The End of Another Year

It’s the last day of 2013.

I haven’t chronicled much of my life in this space this year.  Having started this blog nearly four years ago with the purpose of telling my life story, bit by bit, in short remembered pieces gave it a purpose that at one point kept me blogging one post a day for months at a time.

It took me nearly two years to do it, to write down the memories that shaped who I am.  It was a crazy thing to do, and once it was over, I wasn’t sure what to do with it.  I wrote about births, deaths, illnesses, boyfriends, lovers, marriage, abuse, rape, adultery.  I wrote about my hopes and dreams, my crushes and my losses.  When I look back and read some of those posts now, it’s like revisiting that time in my life, like visiting an old friend, or an old wound.

I’m glad I did it.  I’m glad I took that journey.  Some day I’ll admit to those I know and love that I have done this, and share it.  Some day.

This year was a big and small year.  A year of big events and small steps.

In January we were still reeling from the shootings at Sandy Hook here.  When I think of that month, it still seemed so dark and raw.  The kids from Sandy Hook came to school in our town; the media were everywhere.  So was kindness and love.  A highlight was that I ran a 10K in Central Park, spending time with my husband’s cousins from Spain.

In February I quietly “celebrated” the twenty years it has been since I lost my mother.  I still am shocked that it has been so long.  Most of my friends still have their mothers, even now, twenty years later, although some friends are starting to go through that loss of losing parents now that we’re older.  I miss her still but somehow this year managed to realize I look back more with love and longing than sadness and loss.

In March my daughter took center stage.  She celebrated her 13th birthday and performed in our local school’s production of Little Women.

In April my son was married.  It was a hugely emotional event, with family and friends from near and far in attendance.  He married a woman who is as deeply religious and traditional as he is.  I wonder sometimes if his tendency towards that conservative family model is because, while he was raised most of his life in a two parent household, he knows and can never forget that he has never met his biological father.  It still is a raw wound of sadness in the back of both of our minds, but his wedding was beautiful and perfect in every way.

In May we were busy with my preparations for the race I was putting together and the kids’ school.

In June my 5K happened, the culmination of 6 months of work.  It went off without a hitch and it raised $11,000 for local charities.  It also marked the beginning of my partnership with one of the Sandy Hook family foundations.  My kids also closed out another school year and we entered into summer mode.

In July my daughter attended theater camp, winning the role of Young Fiona in a local theater company’s production of Shrek. My young son and I did summer school work at home and visited the town pool while she went to her camp.  My husband continued to travel for work.

In August my daughter had her big performance.  The day she was done our entire family joined my husband’s parents and sister for a family trip to San Juan, Puerto Rico.  It was a hot week at the beach there, and his Spanish speaking family loved it.  I felt a little lost frankly, but consoled myself with the sun and the sand.  After we returned, we visited my son and his wife in the DC area, having a nice time learning more about her family.

In September I ran in Central Park again, meeting up with my father for the weekend in the city.  The next weekend I went to visit my 90+ year old grandparents in Delaware.  My son and his wife came too and shared the news that they were expecting my first grandchild.

In October my husband traveled a great deal, being gone nearly every week.  I campaigned for a spot on our local board of education by eschewing signs and using social media only.

In November I won the BOE seat.  My daughter performed in another school drama production, “Usher”.  I continued my freelance website work that I have done all year in fits and starts.

In December we returned to Florida for our annual trip at Christmas.  We have gone in 1996, 1997, 1998, 2003, 2005-2013.  That’s pretty much our tradition now.  My son and his pretty pregnant wife also were there, as were my husband’s parents.  It was a lovely time of relaxing, reflecting and looking forward to what’s ahead.  My husband worked less than he ever has on the trip, which was a lovely surprise.  We all talked about next year there being a baby with us.  We counted our blessings and enjoyed each other’s company.

2014 will be another year of sameness coupled with some big events.  My day to day world will feel the same but much will change.  Each year I get a little more able to really appreciate all that I have and be content rather than worry about what others have that I don’t.  I’m not there yet, but I have made a lot of progress towards it.

I hope that everyone out there has something to celebrate tonight, and something to look forward to next year.  Happy New Year!

Advertisements

One Year

When I lay in bed this morning, in the dark quiet before the dawn, the first thing that came into my head was the song, “Seasons of Love.”

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

It’s been one year today since the awful tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.  I can still remember the day so vividly, and so many of the days afterwards.  The terror, the fear, the tragedy, right here in my own backyard.

In the past year I’ve become increasingly involved with one of the families affected by that terrible day.  I’ve gotten to to know them and am now working with them on the foundation they’ve set up to raise funds in their child’s memory.  Their spirit and ability to move forward has just astounded me.  Today, this family quietly marks the day in a tropical location far away, away from the sadness and the madness that they hoped wouldn’t happen here.  I’ve seen how this family has been able to find their son in a million tiny moments every single day.  I’ve seen how they’ve been able to truly take this tragedy and create from it a life filled with passion and love and hope for the future of others.  How they’ve surrounded themselves with energy and light instead of darkness.

The bracelets they had made for their foundation, coincidentally, have imprinted on them:  “Measure your life in love.”  As I look back on the last year, I am proud to say that I have taken that oath and brought more love, more laughter, more gratitude into my own life.  I’ve done that by working with this family, working with others, donating my time and energy.  And it has come back to me in so many ways.

