Look Ma! no tears!?

Jack left for Germany today.

We were– and are– dried eyed. Around us parents broke as soon as the van pulled away from the school.

This is when I am super grateful for all the things that prepped us for these 14 days without our baby–.

1. A strong belief that Jack is surrounded by angels always– but especially in these kinds of situations.

2. Those little mini-weeks and then a full week at church camp. That first mini-week was rough. The second was a little less wrenching. Last year’s full week was a victorious realization that our boy is growing up.

3. Both Robby and I went on exchanges (to France) when we were Jack’s age–our parents modeled for us the confidence we, in turn, showed to Jack– that not only can he “do this” but that he would have a marvelous time in the process.

4. A well packed suitcase. (Thanks to my Momma for those skills.)

5. Knowing that we three are being held up in prayers and good thoughts. Between texts and facebook (let alone the people we actually see in person) we have been and will be buoyed up.

(It also helps that Jack’s host family is also Christian and very kind in their preparations for him to stay with him.)


Tick.

My sister is quick (maybe a little too quick) to point out that I have entered a new demographic today. I am now to tick the 45-54 box. I find it insane to realize that I’m in my mid-40s (let alone that I’ve bypassed my 30s).

The idea that to be in the middle of my life now requires me to make it to 90 is a little disconcerting. The balm is that life is better now than it was 15 or 20 years ago.

My sister posted a picture of me today on facebook. It’s one of my favorite childhood photos so I quickly made it my profile shot. I’m about five years old. I still have long hair (before the shag hair cut that was a horrid mistake). I’m standing on a big pile of sand at (I think) Silver Lake. I’m wearing a large straw hat (my mother’s?) and a bikini. The bikini is one of two that I have owned. The latter one was tried and quickly discarded in my 20s. This predecessor was orange and terrycloth with white piping. I was a skinny kid– my sunburned knees are knobby and there are huge welts of bug bites on stick legs– the suit is loose and gapes. I don’t think I’ve ever worn an article of clothing since with such pride or abandon. I don’t plan on adding any bikinis to the wardrobe this year (even if I could find one that was orange and terrycloth).

Taking stock– there’s not much that I could add to life that would make me happier than I am tonight. The Rabbit is curled up asleep in his bed. Robby and the pups are waiting in our bed. There is tea in the cupboard and books on the shelves. Travel is looming. Spring is springing. There is health and wealth (relatively) and merriment.

Tick.


Another Dad day.

In a few minutes it will be another long Dad Day. A normal Wednesday– breakfast with Jack, school for him/work for us, a morning meeting, Jack’s choir practice and dinner at church, 5th grade homework, bed… but pulsing throughout the day is a semi-conscious awareness that 19 years ago we were called back from our drive to our little apartment to the hospital where Dad was suddenly dying.

The details of that day are both stark and vague– and, for the most part, they are kept at bay with much better memories of Dad– but on this day the veil is a little thinner and they come parading with a terrible affrontery and hideously perform shadow puppets under the rest of the day’s activity.

Dad is missed on every day– so this day doesn’t make a difference other than to bring to the foreground the realization of how much time has passed since we’ve heard his braying laugh or joyful singing or even the illogic of his terrible temper. It’s still unfathomable to me that he never held Jack or saw my nieces grow up into the lovely young woman that they are– but only knew them as babies.

The grief now– almost twenty years later– comes when I hear one of the kids at the university complain about their parents. Worse is overhearing the confessions that come to the professor next door– just this week a girl dully related that her father was non-existent in her life. His alcoholism had ruined her childhood and she’d long grown out of wishing that he was a dad. Her voice carried into my adjacent office and I was sad that I’d been so wealthy and she’d been so poor in the same area.

I’m missing the Sister who has taken herself on a vacation this week. We usually meet up on Dad day and only briefly acknowledge it. A long-established pattern not out of stoicism but out of the need to be more like our father in the way we (first) raised up her girls and now Jack. We are proud when we are privy to some tale of Dad’s legendary generosity. We soak up the stories now– because it is rarer and rarer that we are recognized as “Bruce’s girls”… so many of the people we’ve added to our circles came after we buried Dad. I forget sometimes how few people there still are (that we see regularly) that know me as one of his daughters. Only a handful of people at church. Just a few at work. One or two at Jack’s school.

