Saturday, May 30, 2015

I hold you.

I hold you in my arms as you sleep, listening to your father play with your sisters. I hold you in my heart and in my eyes, watching you raise your eyebrows at your dreams as you chase rabbits.

You are my precious last and I want to hold these moments in the palm of my hand. Your little green gingham bubble I purchased for you before you were born makes me smile. Those fuzzy little red hairs on your head, with only four holding strong at over an inch- I kiss those little hairs and cannot help but grin.

You are snuggled into my chest right now, wrapped around my belly with your feet dangling under my elbow. I am sitting in the quiet of our living room on our blue and white sofa, looking out into the blue sky. I am sitting here, quietly taking in this moment. Husband is probably annoyed with me that I have abandoned him with the children while I hold you. You crinkle your nose when you sleep and squint your eyes. When you raise those eyebrows again, I can see where your hairline will be.

Soon, you will wake up and start crying again. Soon, you will see your sisters tearing towards you to give you kisses and pinches- neither of which look like they are very pleasant, but both of which look like they are done with love.

In this moment, you are snuggled in tightly with your mom and your head rests peacefully in the nook of my right arm. Your fingers are wiggling slowly and your little legs twitch every time I move my left arm. You look like your cousin, Lucky. You don't smile when you sleep, yet you look completely satisfied with where you are.

You are the last baby I will hold that is mine for a very long time. So, let me take this time with you. Let me hold you while your father entertains the older two. Let me kiss away my sadness at how quickly time passes by and relish in how amazing babies are.

There is so much ahead for my children. So much life that is to be lived. So much loved that is to be shared. So much loss that is to be felt. So much of everything that is to be everything.

But, not in this moment. In this moment- in the stillness and silence. Hearing nothing but the keys click and the tiny breaths from those four month old lungs- time seems to pause for just a second and that's all I need. You rise and fall with my breaths and I notice all the curves that make up your face. The curves your eyes make when they are closed, the curves of your cheeks and little button nose, and the curves of your chin and lips. You have scratches on the left side of your face-- sorry about that. I am not very good at trimming finger nails, that's your grandmother's job.

Your skin is alabaster. Perfectly alabaster and completely clear of blemishes, scars, and bruises. You are perfect- perfect and innocent.

And in this moment, you are encapsulated in love by me.

As you start to stir, thank you for unexpectedly falling asleep on me. As your sisters get a little rowdy and I know I need to set you down, thank you for giving me a few minutes of your life. Thank you for coming into my life.

But, mostly-- thank you for sleeping in this moment, so I could write it down. One day, the Older Me will flip through my blog, find this, reread this, and remember this moment and how precious few chances I get to do this.

Husband is bringing your sisters up front to find me.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

Kindergarten Graduation


I was surprised how fast this year zipped by. I looked up and was sitting in the church, waiting on my little girl with blonde curls to come sit next to me. I once heard someone say that 'life is like a roll of toilet paper. The closer to the end, the faster it goes.' How very accurate. Don't you remember being a kindergartner and summer lasting forever? I mean like an eternity?

I sure do. Of course, back when I was in kindergarten, we went to school around Labor Day and got out the first of June. And walked to school uphill both ways in the snow lugging 20 pound packs with heavy hardback books.

But, she graduated. My little thing went from being a little kid to a less-littler-kid in a quick span of short time.


Her teacher? Amazing. I was constantly impressed at the things Mrs. W accomplished with her class. She taught sign language, verbs, adjectives, and fractions. Let's be honest-- I'm 34 and still don't understand fractions. Ever want to stump me? Ask me about 1/8 + 3/7. Right now.... I am sitting her trying to remember how to do it and, well... nothing.

Throughout these pictures, I hope you will take notice of a little gold bracelet that she is wearing. It's not fine, but to me- it is priceless. My grandmother gave it to me when I graduated from kindergarten. She wore it when she graduated from kindergarten and her mother had given it to her. It's from the late 1800's. My grandmother told me it was brass. When the clasp broke, I took it to Estate Jewelry and he said it was gold-filled, whatever that means.


