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One of my favorite movies, Jerry Maguire, was on TV the other day. There’s a particular scene that always gets me right here💘. Marcee is on the phone with sports agent Maguire, who tells her that her husband, Rod, has been injured in a football game.

“This family doesn’t work without him, Jerry,” she says. “Just get him home to me.”

That line has some kind of magical quality. It talks directly to my tear duct. Even if I rewind the scene and play it again, knowing it’s coming…I can’t help it. Got me!

To me, that scene is the distillation of the emotion we all feel for a loved one we cherish. We want them to be okay. We expend energy trying to find ways to cover them with love, even from afar.

We care so much about our little tribe that we come at them with “help” that really sounds like anger. “You need to make sure you get that homework done, or you’ll never get that job you want once you graduate!”

Way to pile guilt on top of anxiety! Mother of the year!

How often do religions do this as well? That is, foster fear, guilt and shame that can cause a person’s spirit to break and actually keeps potential converts away. The only true path to grace is leading with love. Any religion — or company, or politician, or human being — who treats people with kindness and means what they say? I’m right there with them.

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“Have a lovely Thanksgiving.”

I laughed out loud when I read that note from my editor.  We are not lovely Thanksgiving people.  We are more like the Griswold Family and I do mean both sides of the family.

My sister has to do everything with perfection.  No seriously.  She makes Martha Stewart look slapdash.  She is also a vegetarian as is my niece.  Dad, who has dementia, will insist on telling her all about my son’s foray into the woods deer hunting.  The teen knows better but my Dad?  Try to stop him.  And he won’t try to talk to anyone else about it so I know it isn’t entirely accidental. Dad thinks he’s funny.

My sister-in-law?  Also heavily into perfection but there are so many people on that side of the family.  We have engineers, IT people, hipsters, and young professionals.  Then there’s my kid – red neck libertarian?  Yeah, that’s a description he’s appreciate.  It will be loud, it will be rambunctious and something will go slightly askew.

Lovely?  No.  Fun, humorous and full of loud love.  Anyone who goes looking for lovely will be frustrated beyond belief.  But those of us who jump into it will come out the other side grate-filled for the family with which God blessed us.

–SueBE

 

 

So indulge me in a bit of reverie. Picture me one thousand years in the future, after science has unlocked the key to longevity, so that everyone in the world now has long life, prosperity and an uncanny knack for sassy accessorizing. Acc-sass-orizing, if you will.

This would be after science discovers that people like me with eyes that may be considered green or blue (depending on the comfy sweater we’re wearing) can actually see into the future, so we’re given government jobs sitting at the computer all day, surfing, and predicting stuff (sometimes correctly, sometimes not so much – but, like meteorologists, we still get paid.)

This would be far, far in the future, when I’ve finally learned that just because my Cosmic Cat is sitting at the back door of my mansion on Mercury, facing me with those big moon-pie eyes as if he wants to come back inside, he’s just window-shopping. I’ll ask my inventors to build an auto-cat door that scans his hologram retinas so he can open the door his dang self.

Maybe then my son will read my blog posts! This humble blog has become a time capsule of sorts, a snapshot of my life through the years. What’s important to me at the time. What’s in the news. What I hope for my son as he wends his way down the road of life.

Every so often, I’ll tell him I mentioned him in a blog post. Read it, would you, so I can be sure I’m not saying anything a teen-ager wouldn’t want his mom to mention. Of course, I do realize… That covers just about everything!

So in a thousand years, I’ll ask my son, About reading that blog, honey… How ‘bout now?

Sure Mom, I’ll get around to it. Just about to catch the shuttle to Saturn!

Oh well. If you only read this, Cole, just remember. I love you like nobody’s business. Wherever I am – New Jersey or some nebula in the night-sky – I’ve got your back. And if you call from Jupiter again, don’t call collect. It’s long distance!

“Happy birthday!” I said to my teen-age son, and walked over to give him a hug. Huh. How about that. My son was so much taller than me that his shoulder was over my head. I had to turn to the side to breathe. Wouldn’t it be ironic if I suffocated in the armpit of the son I gave life to? 🙂

On an awards show, the singer, Pink, wearing a sparkly leotard, spinning on a trapeze high above the audience, was singing, “I’m not here for your entertainment!” I scratched my head. Surely this isn’t educational?

