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Posts Tagged ‘family’

‎I heard a small cough from the top of the stairs as I checked my purse to ensure it contained all of the necessities I would need for the day ahead. Up until that little cough the house was quiet; I was the only one awake.

He didn’t need to be up that early, not today. On a regular school day this was the time I would be kissing his cheek in his bed and he would be groaning for just “five more minutes.” Of course today, the day he could have five more minutes, he was awake anyway.

I turned my head to see him slowly making his way down the stairs, his blanket and favourite stuffed animal – a little brown bear wearing blue pajamas which he has named Toby – in one arm and the other bent slightly, rubbing the last remnants of sleep from his eyes.

“Hi Mama,” he said softly, a little smile on his lips. “I heard you and wanted to see you before you left.”

Wanted.

He got up out of his warm bed to walk down the stairs because he wanted to see me, to give me a hug and a kiss before I left for work.

He wanted to see me.

Most of my days are filled with people who need things from me; people who call me and email me and stop me in the hallway because they need me to do something, finish something, read something, find something.

But this morning, with the early sun streaming in the window, a little boy placed a sweet kiss on my cheek and wrapped me up in a hug and held on tight for almost a whole minute.

And he did it for no other reason than because he wanted to.

And I can’t even put into words how great it felt to be wanted.

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“Mama, why did you throw this away?”

I turned around and saw that he was holding a small, pink heart in the palm of his hand.

“I found it in the dryer, Buddy. I didn’t know what it was.”

“I made it for you, Mama, because I love you.”

He held out the heart and placed it in my hand, smiling and giving me a hug before he walked out of the room.

I looked down at the heart, slightly warped from its run through the washer and dryer and a day or two in the garbage can.

It was pretty far from perfect.‎

But love isn’t perfect, right? It isn’t always smooth or pretty or ‎flawless. Sometimes it’s crooked and wobbly and uneven and sometimes it’s even been through the wringer once or twice.

But, holding that little imperfect heart in my hand, I realized that’s just the way it should be.

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‎If the words came from anyone else, I probably wouldn’t have been offended. I would have read them in my head in a tone that wasn’t quite so sarcastic and snarky. I would remind myself that the words themselves were innocent enough; that it was really my added tone that was pushing them towards hostility. ‎

Maybe you’re trying to be helpful, with your comments, advice, suggestions. Maybe you don’t know how your words sting. Maybe you’re not doing it on purpose although, depending on the day, I have my doubts about that one.
‎Sometimes I think you know exactly what you’re doing and saying and implying. Sometimes I think you choose your words very carefully, with just enough edge to cut through the surface but still dull enough to appear to outsiders as innocent and innocuous.

I can’t pinpoint exactly when things changed; that line in the sand when we moved from friends to something else. Maybe it didn’t happen in one moment but was rather a string of them, woven together in such an intricate pattern t‎hat it’s now impossible to find the beginning or the end.

Maybe I’m being too sensitive; maybe I need to give you a break, cut you some slack and give you the benefit of the doubt now and then. Maybe that will be the first step to bridging the gap that has opened up between us. Maybe I need to be the bigger person.

Maybe. Except I don’t want to.‎

So you’ll keep saying the words and I’ll keep taking them the wrong way because the bottom‎ line is I don’t want to be friends. And while I have to accept the fact that circumstances will continue to bring us together, I really don’t have to pretend to like it. ‎‎

I’m not that good an actress.

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My baby turns nine today.

I know in my heart she will always be my baby but one of these days she’s probably going to get embarrassed and groan when I say it. For now I’m thankful that she usually just smiles shyly and gives me a hug.

It’s so cliche but I don’t really know where the time has gone. When I try and think of the distance between where we were then and where we are now, memories, snapshots of a hundred different moments come flooding through my mind, and yet I still can’t believe it’s been that long.

My thoughts are a jumble. I waiver between nostalgia and tears; fear and appreciation; wonder and anxiety, seemingly unable to focus on any one emotion for longer than a moment. Until I had kids I never realized I would be so emotionally invested in someone else’s birthday.

Especially hers.

Because the day she was born is also the day I went from being a woman to being a mom; went from caring about myself to thinking so completely about another person; went from the idea of what motherhood would be to the reality of what it really is.

The older she gets the easier and also the harder it gets. I feel like I have an ever-growing list of things I’m supposed to teach her and I’m barely scratching the surface. And as I watch her grow into an amazing person I marvel at how much she has learned all on her own, with no help from me at all.

