On Columbus Day, my husband and I spent a wonderful day just driving around and enjoying the autumn scenery. I don’t know about you, but I seem to have an unusual sensitivity to the beauty in nature, and was once again overwhelmed by the beauty of the bright white and yellow streaks of sun streaming down through the white puffy clouds. Such a sight always encourages me as if reinforcing the fact that yes, there are clouds, and yes there may be rain, but that sun is still up there in the sky, overseeing it all, just waiting to break through and make things better. As an added visual treat, the sun shone so brightly on the tapestry of peak autumn leaves: oranges, reds and yellows, that I felt a need to wear my sunglasses, but with them on I would not be able to fully appreciate the effect of the over-the-top, gasp inducing colors. No photo, piece of artwork or beautifully sung song could have replicated the intensity of happiness that brought tears to my eyes and joy to my heart.
My husband and I sat, holding hands as he drove. There was no need to say anything. We were at peace, pleased to have such a respite after a hectic week of raising children and dealing with problems. We were in our own beautiful bubble, cell phones turned off so as not to ruin the interlude. It was a wonderful day!
Upon pulling into the driveway of our home, I spotted the two small maple trees which Marie had planted a few years ago. She had excitedly dug them up when they were fragile saplings with broken branches, and planted one on each side of the driveway. She had added gravel at the base of each, and attached a tall, straight, thin stick to keep them growing upright. I don’t know why I hadn’t noticed them before. I had NOTICED them, of course, but I had never really SEEN them. They had grown to be about four feet tall, straight and strong. My breath stuck in my throat as the brilliant, bright yellow leaves danced happily in the gentle breeze. They were a growing metaphor for my daughter, blossoming and beautiful and holding the promise of a bright future in their little yellow leaves. Despite once being fragile and broken, they would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world, reassuring me that my daughter, who was also once fragile and broken, would grow tall and amazing and fit perfectly in this world.
Posts tagged ‘love’
One day several years ago, many months after Marie came to live with us, my husband, in a good mood, came into the kitchen, swooped me backwards, and gave me a passionate kiss. When we had finished, I noticed Marie standing there, gaping, eyes wide, with a shocked look on her face.
“What was THAT????’ she asked in American Sign Language.
“A kiss,” I told her.
“No, no”, she signed back, “a kiss is a little peck on the lips” she said as she came over and demonstrated one on the dog. (Heaven knows a teenager would never kiss their MOTHER!)
“There is a different kind of kiss when you really love someone like your husband” I said.
“That is amazing! How did you LEARN to do that? ” she asked plaintively.
“You don’t learn it, you just feel it. It is natural when you love someone,” I explained to her.
“Well,” she huffed, “I’m going to wait until I’m 17 to do that,” she said as I said a silent prayer to myself that I should be so lucky for her to wait that long!
I laughed inwardly at her innocence, this worldly child who, because of her child abuse knew the mechanics of sex more than anyone her age. I doubted she ever saw anyone really “in love” before, and she had never seen anyone kiss passionately, which really surprised me. The more I thought about it, though, I realized she hadn’t been exposed to it in her young life and the only other way she might know would be from watching television. Because of her deafness and lack of early education, she had a low reading level and was not able to understand the captioning on tv, so she did not generally watch comedy or drama series. Her favorite tv channel was (and still is,) the Animal Planet where captioning is not really needed to enjoy the shows. What wonderfully active lives those animals live! Exotic lives! Interesting lives! Dangerous lives! Sometimes romantic lives; nuzzle noses, lick, bite, cuddle, hug, dance and flap their wings as a means of showing affection. But a long, romantic, “mushy” kiss? I think not….Marie had to learn that from her parents…
To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
I led a very eclectic lifestyle when I was a child, traveling around the country with a vagabond family. It was a wonderful life, made all that more meaningful by a mother who possessed a natural spirituality. We may not have gone to church Sundays, but our life was naturally filled with the presence of God.
Because I feel that I know you all, I am going to share a personal, life altering childhood experience. We were camping high in the mountains, a favorite spot for my father because he could sit and look out over the valleys and little towns below. For him, it seemed to minimized the stressors of life. How could life be so bad when the people were the size of ants and the lakes the size of large drops of water? For whatever reason, he seemed to feel safe in the mountains Things were good. Things were peaceful. We were content.
