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The Fringes

11 May

Today is the day set aside to recognize motherhood.  Mother’s Day, as it is so named.  As a mother in mourning I think most of my loved ones expected this day to be a hard one for me.  As it turns out, it is no more difficult than the everyday I make it through my sorrow and move onto the next.  As it turns out this day is most difficult for my daughter, the sister to my fallen son.  This is the day the two of them, TOGETHER, would plan and execute the details of ensuring I was without doubt of their devotion and honor.  I must say, they were quite good at it…my daughter still is.

But if the sorrow has hit anyone more than the other, today is her day.  Her brother, her partner in all things familial is missing from her equation and, for her, there is no way to avoid his absence this day.

For me–no matter where my children are I am still a mother.  Whether I can be with them or not, on this particular day, I am still a mother.  And in being a mother, my society honors me–just look at all the store sales happening this weekend in honor of this day.  Granted, being showered with blessings from my own children is not comparable on the same scale as saving a few bucks–it trumps the monetary gain tremendously!  But point being, there are no guarantees of being with ones children on this particular day and yet as a mother I still have opportunity to be acknowledged.  Not so for the sister, left hanging out on the fringes because the obvious position of the mourning mother obfuscates the internal bleeding of the sibling.  Of course I am receiving text messages, emails and calls reflecting supportive thoughts for me on this day, but she is not.

And now she is left to navigate the sentimentality of maternal love while being barraged with sorrow.  Her quandary’s resemble something like this:  Does she show her mother her angst and risk causing burden to her on what she is accustomed to believing is a “special day for her mom?”  How is she to push through the vacancy left by her dearly departed when this day keeps shoving her loss in every step of her path?

To add insult to injury, the death of our beloved Cole will make it’s first anniversary mark this coming week.  May 17, 2013 we received the dreaded news.

Today my husband is somewhat on the fringes as well.  He has lost his mom a few years ago and his grandmother shortly afterward, both of whom were two of his biggest fans.  He is quite without a large portion of his extended family, and yet today he is supposed to do two things, honor his own mother and honor his wife, the mother of his children.  Now he, too, is stuck with a day that serves as a great reminder to the many losses he is suffering.

My sister, Auntie to my children, is also the overlooked mourner.  The sufferer on the fringe who sits in the shadow of her sisters pain.

This is a tough day, to be sure.  But today, as a mother, I honor those who are not privileged to have a day which recognizes them in the manner that Mother’s Day recognizes me–in my mothering and in my loss.  My heart goes out to you, the sister, the aunt, the grandmother, the friend, the husband–my soul loves you.

Today, with this post, I honor Esther Bent, Brian Bent and Leah Smith–

Happy Mother’s Day!

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Cookie Dough and the Haircut

15 Dec

The Cookie Dough:

Earlier in the week I took a hike with a girlfriend.  We are very close friends and have known each other since our teenaged years.  Why include that information in the intro?  Because it should highlight our deep rooted connection which has been forged by many decades of interaction.  …it should, I hope it does.  So here we were huffing and puffing up a hill when my friend told me of her cookie dough dilemma.  Apparently, several months back she had succumbed to the charms of a young boy and his door-to-door knocking plea of, “please pre-order cookie dough, pay now and I will deliver it to you in a few weeks.”  Being that her children are in the private school sector, she thought this a good opportunity to support the local, public elementary house of education.  And so she handed over her twenty dollars, wrote the boy’s name down, and tucked her anticipation away until the three week marker was set to arrive.  Well, according to her, three weeks has turned into three months.  And her question to me was, “I have his name and I know his school, should I call them and ask for my cookie dough?”  My answer was quick and firm…”No.”

I went on to explain that life is unpredictable (as she too is aware), and as such, impedes upon plans and/or intentions.  I suggested that we don’t know the circumstances surrounding the boy’s life and perhaps, in this instance, he (or his mother and father) could benefit from receiving a little grace.  I also recognized the potential that the boy took her money and also enjoyed her cookies as well.  But my thought is, if we look at the circumstance as if weighing it out on a balance, the extension of grace proved the ‘heavy’.  …’nough said.

The Haircut:

Thursday, (only a few days after solving the ‘cookie dough caper’), I took my son for a haircut.  It was an unplanned excursion (especially as I am the usual coiffeur to the Bent family), and took place because we had to kill some time and he needed a cut.  The little barber shop is located within the Long Beach VA facility and the resident barber is Judy, a woman.  She was on the brink of finishing a cut for an older male veteran, so she offered us a place to sit while we waited.  In a short amount of time Judy and her prevailing customer learned of my son’s “Wounded Warrior” status.  And wouldn’t you know, when the man in the salon chair was finished with his cut he turned to Cole and said, “Son, it would be my honor to buy you your haircut.”  Flabbergasted Cole said, “Are you sure?”  To which the white-bearded man replied, “Yes.  I thank you for your service and it is truly my honor.”  …well he tried to get that out, but honestly he got so choked up the words were having to fight their way out (if you know what I mean).  And of course, me being a sucker for a kind deed and an adherer to the policy of “no one cries alone”, I got watery eyed and was (still am) incredibly blessed by this older military veteran.  Not only because he paid for the haircut, but because the plight of my son made a mark upon this experienced man.  After thanking the stranger for his kind act, Cole carefully stepped into the chair of honor.