It is becoming less about daily tasks and more about ‘the big picture’ and I realize that as time-consuming as they were, the daily tasks were actually easier. I know how to change diapers, give baths, brush hair, make snacks, pack backpacks. These tasks are nothing when faced with having to show her how to have self-esteem, how to dream, how to find inspiration, how to be her own person. How do I teach her things that I still struggle with myself?

But I am also slowly grasping the fact that as much as she is my student, I am also hers and she has already taught me so much. In nine short years she has shown me so much about myself and the world, so much more than I could ever imagine.

So on her birthday I will give her a hug and probably shed a tear for the baby she no longer is. But I will also stand back and marvel at what she is becoming and will feel proud, for just a moment, for the small part I have played. And I will be excited and thankful for everything she has brought to my life.

Happy Birthday, my baby.

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Apparently the call came on Monday morning. I say apparently because, as is often the case with these family things, the news took some time to make its way down the tangled branches of the family tree to where I am.

They got the call Monday morning and I got my call on Monday night. The news traveled to the west coast and back, predetermined by some kind of family hierarchy which still alludes me.

No matter. I knew it would come eventually.

“They have a room available for her,” my mom said. “She moves on Thursday.”

And there it was. Ready or not; the time had come. The day that we had all been anxiously awaiting with equal parts anticipation and dread for the last year or so had now arrived. We knew in our heads it was the right thing, the practical thing, the smart thing. But now, faced with the reality of an actual date and a definite time, it didn’t seem quite so right, quite so smart.

I managed to hold it together for the rest of that night and most of the following day. In the arguments that took place between my head and my heart, my head was most often the victor. It’s time. There are no other options. This is for the best. And for the 24 hours after the call I even almost convinced myself that I believed it.

I believed it until it occurred to me that after more than 61 years together, my grandparents would soon be spending their last night in the same bed. They would no longer brush their teeth together at the same sink, pull up the same blankets around their chins, wake up in the same room, looking out the same window.

Ready or not.

I believed it until I started to wonder what will go through each of their minds as they lay down that first night apart, now miles away from each other? Will my grandfather question the decision that ultimately was his to make? Will my grandmother’s disease finally become more of a blessing than a burden, the fog under which she now lives blissfully shielding her from the new reality?

And then I couldn’t hold it together any longer. I sought refuge in the shower, thankful for the water pouring out of the shower head, disguising my tears; grateful for the sound of the water drowning out my sobs. As sad as I was for them, I knew that selfishly, the tears were actually for me. The reality finally sinking in that we could never go back. Never go back to a time when my grandmother ruled that house, aware of all that went on within its four walls, so capable, so loving, so everything a grandmother should be.

Never will we go back to a time when I would stumble out of my bed each morning of my summer vacation and find her sitting quietly at the kitchen table writing in her diary, as she did each day for as long as I can remember. I would sit beside her and we would plan our day – a movie, some shopping, a walk “down street” to pick up lottery tickets.

The adult in me knows we can’t go back; that she hasn’t been able to do those things for many years. But the child inside still clung to the hope that maybe she would come back, be her old self again, return to what she once was just as quickly as she had slipped away. That as long as she stayed in that house it would be possible, not likely, but possible.

Ready or not.

Tonight she will spend what is most likely her last night in her house, the only home she has known for the past 40 years. She will have a little bag packed for her and make her way slowly down the two steps and out the front door and that will be that.

Ready or not.

She will come back from time to time, but more as a visitor than the woman of the house. If there is any kindness at all in her disease I hope she doesn’t understand, doesn’t realize, doesn’t grasp the reality of what is happening, of the decision that has been made for her.

I don’t know what it will be like to visit her somewhere other than that house, to form memories of her in a new place, separate from the things that I associate with her, apart from my grandfather, still a couple but perhaps no longer the team they always seemed to be.

I will try to be strong, put on a smile and say things like “you seem to be settling in well” and “here’s some flowers to brighten up your room.” I will try to make the words come out, to not get stuck in my throat, tangled with all the words that I really want to say – that she doesn’t belong there, that it’s not her home, that there must be some other option.

But I know there isn’t another option, just like I know she’s not ever going to go back to being the grandmother that I remember. We all just have to try and make the best of things as they are. Time will continue to move on, and we will each have to adapt to things as they are now, not as they used to be.

