Tuesday, February 7, 2012

More Than She Could Bear

The four months that elapsed between the sudden death of my father and the day that I was born, were extremely difficult ones for my mother and siblings.  As is always the case with the unexpected loss of a loved one, life as they had known it had been irrevocably changed, and that unsettled period that followed his death was one fraught with grief and worry.  My mother told me that often, during those months,  she found herself overwhelmed by the idea of having another child to raise alone without my father to help her.  It was during these moments, perpetually colored by sorrow, that she sometimes wondered if God, despite His infinite wisdom, had somehow failed to realize that the added responsibility He was giving her might actually be more than she could bear alone.
The enormity of all that she faced in those months was great, and she sometimes doubted if she would be able to shoulder all her burdens.  The day my father had died she had only three dollars in the bank and the money that she had carried in her purse, with which to do the grocery shopping.  Just a few short weeks later, on Christmas Eve, her own mother fell seriously ill, after suffering heart complications, which added considerably to the stress she was already under.  Most challenging of all though, perhaps, was shepherding her three small children through their heartbreaking time of grief; needing to set aside her own, as she sought to provide them with much-needed comfort and a sense of security. 
I have always been touched by the poignancy of one image, in particular, that she shared with me from those days.  Since she had very little money she could not afford to buy a new car, so the car that my father had stood beside, as he said goodbye to her and my brother that fateful day, had to be repaired, rather than replaced.  She told of going to pick it up after the repairs on it had been finished, and how, upon seeing it for the first time since the day of my father's death,  her knees had buckled and she would have collapsed had her brother's strong arms not been there to catch her.  Still, it was that car that she went and sat inside each night, after she had made sure her little ones had fallen asleep, so that she could rest her head upon the steering wheel and cry, because she knew that doing so would ensure that her children wouldn't hear her.  Then, when she had finished, she would return inside the house, and make her way up to her bedroom where, on the bed beside her, she kept a shirt my father had worn prior to his death, so that the smell of his cologne which still lingered upon it, could provide her with one last tangible link, to the husband she so missed.
Finally the day came when she went into labor, and filled with worries about how her children would manage in her absence, her brother dropped her off at the hospital.  In the moments before I was born she pondered the terrible possibility that something could go wrong during the birth and what would happen to her little ones if it did. Once again, she questioned God's wisdom.  All went well though, and after several days she prepared to go home again.  As she sat on the bed, anxious to be picked up and reunited with her children, she held me in her arms and softly spoke to me.  She glanced up when she felt a presence in the room and saw her doctor, a family friend who knew of the tragedy she had just endured, standing close by.  He was a tall man and his frame seemed to fill the whole doorway. With surprise, she noticed tears upon his cheeks, as he quietly gazed down at her as she held me.  He spoke a few words of encouragement and then went on his way, but by then my mother didn't really need them, for she had realized that God had known best all along.
My birth, she told me, did not make life harder for her and her children; in fact, it was just the contrary.  I was a distraction from the grief and loss that had enveloped them; a blessing swaddled in a blanket.  It is God's gift to those who mourn, that sometimes grief must be set aside, so that life can once again be resumed, as we are forced to address all of our ordinary problems.  It is within those moments spent busy changing diapers, comforting a crying infant or even cutting an overgrown lawn, that healing, quietly and inexplicably, can begin to occur.
She asked me later, if she had inadvertently hurt my feelings by saying there was a time, during which, she had not looked forward to my birth.  I assured her she had not, for her sage observation has served me well during all those times in my life, when I have questioned if God has given me, more than I can bear. It has provided me with the strength to soldier on, for in my heart I know that what I perceive at one moment to be an obstacle, I will often view differently over time.  As my birthday fast approaches, just as I do every year at this time, I find myself reflecting on her story, and her conflicting emotions concerning my birth.  Once again this year, just as in years past, I am grateful for the wisdom of her words, and the comfort that they have provided me.  That story has been a gift, that has lasted me a lifetime.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

No!! I Was Not Late For Work Just Because I Was Pulling The Skin On My Face Very Taut, So That I Could See What I Would Look Like If I Ever Had A Facelift...There Were Other Reasons, Too.