One night while I was sleeping, I was awakened by an extremely loud, earth shattering noise. My body shook with such a ferocity I thought I was going to fall out of my top bunk. Although it was later determined to be a nearby bolt of lightning, I will never forget how I felt immediately when I woke up; I thought it was the end of the world! I thought life as we knew it was over. My immediate reaction was such profound joy and love that my heart wanted to burst with happiness. I was deeply disappointed when I found out it was only thunder, and not a joyous entrance into the world beyond and an opportunity to meet God.
As a child who had never read the Bible or been “religious”, in retrospect it is surprising that my first thought was not fear at the concept of the end of the world but joy! It was not something I had learned about in catechism, or had even thought of before. My first feeling was automatic and unbelievable happiness and love. And it is that feeling that I carry with me to this day. For I know that the heart of that child so many years ago experienced a true and prophetic revelation…that God lives in the hearts of all of us, we just don’t always see it. Wouldn’t the world be different if we all knew, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that a joyous eternity awaits us? I was so very fortunate to have learned that at an early age…
Marie has always loved to fish, and would spend hours at home fishing in the pond in the backyard. While at residential school, she has not had this opportunity. So, after last week’s fishing mis-adventure, Marie and I went today to a nice, official “fishing spot”, (not the water reservoir.) It was a beautiful 80 degree day as we found the perfect spot in the shade alongside a small, tranquil lake. Despite being near a city, the lake was apparently house-less and had the appearance of being way out in the country. The fish were apparently starving because as soon as Marie dropped the worm in the water, the bobber would go under and she would be reeling in a fish…a SMALL fish, but a fish none-the-less. She would expertly take the hook out of its mouth, and throw it back in to be caught again…again…again, and yet again…
Sitting on the grass, looking up at the azure blue sky, with clouds so white and puffy they looked like you could pluck them out of the sky and eat them like cotton candy, I watched Marie in her excitement as she caught the fish. It was silent except for the sound of birds chirping…many DIFFERENT types of bird noises so that the first time in my life I was aware that they actually made distinct sounds and they did not all sound alike. And the breeze ever so slightly rustled the leaves. Lazing in this wonderfully peaceful terrain, I let all of my worries and thoughts just drift away until I filled with the joy of nature and this amazing love I have for this daughter who has had such a difficult early life, but who seemed to be so relaxed and carefree while she was fishing. The feeling was not unlike the feeling one gets when meditating, but it was so much more! Not only was I relaxed and worry free, but I was also filled with such an innermost love that I felt my heart would burst if I broke the reverie. It wasn’t only a love for Marie, but a love for everything in my life. A warm, gushing, face turning red, eyes tearing up, love. And my thoughts turned to my dad…
For those who have not read my book, you may not know that I had a very unconventional childhood, roaming the country with my parents and brother. My father was…odd…uncommunicative…obsessed…paranoid…”crazy”… My mom simply explained that he had returned from World War II “shell shocked”, but his love for her had never changed. Satisfied that that love was enough, my mom married him, and the two of them had a long and happy marriage. She understood him, where I, as a child, did not. I did, however, grow accustomed to his strange ways. He never demonstrated any affection towards me or my brother, and never said he loved us. ”That’s just your father,” my mom would explain, and I would accept it. He would not attend any childhood award ceremonies, or graduation, or baptism of my children. ”That’s just your father,” my mom would explain, and I would accept it. He would get upset if we spent too much money on toilet paper, or bread, or hot water. ”That’s just your father,” my mom would explain. And I DID understand. And I DID think that, deep down, he loved me, he just never said it.
But, until this day fishing with Marie, I had completely forgotten the times he and I had gone fishing, the one activity we did together. He liked to fish, and I rarely had anything better to do, so I would join him. Almost silently, he showed me how to bait a hook and how to take the fish off the hook. We would sit for hours on a lake with his small aluminum boat with the small, electric trolling motor. Anywhere we were in the country, he could find a lake. We would sit and enjoy this pastime, quietly, peacefully, and productively catching fish after fish after fish, all which were gently and carefully returned to the water, unharmed, and bellies a little fuller with a worm. I learned about the habitat of a large variety of fish; catfish, eels, pickerel, sunfish, pike, trout, bass and perch, (which we both agreed was our least favorite to catch because they were so EASY!) I could see now where this activity would quiet his bad memories, enabling him to relax and find a little piece in this crazy world. To sit quietly on a calm lake, looking up at the azure blue sky, with clouds so white and puffy they looked like you could pluck them out of the sky and eat them like cotton candy. The boat rocking every so slightly and little waves splashing against the aluminum making a tinkling sound. I realize that maybe he felt the same way I did today while fishing with Marie, and it was a comforting thought to think that I shared such a peaceful time with him.