She took to a love of the library. We still have one book floating around this house somewhere, but was over the freaking moon when I discovered they did away with book fines. I hate book fines. I understand why they have them, I just don't like them and absolutely feel like I am throwing money into the wind when I have to pay them.


She brought her brother to school and got to hold him in front of the whole class. "This is Fuzzbug Wobert. We call him Fuzzy. He drinks milk from my mommy's....."

And the class screamed, "EWWWW! GROSS!"

And her BFF, Cas, says to me, "You have to run to get rid of all that jiggly stuff. You don't want to be fat."

Thank you, Cas. Thankyouverymuch.

A few weeks ago- a few months after that conversation... I started running. Nobody wants to be jiggly.


She took Spanish and art and computer and all kinds of other "specials" that while she did not excel as the top kindergartner in these sections, she did above average. Who wants to peak in kindergartner anyway?

She figured out how to make holes in her jumpers. Let me rephrase-- she learned how to dig her pencil into her jumper that wears like iron, creating a hole that looks an awful lot like a moth had a nice snack. She has not done it again.


She learned to read, finally got around to watching Harry Potter, and is still perfecting her talent in deciphering between coins. It is less deciphering and more remembering which one is a dime and which one is a nickel.

She lost her school shoes that make her run "super fast." I was a little peeved, but we found her old shoes and they lasted us through the last ten days of school. Why does she always have growth spurts right at the end of the year?


She won a fish. We got fish fever and bought a second fish-- more on that second fish when I get around to it. Bennie tried to feed Sprite the Fish Cagle and proceeded to almost kill it. I never wanted that dang Carney Fish, but my baby did. So we stood in line over and over again to win Sprite. When I thought he was going to die at the hands of my two year old, I was so hacked that I discovered my soft spot for Sprite. He's tough. Carneys have to be tough though.


She got to participate in the "pepper" rally twice and the eighth grade girls loved helping her out of the car in the mornings. She got lots of hugs and Bella, her Mass buddy, was her favorite part of Mass.

When the kindergarten class hosted Mass, she led the gift bearers down the aisle. I have never seen three girls look more reverent at such lightning speed as they walked as fast as they could down the aisle to the priest.


I got to volunteer in her class-- a lot. It was my favorite thing and I looked forward to it. It was a chance for me to do something for her and not for her and her siblings. They got the nickname "Gremlins" early on because Gremlins multiply when fed after midnight or get doused in water or something. Anyway, they multiplied. And Gremlins became my term of endearment to them. They liked it.


She became a big sister again.


She started to learn how to play the piano and a kick-ball-change in tap. She's my first grader and while she can try my patience on a daily basis, she is amazing and I would not change or trade her for the world.



sidenote: see those headdresses? Yeah, I know they aren't called that-- rather, head wreaths-- but that just sounds stupid. If we're going to call them something, let's call them something that instills fear in people-- like headdresses. Ok, see those headdresses? Who made them? Me. That's who. I cut some rosemary from the backyard and whipped them out for the girls in her class. First time mom, right here.



First grade bound! After a summer of swimming and dancing, of course.








Friday, May 22, 2015

The Words

Dear You Who Read My Blog,

I need to say something. I am probably going to botch it, but I need to express my upmost gratitude to friends, strangers, friends I did not know were friends, and strangers I did not know existed that I have a humble heart. It is something that Husband and Wife have spoken of several times and it is something that surprised me.

Two weeks ago, I posted a blog about my son and his eyesight. It was something I was struggling with-- not the situation, rather should I open this door to this aspect of my life? I had struggled with the situation and then I was struggling with if it was "right" to let this part of our lives out into the open. In the end, obviously, I posted it. It was the first time I was ever nervous about hitting that "Publish" button. My soul was in those words and my child was the topic. How would people respond? Or worse-- would they? He could see- that was the bottom line, but did I need people to know that we were in the dark for so long about his ability or lack thereof to see? Would I sound like a hypochondriac if I shared the last two months of our lives?

The way a community almost instantaneously formed around my family and held us in the apple of their eyes, made me grateful to be here. Now. With you. In this spot. At this moment. People came out of the woodwork to speak softly to me. To touch my arm and to tell me that we were prayed for by their family and the rawness of my words made connections in ways I never dreamed.

