On a sunny day, not unlike some of the ones we’ve enjoyed this week, my water broke and labor began for my second child. Neither of these occurred with any haste – it was more a leak than a gush and the progress of my contractions was painfully (literally) slow. When my red-faced, bald-headed baby boy finally made his debut it was a new day and I was in awe – of both his perfection and the strength of my body. Birthing him was, most definitely, my proudest physical accomplishment.
Sixteen years later this child continues to amaze and exhaust me. I do, however, find myself worrying about him more than I do either of his brothers. His humor, intelligence and charm have provided him with wonderful life experiences. Unfortunately, though, his gifts have also given him the opportunity to avoid truly exerting himself. Ever. Everything has come so easily to this guy…it kind of scares me.
During my run yesterday I was thinking about him and life and challenges to be met and conquered. I thought about all the things I want him to know – about himself and life. Of course, being a teenager, he only ingests my motherly wisdom in small doses and on an as needed basis. Hopefully one day he will come to know all of the following…
- Nothing in life is more important than health and happiness.
- There is satisfaction in doing your best and working hard.
- You have been blessed with many talents.
- Be where you are.
- Don’t ever lose your sense of right and wrong.
- Responsibilities will make you a grownup far more than a driver’s permit.
- You can do anything.
- Take your time figuring out what you want to do career wise. There’s no rush.
- That being said, finding yourself is a self-sponsored trip.
- You may look like your father, but so much of your behavior mirrors my own. I get you.
- Travel and see as much of the world as you can.
- Be honest. In the long run, it’s easier. I promise.
- Keep carrying groceries for old women.
- Never stop giving good hugs.
- Going to concerts with you has been one of the best rewards of parenthood.
- You are loved.
There are books that I read which are impossible to put down, a recent example being The Girl on the Train. I was so eager to find out what really happened that I refused to stop reading until I finished the book. I was neither disappointed, nor regretful of my decision to push on until I reached that final page and felt a welcome sense of resolution. It was a really good read.
The book I’m reading now though, is, if you’ll pardon the pun, a whole different story. Unforgettable: A Son, a Mother, and the Lessons of a Lifetime by NPR newsman, Scott Simon, is a work that I don’t want to finish. You see, if I finish it, the story will end and I so want the story (and Scott’s mother’s life) to continue. Simon’s book, a memoir of his mother, and their life together, originated as a series of Tweets during his mother’s time in the intensive care unit at the end of her life. The time Simon and his mother shared together in the hospital was a quilt of memories, thoughts, laughter and songs that provided comfort and solace to them both as they faced their final days together.
Below are some my favorite nuggets of wisdom. Simon’s Tweets appear, as in the book, in bold text. Quotes are the words of his mother, Patricia.
- I just realized: she once had to let me go into the big wide world. Now I have to let her go the same way.
- “You tell your children something a hundred times…You’re lucky if they remember one or two. Dos, don’ts, count for almost nothing. All they remember is what you do. Whether you want them to or not.”
- I love holding my mother’s hand. Haven’t held it like this since I was 9. Why did I stop? I thought it unmanly? What crap.
- “Show children the best people and places. Let them know they belong.”
- She will make the face of heaven shine so fine that all the world will be in love with night.
There’s so much wisdom in this book, so much love and laughter that I wish it went beyond the mere 244 print pages, that Patricia’s life went beyond only 84 years. As a mom to three sons, I can’t help but read this and hope that at the end of my life my “boys” will honor me with an iota of the respect and appreciation that Scott shows his mother. I don’t need one of them to write a book or anything, but I love the picture I’ve drawn in my head of my children sharing the memories and moments that have woven us together forever.
Mother’s Day is coming. Buy this book.
On our 15th wedding anniversary, my husband and I had a special dinner at a restaurant on Martha’s Vineyard. The meal was a bit of a disappointment, but the company was good.
After we had finished our meals and were somewhere between entrée and dessert, our wedding song came on over the restaurant’s speakers. I was touched and felt my eyes well with emotion. I thought to myself “we should dance.” There wasn’t a dance floor (it was a restaurant), but we could have managed a twirl or two. It was our 15th wedding anniversary.
I’ve thought back to that night a few times and wonder what might have been different if I had forced the words “we should dance” out of my mouth or if he had said “I arranged for this song to play.” If either of us had done something to demonstrate our love for the other. Would it have been enough to have prompted us to steer our ships once again to be side by side and in the same direction? I’ll never know.
By our next anniversary dinner, we were, in retrospect, clearly sailing in different directions. It was a fancy meal, perfectly executed and filled with laughter. We met the chef-owner and there were many bottles of wine uncorked. My feet hurt in their new shoes. It was good to feel something.
