Giving up a Dream

Well I almost did it again.  I almost got angry and overwhelmed based on my own feelings and my own perspective, with no consideration for his.  I decided to do some cleaning and rearranging of things in the home office.  I began to get angry when I looked at the assortment of electronic equipment that seems to have no purpose, yet I was the one stuck dealing with them.

I had to physically stop myself, take a deep breath and say out loud:  ‘these items may be a pain in my backside at this moment, but they are a physical representation of his lost dreams’.  When he collected them, they had a purpose in his mind and in his heart.  He has now decided that he can’t keep all his dreams, so some of these will have to go.  It was a very sobering moment, and it was very hard to remind myself that I am the one who needs the work.

Disparity and Forgiveness

Exactly one week ago today, we watched with pride as our youngest son walked across the stage to receive his High School diploma.  It was yet another milestone that I prayed we would all get to witness.  It was a day of hope and promise….the first step in this new chapter of his life.  It also put us one step closer to the closing of this child-rearing chapter in our lives, one that is ending all too quickly.

In the last several years, there has been a great deal of disparity in the experiences of our sons.  While our oldest son has to watch and worry from afar (which is extremely stressful in it’s own right), our youngest has been a daily witness to all the maintenance, symptoms and repercussions of dealing with this illness.  Unfortunately, this is not the only way he has been impacted.

When our oldest son was still at home, we were in a much better position financially to help him accomplish some amazing dreams.  It was easy for us to support him in these endeavors because we knew he was meant to do these things.  For instance, one January day, he took a discovery flight on a Cessna airplane at the local Flight School.  According to my husband, when he stepped out of the aircraft after being allowed to assist in the flight, he had a look on his face that confirmed it: this was something he was born to do.  We knew we must help him achieve this.  He did his part by working to help pay for flight lessons, and was even able to eventually get a job at the Flight School….employee discount!!!  At the tender age of 18, he received his pilot’s license.

So one day a few months ago, I was talking to our youngest about things in general, including things we were not able to help him do.  It was a difficult conversation to have, because like parents everywhere, we have always wanted to treat them both the same.  It is a tall order for two different people, but what we have done for one, we fully expected to do for the other….or the equivalent, based on their interests.

We did help them both do a few similar things…they were both able to accomplish an amazing hike of over a hundred miles through the mountains  in New Mexico on the Philmont Scout Ranch, which is a pretty big deal.  However, we knew that there would be some things we wouldn’t be able to provide as much support for, like attending college, the way we did for our oldest.

As we began our conversation, my voice quivered as I felt the pain of the unfairness to our baby son.  He stopped me abruptly.  “It’s ok, Mom…all of this has made me a better person.  I appreciate things so much more.  You do not need to apologize!”

I was astounded at his insight, and thought about the power of forgiveness….how this simple act released me from the chains of my own guilt and how I could use it as well to free others.

I thought of those I may still be harboring a grudge against.  What causes me to refuse the gift of forgiveness to others, when that day I craved the forgiveness of my son more than anything?  What if I could feel the pain of someone who is asking for forgiveness…the pain they must feel at having wronged me.  At the depths of their soul, all that matters are the precious words, “I forgive you.”   Since we cannot reach back into the past and change anything, why not let it go?  Why not free it from my soul and consciousness, so that I may allow room for something more positive?

The bonus is that the person receiving the forgiveness now sees us in a different light, maybe with a new-found respect.

Just like I now view my son.  My incredibly smart, kind and grounded young man.

He will do just fine.


Archaeology of the Heart

On the first of several days off last week I began a somber project.  I started helping my youngest son prepare his personal items for us to either store or mail to him at his first duty station.  He is not leaving until July, but I know that if I wait until right before he leaves, I will be a bundle of emotions and this task will be so much harder to accomplish.

So last Thursday I began consolidating the largest collection of Legos that has ever existed.  Ever since our firstborn was old enough to play with Legos without eating them, we began collecting.  About 20 years’ worth.  That is a LOT of little bitty pieces of hard plastic, each of them covered in pointy edges.  Over the course of time, I am sure I have stepped on them all.  With my bare feet.

Right away I did something that I immediately regretted:  I dumped the entire contents of the small bin of Legos into the bigger bin that would be sealed and put away.  Unfortunately, mixed in with the Legos were pencils, pens, gum wrappers, toy cars, loose change and other items that I could not name.  I realized that I was in for the long haul in getting this project ready for posterity.

I gathered my supplies:  my vacuum cleaner, an old sock, antibacterial wipes, a small bowl and a garbage can.  With the care of a seasoned archaeologist, I covered the end of the vacuum cleaner hose with the old sock and proceeded to pick up any dust.  After a few seconds, I would turn off the vacuum, hold the end of the hose over the small bowl, and pull the sock farther up the hose.  This would cause any Legos that got sucked into the sock to pop into the bowl.  I could then separate them, then vacuum up the dust.   It was easy to get rid of the dead batteries and other garbage.  Some of the other stuff, not so much.

As I cleaned and sorted, I began to imagine the day that this bin would be opened again.  I pictured it being a rainy day, my sons sitting on the floor with their own little ones.  Maybe they would begin talking about the things they used to build.  Maybe they would talk about events that inspired them to build.  There would be lots of memories.  Lots of good memories.

I was suddenly reminded of my own childhood days of rummaging through my grandmother’s button box.  It was a real treat to examine the buttons one by one.  It was especially exciting to find other things in the box that had nothing to do with buttons.  A small china doll.  A tiny replica of a vintage oatmeal canister.  Somehow these things had extra importance:  they really didn’t belong with buttons.  It was a mystery why they were in there.  Apparently I liked it that way, because I never asked my grandmother why these unrelated items were in the button box.

That’s when it hit me:  I would make the Lego storage bin into our very own Time Capsule, like the button box.  Matchbox cars and Micro machines went back in, as well as small airplanes.  Little items that might trigger big memories.  I placed some of the coins back into the box, in the hopes that one day a small child might look in awe at the old coins…his or her own ‘buried treasure’ found in the Lego bin.  Sometimes just a small bit of chaos is all we need to liven things up a bit.

It was quietly reassuring that one day these items will be loved again.  One day we will once again hear the familiar sound of small pieces of plastic being excitedly raked around in the search for a specific Lego.  The sound of creativity.  It is my fervent prayer that it is a sound we both will hear.