Love in the second half of life
Will I overhear you only listening, your thoughts
better left unspoken, except to me?
Will you turn to me, eyes light up,
with bewilderment, and the shyness of a man?
After a while, will you hold my hand
Your warmth penetrating more than words?
Will I watch you talk with a brother, mother, daughter
Of old days and half-grown dreams?
Will I love the boy you were so long ago
Tenderly hold you wonder, and your pain?
Will we savor seasons, no more rushing?
Will time be flowing backwards, forwards, standing still?
Tag Archives: love
Never had so much prayer goin’ down around here before, and I say Bring it on! Whatever prayer is, whether objective truth or pragmatic placebo, I don’t care. I’m leaving behind my Truth filter, for this part of my life at least, and saying, whatever works, and I don’t care how or why.
My husband has been diagnosed with stage four cancer.
A long time ago I started writing a post called An Idol Demands a Sacrifice, about my husband’s addiction to chewing tobacco, which had its roots in football culture of the ’80s. I went though anger, trying to pressure him, then letting go and distancing myself. Then I was relieved that he quit, then came new disappointment and anger when he started again. Anger at his brother for leading him into temptation. There was a good deal of fear back when the kids were younger, as he had no life insurance, no job security, and, most of the time, we didn’t have much in savings. I was substituting, coming back into teaching after fifteen years of homeschooling our children.
His dad died in his fifties of esophageal cancer complications (lots f prayer healed the cancer, but not the perforated esophagus that resulted from radiation and bungling).
Two months ago he quit, and he knew it was for good, and no more excuses. A month and a half ago he decided to do an herbal detox, and soon started feeling stomach pain along with the cleansing. Thought it was just a reaction, or maybe the flu, which was going round. He quit the detox, still had pain, and we decided h should get checked. Blood tests came back normal, but internal scans did not.
This time my anger didn’t last long–I’ve learned to let go of it, along with worry and fear. I know how to let go, and detach from intense emotions. I kept the anger to myself except to confide in a friend, who totally got it, and said now she was mad at him too. But I’m done with it now, and good riddance. By the time I shared the preliminary news with my daughter, I had to explain my calmness so she wouldn’t think I was unfeeling.
The cancer either originated in the stomach or the pancreas, but fortunately (or unfortunately, as it led to it being missed until advanced), relatively low pain, for that kind of cancer. It’s been a week or so of appointments, and there are a few biopsy results to come in, but we saw the endoscopy photos and CT scan images, and we can be 99% sure. It’s off to oncology to look at options next week. Medical options appear to be few and too awful to bother with. We’re not that desperate.
Still, we’re inviting anyone and everyone to pray for us. All my wonderful believing colleagues and my husband’s family have been bending the knee on our behalf. Last week a Catholic priest engaged in the sacrament with my husband, who has no denominational, or even major religious category, hangups. This morning an old Bible study friend and his son, both now known for a gift of healing, and several other prayer warriors, some we’d never met, gathered around my husband for a laying on of hands, and even a bit of babbling and grunting sounds that apparently come from the Spirit. One of the women prayed for me generally, and claimed an annointing for me, but darned if I can’t remember which one. Must ask my other friend of many years, who was there too shedding tears with me, if she recalls. Or maybe just wait for a manifestation. Don’t mind if I do.
This evening there turned out to be a multi-denominational healing prayer service, so my husband went there too, and people prayed in all kinds of languages, one declared that he’ll live to a hundred.
We hold all possibilities with open minds.When he came home from the prayer meeting, I suggested we write down all the prayer times and special words, prophesies, or occurances, so we can track progress and share the story. I said, I don’t even know what prayer is, and I don’t really care, becasue I know its the right direction. He smiled and agreed. You know, I added, I’m not into all the shaking and weird sounds — I don’t get that, never will–it’s not my personality. I hope no one will judge me as unspiritual for that, and I hope I won’t judge anyone for being more of a Pentecostal type. I’m just more of a Presbyterian, I guess. Though I do like to pull in the other direction of any majority I’m among, I must say. I don’t like getting worked up or manipulated into some kind of meditative state, though I recognize the value of that sort of leadership, I guess, for certain personalities.
