box into the dorm room.
“What closet?” Patrick asked, dropping the box on the ground in the middle of the ten-by-ten cinderblock cell. “You mean that tiny hole in the far wall? My hamster had a bigger cage. Why won’t you even think about the frat?”
“Because I’m not fraternity material. I have functioning brain tissue,” Nate responded. “Where’s Mom?”
I’d been standing just outside the door, listening to them, and feeling a bit melancholy. With a sigh, I dragged the too heavy box full of stuff Nate probably didn’t really need into the tiny room my youngest son would call “home” for the next nine months.
“I’m here, I’m here. Geesh. What are you two fighting about now?”
“Do you want me to help with that?” Patrick asked.
“Typical guy,” I commented. “You ask to help after the job’s done.”
Patrick just laughed at me. The brat.
Nate zipped around the room going from box to box like a bee trying to pick the most succulent flower. “I need to get the bed on stilts or I’ll never have enough room.”
“It’s a dormitory,” Patrick countered. “You shouldn’t expect to have any room.”
“Well, at least I don’t have to share it with some drunken preppy who probably slips girls roofies,” Nate replied.
I couldn’t help but laugh at them. They were twenty-one and eighteen and still fighting as though they were both in grade school. My sons hadn’t changed a bit. Still as blond as any California surfer, their faces bore that I’m-not-all-grown-up look, dimples and all. But they really weren’t children any longer. They had changed in so many ways.
That thought instantly brought tears to my eyes. My babies were all grown up. I was going to have to leave Nate behind and drive back to my big empty house all by myself.
Patrick had always been the independent and stubborn one. It didn’t frighten me to let him go. School was almost too easy for him, so I knew his grades would be good. He was active in pretty much any organization he could join, and I knew he’d network and meet new people. And I was right—Patrick thrived at college.
But my Nate? My baby?
Who would be there to take care of him?
“Uh oh,” Patrick said as he took the two steps necessary to cross the entire room and stare down at me from his six-three world. “Waterworks.”
“Ah, Mom.” Nate groaned. “Please don’t cry.”
I sniffled. “Who says I’m crying?”
Yeah, like that tack was going to work. It wasn’t a highly effective message when a tear slid down my cheek. I wiped it away with the back of my sleeve.
Patrick put his arm around my shoulder. “Mom’s got empty nest syndrome. We learned all about it in psychology class. Women hate it when the last chick flies the coop.” He tucked his thumbs in his armpits, flapped his wings, and clucked like a chicken.
My son was a smart-ass.
“I don’t have empty nest syndrome,” I insisted, while secretly wanting to have a long talk with Patrick’s psychology professor. The man really needed to learn to mind his own damn business.
Nate rolled his eyes. “Mom, I can take care of myself.”
“I don’t have empty nest. The room’s just... dusty.” I had no idea how I was going to leave my little boy behind. I supposed the fact that my “little boy” stood six-two and out-muscled half of maledom should have impacted my opinion of his ability to be independent. But the mother in me only remembered the little boy who would cry when his older brother wouldn’t play with him.
How could such a fragile little creature possibly survive the cold, cruel world? Maybe he should stay home with me for another year or two. He didn’t need to be in college. I could home school.
My “fragile little creature” came over and gave me a hug that almost knocked me off my feet. “I’ll be fine, Mom.”
I sniffled a little more and started to unpack the closest box. It didn’t take us long to get Nate set up in his dorm room. Of course, my ex-husband didn’t show up until after almost everything was unpacked. It just showed that the apples didn’t fall too awfully far from the paternal tree.
“Jackie,” David said as he walked in the room and deigned to acknowledge my presence in the universe with a curt nod. “You good?”
I gave him the visual once over, noting how impeccably he was dressed. Not a salt and pepper hair was out of place, and he had that scruffy I’m-too-cool-to-shave look that reminded me of several bad eighties television shows. “I’m fine. And you?”