Sunday, September 16, 2012

So Many Septembers Begin This Way

So many Septembers begin this way

The bees diving into cups of lemonade

Children arriving early to school on the first day
Until mid-week when sleep is all they want to do

 Confused by noisy rush hour
Squirrels make a dash across streets.
Then stammer together in the middle with their partners
Like some polka dance gone afoul

Clouds frown grey

During frosty mornings
Toes curl under
In search of warmth from sandals
Refusing to hibernate for the year

Day drops off into night
Like falling off a cliff in a dream
Hypnotized into deep slumber

Trees ache with age
Cast off their leaves
Some with scarlet edges
Reminding us it is almost time

To pick apples
Jump in leaves six feet high
And get lost in a field of corn

We must put away those sandals
And shovel our way through the day

Sunday, September 2, 2012

The Arrival of Mr. Dylan

Dylan will be 13 years old on September 11.  This is a memory of his birth. We are so happy he is here.

The wait is almost over.  Dr. Hofstrand asks the nurses to page my husband in the cafeteria where he has gone for breakfast.

They induced labor awhile ago and finally it is time to push.

Dr. Hoftrand is in the room with my mother in law, Erma.  At my last visit, Dr. Hoftrand told me there would be a surgeon on call today in case the baby needed an emergency shunt to drain the water from his head.  She also reassured me once again that the active movement of the baby the last few weeks usually indicated good brain development.

Erma and the doctor keep eyeing each other from across my bed as the contractions start to move closer together. 

“Where do I know you?” Erma says. She is smiling and the corner of her eyes appear to curl upwards. There is something mischievous in her smile that I cannot place.
My doctor looks back at her and smiles in that same childish, secretive way.

“Perkins,” they both say together.

I learn then that they both waitressed together at the Perkins in White Bear Lake. Attention and conversation turns away from me now but carries on across my bed about various customers and moments leaving them laughing uncontrollably at times.

I am left to my own thoughts.

I have been waiting all summer for this day.  The arrival of my second son Dylan should have been one of excitement but instead was a stormy mixture of fear, uncertainty and hope.

The pregnancy had not been easy.   After three previous miscarriages, I became pregnant again only to believe I was miscarrying again but this time while I was in Mexico. No one knew I was pregnant yet. I was close to that magical twelve week mark. Was I being punished? Was it because I climbed Chichen Itza? What kind of doctor would I find here?  Luckily I didn’t have to find out. It was a false alarm.

Months later a series of ultrasounds revealed that the baby’s head was growing beyond the normal range. The ultrasound doctor diagnosed this as hydrocephalous: water on the brain.  He escorted us to a room where a genetic counselor told us that our baby would most likely be mentally retarded.  And in  a voice that sounded almost cheerful she asked,   “Would you like to know which states allowed abortions at seven months?”

After the diagnosis, I stood in the parking lot of Fairview Hospital digesting the news. I had neither words nor tears.  My gaze fixated on the revolving door for the Fairview Amputee and Gait Training Program across the street.   Was this something our marriage could survive?  Was it wise to try to have another baby at 38?  Why didn’t I give up like my friend Teresa who was the same age and miscarried once? Was this some new challenge that would open new doors?  Meanwhile I remember staring at those revolving doors wishing I would see a veteran hop out without a leg, something to stop me from feeling sorry for myself. 

Shortly after the diagnosis, I was put on bed rest. Once I went into false labor while Bill was at a scouting camp in Wisconsin. Hearing the news he left the camp in Wisconsin and raced for home escorted by the state patrol who asked him to slow it down just a bit. It was a false alarm and by the time he arrived at the hospital I left to go eat breakfast.

Towards the end of the pregnancy, I gave up on sleeping in bed and instead slept sitting up in a recliner (which only helped a little).  From the living room window, I watched as summer grew tired of itself and September rolled in. The trees shook their worn leaves off and the wind tossed them around the dusty streets like a rotten salad. The crickets grew louder each evening and the sun slept in later each morning. Still the time this would all end seemed so far away like watching an all-day rain from your window, rain drops pelting the side of your window and you keep thinking when will it stop?

This was also the first year I missed the State Fair and I watched it on the television feeling depressed until the State Fair came to me. After work, Bill raced around the fairgrounds in 90 degree heat, gathering a tray of my favorite fair food.  It was a good distraction.

Bill arrives back in the room in time for me to start pushing. There will be jokes later about Dylan interrupting his breakfast but for now there is only tense anticipation of his arrival and his condition.  

The pushing is difficult and nothing seems to be happening.  The doctor is at the end of the bed coaching me to keep going.

I tell myself it is almost over.  I push but I am exhausted.

“Well, I have never seen this before,” the Dr. says abruptly.  “He is actually trying to go back in. Unbelievable!”

No one can believe this either and there is a momentary silence in the room followed by a chuckle by Bill in the corner. 

But I keep telling myself the wait is almost over; I give another push and tell myself it is almost over. And I will know.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

State Fair

State Fair

When it’s state fair time
I must go at least once
If not twice or even three times
I might miss something
Something big
And everyone I know will be there

If I can’t be there, something is wrong
Like some silent disease
I’d grow jealous of the happy adults
Waving their corndogs at the television cameras
Smiling because they’ve reentered childhood
And I have not.

My history is carved into its buildings, its grounds
Once the fair opens
Ghosts of my past reopen like a well-loved book
Full of memories, moments
Reliving my stories from the outside in.

