Monday, November 8, 2021

Two Huskies

When you’re young, with no concept of how your world will change in the future, it feels like your life will continue on like it is in that moment forever. You don’t give thought to what may come or how life will be different. When you’re young, it takes no effort to be mindful of being present … for you, everything is in the present. 

This morning on my walk, I saw an older woman and an older man, walking together with two huskies. The sight of those dogs immediately took me back to my childhood home, our two huskies in the backyard, both of my parents young and full of life. As I walked and let the memories of those days flood through me, it occurred to me that back then I couldn’t even conceive of a time when my Dad wouldn't be here. It was an odd reconciling of my youthful self who couldn’t imagine him being gone (and never contemplated even a world in which that would happen) and my current self who lives that reality every day. A self that only lived in the moment but thought that moment would last forever and a self who desperately tries to live in the moment because she knows that’s all we’re guaranteed. 

In the months following my Dad’s death, it felt like I was submerged in a sea of sadness. The grief was inescapable. I remember thinking there is no possible way life could ever feel like it did before. The innocent hope and joy that lived inside of me would always be tinged with the sadness of losing him and the frightening knowledge that I could lose anyone at any moment.  

I wasn’t wrong. 

I am no longer submerged in grief, but all of my joy and hope and excitement carries with it a streak of sadness. A beautiful new home he’ll never see or sit in. A hilarious, clever little boy and two smart, creative pre-teens he doesn’t get to laugh with. A wise, confident and grateful daughter he didn’t get to witness transforming. 

I also carry the knowledge that the line between life and death is razor thin and I could lose anyone at any moment. Except that knowledge isn’t as frightening as I imagined it might be. It’s actually quite comforting to feel mortality’s presence. The flip side to that knowledge is immense gratitude that accompanies me wherever I go — grateful to see another change of the season, grateful for my health and the walks it allows me to take, grateful to hug and love my family, grateful to see beauty of the sunrise and the sunset. 

I find it exceptionally beautiful that life’s greatest heartbreaks are inextricably intertwined with life’s greatest beauties. You can’t have one without the other. 

Friday, November 5, 2021

Another Reckoning

I gave Henry the five-minute warning. We’d be leaving the park soon, so he needed to get in his last swings, last slides and last climbs. 

After the five minutes was up, I walked over and told Henry it was time to go. I instinctively braced for impact. Any second now he’ll be shouting, “No!!” On a good day, he’d cross his arms and scowl at me. On a worse day, he may cry, kick his feet or try to make a run for it. What angry response will it be today? 

Instead, and much to my surprise, he said “Okay, Mom,”  and hopped up, leaving behind the Tonka trucks and tractors another kid brought to the playground. He walked right to me and I held out my arms. He jumped up as we’ve done since he was tiny, and he wrapped his arms around my neck. He let his feet dangle as we walked and hugged. His shoes gently bumped against my shins. 

Then the tears came. But they weren’t his. 

This isn’t a new feeling for me (as I'm sure you know). Over the years, I have felt these feels — the feels that come when you realize your wee ones aren’t so wee anymore. Lately, it’s been a bit more intense. My girls started middle school this year and are stretching their umbilical cords. They want autonomy and freedom, and rightfully so. But it’s a reckoning for me as I come to terms with this next phase. 

I was in Target the other day. It was a Tuesday morning. As I leisurely scanned the aisles for what I needed, I saw a mom pushing her kiddo in a cart. A few minutes later, another one passed by. As I walked past yet a third mom pushing a cart with her wee one buckled in, it hit me — I’m not a Tuesday morning Target mom anymore. In the old days, after the girls loaded up on the school bus, Henry and I would make plans for our morning. We’d often go to a park or on a walk. On Tuesdays, you'd likely find us at Target. Sometimes we had a purpose, other times we were just meandering. But the other day, as I walked alone through the store, I realized gone are the days of me pushing that cart with the wee one buckled in. There are those tears again.   

I’m not romanticizing things (well, maybe I am), but I remember CLEARLY the struggles of the Tuesday morning Target mom. The whining, the tantrums, the incessant talking, the desire for just two minutes inside my own brain. It wasn’t all rainbows and sunshine. But there were many rainbows and sunshine, and lately I’ve been missing those moments.  

I’ve come to learn that these moments of reckoning come and I’ll process my way through them, but until then, you’ll find me scrolling through old memories. 

Wednesday, September 8, 2021

The Season of Tween

When the girls were little, and doing something sweet like telling me how much they loved me or wishing we could be “beff friends” forever,  I remember closing my eyes and silently moving those memories to the long term memory lockbox. Not only were they worthy in their own right, but I knew one day I would need them. I knew someday they’d roll their eyes or slam their door or scream at me to leave them alone. I expected my future to hold at least a few cold, silent stares.  

Y’all, the time has come. 

This morning’s drive to school: 

Me: I hear you. And I understand. But just another perspective: we are only going to be two minutes later than if we left when we intended. You won’t actually be late to school. 

G: Uggghh! You don’t understand! 

Me: Can you help me better understand? 

G: NO! You just don’t get it. 

Me: So, you don’t want to talk about this anymore right now? 

G: NO! 

Cue the memory of her crawling into my lap with her triplet baby dolls. She’d snuggle her little head right into the spot under my chin, the spot that seemed to be made for kiddo snuggles. She’d whisper, “I love you, mommy.” 


All better now. 

Those moments of tween exasperation have been happening more frequently, with an especially noticeable jump this summer. I had been expecting it — I remember my own exasperated self at this age. But here’s the thing I didn’t expect. Those moments don’t bother me like I thought they would. I don’t shrivel or cry or really take it personally at all. Sometimes it ticks me off and their explosions cue my explosions, but most of the time I look at their frowning faces, crossed arms, rigid shoulders and feel grateful to be walking through this stage of life with them. 

Whether it’s a baby screaming at 2am, a toddler tantrum on the kitchen floor, an exasperated tween, a sharp-tongued teen, a college-aged unraveling or a 40-year-old midlife awakening, it’s truly one of the greatest honors of my life to walk alongside them through all those moments. I’m not here just for the couch snuggles, although those are magical. I’m here for everything — eye rolls and all.