{Fly Away From Me: On Children}

I woke up this morning, the sun creeping in earlier than I wanted.  Coming out of my dreams, I felt grief wash over my body, sore from running daily; I felt the years wash over me physically.  And fear.

I am afraid for all the time—lost.  Gone.

My children are almost grownup into people, yet not ready to face the challenges of being adult.  But more and more they are absent from me and I feel their absence, the loss, physically — These babies I fed from my breast, nurtured if feebly the best I knew how.  Babies I brought in to the world through the tearing of my flesh and blood.  They are young adults and the time is gone.

I’m running out of time and as I woke I felt the years,

Weighty, heavy, lost.

Lost to the days of over working; long workaholic driven years of loving work more than I loved being at home.  I have forgotten those toddler years, unable to recall the first word, first steps, first book, I simply cannot remember.  Write everything down they said, but I thought I’d remember.

I was wrong.

Lost, because of so many days of a drunken cloud, a constant buzz from self-medicating.

I was trying to forget the sadness, the feelings of inadequacy. Feeling doubt in a world of devoted, sure people. Feeling the loss of losing the faith of my parents and not being courageous enough (yet) to find my own.

I lost many years of my children’s lives to being a drunk.

I woke this morning feeling the weight of it, a grief that is carved deeply within.  It is a heart ache, and with a cry  I wanted to start fresh.  A second chance; to rewind back fifteen years to hearing that I was pregnant for the first time.  I was surprised that my body, which I had loathed all my life, was capable of giving life.  And then I felt annoyed at the interruption to my career.  And then it came eventually; the felt joy and disbelief.

Now that baby girl, my little bird, is a young woman.  She is gone more than she is here and each interaction feels like our last.  I know we have just a few more years.  I think: hang on to love and do what you can to keep things open and safe.  I want to have a home, a heart that welcomes; A home of second chances, and third and fourth.  Arms open wide.

The days are slipping away, the chances are running out.

Even as I know this I know that I cannot clutch at her.  I must open my hands, joyfully and watch her fly. I will pray that she will want to return.

As I get up and face another day, it is to keep the nest warm and welcoming.    Yes, I woke up this morning already grieving. I knew.

My little bird is practicing her flight away from me.

Fly Boy (a poem about letting our children grow and go)

 

My baby flew away today with hardly a look back at me.

Motionless, I whispered “I love you.”

He waved and then abruptly he was gone.

I’m not ready! My heart heavy. I am not able

to see him there,

high

up

there

in the clouds

he is spinning golden dreams,

twirling with anticipation and joy,

a steady song on his lips.

And my boy flew straight up and away.

Gone.

A Poem: No Vacancy

The summer I was eighteen

I wanted one thing — a boy named Tommy LaRue.
He was my first boyfriend.  My first kiss.
I learned three things from him.
What is a French kiss? To drink cheap Champagne. That I was expendable.
In those days, I knew nothing of myself.  How to be with people.
Life mystified me.  What was its purpose?
I had no aspirations.  I didn’t know what I was meant to do.
And that scared him.  My dad
who wanted more for me. More than
whatever it was that I wanted.  That I hadn’t figured out.

The summer that I was nineteen

After sleeping through my first year of university he told me

“You will go there.  You will do that.”
You will find more than whatever it was that you think you want.
I didn’t know that I had the power to say no.  Or the power

to think or want anything.  And so, I went.  I did
As I was told.
And slept

through two more years of university.  Literally.
Mostly.  Not. There.  Not really anywhere.

My junior year I was told

to choose.
“What is it that you want?” they said. “Why are you here?”
I want nothing.  I have no aspirations.  I have no
Hopes, dreams or desires.  Life mystifies me.

This coma that was my life became clear
Twenty years later.  It was a slow awakening.
Thawed by unconditional love, I found
Safety.  No one was telling me
Where to go.  What to do.  Who could have known, that I needed
S p a c e to figure it all out, whatever it is that I wanted.
For I did want
More.

Ever since I can remember, I have
spun words.  They were flying out of my mouth
Faster than I could think them.  These words, the flying kind,
Cut flesh.  They hurt the people I loved over the years.
And all because I was too afraid
To say anything to him.
And so
I stopped.  Speaking
in that manner.  I gave up
my voice. That was easier than saying
anything.