I was almost late again for work this morning, and not just because I feel like the Tin Man from the "Wizard of Oz," due to all the metal in my back, when I first wake up each day.  It isn't even because, now, just a few days before my 53rd birthday, I have to allot extra time in the morning, so that I can try different ways to stretch my skin taut, while I am applying my make-up.  This, of course, allows me, for a moment or two, to remember what I looked like in years past, before I ended up with so many wrinkles.  No, I was almost late again because I always watch "Channel 7 Action News" and "Good Morning America," and I am constantly distracted by all the important observations I am compelled to make during the course of these newscasts.  Luckily for you, I am willing to share my remarkable insights, so that you too, may ponder them while you are getting ready for work tomorrow, ensuring that you will possibly be late, as well.
1. Why can't American newscasters be more like the anchor of the Canadian news show "The National."  Much like Walter Cronkite, in days of old, he simply reports the news, in a professional manner.  He respects the viewers enough to allow them to form their own opinions about events, and never attempts to influence them through his tone of voice or ad-lib remarks. Additionally, he does not engage in any insipid banter with his co-workers, which I am especially appreciative of.  Perhaps, it would be more tolerable if this supposed jocularity used to segue from topic to topic was actually amusing, but sadly it seldom is.  My feeling is, if you are going to engage in banter that I am forced to be a captive audience to, make sure it is witty and amusing!!!!!
2. The recent case of that poor Grosse Pointe woman, who was strangled and then found dead in her Mercedes, has been getting a great deal of coverage, both locally and nationally.  Two days in a row now the reports have stated that her body was found shoved between the front and back seats, and then, very cryptically, they add that a prescription bottle was found on the seat, as well. What does that mean?  Is that an important clue that provides the key to solving the case?  I mean, I even watch all those true murder shows on Court TV and I still do not grasp the significance of that tidbit of information.  I carry my prescription high blood pressure medication in my purse, and, if you have ever been unfortunate enough to need to get something out of it, it will come as no surprise to you that things like my medication are falling out onto the seat all the time!  If I should ever be found dead in similar circumstances, please do not spend anytime analyzing that information, because most of the time when that happens I DO NOT END UP BEING MURDERED...I just end up being annoyed, because I can't find my high blood pressure medicine when I need it.
3.  It was reported that Peyton Manning may not be able to return to football again, following his third surgery on his neck.  I am not sure what the first two surgeries were exactly, but I know the last one was a cervical spinal fusion.  I, myself, have had three spinal fusion surgeries, since January of 2008.  Two were lumbar spinal fusions, but the last one was a cervical fusion, like Peyton Manning's.  As sorry as I am that his injuries are such, that they may prohibit him from returning to the sport that he loves, and one that he certainly excels at, is it really any surprise that someone, whose spine is now fused together by utilizing metal spacers, cadaver bone and screws, should not participate in a sport in which the other team's objective is to prevent him from passing the ball by knocking his so hard, that he will, hopefully, find himself in an entirely different football game when he gets back up?  Seriously, I am more concerned that Mr. Manning seems to harbor some hope that he CAN return to the sport.  My suggestion is that his doctors run some more tests to determine if he has suffered a head injury, because, to me, it sounds like he has had a possible concussion.
4.  This observation forces me to return back to my favorite news show "The National" again.  Why can't the stories that are reported on our local and national shows include more global events, instead of featuring all the stories about celebrity mishaps or showing the same weather report, over and over?  Because the Canadian show does not pander to such tabloid-style reporting, or the need to create a heightened state of anxiety about a dusting of snow, they have time to provide complete coverage, on stories of real significance, that are not limited to just a moment in which to tell them.  As the stories unfold slowly, the viewer is provided with considerable information, with which to draw a conclusion from, rather than on a catchy sound-bite designed to attract viewers, regardless of if the information is misleading or not. 
5. And finally, why do so many companies have to repeatedly air commercials that I find so incredibly irritating?  In particular, I DETEST the commercial, during which individuals come across items on sale, and then scream at the very top of their lungs, in dismay.  Also, I do not like the commercial that suggests, no DEMANDS, that I discuss something that they say really matters, which is what goes on in the bathroom.  They have been sadly misinformed by their ad agency, because I definitely DO NOT need to discuss what goes on in the bathroom with them, and I will demonstrate this to them by NEVER, under any circumstances, buying their product.
That concludes the observations that I made, instead of getting ready for work, causing me to nearly be late again.  Obviously, they are of such importance that it would be unconscionable for my boss to penalize me, even if I were to arrive tardy. Since Andy Rooney is no longer with us, I feel it is my solemn obligation to follow in his footsteps and ask the hard questions about all the things I find annoying, and I will do my best to accomplish this while behaving like a cranky old curmudgeon.   I absolutely draw the line at ever letting my eyebrows get as bushy as his were though!!