Sunday, July 21, 2013

He's Going To Go Too

"Sometimes, when one person is missing,
the whole world seems depopulated." --Lamartine

Haven't seen this sleepy face in 5 days...but who's counting.

                                 When Patrick was born I was by myself at my six week check up with my ob/gyn. 
                                   I was feeling ridiculously fragile...already cracked and just waiting to spill out.

My baby had Down Syndrome.  He also had a heart defect that would require open heart surgery within weeks.
My world was rocked.

I kept having this direct conflict with the world around me.  I would look down at my new baby and see nothing but a new baby: delicious in his fresh-from-the-heavens newness; glorious with his tiny feet and smooth new hair and sleepy face.

But the world would keep pointing out his flaws:
Do you see his extra space between his big toe and the rest of his toes?
That's a marker for Down Syndrome.
Do you feel how "floppy" he is?
Another sure sign.

Of course, I could see none of these things.
I was a mother with a brand new baby...he looked perfect to me.
Yes, he did have a droopy eye lid...but that was as far as my nit picking could go.
And, like all new mothers, I loved every tiny morsel of him -- droopy eyelid and all.

So, there I am at my six week check up for myself and my doctor doesn't really know what to say.
It's an awkward with my baby that doesn't make the mark and she with her obvious pity and bias against him.
She summons up some effort to speak and she tells me this:
"Well, you have two other children and you know the good thing about this is that this baby will never leave you and well, you know the other two will."

I'm horrified.
Me, the one who can chat with just about anybody.  The one who can make a quick reply to weirdos or bullies -- all I have is silence.

Actually, I had a screaming, yelling, out-of-control freak in my head
but cultural norms and expectations kept me quiet.
In my head my brain was coursing through options and setting aside disgust.
First there was the distaste of Patrick's reality -- shit, people really will expect him to do nothing but sit at home with me.
Second, came the outrage -- who the hell are you to limit my kid and expect that he will never leave??
Lastly, there was deep sadness -- maybe she knew the truth.
Maybe, with her doctor's education and her intensive training, maybe she knew something that I didn't.
Maybe she was right and having him by my side for the rest of my life was an unexpected blessing
and as good as it was going to get.
Her words weedled their way into my heart.
And, like a splinter, I could feel the calvary come out and begin to push it aside.

Hell no.

This kid was going to have his own life.
I was not going to define his future at a few weeks old.
He was going to get every chance the other two got and then we would figure it out.


Flash forward fourteen years.
Patrick still has a droopy eyelid.
He has freckles and a very light dimple.
 He has a spirit that is simply radiant...and plenty of opinions.
He's an adventurous eater.
He loves Broadway musicals.
He has a wicked memory and often memorizes whole scenes or entire scripts quickly and easily.
He is funny and creative and gentle and interesting.
He is always ready to go.
He can't wait to get his driver's license.  He is itching for a paying job.
He is planning his life after high school and trust me, I'm not part of

That prediction oozing with subliminally low expectations was so far wrong that I secretly wish I could cross paths with that ob/gyn and have her glimpse my world.
But that's the problem with searing memories.
They only usually blaze bright for one person...the other person has long forgotten some side conversation that had no real meaning for them.

Five days ago, I dropped Patrick off at sleep away camp.  He's on his own for a week.
No communication.
No singing from his room any number of melodies from Annie, Wicked, Hairspray, Beauty and the Beast or Peter Pan.

It's quiet around here...real quiet.

I find myself missing his good morning, very sleepy visits.  I miss his voice.  His laugh.  His imaginative games that he plays with Caroline. I miss his teen angst and his daily texts of "I love you" that sprinkle my day ever since he got a cell phone for his birthday.

I miss his spirit and his light.
And, even though I have been hoping to stick it to that OB and prove to her that Patrick would have a life of his own...
the truth of his life, most definitely of his own making, is staring me in the face.

He's going to go too.

It might look different.  It might not be that far away.
But he is never going to feel happy sitting at home with me.
That much is clear.

He tells me routinely that he wants to live in Boston.
He wants to take his wife to Hawaii for their honeymoon.
He wants to teach young kids drama in school.

I don't hear the word "mom" in those plans really anywhere.

Like some preview to a major motion picture, I know what's coming.
Patrick will find his way and have a future of his own...very likely I won't be living with him.
It seems quite possible that I may be in another town.

He has dreams and hopes for a future just like anyone else --
and like any other parents,  John and I will work to support him in those efforts.

He has a life to live.
Like my other kids, I only have a finite amount of time with him in my daily life too.

There is joy and a thrilling sense of adventure in that picture of the future.
But, there's going to be a great big hole left gaping open too.

I'm going to worry about that later.

