Saturday, March 28, 2009
Thursday, March 26, 2009
So here's the deal. We are taking our son to a college upstate this weekend, where he will engage in workshops and other activities, including an interview on Sunday, all designed to help the school decide whether he should be one of 15 kids selected for their scholar program, an honor that carries with it a full tuition scholarship, and annual all-expense-paid trips to other countries to do good works. It's a great school, his two cousins go there (the freshman loves it, the senior loved it once, but is ready to graduate to more citified pastures), and it's high up on his/our list of Really Good Options for college. In fact, if he gets into the scholar program, he will most likely go to that school.
The college is a five hour drive north of New York City, and we had planned to leave in the early afternoon tomorrow. Our daughter, who turns 15 on Saturday, is coming too. She has resigned herself to spending her birthday traipsing around a college campus for the sake of her brother's future. More likely, she will go hang out with her cousin, the freshman, which could be fun for a 15 year old. So far so good. But then our son tells us that we can't leave till much later, because he's agreed to give a talk on friendship at the freshman retreat at his high school. His friend Jack is running the overnight, and tapped him to give the talk, which starts at 5 p.m. No problem. We'll just leave after that and drive in the dark. I like that he told Jack yes.
Serving his community. Good.
Not so fast. With teenagers, the situation is always evolving. Just now, at 10:30 a.m. on a Thursday morning, he called me from school. His friend Jaime is turning 18 this weekend. I held my breath, ready to burst. I just knew he wasn't going to propose staying home so he could go to Jaime's party. Turns out he's still in possession of his faculties. Most of them, anyway. What he wants is to go paintballing with Jamie and a bunch of their friends tomorrow (school is closed for the freshman retreat).
What? But I thought you had to give a friendship talk at five? He spoke to Jack, he tells me, and Jack said, no problem, I'll find someone else.
Ditching his commitments. Not good.
Jack no doubt understands the hierarchy in which paintballing with your friends takes precedence over giving a talk on friendship to a bunch of freshmen. But I'm having trouble with it. And here are a couple of other things I'm struggling with. Paintballing is dangerous! They make you sign papers that say you won't sue, even if you die! Still, he's played paintball before, and I'd probably get my mind around his doing it again. But the paintballing place is three hours upstate! A bunch of 17- and 18-year-old boys, with spanking new drivers licenses, are providing the transportation. Are you starting to see my problem? Plus, how can he guarantee that they'll tear themselves away from an afternoon of fun to get him home in time for our five hour drive back upstate to his scholar interview?
But mom, it's the guys last outing together. After this, we all scatter. You'll have other chances to get together before school ends, I promised him. No, he insisted, this is it.
A psychologist once told me that teens have two, and only two, time frames--"now" and "not now." I tried to remember that and not debate the point. I also didn't say no right away, though I wanted to. Instead, I am going to talk it over with my husband, and together we'll decide. Nothing like a unified front to weather a teenager's displeasure when he doesn't get his way.
Update: My son just texted me. He's not going paintballing after all, and he's back to giving the talk. Don't know what changed. Maybe Jack couldn't find anyone else. In any case, crisis averted. I so appreciate that my son got to this decision on his own. Good man.
Tuesday, March 24, 2009
Saturday, March 21, 2009
Thursday, March 19, 2009
Monday, March 16, 2009
I had lunch today with an old friend. Without putting her life on blast, let's just say she's going through a lot.
Saturday, March 14, 2009
By July, we brought in a hospital bed and at-home hospice care was put in place. The hospice nurse ordered oxygen and morphine by August. Family members and friends came by and sat with my uncle for hours at a time. He always raised a hand in gratitude, and made the sign of the cross to thank us. He could barely speak. Everyday, my mom read to him from the Bible. At night, my aunt would shuffle down the dark hallway to make sure he was still breathing (my aunt and uncle have had separate rooms for decades), and we worried she might fall. They didn't have nighttime home care then, just their daughter who was troubled and more often than not didn't come home.
The family had planned a big September gathering for my aunt's 90th birthday, and now we feared my uncle wouldn't be there to celebrate it. My son and daughter sat with him sometimes. There was the night in late August when his breathing was so shallow we thought he would die. My mother and my husband, blessed souls both, stood on either side of him, silently praying. I told my children to go in and tell him goodbye. They kissed his forehead and held his hand. This was the man who had baby sat them when they were little, falling asleep in front of the cartoons so that they could make popcorn and jump on the beds and generally wreak joyful havoc. This was the man who drove my son to school for two years before he could take the bus on his own. This was the man who would always reach into a drawer or coat pocket to pull out a gift for them, candy, a small clock, a delicate figurine. Their eyes filled with tears. But Uncle Charlie held on.
Family members flew in from Florida and Vancouver, drove across the bridge from New Jersey, took the train up from Virginia. On September 7, the party went off as planned, with balloons and little cousins darting between the legs of grown-ups, playing children's games with no sense of life declining in the furthest bedroom. A few at a time would go in and sit with my uncle, chatting softly with one another, stroking his hair, holding water to his lips, covering his hands with our own. It was strangely peaceful in there. All the days until the day he passed on September 19, 2008, his room was the most serene place in the house, and you couldn't help feeling he had lived a good life, he had been generous to his family, and now he had made his peace.
My aunt once said of my dad, "He had a dignified death." Now I know what she meant. Uncle Charlie had a dignified death, at home, with his family around him, slipping gently away.
Happy Birthday, Uncle Charlie. I hope you're loving it where you are.
Thursday, March 12, 2009
Monday, March 9, 2009
Friday, March 6, 2009
From the author Mary Pipher, as quoted by Ms. Danielle LaPorte on her fabulous and inspired blog White Hot Truth (see blogroll link).
Since the beginning, we have asked the same questions:
Am I safe?
Am I important?
Am I forgiven?
Am I loved?