The words heard over speakers... the words sent on screens... the words written on paper... the words spoken in person...

the words

I had no idea the impact of the words I wrote would have. I had no intention of making you cry, but am thankful that you wept with me and that you shared your worry with me. I am even more thankful that you sought us out to tell us of how my words touched you and touched yours.

Your words to me and my family were so... powerful. They made us feel at ease as people approached us about the subject of faith- a subject that so few people address with the subtleness it needs. A subject that I have never felt comfortable broaching. A Bible Beater I am not.

A person of Faith- I am.

Often in my life, I have wondered if I should say something to someone I know is in a hard place. Sometimes they might be embarrassed at the cards they have been dealt. Or, they might be a very private person and this thing is not something they want anyone to know. Whatever the reason, I wonder if I should let them know that I know. I know you are ill. I know you are hurt. I know your spouse cheated. I know your family member is dying. I know you are in pain. I know.

Being on the other end of this, I know what I would want and I will always assume in the future that you need to know that I am with you. I will carry the words to say that I am with you, helping you carry a burden. I will think of you with a kindness in my heart and hope that you are feeling goodness.

Because that is what you did for me. For us. You let us know that we are not alone. We are never alone.

With a humble heart, I remain--

Wife

Wednesday, May 6, 2015

Opening my heart for his eyes

In high school and college, we would often have non-philosophical debates posing dumb questions and deciding what we would want or what we would do. 

Would you rather… is how the question would start.

Would you rather have 10 fingers and 8 toes or 8 fingers and 10 toes?
Would you rather be rich or never have to buy anything?
Would you rather be sightless or without hearing?

What would you rather have? No eyes or no ears? 

This question was never one I could answer- because I cannot understand what life would be like without my ability to hear grass grow or see with my perfect vision eyes. I cannot fathom what the world would sound like if it were eternally silent or look like if it were constantly one shade of nothing. 

Being without sight or hearing is not a question I have thought about for a very long time. As a parent maybe being without hearing might not sound so bad- because the incessant whines would be mute. Or if I were without sight, the den would never be a wreck. The toys would always be put away- because I would know no other. 

But, in reality, eyes and ears are a vital part of my world. I need to see. I need to hear.

Like Maslow’s hierarchy of needs— I need my eyes and ears. 

But, do I really?

This question has been weighing on my heart the past several weeks. Is sight really necessary?

And the answer I have come to is that — no. No, sight is not necessary. 

Sight is not necessary to play the piano.
Sight is not necessary to dance.
Sight is not necessary to learn or to even read.
Sight is not necessary to see love. 

I have become reliant on my eyes, as we all have. The reality is that our eyes are a luxury. A gift from God. But, God gives us encumbrances, too. Challenges for us to learn from. To teach with. We have crosses to bear and burdens we hide amongst our empty pockets. 

For the past few weeks I have watched my son and seen his eyes. Seen how beautiful his wide stark blue eyes are. And I have wondered…

Can he see me? 

Little things start to snowball into bigger things. These tiny nuances that were once cute, now make me think…

Can he see anything?

I did not think anything about these little things until I mentioned to Husband, just in passing, how his doctor’s appointment went weeks ago. He started to nonchalantly ask me questions, wanting to not arise my concern. 

It took about three questions before I realized what he was getting at. I called a friend who can keep things close to the vest and asked her what we should do. As a specialist of the eyes, she immediately calmed what felt like first-time-mom nerves. 

The pit in my stomach grew. What would we do if this son we had created lacked the precious gift of sight? 

Was it something I did as I knitted him in my womb? Is this a punishment for something I should have done? Is it because I am selfish and did not want to answer the question of no eyes or no ears? 

Was this my fault?

After weeks of fear, Husband and I found solace in research of how to raise a child with no sight. We found the best boarding schools for sightless children. Husband always knew that a visionless child was still a child of God and that this child could play the piano with his father. This child could go fishing with his father. This child could do so many things. 

It never dawned on me to cry. It never crossed my mind to feel sorry for him, so I stopped beating myself up. This is my son. MY child. And my children are awe-inspiring.

My children are prayed for to be assets of society.