Whether we’re ready to, or not.

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‘Tis the season to make big plans for the coming year and all the things we hope to do to make this one even better than the last one.  I myself usually make a few fairly informal resolutions, things I’m looking to improve on, that kind of thing.  This year however, I’ve also decided it’s perhaps even more important for me, personally, to also come to some realizations about the things I cannot, or should not, try to change; things that will always just ‘be’ and the sooner I realize that truth and move on, the better.

And so, here we go, my New Year’s Realizations:

1) bad things happen.  I can’t predict or avoid them, bad things just are.  I spend a lot of my time worrying about these bad things and trying to figure out how I would deal with them if/when they ever do happen.  It’s a huge time-waster for me and it’s time to realize that worrying about things that may or may never happen is unproductive and ultimately futile.  I realize that now.

2) good things happen.  As mentioned above, I spend a lot of time worrying about bad things happening.  However, I spend very little time imagining good things happening.  In reality, these good things may never actually happen in ‘real life’ but heh, they’re a lot more fun to spend time thinking about than the bad things.  I realize that now.

3) it starts with me.  If I want to do something, I have to do it.  I can’t spend my life sitting around on my butt waiting for things to happen ‘to’ me.  If I have an idea, it’s my job to take the next step because if I don’t, who else will? I realize that now.

4) it ends with me.  I can’t love you forever.  I can’t hate you forever.  I can’t be angry forever.  I can’t wonder what might have been forever.  It has to end sometime and I’m the only one who can decide when the end is.  I realize that now.

5) it’s okay to have fun.  Life is hard; it’s sad and lonely and depressing and monotonous and heavy and disappointing and unexplainable and draining.  And I can choose to focus on all of that or I can choose to accept that the bad stuff exists and have fun anyway.  I can laugh out loud on the train when I read something funny in a book.  I can tell a belly-aching (and perhaps borderline inappropriate) joke at a party. I can have another glass of wine and kick off my uncomfortable shoes.  It’s okay to have fun, I realize that now.

6) being a mom is hard.  I actually realized that long ago, like 5 minutes after my first child was born, but the part that’s taken me longer to realize is that it’s okay to admit that it’s hard.  It’s okay to say the words out loud and/or write them down on the page.  It doesn’t make me any less of a mom, it just makes it a teeny tiny bit easier when I admit that most of the time I have no idea what I’m doing, and that’s okay.  I realize that now.

7) words are just words.  Words can hurt people.  Words can make people laugh and they can make people cry.  I am responsible for the words I say and the words I write down but at the end of the day, they’re just words.  They don’t have to be perfect.  What I write doesn’t have to be perfect and even if no one reads them, that doesn’t mean they weren’t worth writing. As long as they come from my heart, they mean something, even if it’s only to me.  I realize that now.

Well there you have it, a few new year’s realizations to put 2011 safely to bed and drag 2012 out onto the dance floor to see what damage we can do.  At the very least, it’s going to be an interesting one!

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at 5:30 in the morning

I’m not sure if it’s a sign of my advancing age but it’s 5:30 in the morning and while everyone else is sleeping, I’m sitting here typing.  The most ironic thing is that I could actually sleep in a bit; I’m not going to work today so I could enjoy a few extra minutes lounging in my bed.  But no. Not me.

I woke up about half an hour ago and my mind started going.  It moved quickly from Christmas stuff, to work stuff, to family stuff, to whether I need to add laundry detergent to the grocery list, back to work stuff, and then on to the constant in the back of my head: what I should be doing with my life?

When I was younger I thought that once I picked a path for my life, that would be that.  I would find a career that I love, the family stuff would fall into place and life would move forward.  The reality is that while the family stuff is pretty much in hand, I still spend a lot of my day constantly thinking and wondering what I should be doing with my life, career-wise.

Part of me thinks maybe I’m being naive in thinking that I can or should find something to do that will be intellectual challenging, inspiring, fulfilling.  I mean maybe that’s just a pipe dream but I can’t seem to get it out of my head.  I can’t seem to accept things as they are and my mind keeps going around and around and around.  And then it’s 5:30am.

I realize it’s such a bogus thing to complain about.  I have everything I could ever dream of with my family and I know how lucky I am but, at the same time, I feel like there’s something else out there for me.  A way to feel personally fulfilled while still being able to live my life with my family.

If only I knew how to actually achieve that.

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