The sound breaks through my dreams, but I can't quite place it. Then it hits me. My cellphone is ringing three rooms away. It's a little before 5 am and my heart beats fast as I race to answer it. It's my daughter. She's crying. "Mom, can you come to Mishawaka?" My stomach lurches. "What's wrong?" I ask, trying to remain calm. She starts to sob and a friend takes over the phone. I want to throw up. Her friend tells me that Jordan fell down a flight of stairs in the middle of the night. She was letting her friend's dogs back in the house and got twisted up. She has broken her wrist, will need stitches on her chin and may have a concussion. Fortunately, Jordan tells me, she still has all her teeth. I can't get into the car fast enough. I feel like my husband is moving in slow motion and I want to scream. He's not, but I've got to get to my girl. The emergency room is, thankfully, only 20 min away. We meet her friends in the emergency room. Jordan is behind a closed door and the doctor is setting her wrist. Finally, we can go in. She laughs when she sees us, then cries a wee bit. "I'm sorry, Mom." For what, silly? I'm just grateful it's not worse.
As we sit and wait for the doctors and nurses to do all they need to before she can go home, I'm drawn back to a similar moment 23 1/2 years ago. Jordan was ten months old at the time. I'm getting ready for work when the phone rings at 6:30 in the morning. It's my mom. A drunk driver ran a stop sign and hit my sister, Suzanne's, car. She was thrown from the car, landed on her head, and had sustained brain injury. It was not known if she would live or die. Dad was already on a plane from Portland, Maine to the hospital in West Palm Beach, Florida. For months, her fate was uncertain. Jim drives my mother and me down, Jordan in tow. Day after day, we make our trek to the hospital. For two weeks, I watched my mom becoming debilitated with worry and praying constantly. I watched as my father tended to Suzanne's care, dealing with doctors, shaming the priest who gave her up for dead and talked about organ donation, and speaking lovingly into her ear. "Come on, little girl, wake up," he'd say to her. She was thirty-six years old, but she was still his "little girl." I remember looking at my beautiful little girl as she crawled across the floor in her diaper and blue & white striped t-shirt and thinking, "This is not an 18 or 22 year commitment. This is forever, this thing called being a parent. It hit me like a ton of bricks for the very first time. For the next 23 1/2 years and until his death, my father tended to my sister's care, never wavering for an instant.
Parenting is not for the faint of heart. Nor is it for the uncommitted. It is the most wonderful, joy-filled, gut-wrenching, heart-breaking, frustrating endeavor on the planet. I wouldn't trade it for the world, but I hope and pray to God that I never receive another phone call in the night like this or, even worse, like my parents received. My girl is sleeping. Vicodin has become her best friend. She will be healed by love, with a little help from modern medicine. I look at her, but I don't see the grown woman she has become. I see a ten month old girl in diapers and a blue & white striped tee. My heart is pinging.
I'm a middle school counselor. I work with 11, 12, 13, 14 and sometimes 15 year olds. Let me tell you, you have got to love these beasts or you will go crazy. Middle school students are evidence that God has a warped sense of humor. They can be innocent and tumultuous all in the same moment. They can be scared to death, insecure, lacking in any kind of confidence and in the next moment, exhibit the most incredible act of courage (and NEVER even recognize it as such). They come in all shapes and sizes and maturity levels. The range of issues is vast---from tears over not being able to open their locker in time for the bell, to "please let me drop Band," to getting in a fight, to being shot and killed because he was in the opposing gang. My heart swells with joy one moment and breaks in the next.
We started back to school this week. It's been a crazy, hectic, "I-can't-catch-up-or-breathe" kind of week for me. But, I love it. I love seeing my kids return after summer break. I love seeing how they've grown or matured after just twelve weeks. I love to see the ones who have grown taller and have yet to grow into their bodies. I love the ones who have transformed from wallflowers into budding beauties. I love it when they get just as excited to see me as I am to see them. (Mind you, there are plenty who could care less that I've returned). I love the gang-banger who works VERY hard to be the toughest man on the planet look at me sideways with a sheepish grin because he knows I see him and he knows I'm glad about it. I love the ones who call me over to their table at lunch just because they need to know they are important enough to get the attention. I love the ones who have yet to say one word to me. I love the ones I have yet to truly know after three years because there are so many others who demand my time and I wonder how I can touch them.