My child will do great things in this world. Just because he cannot see does not mean he cannot find friends and see a light in the darkness. Maybe the darkness will give him a clearer sense of the world, bring him closer to God, and hear things more clearly. 

My son is many things.

My son is amazing.

And he is blind. 

——

I wrote this about a month ago, helping to prepare myself for the life ahead. I find calmness and serenity in the words I write.

——

At his two month check-up, I received the standard clipboard with boxes to check as to his accomplishments. The ladies at the front desk allude to the sheets being required by the government but are not taken too seriously. As I checked and did not check boxes, Fuzzy screamed. This is SOP for him. When I need him to sleep, say at nighttime, he is awake. When I need him to be calm, say at the doctor’s office, he is screaming. The life of baby seems much more frustrating to the baby than to the adult caring for him. 

Going through our appointment and reviewing shots, the doctor glances at the sheet and says, “He does not track?”

Track. A word I have used more times in the past six weeks than I have probably used in my entire life. 

“Sure he does? I think so. To be honest, I have not noticed one way or the other.” 

Fuzzy screams. I pick him up and hold him close to me as I move his head around trying to get him to look at me. A light flicks at the realization that this is common— his not-tracking. 

“Yeah, he’s tracking. See?” I say, and then follow it up with, “Well, he’s just too upset right now to track. But, he tracks.”

I knew I was lying but tried not to think much of it. Just because he cannot track does not make him dumb. He has bright parents. He will be smart. 

Blindness never crossed my mind. 


At the realization of blindness, I turned to where I always turn. I got down on my knees, held one hand in the other to pray. As I sat there, my head was silent and my heart was quiet. Words could not connect. 

What do I pray for? 

Do I pray for God’s will? Do I pray for sight? Do I pray for strength? Do I pray for blindness in the hopes that it is merely blindness and not something so much worse?

Registering that I am the daughter and sister of two salesmen and that I, myself, am an eternal salesman, what do I want? Is it selfish to ask God for something you want for yourself? Or for your children? By acknowledging what I want- is my subconscious churning away on how to manipulate the situation in my favor? Could I sell God on giving me what I seek?

But you can’t manipulate God. And you can’t sell him on anything. He has a plan and it is mightier than mine. With God, there is no subconscious. There are no secrets.

I kneeled in silence. Instead of lifting words to the Mightier, I flipped a switch in my heart. I opened it. I opened it to Him. It felt like I was opening it for the first time. Staring at my son, I wondered if he could see me. 

I can see enough for the both of us. As he continued to cry incessantly, I wondered if he was crying because he was in darkness. Was he crying because he was lonely? I held him more.

I kissed him more.

I whispered softly in his ear, “I don’t know if you can see me, but I can see you. And I love you. You don’t need eyes to know that.”

He would cry in the night and I would place my hand on his chest. His little fingers found mine and he would tightly grasp them. My other hand would find his face in the darkness, cup his cheek, and it would soothe him. In these moments, in the darkness, I flipped that same switch- opening my heart and acknowledging my Higher Power. It was as if to say, “God, I don’t know what to pray for. But, I am here and I am yours.”

Prayers are just questions and statements. And for the first time, I was both speechless and without a question to ask.

It was in these moments, in the dark, that confirmed my suspicions: my son is blind. 

Now, to know me is to know an open book. If it is in my mind, it is out of my mouth. If it is in my heart, it will be your knowledge. But this was different. This was not personal. This was my child. And I had to wrangle my head around blindness. My husband and I had to accept this and know it as fact before we were ready to share it— with anyone, family being no exception. 

My parents started to gather their suspicions. In hindsight, they were careful not to ask directly, but to notice things and question around the wanted knowledge. When the eye specialist could see us at the last minute and I needed a sitter for Bennie, those suspicions were confirmed when they asked if we were going to see our pediatrician and I would not lie. 

A weight lifted off my shoulders admitting this fear we had and finally acknowledging that we are not alone in this. 

We are never alone.

In the end, it was too soon to tell. The specialist saw what we saw (or lack thereof), but said we would need to wait to know something for certain. All we could do was watch.

And pray.

Again, I closed my eyes and opened my heart, uncertain of what to say. Uncertain of what to want. Uncertain of everything. Positive that I am constantly selling someone something, whether it was a client on insurance, a child on a bath or a husband on supper- this mother is in sales. Positive that I was fearful to pray for the wrong thing- choose the wrong path. 

