Tag Archives: motherhood

the Queen Mother

18 Apr

For the majority (if not all) of my adult life, when asked the question(s), “What do you do?” Or, “What is your title?”  My answer has remained the same, “I am a mom and a wife.”  This response comes as result of what I have found to be most fulfilling for me.  Ironically, what my parents considered to be an insignificant station in life, has been my most joyful experience.  In fact, when I became engaged to my, now husband, my father was terrified that I would be “stuck in the kitchen, barefoot and pregnant!”  It was not a path encouraged, to be sure.  And truly I had no intentions of beginning my life into motherhood as early as I did, though am grateful Providence crowned me “mom” at a young age.  And so despite my upbringing having given me a different impression, I quickly discovered for me, motherhood was in and of itself my best reward.

I found myself, through the years, speaking to my earthly father (though he departed quickly to Heaven just one month before my son was born) out-loud, “Dad, you were wrong.  I am not ‘stuck’ in the kitchen.  The kitchen is my most favorite laboratory, and I am grateful to be here!”  Now pregnancy, that is another story altogether.  I seem to be allergic to pregnancy for I remained very ill until childbirth, with complications requiring bed-rest beginning at 19 weeks.  And though prior to ever having conceived I had hoped to have my ‘quiver very full’ with little blessings, my two pregnancies were quite enough–hands down!

So G-d blessed Brian and I with two lovely children.  Pains in the neck, at times, but genuinely enjoyable people.  Nice people, funny and quirky people.  Adventurous little humans, inquisitive, smart, engaging, wise, free spirited and loving.  And so being the mother of two was title sufficient for me.  Being a unit of 4, bliss–fun and full of abundance.

Which brings me to my present difficulty–relinquishing the crown.  I have been a mother of two for more years than not.  My experiences in life viewed through the lens of having two children–illnesses, education, relationships, sports, arts–the list goes on!  And now that I am down one, with the loss of my son, I still do not know how to navigate conversation or situations without wearing the crown most familiar.  Yet my heart is so achingly sorrowful that I wish not to touch upon the subject of our familial loss, though how can I avoid it?  But avoid it I must.

My writing has slowed down this past year, as has my sociability–or ability to casually converse.  My slowdown is due to fact I am keeping fast paced in the land of distractions.  That is correct, down time and thoughtful contemplation is not for me, not right now.  I use work, I use the comedy radio station, I use solitaire, I use the present, I live in the moment and I use music from my own childhood which connects me only to pre-children Rivka.  If not well versed at letting go my station, I am very keen at keeping distracted.

Do you have children? Yes, I have two.  How old?  My son 23 and my daughter 18 (yes, I’ve allowed Cole to age).  Oh, are they in school?  My son is a Marine and my daughter will transfer to a university in the fall.–Now here is where strategy, BentRivka style is implemented—  

I always lead with my son’s information and follow with my daughter’s so I may distract my present company by weighting her circumstance more heavily, which allows for the perfect transition to the general topic of education/academia.  Voilà, the conversation moves from the personal to the general.  And hopefully NEVER circles back to the subject of my son.

You see, I can’t.  I am still the wearer of the crown.  I am still queen of my castle and I remain ever devoted to my station.  I will go down with my ship and I will not abdicate the throne.  Sadly, I don’t know how.  And every time I try to wrap my mind around the possibility, the disbelief of my new reality envelops and its well of sorrow too profound to draw from.  Engage distraction #1…etc.  Aaaah, the sweet smell of survival!

So being my literary well is presently lacking, I invite you to a little piece written while in the land of the living, back in December 2012.  It was during a time of difficulty, to be sure, though definitely not a time of distractions.  Bon appétit!

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Talking to Bees

17 Mar

Remember that for which you toil…

I have had a few people ask me a question of late, “So why are you having a hard time?”  Or, “Why are you having a hard day?”  The inquiry posed as result of my answer to the inevitable salutation, “how are you doing?”  I find it quite difficult to express the why and the wherefore of my hard days, mostly because it takes a lot of energy for me to share my intimate feelings verbally (which is why this blog has been a healthy outlet for me).  So yesterday when a good friend who has two healthy sons asked the “why” question, the best answer I could muster up the strength to state is, “because my son is not coming home.”  A simple, yet profoundly difficult reality I am facing.

