What is it? Currently seeking answers.
I’m not even a swmmer.
I can do a front stroke thingy, and I can do a backstroke, and a crawl. And I do that 18 times for a half a mile. And somehow, it calms me.
Because in a week where I felt some solid ground, the cracks and the fissures I had ignored started to get my attention.
I’m highly anxious this morning. So, I will take my medicine one lap at a time.
I’m not a swimmer.
Whatever happened to having no direction? I’m not talking about the dude at 25 that still hasn’t decided what he wants in his life…I mean there’s a limit. Maybe. I’m talking about students. Graduating seniors, particularly. Those of you listening to speeches about finding your dream, living your life with purpose. You guys.
I mean. Get lost. Really get lost. Don’t go confidently in the direction of your dreams. You’re 18. Make mistakes. Break stuff. Risk your stupid heart. Because what really makes a whole adult is the canvas of all those errors, coupled with pluck and verve. You gotta have that …to make a change.
I was at a High School Graduation party last week, and this recently graduated dude had his community college all mapped out, coupled with going to Berkeley after that, assuming he still has the same idea at 22 that he does at 19. What he didn’t factor in were the people he would meet, the new things he would learn to do, the inspiration that might come from a different place.
My own direction-less college life took a turn down a path with no lights. I went to school to be a nurse, but completely avoided that road at the first sign of a naked 85 year old cadaver. I bolted out of that pre-nursing major as quickly as I could.
Then. No direction.
Because one night, I found myself at the Sheep Unit with Jim Simms, drinking wine coolers and dancing the Honky Tonk to Boston’s More Than A Feeling, while waiting for a lamb to be born. And the drinking, well that’s another story. But I completely would have missed this aggie world, had I shunned everything except (at that time,) nursing. Or education.
In fact, isn’t that what the first 2 years of college are for? General Education? Figuring out what thrills you? Finding your passion? Going down the paths of misdirection, as the Indigo Girls call it?
I’ve been in education. A long time. Fads come and go. Currently, Common Core is passe, Standards are old school, and STEM has taken the forefront. Like …everyone, everywhere has to be exposed to Science, Technology, Engineering, Math. Everywhere. And, while that is fabulous, we have lost the ability to study something purely for the joy of it.
Art. Literature. The ability to take sustenance from a painting, a poem. To be exposed to the more “liberal” passions. These are concerns of mine. How do I tell that newly graduated person that perhaps you should read a book, stand in a museum, be filled up with a sunset. Kiss someone who takes your breath away?
Don’t let anyone trick you. You have some time to figure it out. Just chill for a bit, okay?
There was something in the air today. I don’t know, kind of a permanency. I started to look around at my yard, and especially the tree in front of my bedroom window. For months now there have not been any leaves like there were when I first moved here. And, all of a sudden there are leaves. When I moved here last May 21, that’s what I loved about that front window. The privacy. Naturally for months there have only been sticks, waiting for spring to come, I guess. As I sat in my yard tonight, I looked at these flowers, and I realized I’ve been here almost a year.
And I got sad. I remember telling my son just two hours before his graduation simply because we only had two days to move. And I remember thinking I don’t know how I’m going to land on my feet, when this house came up for rent. And as the story goes, I was only here a month and my sweet nephew was killed. And then there was the summer of trying to recapture love, and an emotional imbalance due to hormonal changes that I did not know or understand.
Most people are good with seasons changing. I have never been this way. I sort of have this grief as I say goodbye to what was. I’m somewhat of a depressive that way I guess. Tonight, I looked at these bird of paradise flowers, and I remember that’s what I loved most about the garden last year. This was the year that my sons started going to their dad’s house every other day, and I started to understand that they were only with me part of the time now. That first Tuesday night I said goodbye to them, I sat and stared at the television. And it wasn’t even on. I really just didn’t know what to do with myself.
Life is changing. Today, my beautiful son worked on his Eagle Scout project with his friends. And as usual, she inserted herself and some other random children into the mix. She’s always bringing somebody else’s kids to an event, and I had the urge to say to the mother of those kids, “Watch your husband, honey”. But of course I didn’t say that …I bit a hole in my tongue and made a phone call. My son came to me, and I simply offered to leave after he expressed being upset. He didn’t even have to tell me why. We both knew. And because I had so many women before me who modeled what grace and dignity looks like, I left to go pick up the pizzas.
