Archive for the ‘father’ Category

I Know Why My Family Had To Travel

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I had always hated driving, which may have something to do with the fact that I traveled cross-country for most of my childhood years. My life lately includes a lot of it, with a granddaughter in Northern Massachusetts and a daughter attending school in Hartford. Surprisingly, I have learned to enjoy it! I find myself bopping away to music, using my right arm as a conductor’s baton, (one, two, three, four; the movements from music class carefully ingrained into me.) Worse yet, one can find me huskily singing along with great enthusiasm.

Taking non-highway routes as my father always did, the variations of scenery are fascinating. Children play on swings, grandmother sitting nearby, and clothes swing on a clothesline; do they use an old wood stove for cooking? Do they have an “icebox” instead of a refrigerator? Have I crossed over into the Twilight Zone? I remember driving through the same scenes as a child.

Many of the houses are memorable. One with natural wood and white shutters has a toddler standing in the window, waving, green curtains framing her. It is only after a few trips that I realize that that same child is always in the same position, waving, but wearing different clothing. It is not a child at all, but a doll that is lovingly cared for and placed in a prominent spot for all to see. Another red shuttered house has a flag waving on the front porch, a decoration to herald in the seasons and special occasions. With St. Patrick’s Day done and over, a Welcome Spring now blows in the wind. Driving, I take stock of such silly things as how much wood is piled in front of the lumber factory. (During the winter, the pile has diminished.) I was excited to drive by the nursery this spring.  During the winter after the holidays, it had withering Christmas Trees and wreaths, and was a  stark and unwelcome place. (The owners were probably enjoying sunny Florida.) Now, it is abloom with colors, flowers blazing in the sunlight, sunflowers winking at me, mums in pots and rose bushes awaiting planting.  Such a joyful place to drive by.

It was only as an adult that I realized that my dad and our family traveled so much because of his severe posttraumatic stress from the war. We criss-crossed the country, driving on the back roads. Driving hypnotized him into peace, keeping the awful memories at bay while experiencing the delightful ones of finding new places and exploring the many geographical areas of the country.

Driving the back roads has become more important to me now. No flash of highway exits and speeding cars, but leisurely driving through the countryside, relaxing my thoughts. Often, when observing the bright blue sky and puffy white clouds, the bright yellow sun will make its way down as a brilliant stream of light, and tears will inexplicably sting my eyes. Pure peace and joy. I have finally been able to fully understand the importance of traveling.

 

 

Please consider purchasing my book, The Apple Tree:  Raising 5 Kids with Disabilities and Remaining Sane.

Thank you for the support!

 

 

 

Mothers, Help Your Sons Grow Up to be Fathers…

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My oldest son, Francis, grew up amongst a caravan of foster brothers and sisters. Specializing in newborns and infants who had been affected by prenatal drug exposure and addiction, our family was usually comprised of my husband and myself, Francis, his sister, Dinora, who had been adopted from Guatemala, and one or two foster babies. Despite the fact that Francis is severely visually impaired, he played an active role in child care, frequently holding a little one, feeding a bottle and changing diapers. When going to the mall, he and his sister would proudly push the double stroller. (With the 2 of them, he could be a pusher without having to see where he was going…) Throughout his childhood, sixteen foster babies lived with us, and caring for them was just a fact of life.

Francis is now an adult with a Ph. D. from Cambridge, a well paying dream job, a wonderful wife and a cozy home complete with a grill for grilling steaks and a lawn to mow. And, as of three weeks ago, a newborn baby. My week spent with his little family renewed my faith in the power of what is learned in childhood. Without even knowing it, I had trained Francis how to be a good father! He bundles his little girl up in a baby blanket, like I had bundled up those babies who were going through withdrawal. Newborns like being in a tidy bundle because they arrive with strong startle reflexes and without much control of their arms and legs. By pulling her arms and legs in close and securely wrapping a blanket around her little body, baby India can feel safe and secure. When she is awake and alert, Francis rocks her and sings songs to her, songs that he heard me sing so many years ago: “Itsy Bitsy Spider”, “Hush Little Baby,” and “The Wheels on the Bus Go Round and Round”. Even though she couldn’t possibly know the songs, the sound of his voice quiets her, and these songs are easy to sing. When he is expertly changing her diaper, he plays “This Little Piggy” with her toes, gently pulling her feet to his mouth to kiss. He exaggerates the “wee wee wee home” by tracing his finger from her toes to her chin, tickling her slightly before kissing her forehead. And while she sits in his arms on the couch, ready for bed, he reads her books with very large print; “Goodnight Moon”, and “Five Little Monkeys Jumping on the Bed”.