Right now, I'm going to check over the directions of where to pick him up in a couple of days.
I'm going to listen to stories on the way home and notice all the tiny ways he's gotten a bit bigger in this week away.

I'm going to cherish the view of his big smile and relish his huge hug.
I have about 36 hours to go -- I can't wait.

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Look...a fragment of eternity

"I'm saying look, here they come, pay attention. 
Let your eyes transform what appears ordinary, 
commonplace, into what it is, 
a moment in time,
an observed fragment of eternity." 
-- Philip Levine

Caroline -- age 7

Sometimes you look at them and they take your breath away.
What is your normal, routine, just humming along gig becomes frozen in a moment 
and the beauty dazzles you.  
It is exquisite.
You feel suddenly breathless.
You squish it into that memory place hoping it will stick.
You pause enough to really feel and know this "fragment of eternity" and then 
in a whisper of time it has vanished.
There's no capturing it.
Just as quickly as it landed, like a butterfly miracle, the moment has moved on into the sea of next moments and new thoughts or needs or things that must be done.

Today I had one.

I looked up at her with her black spot of missing baby tooth, summer streaks of light in her hair, enveloped in the shade of crocodile green leaves pausing for that moment to give me the 
yes-I-can-climb-this face, and I snatched it right up.

Summer's ordinary blessing of time at a park.
Climbing, playing, exploring and investigating this amazing world.

Plucking trumpet flowers off of vines.
Swinging and sliding and jumping and reaching new places.
All in one moment, it crescendoes. 
I notice.
I wrap my heart around it.

Thank you is all that can come out of that moment.

Thank you for her and for parks and friends and good health and for the will and wonder to climb and thank you for letting me be here right now, in this place, to notice.
Thank you.

Thursday, July 4, 2013


"A blessing is a circle of light drawn around a person to protect, heal and strengthen."    -- John O'Donohue

Tonight we schlepped our way through 4th of July traffic and the 105 degree heat to a nun's house.

To be honest, I didn't really even know that nuns or sisters or women religious just live in regular old houses on regular old streets. Turns out they do.

 (I think I'd love to have a house full of sisters in my neighborhood...but that's for another day.)

We walked in late and sweaty and hassled.  We found a group of young women, including Mary Kate, getting ready to go on a trip.  We had parents and siblings there to support them.  Teachers and some women who had gone last year were there to share in this moment.  We had the wonderful teacher who founded the non-profit foundation that is the vehicle to our girls' journey to helping others and
we had Sister Maria.

She opened up her home.

She blessed our girls.

Well, actually, she provided the thoughts, prayers and beauty behind the ceremony that became The Blessing.  She gave the parents the privilege of actually blessing our daughters.

First she reminded us of our many blessings of living in a first world country.

70% of the world lives without electricity, running water, healthcare and most of the time not enough food to eat.
70% -- that alone is a stunning number.

Then she went through the difficulties parents in the third world face.  The lack of time to love and care for their children because parents are working so hard to meet the basic needs of survival.  The lack of opportunity...not to mention the shorter life span...
just by having the misfortune to live in their country instead of ours.

Yeah, made the 105 temp not seem like such a biggie...or the traffic...or the hassle of juggling jobs and kids to get to the place...

Then Sister Maria handed us a piece of paper with some prayers and some blessings.

The girls stood in a circle facing out toward their parents.
We faced them.

Seeing my daughter staring at me with an embarrassed smile and a "hurry up" vibe made me, like a small child, want to do the opposite.

I wanted to linger over her eyes and ears as I dipped my fingers in water and blessed her clarity of vision and her ability to hear the truth.

Using a cotton ball dipped in oil, I rubbed her forehead and palms, blessing her thoughts, asking her to be filled with wisdom, and then blessing the work of her hands...asking that they become healing and compassionate.

We took a tiny muffin cup of salt and rubbed her feet.  Reminding her that she is the salt of the earth.  Asking that she walk steadfastly, gently and with reverence upon the earth.  The blessing asked the girls to "never leave a footprint of worry" and to always walk humbly with God.

Finally, the girls were handed a candle of Our Lady of Guadalupe.  We lit their candles and watched the light fill up the room.  I noticed the glow on her face.
I took a deep breath.
The girls were reminded that they are the light of the world.  One does not light a lamp and then put it under a basket.  Rather it is placed on a stand, where it gives light to a house.
In this same way, the girls' light must shine.

Even though they were in a circle, we were each in our own little world...stopping and taking in the beauty of our daughters...

their bright eyes
their keen mind
their big heart
their bright light.

In a little over twenty-four hours we will be sending that big heart off.
Off to Belize.

While she is away, we will light her candle.
We will bless her from afar.
We will hold her close and hold our breaths as she journeys out into this amazing world.

She's been blessed.
We have too.

Sister Maria, for the record, you rock.