During the weekend, a series of annoying events occurred here. An expensive piece of farm equipment stopped working at a crucial moment. The workers that cut our grass inadvertently cut down my 50 X 150 foot perennial garden that was just at that point of blossom buds forming. (New employees that didn’t know the difference between grass and a garden….) Taxes are due, I had insomnia three nights in a row, my email stopped sending, blah blah blah. The little foxes that spoil the vines, according to King Solomon.
I was dealing with these minor annoyances myself, since Jim was really busy working. He is the human resources, jack of all trades person for our son’s business. On Monday, they launched a new product and the mayhem that generally accompanies launches took all of Jim’s concentration. Our son is driven to success, more out of a sense of obligation to his 60 plus employees than gaining any great wealth for himself. Their lifestyle is surprisingly conservative in spite of success.
In the middle of all of this, our future daughter in law, who had discovered a lump on the left side of her neck several weeks ago, found out she needs surgery to remove it. She has a parotid gland tumor, benign growths in 80% of cases. The danger of the tumor is its location, close to the carotid artery, the main vessel which feeds the brain with blood, and intertwined with the nerves that serve the face. My son is distraught, frantic for her well being, but more important, wanting to take care of her and support her in every way possible. In our family, that usually means being there for each other through each step of the process, since ‘being there’ is often so difficult.
When my husband came to tell me this news, I was just in from flitting through the day, tapestry class in the morning, then lunch with a friend. Immediately, without discussion, we knew I would be going there to take care of Janeen.
Having the freedom to do something like this is new found. Like most people, I have always worked. From the time my son was a baby and I worked in a nursing home as an aide, until most recently, when I ran my own business. In 2001, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and in order to go to Michigan to assist my family with her care, I had to quit my job in the operating room at Virtua in Mt. Holly, because they wouldn’t give me family leave time. (Another of many reasons the nurses voted a union in shortly after that.)
It means so many things to me to be able to help out our children. Going there to attempt to lighten Andy’s load will help me to dispel one of my many boogey men; the ‘I was a shitty parent’ ghost is a frequent visitor and one whose main task is to pile on the guilt about things like leaving sick kids to fend for themselves because I had to go to work, or allowing my five year old to walk home from school in the middle of the Philadelphia ghetto and let herself into the house, alone.
A kind and generous friend, Louise who now lives in Arizona, but helped me to care for my family during an awful time in my life, recently sent a picture of me, exhausted and frail looking from working two full time jobs, standing next to my daughter who was wearing an adorable Halloween costume of a mouse. Her mouse whiskers were perfectly applied and she looked happy and well cared for. The picture came at an opportune time; as Easter approaches, I remind myself of a an Easter during that awful time where I found myself coming home from working all night long in the OR at Hahnemann, and suddenly remembering that it was Easter Sunday.
I had no baskets, no cellophane grass, no jelly beans or chocolate eggs. This was in the mid 80’s, and grocery stores didn’t stay open all night, no CVS or Walmarts to come to the rescue. So I sped to the 7-11, the only place opened at 7:30 Sunday morning, and bought candy bars, and when home, found a basket to put them into. I wasn’t fooling anyone. Too tired to spend anytime defending the Easter Bunny, and I thinking my kids understood, the subject was dropped. Until last Easter, when we were all together in Atlanta, and my lovely daughter decided to rehash the embarrassing story for some reason. I know she didn’t expect the impact it would have on me, because, I don’t think she realized I had forgotten all about it.
Parents, especially mothers, are guilt ridden. The latest catalyst was seeing President Obama on TV, reading to the children who came for the Easter Egg Hunt. A small voice said, ‘you never read to your kids’. Now I know that is a lie! I actually found a picture Jim had taken of me, reading to my son when he was about two. Why do we do this to ourselves? I think I discovered an answer. We miss our children. We are glad they are grown and independent on one hand, but the on the other, we long for that contact with them again. We wish we could have spent our time with them differently, because as we found out, everything told to us about the passing of time would come true. I heard my mouth tell a friend last week that she would not regret one of the sacrifices she was making for her child, the time she was spending with him now. It is one of the few eternal things we can do in our lives.
My memory is getting so bad that when my kids tell me about something from their youth, and usually it is something good, I have no idea what they are talking about. The two years in which I worked 18 hour days, I have little or no recollection of ever doing anything with my children, although it is clear I did because they are both normal, hardworking, law abiding people. Someone must have fed them and made sure their homework was done and took them to the dentist.
I won’t start a dialogue about regrets; it would be too much for me to take! Instead, I will just say that I am so excited to be able to go to Atlanta next week for Stitches and visit with my son and his family, and then come back and have a workshop for my guild here at my farm, and then get on a plane again and go back to help them out when Janeen has her surgery. I feel so lucky right now, so blessed. And I don’t feel guilty at all.