Flipping to another channel, there was a half-hour infomercial called “Identity Theft News” posing as a live news broadcast.

As we all tend to do, I surfed the web while watching t.v., and found some other puzzling things. Like the use of trendy, made-up phrases in news articles, i.e., Obama White House Photographer Throws Shade at Trump, Rep. Maxine Waters Claps Back at Bill O’Reilly After Hair Insult.

Even more confusing, sometimes a word can be used in opposite directions: Almost 75 Years After Death Beatrix Potter Drops New Book, and Simon & Schuster Drops Milo Yiannopoulous Book Following Release of Controversial Video.

Over the years, I’ve learned:

  • Things aren’t always what they appear to be.
  • Social media is here to stay, along with selfies and skinny jeans.
  • Times change.
  • We’ll be okay.

I don’t have to always “get it” as I look around at the world today, because I know some of the most important things never change. Faith, family, friends, and the perpetual power of prayer.

As the Yiddish proverb says, “Prayers go up, and blessings come down.” Let’s let Anne Lamott have the last word today: “Anything you say from your heart to God is a prayer.”

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Your battles inspired me – not the obvious material battles but those that were fought and won behind your forehead.  
James Joyce

This is to the soldier on the last battle field.

In my mind, it’s like the scene from “Gladiator” with our fallen hero in the Coliseum. The lady he’d loved and lost stood in front of his body and said to the crowd: “He was a soldier of Rome. Honor him!”

My father-in-law passed away last week, and I’ve been wondering what his journey to the next world might be like.

Admittedly, I’ve got no idea what happens after we leave this earth. I’d like to think it will be more of a “Homegoing” than a time for sackcloth and ashes.

A friend once told me she believes that we go to the place we’ve always regarded as home, even if we’ve never been there.

For my mother, it would have been a log cabin. She always spoke of her dream of owning a little cabin in the woods with a fireplace and wood-burning stove.

For my father, it might have been the bar from “Cheers.” He just loved that show, and his favorite joke became a call-and-response tradition for us every time I came for a visit. Dad: “If anyone calls for me, Coach, I don’t want to be bothered.” Me: “Who does?”

For my father-in-law, it could, paradoxically, be on the field of war. While he hated the fighting, he felt most like himself there. As a veteran of the Korean and Vietnam Wars, he was respected by his peers. He knew how to be a soldier. Get the job done. It made sense to him.

Life was clearer as a soldier. Here is the objective. Over there, the enemy. We’re doing this for those we left back home.

When he came home, he had to re-learn how not to be at war, and it wasn’t easy.

For our soldier who took the journey home, we honor you. May the angels stand at attention when you arrive. You fought the good fight, and now, rest. At ease.

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My son, Cole, graduated from high school this past June, and he received many lovely gifts, but the one that warmed my heart was a simple card that he received from his sister, Isabel.

At first blush, one might see a re-purposed holiday card, but look closely: it’s actually a benediction. It’s a five-year-old girl’s way of bestowing a blessing on one of her favorite people in the world.

Isabel really loves some Cole. And I can honestly say, the feeling is mutual.

Once, while she was visiting, I asked my son to put out the garbage and recycle bins, and he headed for the door. “I want to help!” Isabel said. “No, honey, it’s garbage. Dirty.” “But I can help Cole!” she insisted. “Well, okay. You can be his helper,” I said. “You walk with him as he carries out the cans.”

And she did. Silently, scrupulously, she walked side-by-side with her brother as he carried one, two, three cans of garbage. It was impressive that she could match his loping teen-age stride, as he’s 6”3, and, at five-years-old, she’s considerably shorter. She walked exactly in his footsteps. If he stopped short, so did she. If he scratched his cheek, she did, too. My son noticed her doing this and I saw that he smiled ever so slightly. I was amazed that the kids putting out the garbage could almost move me to tears!