We are also strengthening my husband’s immune system in every way we know how, with advice coming in from all angles. My husband has declared over and again that I was right all along about nutrition, and is glad that his radical turnabout has been pretty smooth for us all, since I had the kale and cabbage in the garden, a freezer full of antioxidant rich home grown berries, and knew how to make dandelion coffee and identify cancer-fighting weeds growing in abundance even in the winter. The additional learning I had to do for my How Not to Starve class is a bonus.
And my husband is finally laughing at my lame humor. Yesterday morning, I came out in the morning to find my husband in tears of joy, and he shared what he had heard from God, and the sense of love he felt. Then he said he wanted to do some more juicing. “I want to drink a cabbage, he said.
“Is that what God told you?” I asked. He started to shake with laughter, held in, because his stomach was sore, but went on and on, as I joined him. Kind of a Monty Python style, like the shrubbery skit (Nights of Nih) “You must drink….a..cabbage!”
We’re pretty sure my husband’s cancer will have to slow down, at least. All that love, peace, humor, and good nutrition will have its effect. And we’re pretty sure we don’t want him to do any radiation or chemo, which may attack the cancer, but also attacks any sort of physical comfortableness and placebo effect that one needs to feel half decent and heal. Prayer, love, laughter, and good food have no drawbacks at all as far as we can tell.
Here I am, still losing my religion. I had a flicker of hope, though, that it might be in order to find to again, and a feeling that a this point at least it’s not about any leap of faith or girding up of loins, but a kind of waiting, watching, and calling up of the bare bones essential truth of what I still believe.
I’m among believers at my work place–maybe about half, I’m guessing, though there’s not much mention of that, as per the Separation. Anyway, their best way of bearing witness is in the love they bear toward the least of these. I’ve come around to that after all, Dad.
A few days ago I had the privilege of witnessing something beautiful–a brief interaction between one of my students from last quarter, one of a set of twins that are carrying the weight of virtual homelessness, and the counselor. The girl finishes school each day wondering how she’ll get a drive to the place where her nearest relative is crashing, how may people she’ll have to call, whether she has a friend in the world. Also wondering how her court case will shake out, whether there will be jail time for her soon.
She was heading out of the office, and the counselor reached out with her name and a few words–I could tell it was just another part of a long effort in the same direction, to once again offer good wishes and a tone of real compassion, in case she could believe it this time. Her usually frowning countenance heard it, and also from the principal, who was there too seeing her off, and she kind of softened, took it in, as she turned to head out the door.
I notice a lot of that sort of thing around here, and it’s softening me, too. Staff catching up on news of this or that former student, whether happy in a good job or showing up on the jail report again. Talk of former students who can hardly wait until they’re twenty-one, or five years out of school, to be Facebook friends with the teachers who had their back when times were rough.
Now that I feel accepted by the students and no longer viewed with suspicion, as possibly one who might not “get” them, or might abandon them as some felt the previous teacher did, there’s more of an opening for me to give off that kind of warmth too. I don’t want to take that for granted, or offer anything that isn’t genuine. I’ve made lots of mistakes already from ignorance and lack of experience, or from wearing a mask to hide my own insecurity. Here’s to being a channel of the divine peace.
Drove back in my small car with the large windows that admitted in the light of the blazing stars between the dark trees. Had just dropped my son off with his luggage at the team rendezvous for the training trip to the sunny south. For less than a week this time, but what came into my mind was that soon I will be saying goodbye and good luck and I hope you have everything you need for college.
I am not a worrier, nor do I long to keep my children tethered and comfortingly local if such is not their path. Lately I have been happily dreaming about the exciting world of possibilities ahead of them, the joys of advanced study and building their own communities and life paths. I’ve been remembering my own happy college days. But as I drove back home, the stars pinpoints millions of miles away yet able to pierce the weak yellow glow of the streetlights, I remembered the mistakes I made, the painful parts of discovery, and my dark nights of the soul.
It’s not whether he eats right or remembers to separate light laundry from dark, buys in bulk or keeps his grades up that puts my heart on edge for him. It’s the narrow, rocky, dangerous path of wrestling with painful self awareness and essential solitude, the search for fellowship and true friendship, the struggle to master the self in learning personal discipline, the need to deny the self to put others first, the grounding in self acceptance, personal humility, and reasonable confidence wherein the most risk lies. Real risk, of more than life and limb. I hope that he will have guardian angels to remind him not to go it alone, that he is not alone, to whisper hope in the dark like the light of those stars.