Today, five thousand twenty five hundred six hundred minutes later, I am praying for all of those who measured this past year in those excruciating increments as they moved forward from unspeakable tragedy. I am hoping that everyone affected by the awful events that happened one year ago today are able to measure their lives in the love that surrounds them today, and every day. We are here for you, thinking of you, and hold you in our hearts.

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand moments so dear
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, measure a year?

In daylights, in sunsets
In midnights, in cups of coffee
In inches, in miles, in laughter, in strife
In five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure, a year in the life?

How about love?
How about love?
How about love?
Measure in love

Seasons of love
Seasons of love

Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
Five hundred twenty-five thousand journeys to plan
Five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes
How do you measure the life of a woman or a man?

In truths that she learned
Or in times that he cried
In bridges he burned
Or the way that she died

It’s time now, to sing out
Though the story never ends
Let’s celebrate
Remember a year in the life of friends

Remember the love
(Oh, you got to, you got to remember the love)
Remember the love
(You know that love is a gift from up above)
Remember the love
(Share love, give love, spread love)
Measure in love
(Measure, measure your life in love)

Seasons of love
Seasons of love
(Measure your life, measure your life in love)

Acceptance

I don’t often remember my dreams.  I don’t know why that is.  I just don’t.  But every so often a dream comes through that I do remember, and is so vivid, I truly do believe that it is trying to send me a message from somewhere.

I have dreams about my mother like that. Maybe once a year or every two years.  Almost always the same….in the dreams, she somehow lived through her initial illness twenty years ago, but we’re fighting it again.  Reliving the journey to her passing, somehow.  I can still recall bits of these ultra vivid dreams as if they actually happened.

Sometimes the dreams are different.  I don’t know why I have them.  There’s a dream I can still recall of a house I never lived in, but I can see the house and it’s layout in my head as if it did exist, as if it was part of my experience.  Even though it never was.

Two nights ago I had a dream like that.  A dream of a conversation that never happened, but was so real that I will never shake it.   Earlier that evening I ran into a friend who is a single mom.  She has one daughter from a marriage and two adopted children that she adopted after the marriage was over.  In the dream, she was asking me how to talk to her adopted children about their absent parent, how to help them understand their situation.

And just like that, in the dream, I answered her:

“First, you need to let them know that no matter what their background is, what happened to them from their biological parents, that you love them.  You have to make sure that is so crystal clear in their heads that they know it as part of who they are.  They can’t doubt it.  That you are their parent and that you love them more than you could love anything else.

Second, you have to be sure to never, ever talk negatively about that absent biological parent.  Even if you have super strong feelings about what they may or may not have done for your child.  At the end of the day, they know that parent exists and if you talk negatively about that person, you’re talking negatively about a part of who they are.  Ideally, some day, you’ll let that anger you may have go….but until that day, you have to keep it away from your children.  That’s your burden, not theirs.

Third, you have to acknowledge whatever feelings they may have about that parent.  They are real, and they’re allowed to have them.  Those feelings have nothing to do with you, as hard as it is to realize that.  Missing an absent parent, wanting to know more about that parent, this is a normal part of what an adopted or child with an absent parent goes through.  They know there is a piece missing and they want to know who they are.  You have to support their feelings and allow them to explore them.  If you have history with the absent parent, this is a very hard one, but it is vitally important to the child having a healthy sense of self.  They will mourn the parent that isn’t there, and you have to be there with all the love and support you can when they do.  But if they want to go searching, if they want to reach out….if it is safe for them to do so….you have to let them.

Fourth and finally, you must always be truthful.  Don’t lie.  Take the questions as they come, don’t offer more information than they can handle at the age they are, but always be honest about who their biological parents are.  But the second rule applies here too:  be honest, but don’t be negative.  If the parent is absent because they are in jail, or a drug addict, hold that information until the child is older.  When they are younger, say something like that the absent parent just ‘wasn’t ready’ or ‘was so sick she couldn’t take care of you’ or something more general, but also not negative.  If you have photos of the parent, show them to the child.  They should always know who they are.”

I woke up from the dream with such a sense of peace.  And then I realized….I am at peace.  I’m done waiting for my son’s biological father to finally figure out that he’s this amazing kid’s parent.  It doesn’t matter any more.  I did everything I could for my boy to fill the gap.  And I know that, as unfair as it is, some of that gap will never be filled, because he knows (because I have always been truthful with him) who his biological father is and that he has never been a part of his life.  But I also know that I have done a great job despite the challenges.

My son is working, thriving, married and expecting his own child.  He is a credit to me and my husband, who from the moment we met, took my son in as his own.  We are his parents.  We have helped him grow into the man he has become.  And while I am sad that my son’s story doesn’t have the happy ending that I had always hoped it would, I am done with wishing for things that I cannot control.  There is nothing I can do to lead that horse to water.  Did I make mistakes?  Yes.  Of course I did.  But none of them merit living as if your own son doesn’t exist.  I’ve done all that I can do to make it right for my son.  And I can finally, finally say that I am at peace with it.

I hope someday my son will be as well.

%d bloggers like this: