Wednesday, May 4, 2016

How hard I tried

and I am listening to the low moan of the dial tone again
and I am getting nowhere with you
and I can't let it go
and I can't get through
I am drawing the story of how hard we tried
how hard we tried

Summer 2002.  

Why is your daughter's lead level 17? The nurse asked me. 

As if I'd know. 

Except that I did--we lived in the zip code with the highest number of lead poisoned children per capita in the state of Missouri, which of course at the time had the highest number in the nation. So we threw the dice and lost. I did this. This is my fault.

But 17? Dear God. What does this mean? It means Vince from the City comes and ultrasounds my walls. It means our kitchen and upstairs back porch are poison. It means...she could be brain damaged...have low impulse control...ADHD...learning disabilities....stomach problems...which of course upon receipt of this information, induced all these symptoms in me.

I left.

I packed her up and moved out. Things were irrevocably damaged and there was no turning around, no going back. Everything I'd tried--how hard we tried--was for naught because I hadn't thought about closing the windows and turning on the air conditioning and instead blew a fan right across us filled with lead dust from the porch. I would call Bixby, ask how it was going. Tense talks. Getting nowhere with you. Can't sell the house with lead paint, can't live in the house with lead paint, now, for real, everyone will know what white trash we are. Can't let it go, and I can't get through.

Coming back to St. Louis, most of the house painted, waiting for the City to come and paint all our windows shut and put caution poison hazard yellow tape all over our house, dropping off the wetvac at my parents' house, my dad yelling at me for not wrapping the cord up with a bread tie or some nonsense.  

Oh come on, I told him with shaky emotion. He looked at me, and I think it was the first time someone saw me for real in months. This is going to cost me my marriage, I think you can tie up your own fucking cord.

But Vince gave our house a clean bill of health later that fall.  He told us we were good people. But I didn't feel like good people. I had let this little person down.


Brooklyn's lead level dropped to 9, and then to 7, and then I stopped going to the clinic for blood draws, after watching an incompetent woman hold my child down and draw blood from her neck.

I started to be the parent I was meant to be. Because fuck that.

I started learning that I could fight for someone else. And fight hard. And wake up and fight again and again and do all I had to do to bring her to fruition.

And I did.


  1. And look at her now! Good fight!

  2. I've only known you as a fighter. You're a bit scary. My idol!