That post about the alien movie was kind of different for me, wasn’t it? My way of getting out of a rut of writing mostly about things that bug me. Lots of things bug me, and when I don’t take that in a spirit of problem solving and creative public articulation, or at least self examination and compassionate understanding, I don’t like my own voice. Why would anyone, except someone who wants to complain along with me. I’ve sensed that kind of flavor in others’ writing on issues about which they have been passionate. At first there is the prophetic voice, the reasoning enlightenment, the hopeful invitation to raise one’s consciousness, mindfully pursue lofty goals, and celebrate progress. Then as the road is hard and so many do not respond, there’s a regression into mere sarcastic announcements of business as usual, with a tendency to neatly package up the opposition into labelled and derided types who aren’t even ceded approval for their best actions. Then one camps in one’s comfortable position, and who really helps anyone else grow from there?
When you find out about some word or action that someone has performed that goes against all your cherished values, do you ever think, “but surely they had good intentions”? That is, other than in those with the clear motivation of being reelected, increasing the bottom line, or escaping responsibility. That assumption of innocence (however unrealistic, I want to add), usually comes from the right place, from which there can be dialogue. It works both at the personal level, such as in parenting or management–we are advised to “catch them doing something right.” To open dialogue, door to door evangelists always start on something we can all agree on, such as “Do you desire a life of significance?” Could that also work–at least better than scathing criticism and threats, in the public domain? I mean, showing respect, starting from, or trying to find, common ground, and calling out the best in a person?
A teacher friend of mine, smart and liberal minded, once recounted the story of how she heard in the lunch room one teacher asking another the rhetorical question, “Can you believe that some people don’t like Sarah Palin?” She responded with, “I have some views on that, if you would like to hear them.” Which they agreed to do. After describing Palin’s failure to be a devoted caregiver to her disabled child during the course of her political campaigning, she left these two teachers wondering if Sarah Palin was really conservative enough to have their approval. She opened the possibility of a meeting of ideas because she appealed to the values she knew they had, and applied them in a new way.
Did you know that people are more likely to believe evidence presented by scientists if the scientists are friendly? So I must be right in thinking that I need to steer clear of the “rude awakening” approach. With all due respect to Flannery O’Connor and John the Baptizer. But what self control it requires, what conscious and purposeful loving and humility! If I really want to change anyone’s mind, that is, and not just rail from my room.
So I meditate on this phrase: all in a spirit of love. (Mainly referring to 1 Corinthians 13 as the model) This has helped me to have a better perspective in home and family life, such as when I don’t want to clean up someone else’s mess (serve one another in love), or annoys me (love is patient), or fails to share my values (love is not proud). Helps me when I want to put off a duty or good deed (love is kind), want to let someone else set the good example (outdo one another in showing honor), want to stretch my little bubble of comfort and enjoyment at the expense of productive service. And so, can I manage to love in my writing?
Except, today was another annoyed at everything and everyone day. Annoyed that I feel so pushed into consuming by my culture, to buy crackers at $6 a pound, chips at $8 for a get together. Annoyed that none of the retail or office buildings in the new town minicenter has solar panels, only designer parking lots. Annoyed that some people drive twenty miles twice a week to exercise at my Pilates studio. Annoyed that some trendy health food company passes gluten free chocolate nut bars off as paleo diet (“for your inner cave man”). Annoyed that people grow lawns they never use and shop at the grocery chain. Annoyed that I have a big driveway and not enough bike storage. And so on.
I shared this with my daughters as we drove this evening, all about how grouchy I’d been feeling and some of the reasons why, and that I knew that the only good cure for frustration is work. Which includes speaking the truth in love, yeah.
Ever trying to be a voice of reason. Choosing stocks for our retirement portfolio like Spock, as one is supposed to. Spock used to be my nickname, due to a habit I had of underfunctioning in the emotional expression department when others seem to be going over the top. I’d go all logical and try to work things out that way. I’ve learned that that just drives upset people nuts, and leaves my own emotions not dealt with–exhausting.
