Category Archives: Relationships

My Favorite Guys

I’ve been off the grid for a little over a month now and: 1. I can’t believe it’s been a whole month already!, 2. I hope you noticed, and 3. I hope you missed our visits as much as I have. While I haven’t sat down and written with my laptop, I’ve continued our visits by writing in my head. However, now that both peak season at work and my annual after-peak cold are done, I’m ready to sit down and type again.

794_37696208196_8125_nAs I shared with you in November, I was eagerly awaiting my son’s Christmas visit in December. He arrived home on the 22nd and I was so thrilled I could hardly stand it! My father was in Nashville that day for the funeral of a friend’s wife. As you know from our chats in July, my father has had a really rough year; so, he followed that really sad event with two happier ones: lunch with me and my cousin Laurie, and coming to the airport to welcome home the grandson he adores.

Dad and I waited at the seating area at Starbucks near the Terminal B concourse exit. Now, normally when I pick my son up, I wait in my car at the cell lot. He texts when he has his luggage and I drive up to the terminal, scooping him up from the Arrivals area. I hadn’t told him that this trip was going to be any different; so, I was excited to surprise him by being inside the airport and by having Papa with me. In fact, I was practically vibrating with the excitement.

Wouldn’t you know it, his plane was five minutes late. Curses!

Papa sat patiently at a table while I bounced on my cowboy booted toes looking down the concourse. Also waiting were a man, a woman and four children. That arrival party had signs and balloons, which was both sweet and adorable. I imagine that their people were touched by the welcome. Still, all I could think was, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, you’re cute. You’re also in my way. So, move it. I’m waiting on my boy and you’re blocking my view.” I was considering how many of the group I could move with a few well-placed elbows when their people arrived and they moved of their own accord. Incident averted!

I continued to bounce on my toes for several minutes before I saw the tall, thin, ginger man coming towards me. He expected me to be outside; so, I got to watch and appreciate the man my son has become for a few minutes before he noticed me. He is thinner, taller and more adult than ever. My baby is solidly grown. I was wistful for that instant; but, when he finally saw me bouncing there, I saw that my baby still loves his mama and all was right with the world again.  After I finally let go of him, I told him that I’d left something at my table – Papa.

Watching the two of them embrace, I thought of all their adventures together. Over the years, there have been many: fishing, hunting, building, caving, rafting, other chest-thumping-guy-stuff and just talking. We had no fanfare; but, right there, I had a welcome far better than poster board and balloons – my two favorite guys.

Friends Happen, Too

Having worked in aviation for well over two decades, I’ve been around aircraft hangars for so long that I don’t really appreciate how huge they are. They were always just everyday items that I didn’t really think much about – kind of like spoons, albeit really big spoons. Then, in Seattle visiting my son, we drove by the Boeing hangars. Holy cow! These things are so massive that although my eyes saw them and knew them as familiar objects, my mind could not wrap itself around the massive buildings. I looked into familiar looking doors, but rather than seeing eight-passenger Lear jets, I saw village-capacity 777s. I couldn’t process what I was seeing. They were just too big.

Kind of like realizing that people who don’t have to, love you anyway.

When my father told me that he wanted my son home for Christmas and that he would buy the ticket, I was way too excited to keep it to myself. I went to work glowing and told a couple of people what my father was doing. I told a couple of people.

Throughout the night, way more than a couple of people came up to me and said that they had heard that my son was going to be able to come home for Christmas, after all. I accepted their congratulations, but thought it was a little weird that so many people that I hadn’t told knew about it anyway. Well, then, one of them told me why so many of them knew.

It seems that one of them had decided to take up a collection to buy the ticket and that several others had already contributed or were planning to at payday.

Wow.

I found out about this over a week ago and it still stuns me. Like the hangar, my mind is struggling to process the information it has received. I really do love so many of those young people I work with. It was overwhelming to find out that they love me, as well. It’s just too big for my brain to process.

You know, love sneaks up on you sometimes. When I first showed up to work, I was nervous, knew no one and was resentful that my life was not going the way I wanted it to. I had bills to pay and this was how I was going to do it. I wasn’t looking for friends. I was just there to do a job. Days passed and I settled in to do the tasks before me as best I could. In my position as peer coach, I spoke directly with many of my coworkers, learning about them, how they came to be there, what they wanted out of the job and some of their aspirations. I heard stories of people out to earn a little Christmas cash, of people who (like me) had hit a hiccup in their careers, of people whose retirement funds were not lasting the way they needed, of people working their ways through school, and of people who don’t plan that far ahead. They lived one day at a time. I heard stories from people whose life experiences were similar to my own and from people whose lives I could not even imagine. I grew to admire and love many of them. They (like me and my beloved son) are not perfect, but I do love my work children and they love me back – warts and all.