Judy proceeded to tell us of her credentials and a few personal accounts of her life, while in process of cutting Cole’s hair.  Once finished under her experienced hands, he asked if he could give her a five dollar tip and then handed her a twenty dollar bill.  She thanked him and handed him back a five.  Now the haircut itself cost $10.00, which the kind stranger had taken care of;  so in truth, Cole should have been given back $15.00, not $5.  I watched this transaction which then jet-propelled my ‘momma bear’ tactile instincts.  Though something within me held my tongue.  It could have been that Judy shared with us that she is a four time cancer survivor who lost her “dream retirement home” because of her medical bills.  She shared with us that the circumstance ended up being more of a blessing to her in the long run, and then gave Cole’s knee a pat and said, “see it was a good thing after all!”  It could have also been that she had another man awaiting her services and there was really no way to tactfully call attention to her monetary error.  Or it could have been that I had the twenty dollar cookie dough advice still fresh within me.

Which ever the case may be, it donned on me (as we were leaving the facility) that most likely she had forgotten that her previous client covered the expenses of her next.  Thus when Cole offered to give her a five dollar tip, his rightful change, from a twenty (considering his haircut cost ten) would have been a five-r.  But it wasn’t until my shower this morning that I was given the true message of the triangular transaction.  You see, I was viewing the circumstance from the perspective of my mommy lens.  And what I thought to be an infraction against my son, was actually an INTENDED double blessing from The Good Lord himself.  As she communicated, Judy’s finances were tight.  And unbeknownst to the stranger, Cole’s spirit was depleted.  In one fail swoop, Judy picked up an extra 10 dollars, and my son received a little boost to the soul from the sincerity of the gentleman.  Both were blessed, just as each one needed.  …Oh how my vision is so impaired!

To that end, the answer to my cookie deprived girlfriend still stands.  In fact, now more emphatically.  As if the two stories are not enough, I have more reason to advise my friend to consider the unknown before taking action.  This past week has been grueling for our family…to say the very least.  The “short” of it (as if I can tell a story short-handed):  We introduced a new medication to Cole’s regimen, last Thursday, which caused several severe adverse reactions.  The one I will focus on is the emotional spiraling which occurred on Monday (after my hike with my friend).  Oh there were other, very obvious, overtly physical, negative affects as well.  But the hopelessness that Cole was left to contend with spun him in the direction of suicidal ideation.  And he attempted to overdose on his pain medication, though his actions were thwarted by the entrance, into the room, of his little sister (who remains ignorant of her brothers actions).  Not a fun place for him, not a fun place for his parents (my husband and I).

Unfortunately we didn’t put 2 and 2 together that first night, and it wasn’t until Tuesday eve that we realized this new state of low, was directly related to the collision course of the new medication.  Now I beg of you, as I tell this story, to kindly refrain from offering loads of advice on the subject of suicide ideation…my armor is a bit weary.  The purpose of my sharing is to illuminate the full circle effect of choosing the road of grace, also known as mercy, especially when another option is present.

I will tell you that amidst our tumultuous week, the ‘normals’ of life continue to go on.  In fact, I was the email liaison/coordinator for a magazine photo shoot happening at our house yesterday (Friday), for a London based quarterly.  The photographer, the models, and the stylist were looking to me to ensure the times and locations were set and in place.  Now earlier in the week one of the models called to complain because the schedule for the event had to be tweaked slightly and he was irritated at me as a result.  …keep in mind, my son had just tried to OD…  But you know what I realize, the circumstances of my life do not cause the lives of others to stop.  He was completely in the dark about our familial hardship.  And yes, I could have enlightened him (and his single, no children life), to our heart wrenching scenario…but to do so was (and is) unnecessary.  Let me interject here…I had called upon my “prayer warriors” a few days earlier and my request was simple, “wisdom, please pray for wisdom”.  Not only does my Heavenly Father offer to grant wisdom to those who ask, as written in his word, but he provides the necessary tools for the actions required to enact the wisdom given.  Hallelujah for that.  And at this point in my story is where, for me, I see the fulfillment of prayer most profoundly.

Now back to “the short of it”…haha!

For him (the aforementioned male model), the change in plan was infringing upon his convenience.  And being he was receiving no remuneration for his time, he had every right to be a little testy.  I didn’t need to use my “E ticket” as I call it (E ticket=passport to the very best rides at Disneyland–until the changeover to the ‘all day pass’ was enacted), to override his concerns.  So I apologized and together we worked out a viable plan which ended up being the best choice for all involved.  After all, the beauty of gaining in years is that one is also gaining in wisdom (hopefully).  Now what good would all my wisdom be if it were left as an untapped resource!

Ok, ok…truth be told, the older I get the less I know.  Though there is one lesson life has been teaching me over and over again:

“Much grace I must give, for much grace I often require.”

