Category Archives: Family

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.