On the evening before I left to fly home, he looked over at me and thanked me for giving him the opportunity to practice on all those babies years ago. All of his friends are having babies now, he said, and they are all in a tizzy. Because of the practice HE had, he is a confident parent and not at all nervous with India. I realized that by being a foster parent to infants, I was not only caring for little ones, but also nurturing parenting skills in my oldest sons, skills that will ensure he will be an awesome father!

I have repeated this post from last year. His adorable baby is now a year old, and his father’s day skills have continued to flourish!

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If you are interested in reading other stories about Francis, please purchase my book on Amazon.

I Thought It Was the End of the World…Really!

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…

There’s Just Something About Fishing…

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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…

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To read about my early childhood adventures, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

Cracker Jacks and Oranges: My Kids Have the Best Dad!!!

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I suppose I am prejudiced, because I picked him, but Raymond is a wonderful dad!  I am sure when we dated and eventually married sooooooo many years ago, he didn’t have a clue about the roller coaster ride we were in for.  Sweet little marriage with 2.5 kids, growing old together, holding hands and walking on the beach….forget that!  As the parent or foster parent to 19 children, we have spent our marriage trying to have a positive, loving impact on the the children who have passed through or are in our lives.  I am the flakier, impulsive, eternally optimist slob.  He is the more grounded parent, making sure we have enough money to pay the bills, the house is somewhat clean, and the meals are on the table.  He is like a big kid himself with the children…enjoying playing with them and gently bopping them on their beans when he tells them he loves them. He despises the lime light, and has asked me never to write about him in my blog…hopefully he will forgive me for this post.

During a recent visit to the grocery store, he demonstrated everything I love about him:

The store we shopped at was one in which the discounts are great, but the ambiance is lacking, as are the shopping bags.  This was his domain, as he does the shopping weekly. This is his life…no frills, just get down to business.

Filling the cart with basics, (pasta, spaghetti sauce, bread, cheese, eggs and milk,) he purchased enough to provide for our home as well as for our 2 young adult children who are struggling financially. Because I do not generally go grocery shopping with him, I did not know he did that. His sense of support for his children extends into adulthood. Even though they are out of the house, he is still their “go to” person for flat tires and a listening ear. When he listens, he takes things more serious than I do…for me, there is always a silver lining.  I will try to cheer my child up,  make her/him happy.  However, sometimes children just want to bitch that sometimes life just SUCKS!  He listens, commiserates, and gives them that affirmation.

Because he was shopping with a budgeted amount,  I was playfully reprimanded more than once for putting something in the cart that was not absolutely necessary.  However, he DID justify the expense to put in one special thing for each of our children; Cracker Jacks for Steven, fresh oranges for Dinora,  pasta salad mix for Angel and Lay’s Salt and Vinegar chips for me to bring on the weekend visit with Marie. Most importantly, while getting in line at the cash register, he reached over into a bucket of flower bouquets and spent time picking out the best one for me.  (Yes, he DOES buy me flower every week.)  Practical, loving and romantic.  Isn’t he great?

After filling our cart at the grocery store, despite a long line at the cash register, Raymond was patient.  So patient, in fact, that he let a woman with only a few items pass in front of him.  Smiling, he said “Go ahead of me, please. I’m in no hurry”.  He chatted with the cashier, expressing genuine interest, and he assisted an elderly woman in carrying her groceries to the car. He cares about others, strangers, anyone in need. Is it any wonder he has been a great father to our children?

Any set of parents will experience difficulties of varying degrees.  Raising children with disabilities magnifies those difficulties.  It is a huge financial strain, and any thought of retiring and spending our days walking on the beach holding hands is for naught.  Potential retirement savings have been spent on the care of our children, funding therapists who do not take our insurance, taking time out of work when they are hospitalized, transportation to hospitals and therapists out of state, and other expenses many parents would never dream of having. Quality time between Raymond and myself can’t be spontaneous, but needs to be scheduled. (Rest assured that romance is alive and well with us!) Family and friends are often not our best cheerleaders. (Is that a polite way to put it?)  The challenges have been huge, but Raymond’s support has never been greater.  He has rolled with the punches, as though having a screaming child rescued by paramedics from the side of ferris wheel during a PTSD episode, having a child with twelve personalities (and trying to get along with all twelve), spending the whole day at Disney World in a quiet cove of trees while our son who is autistic collects bugs and worms, never knowing whether to buy girl clothes or boy clothes for your daughter are normal parts of parenthood. It’s is just normal family life to him. And I thank GOD for that…because I could never do this alone…

 

 

 

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To read more about our life, here is a link to my book:

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/the-apple-tree/id538572206?mt=11

The Apple Tree: Raising 5 Kids With Disabilities and Remaining Sane

Link to the Readers Digest review of my book:  http://www.rd.com/recommends/what-to-read-after-a-hurricane/

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