Category Archives: Family

Forward Ho!

(But don’t call me Ho.)

I’ve been on a reading kick for a few months now and have annihilated my library’s Robert Crais collection. I just love his main two characters: Elvis Cole and Joe Pike. I was truly upset when I read the last of the books. I will miss those two friends until Crais publishes another one. (Psst! Mr. Crais, if you’re reading this – do a woman a solid and write faster, huh? I miss the guys and the black cat.) Elvis is verbose and irreverent while Joe is silent and unreadable. Joe has distinctive red arrow tattoos on his deltoids. The arrows point forward and are a testament to his belief that the only thing to do is to keep going and that the only way to go is forward.

In addition to what I shared with you yesterday, during our text conversation on Tuesday, my son also said to me, “We’ll make it Mother dear. There is only direction and it is forward.” My boy – Joe Pike.

If you’ve been with me through this blog’s journey, you know that the last couple of years have been very difficult for me and, really, for much of my family. I’ve tried to be honest with you throughout everything without oversharing. I’m pretty sure that sometimes I still overshare; however, I have come to believe that even that “error” is a good thing. While most of you don’t comment in the section here (ahem), many of you send messages to me behind the scenes. Overwhelmingly, the common theme to those messages is: I thought I was the only one.

No, you’re not the only one.

wagon-train-walter-colvinWe share a common human condition even if we try to put a brave face on it. I believe that a sense of humor is absolutely crucial for enduring difficulties. However, as you know, I lose mine from time to time.  I begin to feel overwhelmed by my current trials or by the trials of those I love and cannot help. Sometimes, it just seems like too much to bear. And it would be, if we had to bear it alone.

But we don’t.

We are more superficially connected than ever before in the history of mankind; however, we simultaneously often feel more isolated than ever. We post the highlights of our lives on Facebook and Instagram and Twitter and, and, and. We know that we are showing a highly edited version of our lives where checkbooks always balance, dogs never poop in the floor, alarm clocks always go off and socks never go missing in the wash. But, we see the red ink in our checkbooks and  know that we are presenting only a partial truth. Yet, we see the posts of others and assume that their posts are the Whole Truth, the Real Truth. We see our friends in Pleasantville while we struggle in Amityville. And we feel worse. Somewhere in our minds we know that they live just down the street in Amityville, too, but we are still more apt to believe the Pleasantville fiction.

Well, I’m going to sit right here and tell you that I’m in Amityville and that I’ve seen your mailbox on my street. I’m not alone and neither are you. There is only one option for us and that is to continue to work through our difficulties. There is only one direction for us and that is forward. So, forward ho!

Surely, we can do this if we help each other. (But, don’t call me Shirley, either.)


What Children Don’t Know

So, after throwing my little pity party on Monday, I spent a large part of Tuesday pouting and a larger part of the day telling myself to get a grip (for crying out loud!). In the writing of Monday’s post, I determined what my real problem is. As I wrote, my real anxiety crystallized for me. The motive behind my violent snacking was (as I’m sure you’ve guessed) my inability to fly my son home for Christmas.

As you well know, I adore that man – and I do recognize that he is a man. He’s 21, after all. I relish conversations with him and take great joy in seeing the man that my baby, my boy has chosen to become. I was texting with him yesterday and told him that I could not buy the ticket for him to come home. I wanted to give him time to maybe crash Christmas with a friend or to arrange to work at a soup kitchen or whatever. His response was, “Mom, it’s okay if I can’t come back for Christmas. My first one away from home had to be sometime.”

Here’s what I didn’t get at his age and what he didn’t get, either: It’s not about him. It’s about me – the mother.

My response to him was, “You could be 40 and I still wouldn’t be ready. [Explicative] whether you’re okay with it. I’m not!” And that, my friends, is the honest, selfish truth.

In my eyes, he is a handsome, full-grown man; but, in my heart, he is the baby who was jaundiced and had to be hospitalized at three days old. He is the toddler who played peep-eye by hiding under throw pillows. He is the boy with the wonderful imagination who could entertain himself for hours with a funnel. He is my baby chick and this mother hen wants him beneath her wing for the holiday.

But that’s not always how it works, is it?

Children are born wanting to do for themselves. They test their physical wings the moment they begin to hold their own heads up. We are delighted when they find their hands and feet; but, then they use those self-same hands and feet to explore the world and move away from us. Particularly as teens they test their emotional and mental wings. They have their own opinions. They form their own friendships. And, sometimes, we parents aren’t keen on either one!

Nevertheless, this is how it has been since we stopped existing in nomadic hunter/gatherer tribes. Children grow up. They establish lives of their own. They often move away.

And that is how it should be.

I must find the strength of my Scot and Dane foremothers who sent their babies across the ocean, never to see them again. Years ago, I saw some letters sent from the parents in Denmark to their children (my great-great grandparents) in Memphis. The letters were newsy and full of the banalities of life back in the Old Country. There were no photos. There were only words on paper to keep lives in touch. Just a few generations later, those lives no longer touch at all. I know none of my Andersen, Schultz or Schütt relatives. And I’m even further removed from my Scottish MacKenzie and McPherson relatives, and from my English Doty and Carson ones. So it goes in family diasporas.

Grateful I live in the age of the internet, I have the capability to Skype with my son on Christmas, and, better yet, his promise that we will.



Love Is a Rheostat

On Sunday morning just after Leah died, my father and I were exiting the hospital hand-in-hand when he said, “She really loved you.” To which I replied, “And I really loved her.” But, then, I realized that my statement wasn’t true. I didn’t love her in the past tense: I love her in the present tense.

light-switch-and-dimmerLove isn’t a toggle switch. It’s a rheostat.

Leah’s precious spirit isn’t here anymore; but, that doesn’t mean that my love for her toggles into the off position. It’s not that easy even with romantic love after it all goes to Hell in a handbasket. (And how many times have I wished that it was a toggle!?) I still love Leah and always will. She was a wonderful woman. My dear friend Joey died over 21 years ago. My friend Sandy died seven years ago. I still love them and think of them daily. Of course it’s different than it was when they were alive because love among the living can be nurtured and allowed to grow. Now, I love memories of my friends. Love for memories cannot grow. Its light dims to a comfortable glow. I’m not sure that “dims” is the right work here, but I think you know what I mean. The love doesn’t diminish – it doesn’t disappear, but it may not burn as brightly as it once did.

The conversation with my father reminded me of a scene from the movie Phenomenon. John Travolta’s character George is dying. Kyra Sedgwick’s character Lace is sitting with him. They have this exchange:

  • Lace: I tried so hard not to love you.
  • George: How’d you make out?
  • Lace: Terrible.
  • George: Hey, would you, uh, love me the rest of my life?
  • Lace: No. I’m gonna love you for the rest of mine.

Corny as it might sound, that’s how it is. When we love someone, we don’t love them until they die. We love them until we do.