The family meal used to be an institution. Whatever was going on in your life, everyone was expected to check in for meal time.
It was a way to count heads, to make sure that everyone was safe, and to find out what had happened in our day. My grandparents used it as a time to teach and to talk about life. My brother often used it as an opportunity to tell everything I had done that might mean I was in trouble and he would get to choose the TV programming for the evening. I might have taken that same opportunity myself sometimes.
But it was more than that. Meals were connections and social times with other people. As children, we were always coached on our manners before people got there and given any special instructions that were required. It might be that our visiting Aunt had lost her leg to polio and walked with a limp. Under no circumstances were we to ask about it, or stare, or ask anything about whether she had any children, which she didn’t. I remember listening intently as my grandmother explained that she thought it would be too hard for a child to grow up with a mother who was missing a leg, and she did not want to embarrass them. I wanted to run up and hug my aunt and love her enough in that one evening to make up for all the children she should have had because she was such a beautiful lady. I knew any child would have loved her because I loved her. I couldn’t do that so instead, I was on my best behaviour. Continue reading
They say that every baby cries when it hears the cries of another child. I was born crying. I have always wept for others, even those who are not crying. I hear their inner cries. I see their tears, even when their faces are frozen in perfect smiles and they are repeating the mantra, they were given with the promise if they just believe it enough, they have the power to make it happen . . . “I am fine.”
Except they aren’t.
And some things cannot be wished away or overcome with pretty words meant to hide the dirt they are being spoken over.
We understand when someone has a car accident and loses their limb that it is a forever deal. We accept physical damage. If you are going to drive a car after you drink, you could have an accident, and if you have an accident you could cause damage to your body or another’s. Sometimes that damage is permanent and nobody would stand and tell you that if you put a picture of a healthy arm on the fridge, and repeat “My arm is healthy, perfect, and functioning now,” 21 times each day . . . you will be rewarded with a new arm.
If they did, we would call them insane. Continue reading
One of the blessings of getting older is that life slows down a lot, and the need for you to tend to every small detail for all the people you are responsible for and too, pretty much ends. Your kids are grown up and don’t need/want your advice, you no longer have a company hounding you for that deadline, and the general public thinks you just need a pat on the hand and an “aww isn’t she cute” once in awhile.
You get a lot of time to sit and look. You think.
Were we this obsessed with having everything? Probably. But our wants were not so much about fame and things way beyond our life probabilities, they were more about things that allowed us to be part of the average and edging to better. We surprised ourselves by surpassing that at times, but most of us breathed evenly when we were holding our own. In the end, we can say we did OK. We know that other did much better and others did not even come close. We did OK.
Now it seems to be about being the winner, the best, the one that gets to rub everyone else’s face in it. If a friend has a $30,000.00, wedding, yours has to be $45,000.00 and instead of establishing status quo with your peers, it is a process of leap frogging. Meaning, you have made your life an endless treadmill. There will never be a point where you just sit back and enjoy it. Continue reading
You are just a little boy with an impish face but the features of a man are there, hidden in the cuteness, like a almost transparent overlay that every so often catches the light just right and you can see the picture of you decades from now. You are being brave because your momy sold you on the whole idea of a hair cut. You don’t like hair cuts. You don’t like the strange smells, the scissors near your face, the buzz of a clippers and the feel of them against your skin. Most of all, you don’t like that someone else stands between you and your mommy and holds your face, but not in the way mommy does, stroking and smoothing, kissing and loving, but in a way that says “man” and “business” and wants you to turn your head or hold still . . . when all you want to do is slip out of the chair and run.
I see you weighing up the cost and doubting the process. You traded a haircut for some chocolate. You wince as the hairdresser squirts water all over your head and it drips down into your eyes. Your hand moves up instinctively to wipe it away and instead of fixing the problem, you have now transferred all the little cut hairs that were on the cape between your hand and your face, onto your face. Now, you are desperately wiping harder to get the hairs out of your nose, your eyes, your mouth . . . and every movement makes it worse. Mommy steps in and tries to help, wiping your face and kissing your forehead, trying to reassure you. She tries to make you understand you have to stop wiping with your hand, you are only making it worse. You just feel frustrated, but you try. You sit, and you struggle under the cape to be ok, but you are not. No-one seems to understand, and so your bravado, the shell of your future manhood that is so newly formed and still somewhat fragile, crumbles to the floor and you cry.
And all I want to do is rescue you. Continue reading