Monday, February 19, 2018

Just Shine

I am sitting in the MIX...the George Mason University study space...after just dropping Patrick off to his George Mason LIFE program interview. 

On that summer day in July 1999 when Patrick was born,
George Mason LIFE was also in its infancy...almost no other post secondary programs existed in the United States for students like Patrick.

Nobody on the west coast knew of George Mason...or of this possibility...or of what could be.

We heard the word “Sorry” a lot.

“I’m so sorry” they would say as they looked at my sleepy brand new baby.
The incongruence of that never made sense.

Pro-Tip #1: if you see a tiny baby say only one thing: CONGRATULATIONS!

Yes, even if the baby has a heart defect and needs open heart surgery right away.
Yes, even if the baby has Down Syndrome.

Yes, even if the future is unknown.

Say CONGRATULATIONS...because what it has taken for this little sprite to land in our midst is worthy of congratulations.

It’s a miracle.

And the miracle is no less miraculous if the sprite lasts one day among us or lives for 75 years.

Miracles are miracles and they should be noted.


Patrick left his icy cold water (one of his favorite things on the planet) in my bag...
 I text him...asking if he would like me to drop it off.

No response.

The guy is busy with a college interview.
What am I thinking?
I take a swig, just to be close to him.


This moment is so bittersweet...six weeks after Patrick was born I went to my OB/GYN follow up appointment. I took my little baby in a bucket with sweet tiny baby boy who would need open heart surgery in just three more weeks.

The OB/GYN did not know how to speak of Down Syndrome or heart defects or any other “abnormalities”...the privilege of working in a first world hospital made difficult conversations rare, I guess...or maybe there is no training for this...but what she told me in those aching awkward minutes has stayed with me.

She was trying, really she was.
I know this.
And still, it was a stabbing wound, no matter how unintentional.

She said, “Well, I know we all fear our kids growing up and going away and well, that won’t be something you have to fear with your baby. He will always be with you...and I think that’s great.”

Future doctors of the world, take note: this is not something you tell a sleep deprived, anxious, mom of a newborn facing open heart surgery and two other little ones at home.


You don’t have to try so hard...
Refer back to Pro-Tip #1...say Congratulations...and win the Oscar, mean it.
Even mumbling something about how cute the baby is would work.

As soon as my OB/GYN said this I wondered if that was true...and that’s the beauty of humanity.

We don’t have to believe the stuff they tell us.
We can notice the gates as they are being put up...we can plan to knock them down...or find the entrance.

I have wondered about that prediction for 18 years...but around year 6 I knew it was wrong.

Patrick has no interest in hanging out with me.
After three years of leukemia treatment as a toddler, it was time for Patrick to start kindergarten.

He hadn’t felt good for three of his six years.
Half his life.
I could have home-schooled him...or figured out a modified kinder program for him...but he was determined to go to school with his big brother and sister.

I still consider that one of my greatest acts of kindness as a mom.
I wanted to play with my guy.
I wanted the fun...the laughter...the joy of a healthy Patrick.

I wanted it for me...just me.

He wanted it for the world.

And so I had to follow his lead and find a way to make that happen.
He never looked back.

He never cried to come home...or told me he missed me.
But, trust me, I squeezed him tight every afternoon.

Kindergarten was the preamble to what is happening now...and I feel the same way.

He is following that big brother and sister again...and he knows he’s ready.

Me, not so much...but it can’t be about me, can it.

Getting ready this morning for his George Mason interview, lying in a hotel bed across from me,
he smiled his sleepy that only a mother knows.

I got up and walked over to his bed and I gave him a good morning hug and I looked at his sleepy eyes up close.

“Patrick, I haven’t told you how proud I am of you. You did such a great job at your Clemson interview and I am so proud of you.”

“Why?” He asks...and I weigh the two opposing ideas: he really doesn’t know or he just wants to hear great things about himself...the reason doesn’t matter and I smile...

“Because your job as a person is to shine your are the only one with your light...and you shined it so bright Patrick that not only could I see it but the Clemson people could too.”

He smiled.
He knew I was right.

Some people ask what the whole point of living is and I think it is just to shine.

There is so much darkness.
So much woundedness.
Too much suffering.

The only way forward is to shine...shine so bright that they need sunglasses to stare.

So, friends, let us work to find more ways for our kids to shine...more ways for ourselves to shine...Patrick is going to find his way, really, it’s pretty obvious now...we all must find our way.

Moments before the Clemson Interview...anxiety free...ready to shine.

Step 1: Just Shine.

On this cloudy day in Fairfax, Virginia, I need my sunglasses.