Here’s the thing. I don’t live there anymore. This park…it was 2 blocks from my old house, and I simply did not feel CONNECTED to it. The place I took my babies after naps, WEbelos scout meetings, T-Ball practice. It was a place to visit, but it felt very foreign to me. I couldn’t wait to get home …to where I sit, now. On my porch. Listening to sirens, trains, and the occasional ice cream man.
We’ve been here a year. In this little house with no room…where we sit practically on top of each other for homework, meals, business. The three of us cannot fit in the kitchen at the same time. I still have no dishwasher, and I have survived. I have a shed full of termites, and a little cabin that I love. The first few weeks, Chet would barely go outside. I constantly locked the doors. The tree has fallen, I’ve fought a battle with rose beetles, we’ve locked ourselves out of the bathroom a couple of times, I’ve cried myself silly on my back porch missing my nephew.
And here’s the weird thing. I lived in my last house for 20 years, yet this little house feels more like me than any other place.
We’ve had a busy day. Only one person can camp out in the living room at a time. Boys are coming and going, and I provide the snacks. I know this feeling will pass, just as it always does when I start to write. My beautiful sons are coming back and we are barbecuing a London broil. We have chocolate and wi-fi. And we have love. Always love. 💜
When my kids were babies, we were sort of in the thick of things. Diapers, the right pre-school, sleep schedules. When they were in early school age, it was all about homework and reading and lunches. It was hard. I was not the Mom that adored my kids in the Summer. I experienced my own agonizing boredom, when by 10am on a hot Summer morning, my kids were either camped out in front of the TV, or were wanting food. Or attention. Or something.
Parenting at that age, simply put, was not what I had been told. I had visions of happy Moms sharing healthy lunches with their kids, playing games, napping peacefully. Nowhere in this picture were rolls of red duct tape spread out all over the house, grimy fingerprints on sliding glass windows that never seemed to get clean, or falling into bed exhausted at night. Add to this that their Dad worked in farming, and was largely gone in the Summer. I was crazy.
Everyone warned me about the teenage years. It will be madness. They will argue with you. Drugs. Alcohol. Scary things.
The opposite happened for me.
Suddenly these boys started to become young men, and all my fears were laid to rest. We had long talks about important stuff. I set good boundaries, and made it safe to come to me. I also admitted to myself that this was the time that were supposed to start to disconnect, so when my son was mad at me, he put a note in a special box, and made me PROMISE never to look in there. The lock broke, or it never worked, and the note is still in there. And I haven’t looked.
So here’s my list: 5 Reasons Why Parenting Teenagers Pretty Much Rocks
1. They Appreciate A Home Cooked Meal. Ice cream. They will never stop loving trying out new ice creams that you bring home. Or your cooking. They will come home to smells of something bubbling on the stove, and will have an instant recollection of Home. You. They will tell you, “Mom, this is the best place to be”, and even though your house is smaller than their old back yard, they will tell you they can’t wait to get here. Because of the food. And as long as you keep the cupboards and refrigerator stocked, they will love to be here.
2. Cars. A kid with a new car will become the automatic and instant new chauffeur in your house. He will love driving so much, that he will OFFER to pick up any sibling needing a ride. My life seriously changed with the advent of the first driver.
3. Laundry. If you do it right, and I mean like 8th grade right, your own kids will do the wash, dry, fold and put away on their own. Especially if you don’t do it for them EVER in the beginning. They will realize that if they want clean clothes, (and they do), they will have to do all of that, even if it means staying up until 11pm. This you must do. Because at no point will you love washing their sports gear.