Daughter Shopping

12 Sep

My title is deceiving.  It implies I am in the market for a new daughter.  This is not the case…I assure you.  And though this post has nothing to do with shopping for a child, it does involve the parent-child dynamic.  Are you surprised?  Have I not overused this topic already?  I will answer for you, “no to both questions.”  Of course none of us can be surprised; after all, the subject of inter-human relations is inexhaustible.  This subject has come up for me this week via two completely unrelated circumstances.  The first is through my daughter.  The second is through the relationship of a friend and her son…and me.  First I will tell you the story of my daughter.

As I have previously written, Esther is in college.  Her math professor happens to have also been my math professor.  He and I got to know each other on a personal level because I required much assistance to gain the “A” grade for all three of the math classes I took while under his tutelage.  In addition to him being an astute professor of mathematics, he is a kind man and our personal lives crossed at a couple of proverbial intersections (stated only to avert the perversion of thought that might try to infiltrate the connection).  At any rate, the point of the aforementioned rhetoric is to simply overstate that he and I gained a knowledge of each other and of our families.  In fact, he has known Esther since she was twelve…almost five years now.  So the other day, when upon my advice she met him at his office for his amazing tutorial guidance, it was no surprise that he suggested to her to ask me for assistance on any and all of the subject matter in which she struggled.  His statement, as retold to me by her, went like this:  “Why don’t you ask your mom for help.  She is a really good teacher and was an excellent student in Algebra.”  And to this piece of advice, or suggestion rather, she said (again as retold to me by her): “NO WAY!!  My mom and I don’t mix well together in math…no how, no way!”  And you know what?  She is telling the truth!  We most certainly do NOT mix well when it comes to mathematics.  We do, however, get along fine while shopping.  Shopping for clothes, shopping for shoes, shopping for accessories–just plain old shopping.

Now onto the second scenario…

I have a good friend, a few hundred miles away, who has an elementary aged son who struggles with literacy.  Well on Sunday he called me and asked if we could have a Skype session (internet video phone call, for those of you who are unfamiliar with Skype) for no other reason than it is something fun to do.  So while we were chatting away about nothing important, and mostly because I was trying to keep the interest flowing, I asked if he would like me to read a book to him.  With immediate reluctance he questioned, “What book?”  I suggested Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day (because it was within a reasonable reach).  It just so happened to be a favorite of his, therefore he answered, “yes.”  I read the book to him and after I finished he tucked himself into bed and we signed off with a “goodnight”.  Monday night I had another Skype call from my young friend.  Only this time HE had something to read to me.  He read me two short stories and allowed me to read another from my shelf.  Our next “telephone” date is set for tomorrow night.  And it honestly cannot come too soon.

My girl friend and I spoke the next day and she said her son has, since our first reading, Skyped with an older cousin and read to her as well.  My friend tells me this interest in reading is something of a phenomenon for her son.  She even accused me of having used magic on him because she says he normally does not like to read out loud, nor does he like to be read to.  And now he is excited about both…via Skype.  And all of this praise comes simultaneous to my daughter balking at the suggestion of utilizing me as a mathematical resource.  Funny.  Ironic and funny.

Yet isn’t that just the way of life under “normal” familial conditions (I use quotes on normal as I’m not quite sure what normal truly means.  Normal in my life seems to equate with chaos.  Controlled chaos, but chaos just the same.)?   I mean here I am able to help my daughter with her difficulties in math, yet she is adamantly opposed to working with me.  And my girlfriend, more educated than I, is definitely capable of reading and being read to, though her young son is reluctant to utilize her literary skills.

Children, and the business of raising them, is funny stuff!  And I am thankful that we help each other along the way.  To invest, to the degree that is required, can be quite the daunting task when going at it alone.  Which is why we need to ‘pitch-hit’ for one another during the times our ‘ever so wise’ children foolishly reject our skill sets.  I actually think the Chilean poet, Gabriela Mistral, says it best in her poem titled, “Su nombre es hoy” (“His Name is Today”).  Written in Spanish, the writing implores its readers to comprehend that the child who is at the crux of growth and development is not to be neglected.  He or she is to be invested in.  She states that to abandon the child is akin to keeping from them the fountain of life.  She encourages us to know that the many material “needs” we have can wait, but the child cannot.  And she finishes the piece by rhetorically asking, “how can we tell him tomorrow, when his name is Today.”

I am thankful for my young Skyping friend.  He has helped me remember that though my daughter rejects my tutorial assistance, there is another whose investment in her life is of great value and importance within that realm.  Which is how I hope my friend feels about me and her son’s new passion to read.

Su nombre es hoy

Nosotros somos culpables
de muchos errores y muchas faltas,
pero nuestro peor crimen
es el abandono de los niños
negándoles la fuente de la vida.

Muchas de las cosas
que nosotros necesitamos
pueden esperar, los niños no pueden,
ahora es el momento,
sus huesos están en formación,
su sangre también lo está
y sus sentidos
se están desarrollando,
a él nosotros no podemos contestarle
mañana,
su nombre es hoy.

-Gabriela Mistral

Brock

A Skype “goodnight”

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