Of Paradoxes and Pop

Hi,

So here’s what’s been rolling around in this very addled head of mine…My neighbor Gary is an avid gardener.  So much so, that we have never spoken about anything else.  He came to the door a few weeks back to tell me that our grass was being over-watered and that I should adjust the scheduling of the sprinkler system.  Ok, done.  The other day he flagged down my car to advise me that my grass wasn’t getting enough water (I’m abbreviating the conversation to keep this thing going).

Everything needs water – but not too much.  Every meal should be savored – but not so much that you get heartburn.  My cyber pal David (davidkanigan.com), is pondering the extremes of emotional bungee jumping, as I extol the state of balance.  But highs are awesome – it’s the lows that suck.  It’s all a paradox (sidebar – Annie LaMott’s Ted talk on her 12 rules of life and writing – enjoy it).  I got it – and to a ridiculous degree, it’s all a cliché.  Until of course, you get to some lessons I’ve learned from my father-in-law.

Sid calls me his favorite daughter-in-law, and he in turn is my favorite father-in-law.  Of course, we are also each others’ only person in that category, so for me, it’s an easy win.  He’s 92, one of the greatest generation, the head of Andy’s clan and he wears that mantle handsomely.  He recognizes the magnificence of my sons’ as fathers – and tells them.  He literally beams at the mention of his grandkids.  He’s vibrant and engaged and has become the official greeter to his community.  Going up to strangers, introducing himself, inviting people with an outstretched hand and an easy smile.  He’d win “Most Popular” if they had such awards for adults.

Pop has an easy walk, this kind of strolling gait that is unhurried yet purposeful.  He broke his foot a few weeks back, which only slightly inconvenienced his ability to dance at his granddaughter’s wedding.  His two granddaughters wheeled him onto the dance floor, he was handed the mike to sing along with Louis Prima and no one eclipsed him from that point forward.

And yes, now that his boot is off, he’s got golf to return to, bridge of course…you get my drift.  Pop’s unassuming and humble, he’s warm and truly finds no fault with anyone in his ever-widening circle.  He reaches out – with no hesitation.  If you surmise that I love him, you’re right.   I think he finds self-absorption boring – too much is happening for the over-examination of one’s self, or the pursuit of that kind of attention from others.

My parents were too young when they passed away.  I’ve written about them extensively and will not do so now.  What I will say is that neither was able to show me how to grapple with getting older.  I’m grateful for Pop’s lessons, because other than learning how to  play bridge, I try to play this life as he does.

Pop was married to my mother-in-law for well over 60 years.  And he still called her the ‘most beautiful woman in the world’.  We all were deeply worried about him – would he be able to get past the grief, heal enough to make a life for himself, etc.  And here’s the paradox that Pop taught me, the only one that doesn’t make me crazy.

You don’t get past grief (I knew that part);  you don’t get over love and you still live.  One can argue that it is a religious requirement to do so (it is in Judaism) – which is a pretty high imperative;  so is doing it for the spirit within that begs to sing.  Love and grief co-exist.  One doesn’t cancel out the other.  Losing someone you adore doesn’t give you permission to exempt yourself from life’s dance.  They are not different sides of the same coin – they are the same side of the coin.  There is no better moment to thank my father-in-law than today, there is no better reason than his patient coaching and his love.  What can you say to someone who asks the world to be his guest?  Thank you for the invitation, Pop – I gratefully accept and I love you.

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Holding On

Hi,

It’s been too long, I know – most of you have understandably moved on to more reliable (and probably far better) musings.  What can I say that you haven’t read before?  Transitions are not seamless for me – that’s an understatement.  Cognitively I recognize that every beginning requires a transition to something else, movement is far preferable to stasis, new adventures are uplifting – yada yada yada…Internally, I ache for breath, tiptoe around my life until I get my bearings and slip through the day as unobtrusively as possible.  For all of the bravado, I stand before you – a wimp.

