What Are We Waiting For?

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2002

She had a smile that entered the room long before she did and a heart that knew no limits. My husband’s aunt, who, by the time I became a member of the family, lived hundreds of miles away, was always someone I knew of. Declining health prevented her from meeting our youngest son, her one visit with our older two a mere few hours.

I had only spent a short time in her physical company, but the idea of Irene has always been profound; and her passing last week has left a palpable void and reminded me of something I thought I already knew.

If I had to guess, I don’t think Irene understood the impact she had on me. And that wouldn’t be her fault. It would be mine. Because I never told her. I never picked up the phone and called her, never wrote her a letter. I sent photos of the children, always made sure I sent a Christmas card; but beyond that I was remiss.

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2007

I never told her how beautiful I thought she was, how incredibly brave, how the story of her life is the stuff of fiction. She lived many lifetimes in the one she was given, weathered losses that would have easily felled others. I never made an effort to be sure she knew her great-nephews despite geographical hurdles.

And just as resplendent flowers tend to arrive more prolifically after a person has died, the ardent words that would better have been spoken and written in life, suddenly appear with a vengeance: Obituaries overflow with positivity, letters of condolence seep with evocative praise. And the person who has left departed none the wiser.

So I’m left today wondering why: Why I did not stop the wheels of progress regularly to tell Irene what I thought–that she was kind and beautiful and brave? Why I let days turn to weeks and months, years and decades without a word, now having to join the legions who are compelled to relegate praise to sentences written in the past tense?

Why did I wait until today to tell the world about Irene? Why did I not do better when I clearly knew better?

Why do any of us?

 

 

 

Our Capacity to Love

As much as I might like to take a break from the news, I am compelled to read, drawn to the events of the day for reasons that are equal parts selfish and magnanimous, offensive and defensive.

And today as I read the latest round of finger-pointing, excuse-making, and name-calling, Mary Warren’s comment to Goody Proctor in The Crucible rang in my ears: “We must all love each other now, Goody Proctor.”

Love.  Now.

A wise friend once expressed her wish to me and to our family: “May your capacity to love surpass your desire to be loved.”

And, honestly, I believe it really is as simple as this.  When we shift our thinking from wanting others to like us, to love us, to need us and move toward a place where we freely and selflessly give of ourselves to others and to the greater good, a monumental shift takes place–a shift the world so desperately needs right now.

As 2012 draws to a close, I share with you a brief slide show of our friends and family this past year and remain grateful for our capacity to love.

Hold on tight to those you can; hold in your heart those you can’t.  And continue to grow your capacity to love.  This, truly, is our only hope.

Plenty to Do and More to Be Grateful For

I haven’t written a post in three weeks.

The reasons are many and varied and could be delineated here; but, honestly, they’re the same impediments that plague us all.  And even with the extra hour we’ll garner tonight when we set back our clocks, I find myself wishing for more.

It’s National Adoption Month.  And more than just my daily Facebook posts debunking myths about adoption, there is so much more I wish I could do.

It’s also Epilepsy Awareness Month.  And more than just highlighting our family’s journey, I wish I could shout from the rooftops all that epilepsy is and is not and the magnificent work of The Matty Fund.

My professional life is hectic, and I find myself wishing I simply had more time to linger, to talk at work.

My coursework is intense and leaves me with little time to contemplate the important ideas with which we are grappling.

And, of course, there is the rest of life–the avocations, the hobbies, the paths we pursue for the good of ourselves and others.

But it’s also November.  And I need to remind myself of all for which I am grateful–not the least of which is the fact that when my oldest son asks me to check out the comic he’s drawing, I can; that when my middle son asks me to help him create a magical amulet, I am there; that when my youngest son wants to show me his latest dance moves, I am able to stop and be completely captivated.

I am officially and unabashedly exhausted, but these beautiful young men inspire me to do more with my life than I ever thought possible.  For that, for them, I am and remain eternally grateful.

Remembering What Childhood Is For

Recently while on vacation in Florida, we had the opportunity to visit with family members in St. Augustine.  We agreed to meet at a local eatery–one that was purportedly kid-friendly–as five children under eight would be sharing the table.  After hugs and kisses and hellos, we sat down to lunch.  It was wonderful to spend time with family we don’t see nearly enough, and it was especially poignant to note how well the children were getting along.  After lunch, August, the youngest of the bunch, went into what is now being seen as his legendary post-meal show.  To know August is to know joy–a grin that spreads beyond his face, a laugh that comes from the recesses of his belly, a love of humankind that is unequaled.  He is robust, and he is loud, and he loves to make people laugh.