When he died it began.  The trance was over and it was a
Dreamy awakening.  A discovery.
Almost trembling I came to understand.  No longer
Could he tell me — anything.
And for a while, with no one telling
Me anything, I was lost.
And then though I was afraid
Of hurting, and afraid of his ghost that watches
And lingers even now. I began
to unearth my voice again. No longer
Is this a vacant place inside me.
I have dreams.
I have words.
And I use my words to heal.  Yes, I have found my purpose.
This moment, here. These words.
Now. There is no vacancy.

Growing Old is so Uncool!

Over the last five years

my life story has been full of tension and some might say tragedy.  The process has been grueling and traumatic.  My parents have made a problematic imprint on my life.  I am working toward the days when I can celebrate again the good people that they are, but I must work through our family legacy, parts of which I must reject.

Often, I have found myself focused on the negative ways that my father especially has affected me.  I rarely talk about my mother, in part because she is still alive and that story is not complete.    Something happened recently between us that I feel is worth remembering here.

My mother

is a strange mix of strength and weakness that constantly perplexes me.  I have been devastated at times by our relationship, which is strange and erratic.  Both emotionally and  mentally agonizing, but at times we have moments of tremendous truthfulness.  I do not trust her and yet I deeply wish for her understanding.    I love her and yet I want to live my life without her (at times) because she has an uncanny way of being able to hurt me.  This frightens me.  It would be easier to walk away.  So far, I haven’t chosen that path.

My mother, seventy-two years old,  is the daughter of a southern philanderer for a father and a mother who raised five children by herself washing and ironing clothes.  She grew up in poverty, but my mother is bright, with a photographic memory to compensate for her dyslexia.  She was the first in her family to go to college where she trained to be teacher and supported my father through college and graduate studies.  They went to the mission field in 1966 to be teachers.

Today, sitting in her condo with the air conditioner running and the Red Sox playing, she is a far cry from the woman who trekked through the jungles of Papua New Guinea pregnant with me and holding a toddler.  She is a complicated person.

So Mom showed up the other day,

sitting, chatting about nothing important (something she hasn’t done for at least a year.)   I said “Stay and hang out while I feed the kids lunch.”  She was on a fast of some sort, or I would have offered her the PB&J I was feeding the children.

And she blurted out that she wanted to be my friend.

… Heavy    silence    ensued …

I felt in a moment, as she threw out those words, that time stood still.  And as she waited for my response it took

f o r e v e r.

She threw down her wishes as if everything, the past, had just magically disappeared.

A whirlwind of panic blew into my kitchen and was swirling around in my stomach, and heart, and head.   Many things were going through my head.  I am afraid of my mother —  that she’ll need me too much.  And I am afraid that she will reject me.  I am frightened by her power over me.  Should I be ecstatic that she wants to be my friend?  Remember the not small part of the equation where she is constantly forgetting important things?  Not telling me about a mother’s day lunch out with my sister.  Her calling and turning me down on one of the kid’s concerts at the last-minute.  Feeling too tired to come to my photography exhibit.  Forgetting the Artist Showcase at my church where I had things on display.  There are hundreds of occasions like these which I try to forget because it hurts.  Over and over it hurts and I tell myself  “Do not care.  Again.”  These things are unimportant in the larger scheme of life and yet they are a part of why I am so afraid of her.

I’m afraid and I somehow convey this to her as we sit there at my kitchen table.  Then tears slowly begin to slip down her face.  And as they start to really flow she says something that utterly blows me away.

“It is so difficult to get old.”  She continues that it’s frightening.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s simply hard to face going places alone, not knowing if she’ll find handicapped parking and be forced to walk a long distance.  And at times this completely overwhelms her and she can’t face it.  So she cancels.

I cannot express adequately to you now how huge this is for me. I have taken her actions as personal rejection of me, as her daughter.  Her absences.  Cancellations and no shows.  And rather than tell me the truth she’s used sickness and fatigue as the excuse.   Why?  Why do these things ever happen?  We are all a strange mixture of motives, fears and desires.   She hates that she’s getting old.  She’s afraid.  She lives alone and what if we decide she can’t handle that any more.  What if she decides she can’t?  What will it mean for her independence?  For all of us?  As she sits in her condo, comfortable and safe it’s just easier to not go out.

Growing old is hard on one’s ego.  And so uncool don’t you think?  The loss of privacy.  Dignity.  Independence.  God help us all as we walk toward this with our parents.  May we love them and listen well.  Take enough time to ask the right questions and have discernment as we move ahead.

I have felt that my mom doesn’t want to me in her life, not really.  This comes out of my dysfunction certainly but has been based on actual events.

And it turns out that she just needs a ride. This is a  new place for us to travel to in our relationship — a place of dependence and fragility — but a step closer to one another.