I love the ones who work so hard to be perfect, do everything available, yet I want to ask, "When do you take time to be a child?" I love the ones who are in a hurry to grow up. Sometimes, I think I love many of them more than their parents do. That breaks my heart. I love the ones whose clothes come from the latest, most popular store and wouldn't be caught dead in anything from Walmart. I love the ones who can't afford to shop at Walmart. I love the ones who will fight at the drop of a hat and the ones who would never think to fight.
I love them all. I like them a heck of a lot, too.
I love blog-hopping. I'll start on one blog and connect to another blog from the first one, then connect to another from that one, and so forth. It's a blast. A plain and simple blast. An addictive blast at that. I've "met" some really amazing people just from reading their blog. Some seem to be kindred spirits. Others I visit just to see how they decorate their homes. Then there are others that I find by accident that make me want to take a shower. Mostly, though, I just discover really good, decent people. I love it when that happens. Case in point: A few days ago I discovered operationnice.com. I don't know who started it. Her name is Melissa and she lives on the east coast. She started the Operation Nice blog back in July, so it's just weeks old. She just posted a little video to announce the winner of a contest she held (no, sad to say, I did not win. Boo-hoo)). If you watch the video, you can gain a sense of how nice she is. To quote the blog,
"Operation NICE was initiated to remind you that a little NICE goes a long way."
See the first post here. I like it all. If I could figure out how to get the little Operation Nice icon on my blog, I would. Gotta work on those skills.
Anyway, on this blog you will find stories other people submit about how they experienced an act of "niceness." You'll also find weekly assignments (like "pay someone a compliment). The English teachers at my school would post the word "nice" on the dead-word wall because it is an overused word that students fall back on instead of expanding their vocabulary usage. I believe it might be an overused word for middle school students, but being nice to others is a concept that is underused. We need all the encouragement and reminders we can get.
So Yay! to Operation Nice and to the person who started it.
Today would have been my dad's 85th birthday. He died two months shy. It is an odd feeling to not be able to call him and wish him a happy birthday. I sang to him in my car anyway. After two months, I still have the urge to call him about this or that. The other day, I had a moment when I began to think about what to get him for Christmas and then I remembered--no gifts this year. Since Jim's dad died 15 years ago, it is the changing seasons that hit him with his loss the most. His dad would always call as the seasons changed to remind this young man of the tasks to accomplish around the house in order to be ready. Jim misses those phone calls. I miss my dad.
It was my goal to be busy today to keep my mind on other things. I went on a turtle hunt. Literally. I went on a turtle hunt with my little friend, Megan. I drove over to Bourbon early this morning. It wasn't early enough, apparently, because Megan was awake at 3 a.m. in anticipation of our adventure. When I pulled in the driveway, I couldn't even get out of the car before Megan was out the door, bucket in hand. In the car she hopped, strapped herself in and said, "Bye, Mom." And we were off. We drove to Syracuse Lake to meet our friend, Britt, and her 2 y.o. son, Miles. Britt gave a quick lesson on canoe behavior, got our paddles in the water, and we slowly and quietly made our way. We wove through the lily pads and the reeds trying to spy itty-bitty snouts poking out of the water between the leaves. We spotted many and almost caught one, but it fell out of our net. Megan was a bit nervous among the reeds, but she persevered. She collected bits and pieces of water lilies, weeds, and cattails to put in her bucket for any turtle we might find. Miles just took it all in, surprisingly. I thought for sure he'd fall overboard. Megan and Miles soaked it all up with wonder and awe. It made me happy just to share the adventure with them.
I write for me.
What's up with those shoes, you may ask? After driving 30 minutes to work one fine day, I looked down as I got out of the car and saw this. Good thing I work with middle school students! I used it as a teachable moment to show them how one could survive something stupid and laugh at oneself in the process. Invariably, whenever I wear the "giraffe" shoes, a student will comment that, "Hey, you're wearing the same shoes today!"