The nice thing is, as Isabel said so eloquently in the graduation card she wrote to Cole, they love each other, but they also like each other. That’s a big deal. You can’t force kids to enjoy each other’s company, even if they live in the same household, and these two live in different homes.

The graduation card may look like a Christmas card to most, but to me, it’s actually a gift card. What a gift to have kids in our lives! What a gift to have family that gets along so well! What a gift to see the ones you love making their own way in the world. Well, come to think of it… with all these gifts, maybe it is Christmas after all.

Oh! So Your Phone Does Still Work Image

By the time I eventually moseyed over for a visit, my mother would have at the ready some carefully curated quotes, knowing full well that, as soon as I arrived, I’d be planning my exit.

“He who fails to plan, plans to fail,” she’d tell me, nodding. “What’s past is prologue!”

I would just shrug, which only led her to say:

“Youth is wasted on the young!”

She’d throw a Latin phrase my way and, like the former teacher that she was, expect me to respond with the correct answer.

“Panacea?” she’d demand.

“Cure-all,” I’d respond dutifully.

“Gallia est omnis divisa…?” she’d tilt her head at me.

“…in partes tres,” I’d say, barely stifling a yawn.

She’d share her pet conspiracy theories as well. “Sir Francis Bacon actually wrote all of Shakespeare’s works,” she’d exclaim, even as I tuned her out. “Known fact!”

After I left home, I could barely get through a visit with my mother. She smoked like a chimney. She’d stockpile every bit of bad news and tale of woe to aim at me, like a missile full of misery. I didn’t realize until later that it was her way of trying to prepare and protect me from things that might go wrong. “Forewarned is forearmed!” she’d say, finger jabbing the air.

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After her passing, I learned that, no matter how old you are, when your parents pass away, you feel as if you’ve lost your moorings. Looking back on old, poor-quality photographs, you realize that your mother had a whole life before you were even born, and now that she’s gone, you ‘ll never get to hear those stories.

Dear readers, if you’re lucky enough to still have your mother in your life, I’d like to gently and gingerly nudge you to spend time with her while you have the chance.

Heck, I think I’ll come at you like the
New Jersey Mama Bear that I am, and say it like this:
So, what, it would kill you to call the mother who gave you life? 🙂

Coffee and cake at a cafe′ once a year on Mother’s Day are all well and good. Being fully present and hearing with your heart? Priceless.

The other day, I baby-sat my ex-husband’s five-year-old daughter as she waited for the school bus. She’s one of my favorite people in the world, and it’s always a joy to spend time with My Princess.

So at 8:25, it was almost time for the bus to come. I asked her to put on her coat, but she was engrossed in a t.v. show.

Next, I asked her to get her backpack, but she wanted to find the right shade of blue for the picture she was coloring – of a princess, of course.

We went outside, heading for the driveway to wait for the bus, but she was concerned that a pile of branches was on top of some flowers growing by the front walk. “They don’t like to be covered,” she told me, and set about to move the branches, but I told her there wasn’t time. Bus was coming.

We got to the middle of the driveway and I realized she’d brought out the paper kite she’d made in school and she started to run in a circle, making it fly. Making her laugh. Making me laugh, too, in spite of myself. Every instinct said, No time to play. Bus is coming. Can’t miss the bus.

Finally, the bus arrived and she ran to me for a hug. “I love you so much, honey,” I said. She gave me another hug. But of course, you know the drill. Bus is waiting. She got on the bus and we waved good-bye.

It seemed as I watched the bus drive away that there were more than just decades that separated us. There was a great divide. The one between making sure you meet your obligations and really being in the moment and savoring life as it happens.

We go to great pains to make sure that the bus doesn’t wait; meantime, we make our souls wait.

You can play later, we tell ourselves. Be an adult. Playing isn’t what we do. What we do is meet deadlines. Put bills on auto-pay. Put ourselves on auto-pilot. Get on the bus. Get it done.

Maybe we spend our lives looking for the secret sauce that adds verve and vitality to our everyday existence, and it’s the one thing we un-learned on our way to adulthood.

