My life, just like this title, is all over the place right now. Another school year is coming to an end, my youngest son is getting married next week, and his dog, who lives with us, just had major surgery (the equivalent of repairing ACL and meniscus tears in a human). The other two things are pretty significant events, but this dog surgery/recuperation has thrown us all for a loop. Marlie needs constant supervision right now. She is wearing a version of the “cone of shame,” with hers being made out of a softer, stuffed fabric. She has to be monitored to be sure that she doesn’t try to rip her stitches out (enough to cover a 6-inch incision. Bless it!) Marlie, who makes a living chasing squirrels all day, has had a difficult time dealing with limited mobility, and to be honest, when it’s time for my shift, I find the whole thing completely exhausting. I don’t do “sitting around and making sure a dog doesn’t start chewing on her leg” very well.
I have a million and one things I need to be doing, but I am limited to certain parts of the house, because I really can’t be out of earshot or sight of the patient. This season of my life has given me an abundance of time to think; to remember the little boy who is now a man, who is about to begin a new life. The question, “Did I teach him everything he needs to know?” constantly comes to mind. When it comes to Charles, I’ve always carried around a little guilt, feeling like he got short-changed or the not-so-good version of me. You see, when I was 7-1/2 months pregnant, my dad passed away—he was Prince Charming, the person I most admired; my mentor, role model, and head cheerleader rolled up in one. Like many young ladies, I was a Daddy’s girl. Because of our strong bond, I was completely unprepared in how to deal with such loss, and my version of grief might best be described as “How Not To Do It.” Charles was born 6 weeks after my father’s death, and I was exhausted. I didn’t have many sick days to begin with, and after being out unexpectedly, I was left with 5 days before I would be docked for my absences. Fortunately, Christmas break was two weeks long, so I ended up being off the week before the break, and the week after (my mom paid me to stay home!) I was thrown back into reality quickly, and since it was basketball season and my husband was the head coach, I was often alone. My oldest son was almost three, and he could help with little things, but I was completely overwhelmed. I simply lived day to day. I never thought about long-range events, and just tried to power through. As I look back on this time, I remember spending days in my robe, and I remember an outfit I got for Christmas that I wore on my first day back to work. It was a pair of buffalo plaid pants (yes, those were in style then, and I know this to be a fact, because the the outfit came from The Townhouse, and Shelba knows her stuff) and a red top that completed the ensemble. I wore this with a pair of stylish loafers. My hair had recently been cut, I’d lost most of my baby weight, and I looked ready to conquer the world. But I just didn’t feel it. It’s funny to me that aside from midnight and 3 a.m. feedings, that’s about all I remember. An oufit. And a complete and utter feeling of loss and isolation. No one else noticed because I put on a great front, pretending to have it all together. You see, I thought this was how all grieving people felt, so why should I be any different? You just move forward, and try to hide your pain, because who wants to be around “Debbie Downer?”
Looking back, I clearly see that Charles, who is named after my dad, saved me. Had it not been for him, I think I would have sunken deeper into my black hole. Caring for him gave me a reason; a purpose with which to fight for another day. I know talking about this now will make people uncomfortable, but there is no shame in admitting any of this. The fact that I can write about it is proof that I survived—proof that at the darkest and saddest time of my life, I realized this was only a season, and one day, I would be able to understand, accept, and find meaning in this loss.
I often think about Christopher as my “pride” and Charles as my “joy.” Sure, I am obviously proud of both boys, who also both bring me an abundance of happiness, but in my early season of motherhood, everything was easier with Christopher. In fact, it was idyllic. Mostly because he was the only child for 2-1/2 years, and my life was pretty normal, if normal is even a thing. I got to enjoy every milestone, and that’s where the pride thing comes in. With Charles, I was wounded, tired, and sad. I was just as pleased with his accomplishments as I was with Christopher’s, but for me, it wasn’t so much pride, as it was joy—these moments broke up the rut I was in and covered me in happiness. If you think about it, an infant who has the role of savior, is a heavy thing. But he never knew, and because of that, he wasn’t pressured to carry the weight of my world on his shoulders. He just provided me with sunshine on cloudy days.
So, as I watch my youngest, my joy, my dad’s namesake, walk into his next season, I am filled with the hope that I did get some things right. He has chosen a beautiful young lady to share his life with, and he has one of the biggest and kindest hearts I know. I pray he never felt the burden of saving me, but if he did, I hope it strengthened his will and spirit–a spirit that won’t easily be broken, one that makes him keep going, even when he doesn’t feel like it. In hindsight, as a parent, I realize there is a lot to be said for not giving your children an unrealistic, perfect existence. I’m glad that my boys have experienced failure, and disappointment. I know they learned much more from these things than they ever could from their successes. It’s made them more empathetic, appreciative, tolerant, and real. It’s given them grit, the stuff that greatness is made of.
As we enter into the wedding week, the weather forecast has become the highlight of our lives. We are praying that we don’t have to find a small, windowless, interior room, and hopefully will have a little sunshine come our way. Our area has been covered in rain, tornadoes, and major storms all year. They say that it is a blessing and good luck if it rains on your wedding day. I for one, know this to be true. In 1987, two weeks out from my own wedding, my dad and I made it a ritual to tune into the Weather Channel and chart the possible tropical storm that was headed our way. As we watched, we also lit candles, like the ones that would be used in the wedding ceremony, to time them, and see how long they would burn. Yes, weather and candle flame duration were two of the things I obsessed over. The day I was married, a thunderstorm of incredible proportions landed over Nacogdoches. It was a torrential downpour and pushed me almost over the edge. Thankfully, the rain ended an hour before the wedding, and we enjoyed a beautiful and cool evening. In my life, I have learned to appreciate the rain and the storms that come. Without them, the sunshine wouldn’t seem as bright. As Charles and Kaitlyn’s wedding gets closer, I am becoming more and more at peace with the great possibility of inclement weather. There’s nothing that can be done about it, and at the end of the day, they will be married, and our blessings will be doubled. So as I think about difficult times, and joy and rain, I think of the lyrics from a MercyMe song, “Bring the Rain”–a great reminder that “Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.”
So, now I’m sure you’re wondering where the hummus crisps come in? Prior to today, I’d never eaten any, but since I can’t eat gluten, and I needed something to crunch on, I thought I’d give them a try. I guess the best way to sum them up is, they are gone. The. Entire. Package. Completely gone in one sitting. And they were absolutely delightful. I have been eating healthy, running daily, and have given up my biggest vice—Cokes, cold turkey. I figure if that’s the worst thing I do today, eating hummus crisps, then I’m good. Especially since I’ve been eyeing Marlie’s anxiety pills all week. Better to eat a few grams of carbs than to possibly end up barking and wagging my tail at a wedding, albeit in a relaxed and carefree manner.
Even though my seasons are constantly changing, thank goodness my God never does. When I’m stressing, or worried or overwhelmed, He gives me hummus crisps, dogs, sunshine and rain, family, friends, great memories, and strength.