In the past several months, inconsequential things have been happening. Things that were never even worth mentioning, but things that— in hindsight— make me wonder if they were preparing me for my uncertain future. 

My father was asked to be on the board of directors of the eye center at the medical college.
Fuzzy’s godfather is a third generation eye doctor. 
A friend asked me to help her write a grant for a piece of equipment for the optometry school. 
Husband's lifelong friend from Small-town relocated to Hometown with his wife, the eye specialist.

It seemed like all these things were lining up in my life to give me a pool of resources. A place to seek guidance. It was as if God knew something was coming and was helping me to prepare for it. It was if He knew I would know what was in my heart before I would know it was there. 

It was if he was listening to the silence.
It was if he was listening to the silence before it existed.

I mentioned that his godfather is an eye doctor. He is also one of my oldest friends and a very devout Catholic. Even he did not know what we were facing. I was not ready to pull the trigger until I knew for certain.

But nothing in life is certain. 

The Thursday before his Baptism, I went to the church to fill out the necessary paperwork to make him a child of God. Even in the church, there are forms to fill out. The secretary, an ancient African American woman named Helen has sat behind the desk since I returned to The Church. She has prepared the paperwork and certificate for all three of my children. 

This Thursday I went into the church, holding my baby and Miss Helen stood up to see the newest addition. She said, “Look at that baby! He can see!” I found her statement odd. She knew not where we were, but that there was a baby in my arms waiting to be Catholic. 

I looked down at my son as Helen shook her scarf and said again, “Look at the baby… he… can … see?” He stared blindly at nothing. He did not blink at the enticement. I knew. She said it a third time and smiled at me- secretly knowing what I knew. I smiled back and looked down at those stark blue eyes. 

During Mass, I watched my brother hold my son with his one good arm. I thought about when he had his stroke and how easy it was to pray for him. To ask God for strength for him. To pray for my niece and nephew and ask God to let them know how much they are loved. For his wife, to please give her one more ounce… and then one more. Those things were easy. Why were the words suddenly so hard to find?

After his Baptism, we all leaned in and shared kisses and smiles. My dad whispered into my ear, “Put some Holy Water on his eyes.”

I looked at the ancient font that blessed thousands of babies before my three, blessed my great-grandparents, blessed babies that lived, babies that died, babies that grew to adults, babies that became anything from everything. 

He made the cripple walk.
He made the blind see.

Holy Water found its way to my tepid right hand and as his godfather held him, I drizzled a few drops of water on his eyes. Making the sign of the cross between his eyes, I closed mine and thanked God for these people in my life.

Whatever happens- it will happen. Peace settled in as we wrapped up and headed back to the house to celebrate the newest Christian with family and the closest of friends.

In the stillness of his room, I held him so close and kissed the Holy Water off the bridge of his nose. I smelled the oil of the catechumens on his little head as I laid him down to change him out of his white gown. His eyes wandered aimlessly and found mine. 

His eyes found my eyes. 
And they locked in on me as I moved about the room. 

Thinking that this must be a coincidence, I kept it to myself as we observed this momentous occasion of our son over fried chicken with macaroni and cheese. It stayed my secret for several days.

As those days turned into a week and that week started rubbing against a second week, his eyes started to seem less stark blue and more of a blue like the sky. He seemed to blink more. he started to follow me around the room and cry when I was not in sight. He would cry out for his father and stop when he came in the room. 

He started staring at the blades of the ceiling fan. 

Could he see before? Can he see now? Will he be blind? Will he have vision like mine? Will he need glasses for the rest of his life? Will he? Will he? Will he?

Will he be so many things in this life? Yes.
Will he love and be loved? Yes.
Will he live? Yes.

Are there things worse than being blind? Yes.

Is this life splendid, extraordinary, humbling and constantly evolving? Yes.
Am I thankful, forever thankful for these days we get to string together? Yes.
I watch him gaze at that ceiling fan as he drifts off to sleep. I watch him watch life swirl around him. I open my heart in thanks and I hold back tears of gratitude for this boy, my son.