Now it is said that “misery loves company”, but I have discovered this is not true for me.  I am quite happy when a friend, acquaintance, or stranger cannot identify with my present lament.  I gratefully acknowledge their place of ignorance with a welcomed relief.  When I am presented with the consolatory “I can’t even imagine what you’re going through” catch-phrase, I joyfully reply, “That is good.  You shouldn’t even try.”  I wish no sorrow upon another, no loss too profound to bear, no kinship with this road upon which I trod.

Bring me your babies.  Celebrate with me your happiness.  Invite me to your milestones.  Crack a joke.  Share a pastry.  Brave the sorrow of my soul, and keep me tied to the beauty of the living.

The other day I was in our back yard, loitering around my son’s room.  It had been raining for a couple of days and I was out in-between a break in the clouds.  It was cold, wet and breezy.  As I stood in the gloom of the day, looking at the foliage of our back yard, a little bee perused the blooms on the Bird of Paradise.  It was an improbable attempt at gaining nectar but there the little guy was, in the wet and cold, taking the brief opening of the clouds for the potential opportunity it provided.  And there I was cheering him on with an audible voice, “Best of luck to you, little bee…go get ’em.”  I then chuckled at myself for speaking out loud to a bee.  And I wondered, does that make me crazy?  The fact I talk to bees?

Well I’m sure there are several people out there who could argue the status of my sanity for many more plausible reasons than insecta articulation.  As for my own self assessment, I have determined that talking to bees does not make me crazy, but is rather a simple method of staying connected.  Connected to life while living with sorrow.

Bees–flowers–pollination–fruit–health–life–understanding

I do not need one to be kindred with my pain.  I am quite happy my friend has two healthy and strong young men for her to continue to guide.  My response was merely to help her gain insight into my hard day.

My child is not coming home.  Do me a favor and don’t let that statement sink in!

Can I photograph your dog?

7 Feb

I commute 128 miles each day, Monday through Friday.  My closest friend, aka my husband Brian, is my chauffeur. The moment I step into my office my fast paced life begins, until I force myself to leave tasks undone and head out the door for home.  It is typical that I arrive home at the dinner hour.  I then catch up with our daughter, give a smidgen of affection to the dogs and march myself off to bed because I have nothing left within me which allows for further activity.  I do not mind my commute, nor do I mind my fast paced job.  In truth, I think my work environment and pace has prevented, in a true physiological form, depression.  And I thank G-d for that.

Because I move at such a quick rate I often do not have time to allow myself to dwell upon my sorrow.  Oh it’s always with me, but I don’t have much opportunity to be real with it.  But today, I drove alone.  And upon leaving work and getting on the freeway, I realized I needed gas.  My first opportunity to get gas was at the exit of the Miramar National Cemetery where my son’s remains, remain.  And my first tear fell at the beginning of the exit.  Since I had the gift of time in the moment (Brian and Esther were both at a convention in downtown Los Angeles), I went to the gravesite of Cole.  I don’t think it coincidental that I was given a bouquet of tulips today from one of the students at my work, G-d just works that way.  I had them in the car with me and decided to take them to his site.

Now it just isn’t right…a mother should not see the name of her child on a headstone.  But alas, I do.  And I arranged the flowers at the base.  I sat there and marveled at the minuscule insects that were feeding/breeding on the granite.  It seemed fitting as Cole hated bugs yet they always found in him a perfect place to land.  As I killed the odd breed, I laughed, through my tears, at the irony of their presence.  And then I returned home and avowed to allow myself time to feel.  To give in to my sorrow and once again be a woman in mourning.