Playtime isn’t frivolous. It’s a crucial nutrient that nurtures and nourishes the soul. Being a grown-up doesn’t have to be a chronic condition. So I say, any time you can tap into your inner child, kick off your shoes and play on!

heart and hands

At eight years old, my son taught me an important lesson in body language and soul-speak.

After walking home from the bus stop, he came through the door, smiling.

In quick succession, I issued a list of his moving violations.

  • You wore that shirt?
  • Don’t slouch! 
  • You forgot your homework again.

Posture adjustment.

From “Glad to be home from school – oh look, there’s my Mom!”

to “Guess I did something wrong and didn’t even know it.”

Looked like a tiny candle’s flame, fading. Flickering out. Poof!

That very day, I learned something. I felt terrible that I had made my own child feel so terrible.

Next afternoon, I started a new tradition.

Since that time and to this day, when he comes home from school, I don’t harp or hassle or harangue. I don’t carp or criticize or cauterize with my words.

Front door opens. I dance.

Flail around like a dadblamed fool.

Like a cheerleader hailing a champion.

I clap my hands and sing. “My son is home! My sooooon is hooooome. Yay! Tell me all about your day, son,” as if talking to Magellan, returning from high seas with tall tales.

Sure, he may roll his eyes at such a dramatic display of MotherLove; still, he walks slowly down the hall to his room, as if secretly appreciating being appreciated.

Teaching is a part of life for all of us, but I’ve never learned anything from being yelled at, picked on or beaten down.

My son may have been the one coming home from school, but I’m the one who learned a lesson.

Note to self: When people you love come home, make them feel at home.

Love your loved ones.

Sounds obvious, but this basic truth can get lost in translation. I’m so glad I finally listened.

Picture for Karma Post

Today, I noticed a husky trotting around the outside of my house to the fence in the side yard. It took me a second to realize that it was a neighbor’s dog named Karma. Many years ago, whenever he got out of his yard, he would cheerfully bound over to our fence and gaze lovingly at my dog, Sheena. Her tail would wag and they would “play-bow” to each other on opposite sides of the fence. After a few minutes of this sweet interaction, Karma would trot off, heading happily toward home. Sheena would watch him wistfully, never taking her eyes off of him until he was well down the road out of sight.

My Sheena has been gone for four years now, and I have to admit, seeing Karma again brought a tear to my eye. That’s Sheena, in the backyard in the picture, above.

Still, it made me happy that someone else remembers my girldog and thinks of her as fondly as I do, even all these years later. I said to my son, this sounds like the opening line of a novel: that was the morning that Karma came back.

And of course, it made me think of how we remember the people and pets we love after they’re gone. I’ve often felt that I didn’t fully appreciate them while they were here. But in the moment, with all the obligations and family-raising and bills to pay, we did the best we could.

The visit from an old four-legged friend reminded me not to grieve anew every time I think of those I’ve lost, but to remember the warm, fuzzy things: Sheena’s playful spirit and unconditional love (for me and for muffins!)

The way my father used to stand outside the garage of their house when I was coming over for a visit, where I’d pull up my car. I used to think it was his way of chiding, “You’re late!” but it was really his way of saying, “You’re the highlight of our day! Couldn’t wait for you to get here.”

My mother, quoting a favorite funny line from an old sitcom I’d never seen (“Azusa, Anaheim and Cucamonga!”) She’d also ask me every single time I’d visit, “Hey Ruth, have you got gas?” She meant in the car but I’d always punch my stomach and say, “Just a bit of agita, Mom.” She’d pretend to be exasperated with me, but she was smiling.

My cousin, Elaine, who even at our age (well into our “cougar” years) had a crush on actor Jason Momoa, and would send me email updates about his latest projects as if I was his biggest fan. I still wasn’t sure who he was until he had a role on Game of Thrones.

It was a crystal clear spring day when Karma came back. Everything was still and cool. There was no particular seismic shift in the planet. Just a small, sweet poke from Providence to be thankful for the people and pets I’ve loved and lost. Even though I don’t have a photographic memory, today, I was blessed with a photogenic memory. Beautiful times were all I could remember.

Have a Mary Little Christmas

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