I have found it impossible to write, for I find the current climate so negative, toxic, skewed to the vitriolic that I can’t find my voice in this cacophony.  I don’t want to contribute to the noise; if anything I would like to turn the volume way down.  Waaaaaaaay down.   How about if we whisper for a while?  We might listen to each other more attentively.

Which brings me to my quiet, sacred moment of grace.  I have the gift of watching one of my granddaughters once a week.  I don’t write about the babies often – suffice it to say, I am every besotted grandmother who finds her grandchildren magical, perfect, amazing; every mom who marvels at her sons as adoring, devoted, gentle dads who are awed by their own children.  It’s hard to write this stuff without hyperbole

Bu that’s just the segue – sorry if I went on too long.

Sophie will soon be eleven months.  We get a kick out of each other, we really do.  We make each other laugh, hold each other tight, she places her head in the crook of my neck and I place my nose to the crook of hers and I tickle her.  She’s starting to walk and toddles with determination – stout of heart, if not necessarily equally strong of leg.  Up and down the stairs, slapping each step with little hands that grab and clap and point and propel her up, up, up.  When she laughs at the Sirs, her nose wrinkles.  Between cruising the house and the neighborhood, reading (of sorts), engaging the dogs, and her ‘learning’ toys – we’re pretty busy.  And when it’s time to nap, there’s no negotiation – she can fall asleep in her high chair.

She wakes a little disoriented and as I lift her up, she places her head on my shoulder.  Within a moment she has found her spot, falling back to sleep and I lie down on the couch.  I place one hand on her head, the other rises and falls with her breath.  I try to count her eyelashes, trace the little pucker of her mouth as it drops open.  I feel the pads of her fingers, softer than cotton.  And in her breath, I find the breaths that I find so elusive these days.  In this moment, we breathe together.  Perhaps she can feel my heart,  as I let mine adapt to the rhythm of hers.  There is a reverence to this kind of quiet.  This is what we’re here for.  And if we’re fortunate souls, we dial it down so that we can feel it.

She wakes and we look at each other – my eyes wide and grateful, hers dreamy and a little unfocused.  And then she sees it’s me and smiles, rubbing her face against my shirt and receiving kisses from the Sirs who are ready for her to chase them once again.  Our little respite is done, the awe lingers.

Soon, Sophie will start day care, for it will be time for her to hang out with her peeps and engage with the world.  We will still have our time, our moments.  These little girls and the generosity of their parents have given me my breath, in these times when it can be so hard to breathe.  And they offer the greatest grace of all – to love, to love, to love.

 

 

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Some Days Define Magic and Miracles and Stardust

May I introduce you to Sienna Reese – the most perfect daughter of my son and daughter-in-law.  This little girl was made in love and born in love (with a powerful dose of determination, grit and strength on her mommy’s part) and is welcomed to the world with a full heart from so many – including this new grandmother.

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There are no words for experiences like this…they get caught in the throat and can’t be fully formed.  Ironically,  I came across this post from The Story People, and it felt right for today.  To rediscover that place.  Perhaps I was never more at home than when I was holding my children against me.  Welcome home precious child, welcome home

courtesy of The Story People

courtesy of The Story People

Stuck In The Mud

That feeling of spinning your wheels, your body rocking with the car thinking it’s going to help in your efforts to dislodge it.  Wishing someone would come along to give you a push, yet recognizing that you haven’t seen another car for miles.

The karma truck is stuck in the mud.  I think it’s ok though – either I’m on the verge of getting back on the road or I’m making peace with the fact that sometimes you just have to put the damn thing in park.