Shortly after my son passed away, a dear friend of mine gave me a morsel of wisdom.  She said, “Rivka, just remember you are going to need to extend grace to people, for they often don’t say the right thing.”  I haven’t forgotten her words.  And just this week at work, I was given verbal confirmation that I am walking in that wisdom.  Someone said, “Thank you, Rivka, for your graceful manner.”  And, “Thank you for the efficient and cheerful way in which you do things.”  Now I have to tell you, those comments bring tears to my eyes because I am truly surviving on the strength and hope of our Lord G-d, Heavenly Father.  For inside of myself I am flat, depleted, and worn.  But everyday I pray to be useful and in (and of) service to G-d.  And if people are seeing cheerfulness and grace within me, it is because the Holy Spirit is hearing my cry and answering my prayers.  …I am grateful, humbled, and honored to be in His service.

And yet, this afternoon, MY afternoon…

On this day when I gave in to allowing myself a moment of grieving, I became stretched by an unknown stranger in need of the grace of that which my dear friend had counseled me.

I took the dogs on a short walk, mostly to satisfy their canine exuberance once I walked in the door.  I have little Buddy, the Chihuahua/Terrier mix and Piper, the purebred Siberian Husky–Cole’s service dog.  Now Piper is a super love.  A sweet and beautiful creature.  But she is terrified of little kids, girls especially.  Mostly because they see her and run toward her in natural excitement that translates with a high pitch squeal.  They long to take her fluffy, furry body and wrap their little arms around it.  And the closer they get, the more terrified Piper becomes (of course one should never run up to a strange dog–but little girls are often too young to have yet adopted the policy).  At any rate, as I was walking through the neighborhood behind my house, the last leg of our short jaunt, I spied a cadre of little girls running from one house to another, with a “mom chaperone” trailing behind.  Based on their enthusiasm and bags in hand, mom included, I gathered they were on some sort of a scavenger hunt.  Piper noticed them too, so I assured her it was ok and felt confident their own adventure would keep them distracted from Cole’s beauty (really I should say bitch, but it just doesn’t sound right–even in writing!).

I was almost past the little group, and mind you, I had my coat on with my hood over my head–my intent was to emanate the sentiment, “closed for the season”–when out of the mouth of the mom came a shout, “can I photograph your dog?”  Uh oh, she penetrated my world with her intrusive request.  Couldn’t she see I am in mourning?  Couldn’t she feel my closure to the world?  I was merely walking the dogs out of obligation to them, while missing my son and feeling great pain for his suffering and our loss.  Why didn’t she know?

Well how could she?  I do not have the advantage of wearing clothes of grief.  Nope, I had just my green jacket and its protective cover failed me.  But I needed this afternoon and needed it desperately.  I also needed to respect Piper’s fear of little girls and so I said, “not at this time” and I kept walking.  The mom was taken aback and quite put out by my response.  In fact, she reacted according to her position…not mine.

“Grace.  You will need to extend grace to people.”

Once I got the ugly thoughts quieted from my mind, I remembered back to Rivka the young mother.  Rivka, who could put her shoes in the place of the mom wanting a photo.  Of course from her perspective, taking a picture of a beautiful dog is not an imposing request.  For little did she know, and little would I have known if I had been her, that I had just returned from the grave of my son and my heart was(is) broken though still functioning.  So I enacted the words of counsel from my friend and I allowed the woman to think ill of me, and I chose to not think ill of her.  Truth is, I envy her.  I envy her excitement and exuberance for her children and their young stage of life.  I love her place of intent, to bring joy to her group of girls through the simple act of photography.  And I miss that place of being, though am grateful for once having had it.

There really is a great deal of hardship in this world.  AND, there really is an awful lot of goodness.  We really have a choice between bitterness and joy.  I choose the latter of the two which is why being in the service of our Lord is so important to me.  To think He can still find use of my brokenness blesses me with a peace I cannot explain.  I am sorry to the mom for whom I could not accommodate.  I am not sorry I did not stop for her to photograph a terrified dog.  And I am not sorry that I allowed myself to be true to my own emotional state.  I am just sorry that she might consider my actions unreasonable and therefore feel affronted by them.  I am much more aware that as people, we are walking this earth, many of us, with stories that effect our actions.  I am just one of them, and this is just one of my little stories.

Siberian Huskey

Piper, at your service!

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