So that’s what he did for roughly five minutes–made the table (and much of the restaurant) laugh.  However, when my husband took August outside while the older kids visited the gumball machine, one of the men in the restaurant applauded–sarcastically, as if to say, “It’s about time someone took him out of here.”  He then uttered as he shook his head, “Thank God.”

I looked at him–really looked at him–and thought about going over and sharing a word or two or three with him.  He was with two young boys, maybe ten or twelve years old, perhaps his sons.  He was not much older than I.

As I resisted a very strong urge to respond to him, I thought about myself ten years from now–when my children are much older and (a bit) less boisterous.  And instead of staying angry at this man,  I sincerely wished that as the years go by I never forget what it is like to have young children, that a child’s happy laughs and silly faces would never irritate me instead of bringing me joy.

Today we visited a small violin shop in Providence.  As I worked very hard to keep August and Edgar’s curious hands away from the violins, bows, and all things breakable, the kind proprietor simply smiled at me–and them–and said, “This is what I love to see–curious children.  This means they are smart; they want to explore.  I hate seeing kids being forced to sit still.”  The shop’s proprietor is 85 years old.

Childhood is really the only time in our lives for unabashed expression and exploration–a lesson from a gentle and wise octogenarian to us all.

Moving On

“Mom, can I go over to Alex’s house?”

Eight words that forever changed Oscar from a small boy who was under constant supervision to a young man who was finally able to feel the first vestiges of independence.

This morning is the first morning that his best friend and confidant won’t be just two doors down, won’t be close enough to roll out of our house and over to his.

They’ve moved–not far, but not within walking distance without the previous requisite supervision.

So, it’s different.

Oscar said this morning that he knows he’ll still see Alex but acknowledged that he is sad and that it won’t be the same.

He then added that he was glad for the year Alex lived two doors down and how he became his best friend.

Focusing on the positive and not dwelling on the loss . . . a lesson from a very independent seven-year-old.

You’ve Got Someone to Blame

The questions have been frequent and earnest this week.  A seven-year-old boy who is becoming acutely aware of the fact that from house-to-house, family-to-family, things look different:

“My friend (fill-in-the-blank) can watch (fill-in-the blank).  Why can’t I?”

“My classmate can stay up until (fill-in-the-time).  Why do I have to go to bed so early?”

“Why can’t I have (fill-in-the-blank) toy?  (Fill-in-the-blank) does.”

“Guess what? (Fill-in-the-blank) can eat/drink (fill-in-the-blank).  Can I?”

But tonight the conversation moved from the customary if not occasionally frenzied comparison/contrast to how these differences make Oscar feel.  Embarrassed is what he said.  Like a kid.

I wanted to shout from the rooftops:  “You are a kid!  You’re growing too fast as it is!”

But I didn’t.  This wasn’t about me.  It was most assuredly about him.

So, I gave him an out.  I told him that if ever he felt embarrassed or like a kid because one of his friends gets to do/see/eat something he can’t, he can blame us, his parents.  I gave him the verbiage he needs to deflect and to be able continue to socialize, to play without being embarrassed.

However, instead of audibly exhaling at having a place to put the proverbial blame, Oscar looked at me and said, “I thought you said that we weren’t supposed to blame other people for our problems.”

I explained this wasn’t his problem but rather his parents’ philosophy of child-rearing–something over which he has little to no control.

He seemed to understand.  And as I wrapped my head around the fact that more and more I find myself wondering who is raising whom, I tried to exhale and hoped I did the right thing.

Bartleby with a Heart

At 2:45 PM Monday through Friday, students pour out the door of my sons’ elementary school.  Edgar is usually first.  He hands off his substantial backpack to me then jumps into my arms–literally–stopping for a very public hug and kiss prior to rounding the corner to visit his favorite tree or walk up the stairs of the fire escape.

Oscar is next.  He comes out–cool and collected, often sporting a premature adolescent scowl.  I reach for his hand.  He doesn’t reach back.  I put my arm around his shoulder–barely perceptible from my perspective.  He ducks and creates a bit of distance between us.

I can read his signals, and I can sense his preferences.  But still I have to ask.  To the casual observer, only one of the two children I am picking up at this time seems to be the recipient of any kind of public maternal affection.

So I pose the question–though I know the answer.

“Oscar, how do you feel about my hugging you or holding your hand when I pick you up from school?”

In classic Bartleby fashion, he says, “I’d prefer that you not.  Not in front of my friends.”

I tell him that it’s okay, that I understand; then I add that I want him to know that when I see him at the end of a long day I am hugging him a thousand times in my heart.

He turns to me, looks into my eyes, and says, “You know, once we get to the car, you can hug me and kiss me all you want.  Okay?”

Okay?

It couldn’t be more okay.