It’s almost 5 years later now and I never dreamed this life that I’m living. I write and run and work and eat and take pictures and I love, love, love. I feel more alive than I’ve ever felt and am equally inspired by today and the thought of tomorrow. Things may not have gone the way I imagined they would, but as an inherently grounded person, my imagination is sometimes too timid.
I never imagined I’d quote Hugh Hefner but he said it perfectly:
“In my wildest dreams, I could not have imagined a sweeter life.”
Last evening, after finally coming to terms with the fact that I wasn’t going to take a run, I decided to take a walk instead with Jeter. I made my usual offer to the boys to see if they cared to join me but was met by their usual response – no, thanks. I got myself warmly dressed and cued up a Pandora station of standards/vocal jazz and popped my earbuds in. Just as I reached for the doorknob, Quinn had a change of heart and decided to accompany me. Faster than I’ve ever seen him move, he had shoes and coat on and off we went.
There was something about walking in the foggy night that made for a cozy, not creepy experience. As we walked along Whitehall Road, we talked quietly, sharing my earbuds as we listened together to Nat King Cole and Ella Fitzgerald. Our conversation was filled with talk of which houses we admired, how challenging Jeter could be at times and how cool his new clip-on flashing light is. Funnily, I thought the light was shaped like a heart,* while Quinn thought it was a bone. He was correct but I was graciously given permission to think it was a heart if I wanted to. Sweet.
We stopped at his school’s primary grades playground and Quinn shared memories of playing there “years ago.” We talked about how in just a couple of years he’ll moving on to middle school and how fast time goes. As we neared the end of our walk, he found a series of puddles irresistible and made an attempt to leap them, with mixed success. His landing perfectly illustrated why so many of his pants have blown out knees. He is adorable.
Once home, after suggesting that we “do this again soon,” he continued to charm me with all that he had to say. Like: “What do you want to do? Watch a movie and sit on the couch eating ice cream?” and “Why does everything happen when you’re three? Grandma Sheila died when I was 3. I made a lot of my life decisions when I was three.”
I am so looking forward to our next walk.
*probably because of my love for the person who gave it to Jeter
Eleanor Roosevelt once said that “No one can make you feel inferior without your consent.” Do you think we can apply this logic in a broader sense to situations in which we feel advantage has been taken of us? Do we somehow give permission to people to take advantage of us?
There are particular incidents in my life that continue to bother me despite the passage of time, usually because I failed to assert myself. I essentially gave someone an opportunity to make me feel inferior because I failed to stop them. When I think about those occasions I find myself replaying the scenarios, inserting a response that I only wish I had conjured up during the original altercation. You know, the perfect retort just too late. I want a do over.
The older I get, though, the less frequently I feel the need for a do over. I’ve learned that the discomfort of directly dealing with a person who is threatening my sense of what is fair or reasonable, is less damaging than perpetually looping the incident mentally afterwards. Ultimately, it’s better to give someone a piece of my mind than to allow them to just take it.
Don’t even approach my body unless you’ve first been between my ears. I’m 48, not 18.
True love isn’t roses and chocolate. It’s starting my car on a winter’s morning or bringing home pizza on a Friday night.
Love is buying me the Sunday paper on Saturday so I don’t have to go outside on a cold morning.
Love means being able to continue to believe.
My run Sunday came at a price – more specifically, the knee of my oldest running tights and a little skin on both my palm and my knee. Jeter and I had gotten a later start at the golf course than I had hoped, and by the time we completed the back nine and were midway through the front nine, it was fairly dark. Or maybe unfairly dark when it came to that patch of ice which did not reveal itself until my foot landed on it. Oops.
As my foot led, my body went up in the air, ultimately smacking to the ground on hip, hand and knee. Ouch. It hurt. I like to think that overall, I didn’t go down as terribly as I might have. I mean, I was a gymnast years ago and there’s muscle memory when it comes to falling, isn’t there? On the cold ground I did a quick inventory and, comfortable with my self-assessment, I got back up. Because that is what you do, isn’t it?
Once I regained my feet, I continued on the path with my thoughts shifting from where they had been previously. Before my slip, I had been reflecting about how much I loved exercising outdoors, year round. Even when I lose my footing and completely wipe out, fresh air still trumps the stale air and static view of a gym.
Now I thought back to when my children were toddlers and young boys and the frequency with which they seemed to fall down. It was remarkable. The slightest discrepancy in flooring, the tiniest drops of moisture, a tree root or dip in the earth would end with the same result – child on the ground. It was almost predictable in its capriciousness.
As we age, we don’t expect to end up on the ground, do we? Indulgence and illness aside, we remain consistently on our feet. Falling down is a part of life, though. Maybe the occasional reminder of that truth is something we all need.