And I could feel now that he loved me…
To read about my early childhood adventures, here is a link to my book:
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
My life raising kiddos has been full of excitement, as well as challenges. Steven has been my most difficult child to raise. The 7th child born to a woman who was mentally ill and addicted to crack cocaine and heroin, we took Steven home from the neonatal unit as soon as he was able to be released. He was unbelievably “messed up”. (Don’t you just love my knowledge of medical terms?) He cried constantly, his whole body twitching. Once I learned to swaddle him tightly in a baby blanket, keep the room dark, and talk in a whisper, he could tolerate my presence. To touch him lightly would make him scream in pain, but cuddling him strongly, the deep pressure somehow calmed him.
Whether due to the drug exposure, or just because his birth mom was mentally ill, Steven exhibited extreme symptoms of ADHD, autism, bi-polar disorder, sensory integration deficit, obsessive compulsive disorder,severe anxiety disorder and learning disabilities. (The whole concept of “diagnosis” is fraught with contradictions in my mind, as the “diagnosis” with which he was labeled were arbitrary, useless except for the benefit of getting special education services. We were fortunate to find a psychiatrist with vast knowledge of children born addicted to drugs, and he became our mentor. Like myself, he does not not believe in labels, but in treating the symptoms.)
Steven has led an interesting life. With his Asperger’s-like super knowledge of reptiles, and an uncanny natural love for children, he has shined in these areas. He would be fascinated with the foster babies in our house, and his most favorite activity was sitting in the rocking chair by my side and rocking a little one. He is, however, unable to understand the concept of money, wear shirts with tags in them, eat textured foods or adapt to an unexpected change in his schedule. A strict, structured environment and predictable schedule has been the key to helping him manage every day life.
As any parent, I have thought a lot about his future and how he could possibly survive as an adult…
Then, a miracle happened…he found the perfect girlfriend to love him! Wonder of wonders! Joy of joys! I never thought is was possible, but the adage “there is someone for everyone” is true in his case!
Wonderfully patient Alexandra loves to keep everything controlled. Where other young men would go running in the other direction at the sight of a young woman in strict control, for Steven, it was just what he needed! She manages their time, his money, and their life together with strict precision. JUST WHAT HE NEEDED! They also have similar interests in reptiles, with Steven using his vast knowledge to ensure the safe upbringing of their many “pets”; three turtles in a tank, (recently caught in the lake behind our house, during one of their day long fishing adventures,) a small snake, a Chameleon and two lizards. They are affectionate with each other, with Steven smiling brightly as she gives him deep bear hugs. The icing on the cake, as far as both of them are concerned, is her young daughter. Again, where other young men would go running for cover, Steven goes running towards her sweet three year old daughter! He adores her! This very large, 6 foot talk, husky, bi-racial, often scary looking young man who has an aversion to shaving, is like a loving angel with her daughter! He gently holds her hand to guide her when they are walking. He plays Shutes and Ladders and Go Fish with her. He helps her pick out her clothes, (shirts without tags, of course!) Most amazingly, he has become her hair stylist, putting her hair up in braids and pony tails. She loves showing off her new hair styles, proudly telling everyone that STEVEN did it, as they both stand there and beam happily! She needed a dad to love, and Steven needed a family of his own. He adores Alexandra and she has a huge calming affect on him. And he has such a natural caring for children, and for Emily in particular, that it melts my heart every time I see the three of them together. He LOVES them…an emotion I once thought he would never feel…as a boyfriend, (husband?), and father. Yes, he has found comfort in his own family…and has a content, structured, “normal” life. Isn’t that amazing????? Miracle of miracles!!