Early morning, I meet friends at the Star Tribune
The foot of the grandstand
The concrete bridge leads you up into its second floor
A windowless garage
Reminding me of a flea market in Florida

Ronco salesmen and Christian book retailers call out to me
“Take a look at this!”
United Stores has moved away and so has the customized dog tags
That I bought in honor of my first boyfriend

Walk sidewalks that I walked the year before
And the year before that
Crossing my own path
Walking around in circles like a lost hiker
In search of a cheese curd or a fudge puppy
Or the nearest bathroom on a stick

Leaping over legs,
Dodging strollers spread out to rest
On street curbs and small patches of green grass
Trampled and wet

I stop for food
The Armour foot long by the haunted house
The mini donuts near the Grand Stand
The food building shuffle
Peters hotdogs, French fries, taffy, and elephant ears

Stopping in at the art center, dog and 4H exhibits,
Butter carvings in the dairy building
Stumbling over seniors in Heritage Square
Whose numbers double every year

A mandatory appearance at the barns
To greet animals’ behinds
Pick out a favorite goat, horse, and swine
Ask myself why there are chickens in the sheep barn?

Head over to the coliseum, so I can walk another circle
Stop for horses trotting in for their show
Spilled beer mixes comfortably in the dust
Urban cowboys and girls walk with chocolate covered strawberries,
Trying on western shirts and picking out oysters with pearls

One stop for cheese curds
Another at the Giant Slide
I walk by honey candy, bees and flowers

I ignore  “all the milk you can drink” signs
because the price is too high
a beer at the bazaar makes much more sense

I spread  myself over to
Ye Old Mill and
The Midway at dusk
So grateful that the carnie yelling is not my nephew

Feet aching, but content I ride the bus home with
Overtired, sugar induced children and parents passed out on fun
I return with bags and papers,
One more yard stick for the closet
And a half filled container of Sweet Martha’s

Tired and surprisingly hungry for something a bit more healthy
and less expensive than a $6 hot dog
I did it, I’m done.
“How was the fair?” my friends ask
“Oh the same” I answer. 
But that’s why I like it

Robin Sauerwein
August 22, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


15 years of marriage this week. It doesn’t seem like that long and that’s a good thing. I have been married once before and I know what a bad marriage is like.  That is why I was so reluctant to try it again.

I get different reactions to us as a couple.  Some look at us as an odd couple, opposite in appearance, nature, personality, hobbies.  I have agreed to that interpretation as well.

I am quiet, introverted, and romantic. I prefer a long quiet walk in a park to a loud party. I enjoy reading, writing, and the arts. I love almost all types of music. I am very patient with people.

Bill is loud and loves to socialize. He’s a storyteller. He listens to Heavy Metal and Yanni.  He loves strategy and politics. He is practical and brutally honest.   He is boisterous and unafraid of confrontation. He angers easily towards tools and ignorant people. His son, Stefan, moves out of the way if he sees his eyes turn black.  (Thoughts of the Hulk come to my mind.)  He will stand up for not only himself but for others. Many people think he is taller than he is by his confident gait. He carries a very intimidating knife for everything from cutting an apple (he says only animals gnaw at that their food) to scratching his back.

 My sister who met him first said, “You’ve got to meet Bill he is so funny and looks like Charles Manson.” 

Why would I find him interesting?  

His best friend, Joe also said, “You have to see Bill’s bedroom. He has comic books on one side, weapons on the other, and a bunch of care bears.”
I wasn’t too excited.

I wasn’t into knives or comic books and I hated care bears. Yet I agreed to meet him and that is when I learned the meaning of that the old saying, “you can’t tell a book by its cover.” You might say he is an oxymoron of himself.  Within a couple of years we were married.

At first blush, it can seem we are polar opposites. But opposites attract.
In many ways we represent the paradoxes of life:  the good/evil, the yin/yang that exists in this world. 

Underneath the obvious differences between us, lies a solid value system of trust and respect that displays itself daily.  We have much more in common than what others see on the surface.

Bill talks about my latest projects or successes to neighbors and coworkers frequently.  “We hear about you all the time,” they say. I blush. Really?  Why would this burly, loud,  “manly man” talk about his wife while bartending. But he does.

He also comes home and tells me about all the men who complain about their wives and their marriages.

And then there are those moments where our opposite natures complement each other similar to a teacher who places a quiet student next to a hyperactive one.

When Bill is ready to “ring the sales manager’s neck “at Home Depot, he will call me so I can listen to his ranting. My calmness calms him down. (Thus no appearance by the Hulk)  

Likewise, when I am prone to a bad mood swing, he is there to poke and tease me into laughing because again out of character, Bill is always in a good mood.

I can’t say Bill has ever bought me a $75 dollar bouquet of roses on Valentine’s Day or even remembered to wish me a happy birthday (without reminding him).  But I do remember the time he presented me with a single rose, or on a 95 degree day, after working for 9 hours in the heat, Bill went to the state fairgrounds picking up my favorite fair food to surprise me because I was pregnant and on bed rest; or the sonnet he composed for me, just for the heck of it while on a lake alone in the Boundary Waters.

It isn’t what you do on the designated Hallmark dates that matter but how you treat each other on a daily basis.

Although I haven’t been happier, here is where we switch roles.  I am the realist and Bill is the romantic. I believe there isn’t’ any guarantee in life that we will always be together.

Yet, Bill’s answer to this is, “If you divorce me, you can take the house but I’m keeping all the nails.”

Definitely something I need to think about first.