Why so stuck?  Who knows really.  A friend of mine was describing this blog to his wife and said I write about ‘all this touchy-feely stuff’.  I explained how my initial motivation was to print out a year’s worth of posts and give them to my sons. Ok – it’s been a year and a half – now what?  My intent is not to hand them a tome.  I will never curate with the best of them, nor will I write with the best of them.  My sister told me that writers have discipline – I’m sure she’s right – she’s a truly outstanding writer.  I don’t think of myself as a writer – I feel like I’m more of a gusher, spewing forth foam and fluff and occasionally a stream of water that catches the light.  So you can see why I’m a little mired.  What is this blog to be now?  I’m trying to figure that out.  Filter out all the nonsense and distill my thoughts down to the most basic.  What do I want this to be?

“I do not know much about God and prayer, but I have come to believe, over the last twenty-five years, that there’s something to be said about keeping prayer simple.  Help.  Thanks.  Wow.” — Anne Lamott. The woman is onto something.  [If you have never treated yourself to a book by Anne Lamott, please give yourself that gift].  Getting to the fundamentals.  Every morning when I’m out with the Sirs, there is a silent exchange between me and the stars.  First I whisper my gratitude, for to neglect to recognize what I have been given is folly and hubris and stupid.  The list is long.  Then I quietly marvel – how can you not marvel at a sky wallpapered with stars?  Or the words “I love you”?  Puppy licks (even from an especially mischievous one).  The intensity of the yellows and the oranges that inform the landscape on the mountain?  And finally, I say “Please”.  And I cry.  Every time I consider the request, I cry.  I feel a little like Holly Hunter‘s character in “Broadcast News“.  My therapeutic cry.

Am I sad?  No.  By the time I get to ‘please’, I’m overwhelmed.

And so we come full circle…I am more than shmaltz and less than Dostoevsky.  I am sitting in ‘park’ despite an urge to rock this baby out of the muck.  I’m old enough to know that we all have moments like these and young enough to feel impatient and itchy.  It feels good to write this to you.  It’s been too long.

Following Some Great Advice

LouAnn who pens the fantastic blog onthehomefrontandbeyond.wordpress.com, accepted a gauntlet – to devote one post a week to write about one’s blessings.  I like the idea, especially given all the other topics that one can entertain.  And for me there are at least three days in any given year which are deserving of individual mention.  Today is one of them.

Thirty two years ago today, I became a mom for the first time.  I would become a mom two more times – another wonderful boy two-plus years later, and one more gift that came as part of the package that is Andy (and in many ways he helped seal the deal, because I fell for that little boy the moment I met him).   But today it is about the man who can claim this day as his birthday.

I am not going to go too far back in time – for it will make his eyes roll and may somehow diminish the present.  Yet, I hold thirty-two years worth of moments (longer if one were to include the lengthy conversations we had before he actually appeared).  I have known him and loved him longer than he has known himself.  That gives me a pretty decent perspective on the qualities that make the man.

He’s a really, really good man.  He’s smart and dogged, determined and stalwart.  He loves his wife tenderly and holds their relationship tenaciously.  He still wants me in his life.  And I love being a part of it.  Sometimes he worries about me, other times he is probably frustrated by me – much of the time we just talk about the stuff of which life is made.  He has gotten certain traits from me, but he is far more his own incredible concoction of talents and flaws than anything else.  I take no credit – he has much credit to take.  And I am blessed to be his mom.  To have been a part of his journey and the keeper of some of his secrets.  To have been provided with the opportunity to laugh and cry with him, celebrate and grieve with him, ponder and occasionally just punt when there seemed like nothing else to do.

Time has accelerated since I became a mom, because its passing has been marked by their development and growth, stumbles and leaps.  I have often wished that it would slow down a bit, for I consider myself way too immature to be the mother of such phenomenal adults.  Part of the blessing I guess, is that in my heart,  he is (as his brothers are) my boys, my heart and my soul.   I always knew I wanted to be a mom, even when I was too young to know they ways to become one.  But my greatest legacy is not that I am a mom – it’s that I’m the mom of these men.  Happy Birthday my magnificent boy – you are loved beyond all measure.

(And those this isn’t a video of you, the song of course is for you)