Is there no greater joy as a parent than seeing your child happy as an adult? Especially when you thought that may never happen…
To read about Steven’s early childhood, here is a link to my book:
Link to the Readers Digest review of my book: http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/
Also, for just the cost of transportation, I am available to do presentations for your groups. I can be funny on serious subjects…
I am sure that every parent questions how they have raised their children. I know I have. I have not been strict enough in making them eat all of their vegetables and clean their rooms, (mainly because I don’t eat all of my vegetables and clean my room.) I know to some people this is a major parenting faux pas. However, I have raised my children right in the most important area…caring for others.
I volunteer with a recreational group of adults with and without disabilities. We have a bowling league, then go out to dinner together, then have an activity at night, such as Bingo, Family Feud, or a visiting musician. All of my children have come with me to this group, starting with Francis when he was a baby and the group purchased a portable crib so I could bring him camping with us. My children have been raised socializing with people with disabilities so that any disability is not knew to them.
Angel, my son with Dissociative Identity Disorder, has been my latest child to attend with me. One of his “peeps” (as his calls his “parts’) I call the Game Show Host. Angel is the one who calls the numbers for Bingo, or reads the questions for Family Feud. He is hilariously similar to a game show host, right down to kissing the female “contestants” during a game of Family Feud. From the minute he starts an activity to the minute he finishes, we are all in stitches laughing. Silly laughing. Innocent laughing. Heart beating fast with cheeks that hurt from laughing laughing. He is terrific, and I am so proud that he has learned to manage his disability in order to make others happy.
The happiest moment of all happened on Christmas Day. All of our family festivities are on Christmas even, and Christmas Day is always a lazy one for us. In fact, the children and I usually go to the movies. Angel asked if it was okay if he invited a friend to the movies, and of course I said yes. When we got there, waiting for us expectantly, was Lisa, a 65 year old woman with a disability; the “friend” which he had invited. She was dressed for Christmas…Christmas sweater, Santa Claus earrings, a Santa Hat and bright red lipstick. She was glowing as she hugged us all. It seems that she has no family and had sat in her apartment alone for Christmas Eve. Somehow Angel knew this, prompting his request that she come with us on Christmas Day.
We all laughed at the funny movie, and enjoyed a large popcorn, (mmmmmmm…movie theater fake butter popcorn!) After the movie, we went out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. (Duh! Chinese restaurants are open…) We had a lively conversation about anything and everything funny, and she beamed the whole time. When we left her outside at her car to go home, she burst into tears. She thanked us profusely. She said she was so lonely at Christmas, when everyone else had a family, that she had contemplated suicide because she had no one. She said this was her best Christmas EVER! Try as I might not to, tears slid down my cheek also. Tears of sympathy for her and of pride for my son…a son who is seriously disabled himself, but who was still able to find the ability to care deeply for the feelings of this wonderful, lonely woman.
Yes, I have raised him right…
Showing my two youngest children, Angel and Marie, that l love them has always been a challenge. I can tell Angel I love him 100 times a day, but he will never believe me because he feels unlovable (due to early childhood abuse.) He has dissociative identity disorder (multiple personality disorder.) Sometimes, this 210 pound young man will come and sit on my lap. He is not 15 years old at the time, but three. He will snuggle his head against me and I will put my arms around him, (although that is getting more difficult due to his size!) Then I will sing the Song “All of you…” Only my words are “All of you. I-i-i-i-i-i-i-i-i love all of you. All of you, even your angry o-n-e.” He smiles at this, because it is his angry part that feels so unlovable. I can sing it over and over again, and he will smile. The three year old in him believes I love him, but his angry part has been lied to many times before.
Marie has a different issue with my love. She promised her birth mom that she would not love her “new” mom. She is very resistant to kisses and hugs or any other signs of affection because she feels she is being disloyal, (She has expressed to me she cannot show me affection because if she sees her birth mother again, she will be very angry with her.) So, we have survived on fist bumps and the “I Love You” sign in ASL. However, I have ways to show her affection in every day life. For example, ever since she came to live with us at the age of seven, I have dried her off after her shower. This has involved sitting on my lap on the toilet seat while I hug her deeply with the towels on. She melts into my lap and I can tell that she really enjoys it. If I stop too soon, she will ask for more because she is “still wet”. She is 13 years old now and I still towel dry her, (although she modestly wraps herself in the towels before I come into the bathroom.) She still needs my love, even if she cannot accept it in the normal way.