Amazing. Humbling. And still bigger than my head can wrap itself around.

Dads Happen

Last week I shared with you my extreme sorrow that I could not bring my son home for Christmas. In addition to telling you about it, I also had to tell my father. Dad’s response was both quick and direct, “Nope. Not this year. I want to hug that boy’s neck.” So, it’s Papa to the rescue once again.

And my heart sings! 😀

Those two have been thick as thieves right from the get-go. My father has this wonderfully resonant voice that rumbles when he talks. I think that all babies love the sound of it. I KNOW that my baby did. On the rare occasions when the baby was fussy, Papa could calm him just by talking to him. As soon as he was mobile, Jaegar became my father’s shadow at any and every opportunity. If Papa was on the couch watching baseball eating chips and salsa, then so was a diapered toddler. I had never seen a small child eat salsa like that before. If it was pickled herring in cream sauce for Papa while watching the news, then it was absolutely the same for Jaegar. (He’s still a monster salsa eater, but not so much on the herring anymore.) They built things. They fixed things. They went fishing. They went hunting. They went camping, canoeing, and just did all kinds of chest-thumping-guy-stuff. They were – and are – buddies.

And the buddies will be together again for Christmas.

So, just as I told you some things that Children Don’t Know last week, I learned something that this child had forgotten: wonderful fathers hurt for even their grown children and those fathers will do all within their power to make the hurt go away. And, yes, with a doubt, I have a wonderful father.

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.

 

 

Southern Fried Samhain

Yeah, yeah. I’ve seen the prints and the photos of Autumn in all her glorious color; but, I have a hard time relating to that. When I lived in Pennsylvania, I walked around like a tourist every October. The colors of the trees were too fantastic to be real, and yet, they were. One of these days, I’m going to go on a Leaf Peeper tour of New England in Autumn and get the whole great, big, giant effect. In Mississippi, we just didn’t have that kind of color. Mostly trees went straight from green to brown. Usually over about a two-hour span on a Thursday night. They fell to the ground on Friday and that was that.  Autumn – or, more accurately, Fall. So, when people talk about Autumn and its beautiful color, I still have a hard time making that connection. For me, Autumn is less about leaves and more about candy!

SamtenserI still love Halloween. When I was a child, we lived outside of town where there were no neighbors to call on for trick or treating; so, we went into town. We went through neighborhoods where we had friends and came home with pillowcases heavy with goodies. Back then, those goodies included Aunt Lawrie’s popcorn balls and Miss Charlene’s pralined pecans (a closely guarded recipe my father has tried to wheedle out of her for years). Whether the night was chilly or warm (and in southern Mississippi it was just as likely to be one as it was the other) no trick or treat outing was complete without a stop for a hot chocolate or hot cider at Mister Andrew and Ms Monelle Smith’s log cabin in the middle of town. It was a wonderful tradition that I enjoyed then and treasure now.

And, now, it’s my turn. I love to watch the slightly puzzled little ones all dressed up coming around the neighborhood with their siblings and their parents. I love the costumes, the pumpkins, and I love being the one who helps make great memories for these children. This year, I had been planning to have friends over for a Samhain dinner where we could enjoy good food and each other’s company while we honored the dead by setting a place for them at the table. Alas, my vampire schedule has interfered.

Ah, but fear not, my friends! A coworker has suggested that we have our own dinner that night – at work! I like that idea and am contributing fried chicken and biscuits to the meal. Now, you know I don’t eat either of those things anymore; but, I enjoy making them and will enjoy watching others eat them – especially while I’m noshing on those vegetarian spring rolls that are being made just for me! There will be potato salad and goodness knows what else! I’m sure the Celts would be puzzled by our modern, multi-cultural (but mostly Southern) offerings; but, after a little fried chicken, I’m sure they’d get over it. I know that we’re all looking forward to it. Looking forward to good food, good company, and to enjoying an ancient tradition in a thoroughly modern way.

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.