4. Electronics. My boys got their first cell phones in 3rd & 1st grades, respectively. I taught them how to use them proficiently from the beginning. Obviously, electronics, social media and the like are very important to me. So, I monitored, and then let go, and from what I’ve seen, I’m not concerned with how they use it. BUT. As a parent, I had to stay completely on top of the sites and apps that they use. In fact, one step ahead is even better. Recently, they went to a party for the first time together. The youngest, a Freshman, at his first High School party. We did some troubleshooting…like, just in case you drink or do something, the other brother gets your phone immediately and shuts it down. They know each others’ passwords. If I text “WRU” at any point in the night, they go to their Details page within 5 minutes and hit the “Show My Current Location” to me. It works. (The oldest did ask me to not use CAPS, and I acquiesced.)
5. They Are Never Here. I know. I’m going against the Mom code on this one. Nothing makes me happier, though, than to see my kids with a wealth of good friends, and a full calendar of activities. Both are in Boy Scouts. One loves Football and working out, the other is all Soccer, Basketball, Baseball. They both have different church youth groups. When I was sick today, the oldest went to my church on his own. The one I adopted when our family divorced. He and his brother decided they wanted to try out that church’s youth group. They love their social network. So, when they’re gone, I know they are happy. And that they are preparing for the world. This thrills me.
My job isn’t over. There are bumps. But, this is the happiest parenting time in my life, and it just keeps getting better. I remember those hard early years when someone deftly said to me…You won’t really know you’ve done a good job until they are almost adults.
This I know to be true.
I drove by you tonight. I have gingerly avoided that particular way for some time. I would take the long way around, or simply stare straight ahead, so as to not have to look and see you were with someone else. That someone else was occupying what was the very center of my life for the last 20 years.
And these words needed to come. They’ve been stuck in my throat for 11 months, and for as long as I’ve tried to convince myself that it was for the best, that it was time to move, that I needed to get out of there.
But, my home. Ripon. I’ve missed you.
I didn’t want to admit it. I couldn’t wait to leave what felt like the clutches of a small town around my big town heart. How every corner held a memory. How finally I felt like I could free myself of the shame of his long affair. How I felt responsible for harming my children by staying much longer than I should have, or at least left when I knew…or how I harmed them for not staying. For not trying harder.
Tonight, I drove by the street. My street. I slowly looked toward the back of the court to you. No one was there, but I felt my throat close up, and I kept driving to my girlfriend’s house, a block away. I kept going into the night, ignoring a nagging lump in the base of my throat.
At the end of the night, as I dropped her off, I saw you again. Your porch lights were on, and your new owners’ cars were in your driveway. Maybe they put their kids in bed, or were sitting in the spa. But, you were winking at me to move along. Linda, you don’t live here anymore.
First I got mad. That I had to give up my children’s home, my commitment to this town, that I was never really from there. That it was the perfect place, and why did it all happen this way?
I got to Second street, passing the park and remembering small children on the slide …my children. My life. Random memories. Creme puffs at the Senior Center, my running partner’s red front door. When I turned onto Fourth Street, the tears came. The thousands of miles run starting on that corner. Blinking back the sting, I tried to push away the feelings with logic. How can you be feeling this now? You don’t live here.
And I finally admitted to myself that I loved it there. That I wouldn’t have traded a minute. That I didn’t stay one minute longer than I was supposed to.
I got to the top of the overpass. Mile 1. Mile 1 for 5 years of 6 marathon trainings. Where I would get my mojo started. Where I learned that you can do anything. That you can train for a marathon at 4am when your babies are sleeping, and that you will get to see the sun rise at just that right moment. And I let out the tears.
I headed home, just crushed with grief, thinking I made a mistake, that maybe I should just take us back there, that maybe you CAN go home again. I couldn’t shake off the weight in my chest, so I just. Drove. I thought it just wouldn’t go away, this thing I had been avoiding.
Until I turned onto my street. La Loma, Modesto. The most perfect house I’ve ever had, because for the first time in my life, it is mine. It isn’t a husband’s or a father’s. My boy Chet is thrilled to see me from all day alone. I make my bed with my Friday fresh sheets, I wash dishes, and I avoid writing.
Until just now.
My heart ached, until I saw the very truth of my present reality. As I sit here, I realize what I have always known…that I’m in the exact right place at the right time. The words bubbled out and here they are, and I feel better. That place was years ago, and this is right now.
My heart had a workout tonight, and I pushed through it. And now. Simply put, I’m home.