Both children, however, get the biggest kick out of giving me one special kiss. This is not an ordinary kiss, (so it would not go against Marie’s promise to her birth mom.) This is a “let the dog lick them all over their mouths and then they run to me to give me an extra sloppy dog kiss”. I make the obligatory “YUCK!” face, and they both convulse in laughter. Ha ha! They “got” me again. Hey, a kiss is a kiss and I’ll take it any way it comes, even with dog slobber!
Yesterday my husband, in a good mood, came into the kitchen, swooped me backwards, and gave me a passionate kiss. When we had finished, I noticed my 13 year old adopted daughter standing there, mouth gaping open, eyes wide, with a shocked look on her face. ”What was THAT????’ she asked (in American Sign Language.) ”A kiss,” I told her. “No, no”, she signed, “a kiss is a little peck on the lips” she said as she came over and demonstrated one on the dog. ”That is the way you kiss when you really love someone, your husband” I said. ”WOW! How did you LEARN that? Can you show ME!?!?!” she signed. “You don’t learn it, you just feel it. It is natural when you love someone,” I explained to her. ”I’m going to wait until I’m 17 to do that,” she signed back, and I said a silent prayer to myself that I should be so lucky for her to wait that long! I laughed inwardly at her innocence, this worldly child who knew the mechanics of sex more than anyone her age should have to know, (the reason of which is a discussion better delegated to a more serious blog entry.) But I doubt she ever saw anyone in love before, and she definitely had never seen anyone kiss passionately, which really surprised me. The more I thought about it, though, I realized she hadn’t been exposed to it in her young life and the only other way she might know would be from watching television. Because of her deafness, she has a low reading level and is not able to understand the captioning enough to get interested in a romantic story or one of the more mature television shows which are all over the television today. Her favorite tv station is the Animal Planet where great stories are told and no captioning is needed. She knows all about the life cycles of animals, insects and reptiles, including their different mating rituals, but, as preparation for real life, I’m sure she never saw alligators kiss like that!
My 13 year old daughter announced to me the other day that she is in love! As a young girl once myself, (many, many years ago, ) I remember the joy of first love, the innocence, the caring how you look, and the giddiness involved. Marie showed me a picture of him. His name is Jose and he recently moved to their school from Guatemala. Cute kid. He had already accomplished one thing…motivated Marie to go to school every day. She also dutifully did her homework, because if she didn’t she would have to sit with the teachers at lunch rather than…Jose!!!!
When I came home from work today, my husband was exceptionally glad to see me and he said he needed help. Marie had come home from school and asked him to pick Jose up and bring him to our house. They had been “calling each other” all afternoon. The major problem is, both are profoundly deaf. Jose was calling her on his house phone. Marie was desperately trying to text him on her cell phone. A child of technology and a certain standard of living, Marie could not understand why Jose did not have a cell phone. Jose called time and time again. Exasperated, Marie asked me to “talk” to him. As with Marie’s speech, his words were indistinguishable. I explained to her that I could not understand what he was saying. Marie came up with the bright idea of calling my other daughter, Dinora, who is also from Guatemala. ”She talk same. Understand him!” Marie signed. I laughed and told her she spoke Spanish but would still not be able to understand him. My husband just shrugged. He had not been able to explain it to her either.
Marie begged for me to just go to his house to pick him up. She knew where he lived, she insisted. He lived in “next town”. The “town” we live next to is the second largest city in our state. She proudly drew a picture of 2 cross streets and a house on the corner, next to a tree. The house had the number 123 on it. ”There”, she signed, “Map same Judge Judy.” She was, of course, referring to the Judge Judy television show where litigants would demonstrate on a map, very similar to the one she drew, regarding how a car accident had happened. ”What name street?” I asked. She looked at me and signed “123″. ”No, what NAME street?” I signed back. She didn’t know, but said the map was good and it would show us how to get to his house. My husband and I burst out laughing hysterically, hurting Marie’s feelings. We explained how we would have to go street to street throughout the enormous city looking for all of the houses with “123″ on them until we found Jose’s. She did not appreciate the humor in it. She asked to me to call his mom, which I tried to do. However, Jose repeatedly answered the phone, wanting to “talk” to Marie. So, there were the 2 of them, both “talking” to each other for over an hour, neither one aware of what the other was saying. Perhaps that is just as well…