In other reasonable efforts, I’m trying to help with sibling conflicts related to one driving and picking up another on time or not, messes in said car, how much should one expect and give in a relationship of duty and dependence? As I offer suggestions to one and then the other, I realize my lack of good example has not been helpful. I say, give more than you feel like giving, when you have a chance to show love, make someone feel taken care of, do it, rather than constantly hashing out minimum expectations and boundaries, taking offense, feeling put upon. As for myself, I am so intent on cutting down on carbon dioxide emissions that I don’t do those little extra dropoffs and pickups that could be a way of showing maternal love, going the extra mile. Offers of walking down the hill to meet my child, or biking together to the bus stop, not received the same way. Offers to fix lunches often turned down on the grounds that I don’t use the right foods. Still, there’s always the nightly opportunity to give back rubs to one sore kid or another, and now and then to type out or proofread a paper.
In the long, quiet hours of the day I try to catch up on house cleaning, which I hate (except laundry), and soon gravitate to refinishing cabinets and furniture (creates a finished product, unlike housework). Satisfying to work the sander out in the wind, see the grain emerge, brush on the finish. Then some writing–not much I can think of blogging about, but I’m researching the issues around the Common Core State Standards and testing, getting the No Child Left Behind and Race to the Top timelines nailed down, identifying the players, formulating a letter of response, waiting for my copy of A Chronicle of Echoes by Mercedes Schneider (review here). Gotta channel Spock in that work too, as it’s pretty alarming stuff. If it gets too gnarly I get back to woodworking, or go dig up some weeds, wash the mud off the pumpkins, look for the last strawberries.
Then it’s off to take my daughter to the horse barn, and back to pick up my son from track and field. He’s down, really down, exhausted, he says, from running three miles, but of more concern, says he’s a weirdo, crazy, not normal like everyone else, hates life. He said similar things when I picked him up two days ago. I want to encourage him–I know he is different, does have some habits others make fun of, but I want him to know that’s okay, he doesn’t have to be like anyone else. Or, does he want to try to be like those people? Yes! He tries, he says. But no, he doesn’t really want to be like them. I start to ask him what in particular has happened, he says he doesn’t want to talk about it any more. At home I fix him hot chocolate, he turns on an audiobook, plays some piano, all calm and cheerful apparently moved on. I come by in a quiet moment, tell him to remember his home, his friends, remember the people who love his personality and uniqueness. I tell him that if he’s around kids who aren’t kind, who don’t appreciate him as he is, he shouldn’t share anything special with them–save it for the people he trusts, who will understand. He says he will.
I want him to get through this, learn from these difficulties, but I don’t want him to be wounded. What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger, sometimes, but it can also kill you. The desire to homeschool again comes–would that be the right thing to do? But I’m working now, maybe I shouldn’t consider it, maybe I won’t bring it up with my husband. Those days are gone, aren’t they? Yet his siblings were all homeschooled at his age, and in some ways he makes a great homeschool kid–loves to learn, experiment, write, read, make videos, and I sure could challenge him more in the math department. He’d get back to memorizing poetry, which he loves, could set up a business, which he’s now too busy to do, and we still have tons of good curriculum. Truth is, I’m not sure I’m up for it. Do I have the energy, the willingness to put off my daytime goals and projects? There’s so much that Spock can’t answer for me here.
It took me a half hour of soaking in a tub of hot water to get the chill out of my bones after the horse show today. But only the body heat got stolen, while my heart was warmed. See, I found that by hanging around in my winter gear toting saddles and bridles and baskets of tack back and forth through the icy wind and the cold, high barn, getting snapped at, instructed, ordered around, apologized to, pushed off, then finally thanked again and again, I’ve got the message through to my thirteen year old daughter that I love her a whole bunch and am there for her. I could see it in her lightness of spirit, her playfulness, her sweetness through the drive home and at supper. Yeah, she had to throw a few comments the others’ way for not showing up (my husband was sick with a bad cold; big brother assured her that he wanted to see her ride next time; sister reminded her she came last time), but it was enough that I was there. A relief to know that cup of hers is full again, ’cause we’ve seen a lot of spills.