That Book & This Look
It has been quite a weekend. I've said my good-byes to the lake house and in doing so, said another good-bye to Mama. My last memories of that house will include my three precious children laughing and running around in circles until they collapsed . I left with a feeling of peacefulness and for that I am blessed--and thankful.
So, as the first step, it finally happened. I took THAT book off the shelf, the one that had been sitting there for far too long. I won't go to the extreme of saying it had been taunting me. I've read too much Mr. Hawthorne and Mr. Poe to casually throw around the idea of being taunted! THAT book, to which I refer, is A Mother's Rule of Life by Holly Pierlot. A few year ago, when I started reading it as part of our mom's group, I was so inspired by it. I was ready to run right out and implement it all and I did. And I failed miserably. My failure did not lie in the fact that it didn't work. I failed because when it wasn't a success, I didn't turn to God. Instead, the book went on the shelf where it remained unless someone asked to borrow it. Oh, I still recommended it to people, always with the disclaimer that it was far too intense for me and that I just wasn't ready for it. And maybe I wasn't, but I needed to do something different from what I was doing.
When I just had one child, even when I only had two, it wasn't so difficult to, as the cliche goes, fly by the seat of my pants, with spontaneity and whims, but little order. Which brings me to This Look.
I found this picture in Mama's cedar chest. It was the place where she kept all those keepsakes nearest to her heart. My heart melted as I looked at the look of love--a mother's love--on her face. And I cried. I cried not out of loss or sadness, but because I knew the context of that picture. There my mother sits, captured on film, with This look, at my brother and sister. In 1960, my mother, who loved children, and dreamed of being a mother one day, gave birth to her first born, my brother, Greg. The doctors weren't sure Greg would survive the day. He was born with severe brain damage and was medically fragile. It wasn't a named condition at the time. Over the years, Mama asked questions of doctors. She had what she thought was the flu during the pregnancy and the drug she was given would never be given to a pregnant woman today. After Mama died, I found a letter from a doctor who said Greg had been given genetic testing and had a chromosomal defect. Regardless, Greg was a special boy and as such, Mama gave him special care.
When Mama died, one of her sisters, Pat, the one closest in age, told me that Mama had to feed Greg every 2 - 3 hours because he could not eat normal amounts of food, or table food, for that matter. That means that even at night, she was awake to feed him. I can't tell you how many times I thought of Mama as I woke to feed a hungry infant. An infant whose hunger would pass and who would grow and mature to the point of no longer needing to be fed during the night. I remember Mama telling someone how horrible it was when Greg had a spinal tap done. She wasn't allowed to be with him and she had to sit in the waiting room, where she could only listen to him scream.
But fatigue-- from round-the-clock feedings, mounting medical bills, a husband who was away with his job often, a meager budget from my father's salary as an instructor, with the prospect of living on a graduate stipend for years, trying to maintain normalcy for my sister, who was three years younger than Greg, geographic separation from family--none of that shows in This picture. Instead, it's This look. I remember that look. I sometimes looked up and caught that look on my mother's face as she gazed at me. My mother was a busy woman and I don't have memories of her playing with me. But I have memories of her being with me, a lot, and talking with me. And I remember her face, close to tears, each year on the first day of school. And I remember her beaming face, as I got off the school bus on the afternoon of the first day of school. I was truly wanted and truly loved. We all were. She wasn't perfect, but she didn't allow herself to be consumed by self-pity or bitterness.
Then, there's me. I'm tired, I'm overwhelmed, I'm an orphan, ....well, I'm DONE. D. O. N. E.--take her out of the oven boys, 'cause she's done, DONE. I have gone through a difficult time, but I'm tired of defining myself and my life by it. Time for less focus on me and more on my loaves and fishes that God could miraculously use to feed all those with whom He has entrusted me--my family, my friends, my neighbor, the stranger. My loaves and fishes that I clung to for too long. And now I have reached that point of peace, where they are no longer mine, but God's, and I need to offer them to Him. So, I will take what I can from That book, to bring some much needed order to my life. Let's face it, I've got strength on my side. Genetically, I come from strong, pioneer stock, and well, on my adopted side--through the waters of Baptism--there's no wimpy line there either! Through obedience to my vocation as Wife and Mother, and the discipline necessary to live out that vocation, may I die to myself and all my selfish inclinations, that I might live as God created me to live, both here on earth and one day, with Him, for eternity. I'm not expecting perfection here, just more order and peace!
Instead of self-pity, more of This look, love, in the midst of trial or just simple inconveniences--to be cast upon my husband, my children, my neighbor, my friends, the stranger--and most importantly upon my God, the love of my life. And may it be from That Love that all my love flows.