Oldest friend, Melle, reached out on Sunday with a long text about feeling as though Dad were right there with her in the church they were visiting. Hearing him sing (“belt out”) during a favorite hymn. He’s visited her a few times in strong sensation or dreams– always when I am most missing him. Melle is practical– the Diana to my Anne– so I never question his visits to her. I was probably jealous in the beginning that he would show up so vividly in her dreams– when she’s not even a dreamer– until I realized how much lovelier it was to be given this gift from her now and then. Never expected. But always welcomed.


Quiet Thanksgiving

We lost most of November to a bug that took us all out, at one time or another, then lingered with me. I still have a cough that is phleghmy and hacking– but with decreasing regularity. I’ll take it.

It all made for a semi-quiet Thanksgiving. We pulled together a lovely meal with a little help from our mothers who joined us (with Robby’s Dad– Eric being home with The Bug). And we went to church on Sunday… but the rest of the long weekend was spent inside watching Christmas movies and decorating the house in little spurts. There were also long naps. And a little work here and there… but mostly rest and quiet and the three of us. We missed our usual Thanksgiving trip– up north or some lovely place to unwind… but found it in our living room.

I petered out with my #thankful posts on facebook this year– I stumbled after the first half of the month. But the last, uncounted days, could be summed up with being thankful for the chance to slow down. Cut out all the unnecessariness. The chance to curl up on the couch with out any responsibilities. A series of little Sabbaths.

It’s a good way to go into Advent. Quietly. And with an intent to stay quiet and rested and sated with family. Expectant. Wary. And hopeful.


First Score

Twenty years ago this past week Robby and I were married. It was a cool November day. We were surrounded by our family and friends and the ceremony and reception passed by in a blur of happy moments. I loved my dress (my mother’s) and veil (seriously loved wearing a veil. Bring them back. I wear one well.) and carried an exquisite bouquet of champagne colored roses. Robby was handsome in a rented morning suit. We were both ridiculously naive and happy and pleased with ourselves.

I’d do it over almost identically. I’d wear fun colored shoes (a trend that was unheard of in the mid 90s). I’d have fought for the secular piano theme I really wanted my bridesmaids to walk down the aisle to (The “Friendship Theme” from Beaches. Cheesy movie– but lovely melody). I’d have figured out a way to spend more time with everyone that weekend– it went by too quickly. I’d have eaten more cake (it. was. amazing.). And I’d have doubled the pictures and video– because they had so many people in them that are gone now. But the really– that’s all small stuff.

Oh. One more thing that I’d have done. There was a brief moment on our wedding day where I was left alone in the bridal suite. If I could, I’d slip in (the Now Terri) and congratulate the bride on making such a fine choice. She would, I’m sure, be quite confident of that already. I might ask her to tell me what she thought life would be like in 20 years. And maybe she’d have some silly notions of grand returns to the honeymoon locale (Alaska) or a perfectly candle-lit dinner in some magically perfect restaurant… and I’d take in the impossibly perfect details and nod and smile and then tell her it would be so, so much better than that.

Our twentieth anniversary was an ordinary work day complete with ordinary tasks and errands. A department meeting cut into our plans for lunch so we skipped out on our church dinner for plans to go out to a dinner just the two of us. But by the time Robby was able to get away from work, we were both feeling under the weather so we spent the evening holed in our living room with take-away ham and cheese grinders. I was miserably achy and cold. I took an Excedrin PM and a bath. Robby retrieved Jack and we settled in for the night only to wake up to Jack calling from his bedroom in a shaky, panicked voice. He’d thrown up. In a loft bed. Over the blankets and down, in cascading glory, to the floor below. This resulted in Jack crying. Robby also vomiting. And me coming in and out of the sweet, sweet sleep that whatever they put into the Excedrin PM affords. Eventually the boys were cleaned up again. The bed was remade. We all went back to sleep. We spent the next day huddled under blankets and trying to decide what would bother us least to eat (or smell).

I couldn’t help but remember that a blink of a score before I was on my way to the snowy brilliance of Alaska with my brand new husband admiring our shiny new rings.

I have the better deal.


September 21, 2014

Dear Jack,

Wow oh wow oh wow. On Sunday, at 4:01 p.m., my baby will be a decade old. TEN YEARS. We are still discovering you– finding out new things every day– and you are ten years old!?… wow.

You’ve grown up quite a bit in just this last year. Not only in height– all of your jeans and school trousers were (practically overnight) flood pants– but in giving us glimpses into what the Man version of Jack will be. Your imagination grew this year, too. Your stories about Vor and your descriptions of things you’ve seen or read are far more elaborate. Your anxiety grew, too– the dark side of having a good imagination.

A lot happened this year that I think you’ll remember. You started fourth grade so excited to FINALLY have a man teacher– the wonderful Mr. S. You and your buddies soaked up his sense of humor and loved the nicknames he gave each of you (Jack-a-roni). Just as you started getting into cool projects with the iPad and the school year felt settled-into everything went topsy-turvy. Mr. S left room 14 for a principal job in another district. It was hard to watch you and the other fourth graders process that– it was a loss and a blow. I was proud when, after you admitted how sad you were, you thought of him and how good of an opportunity it was for Mr. S to see his dreams come true (even when it meant your dreams got a bit derailed). Mrs. N had big shoes to fill– it took all of us– students and parents– a while to get used to a new gait. But you did. And when your grades dipped you listened to us and worked hard to get them back up to snuff again. This year with Mrs. B has started so beautifully– your grades are stellar and we’ve gotten rave reviews of how responsible and respectful you are in her class. (And your Mom’s heart just grew a few sizes…)

This was the year you sang a solo in the Christmas play– you were one of the Three Kings of Orient Are (were) and Daddy and I about burst to hear your voice rise up so clear and true. You’ve served the church as an acolyte this year. You take that role seriously and only complained a little when the bulk of the Sundays fell to you because you were the one that was usually there. You’ve read just about as much of the Bible as your Dad and I– which is wonderful and scary all at the same time for us. That amazing memory of yours has helped us several times when we are working on our Bible study– you’ve got the kings and chronology down cold.

Nine year old Jack had a lot of adventures, too. We celebrated your ninth year with a trip to Chicago and the venerable Field museum to see the dinosaurs and the case after case of animals. You had two seasons of soccer with Coach Aric where you’ve developed some mad goalie skills. There have been birthday parties and sleepovers (still can’t believe our plastered ceilings survived that last one!) and movie dates with AunT. You spent a weekend with Maddie and Keegan at their college townhouse and a weekend with the newlyweds in their first apartment. Over Spring Break we took a quick trip to the ROM in Toronto (more dinosaurs!) and to play at Niagara Falls. This summer it was just you and me– no Nanny McMaddie or Kat’s Boot Camp– so there was a lot of mornings where you went into the office armed with Legos, books, and DVDs. (Thank goodness for your iPad and Amazon Prime!)And there was a battery of camps– science and soccer and drama mixed in with your first full week at Wesley Woods and a week with the grandparents at the Lake.

We really saw how much you’ve grown the night we couldn’t find you at Family Camp. While Daddy, your cousins, a slew of friends, and I fanned out across the camp looking for our lost sheep– you were happily sitting at your buddy Reese’s camp fire with her family. When we finally had you in our arms you said, “But Mom– I didn’t know where you were so I made sure to stay with a grown up.”

You finally got a boy cousin this year in Tyler. He and Maddie chose you to be the Master of Rings at their wedding. You were ridiculously handsome in your tie and trousers that matched the groomsmen. You swallowed your nervousness about being in front of so many people when you finally understood that it wasn’t about you but about Maddie and Tyler. We saw that click in your head when you realized that you are so loved by them. (And nice touch, escorting AunT down the aisle with the light saber. You helped her with her nerves that day, too.)

You have a good set of friends. AJ & Brady, Colin & Gabe, and Max– there is no end to the fun in hearing the six of you chatter about Minecraft and school and sports and StarWars. You are starting to learn that there is a lot to be said about association– and you’ve chosen a group of friends that rallies around each other.

Best of all you are still our baby. You still snuggle up in our bed most mornings with the pups and your parents. This is when we hear a lot about what you’re thinking about or worrying on. You can beat us both on Wii MarioKart. You love a good game of Uno or Guess Who or Heads Up (we love when you pick ‘Accents’ for the category. Your Australian accent cracks us up every time). You love having guests for dinner (especially AunT) and are pathetically sad when the answer to your, “Is anyone coming over tonight?” is no.

I don’t know how we got to ten years without blinking. But these have been, without question, the very best ten years your Dad and I have ever known. You have made our world so wonderful (and wonder-filled). You’ve deepened our faith in God. You are an amazing kid.

A lot is planned in the next few days and weeks– a family dinner, a party with your friends, and a big birthday surprise for you. You are so, so loved.

Diplodicus. Most.

Mom


Us. On the rocks. With a splash.

My facebook feed is filled up with a deluge of celebrities and friends taking the challenge to dump a bucket of ice water over their head and then challenge other friends to also participate. It’s all an attempt to raise awareness and funds for ALS (Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis or Lou Gerhig’s disease). Unlike previous ice bucket challenges that have gone around the web, this one seems to be doing some good. While the challenge is to dump the ice or write a check– well, people are doing both. Happily writing the check after enduring a few seconds of bone chilling cold. 

It’s hard to be a cynic when you read articles like the one recently published on Forbes or from an ALS family. Or the cold hard numbers of dollars being raised. (And this is assuming that we are only counting the money going to ALS associations and not individuals, families, charity walks, etc.)

In our house we three were “challenged” to the ice bucket challenge by some of our church/family camp friends. There are two families near and dear to us dealing with ALS on a daily basis. One is a 33 year old man who is now in a wheelchair on a vent. Five years ago he was an athlete. Tan, tall, handsome with his beautiful blond wife and a new baby. His wife is amazing– taking care of their daughter and her husband and fighting for the best care/treatment/hope for him. He is amazing– fighting for every scrap of his life while still working and taking care (albeit in a new way) of his family. The other is a woman who is a half generation older than us– she and her husband were the “cool adults” (is there such a thing?) when I was a teenager visiting their church youth group. She is generous and kind and prone to laughing in the way that makes everyone else want to be laughing, too. She, too, is in a wheelchair where only her eyes are still alert and responsive– her beautiful voice and smile are gone. Her large family has closed ranks around her with three generations taking care of the woman that took care of them. 

We cheerfully evoked their names before we took the plunge. And, honestly, at the time I hoped that it was appropriate. Somewhere I worried, “Is this helpful? Hurtful? Pissing them off?”

Our friend Lindsay, the amazing wife, put my fears to rest with her latest fb update on their family and her husband. And another word about the ice bucket challenge…the funds raised is astounding, but the awareness it is bringing is on a whole new level. This might be my lack of sleep talking, but get ready for the wrath of Lindsay if I see any negative comments about it. I hope it never ends and all of your news feeds are completely filled with ice buckets and and the letters A-L-S!” 

So I’m irritated (with permission!) with the backlash against the #alsicebucketchallenge. It’s come from dear friends, cynical college students I know, and acquaintances. Some take the superior sounding stance of “All that waste of good, clean water!” (An argument that falls apart as long as they are using said water for bathing, car washing, lawn care, etc.) Others have taken the “I don’t get how this helps” whining stance. (The ice water doesn’t help cure ALS. But people talking about ALS and moving it to the front of peoples’ awareness of it might lead to more research funding. More compassion for the people with ALS and their families.) And then there are those who take the stance that is probably the most truthful, “I’m sick of all these ice bucket videos filling up my feed!” (I’m sorry, too. Gosh. It must be terrible to have your Candy Crush invitations cluttered with a devastating condition that has no cure.)

Internet comments drive me crazy. I know better than to read the comments connected to our local newspaper, for example– because it’s like opening a closetful of rats into a room where the floor is strewn with birthday cake. Sometimes I can’t stop myself though. When a friend is involved in an election or a big decision has been made by the school board. Still. I should know better.

I don’t know how to make the naysayers less full of naysay. I wish there was an app that promised them “No ALSicebuckets on your newsfeed!” for a lovely sized donation. Or maybe a compassion stick to smite them upside the head. 

Meanwhile– in our house– I’m grateful for the kick in the pants to give a little. And to have a way to spur other people to give a little, too. Do I think a hundred dollars makes a difference? Probably not last week. 

But this week– when our money is added to those that challenged us and those that we challenged and so on and so on– yes. I do. And if it fills up Lindsay’s feed with a bunch of us doing something that makes them laugh for a minute and feel some modicum of us thinking about them– not in hushed, pitying ways– but with love and hope and “Suck it, ALS!” attitudes– well. That’s something. 

Don’t put this trend on ice yet. There’s more money out there. Maybe when the ice melts so will some of the cynics?

Buckethead TBuckethead J

photo 3-1


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