“Full of Feelings” Month: Mother’s Day

Well, it’s probably no surprise that there would be a lot of “feelings” floating around on Mother’s Day, another one of those days of expectations that are hard to realize. Harder even than birthdays, in my opinion. This year I didn’t even wait till the weekend to get emotionally riled up, so yeah, I’ve cried pretty much all day, mostly inside my head, but outwardly as well.

Earlier in the week I met several young mothers and got reminded of how exhausting and plain old “hard” it is to have young ones. Add in various degrees of dysfunction and things become heartbreaking, overwhelming, difficult to share with others who could possibly help. I also feel bad for family and friends who don’t have the children they want and generally feel left out of motherhood in one way or another. I accept these stories, and kind of embrace them because the women telling them feel like my people. They are my people. I pray for them and wait for the healing I know God wants to give.

And then there is the husband (mine). He has not been feeling as perky as before and is definitely not moving around well. He needs a lot of help from me to do basic activities of daily living – ADLs. When we have visitors as we do this Mother’s Day weekend, I become aware of the things that are hard for me to enjoy because I am coupled with him. It’s vastly different from being a nurse and having to help elderly patients. I had no trouble with that. The husband, who looks SO OLD, is my contemporary, my covenant partner. His life is largely my life for the foreseeable future. It is not a happy picture when I look at it from that angle.

And always on Mother’s Day, I miss my own kids. We can’t help that we live so far apart and can’t be together. Most days we manage not to think about that at all, but on Mother’s Day it’s a 24 hour reminder that people are missing from my life. This is also the first Mother’s Day that my sister-in-law is missing from our family. She died last August and there was an act of closure today, as we buried her ashes in a small memorial garden overlooking the pond behind the barn. That was a hard one, not because we have no hope, but because we believe in grieving well.

But, emotional exercise includes happiness and gratitude as well as sadness. How wonderful it is that I don’t have to miss having my own mother with me! I had time to talk with her and share all these feelings, knowing that she cares. I had phone calls and texts from my girls. And I had three of my brothers and a niece and nephew here as well to share the weekend and be family to me.

I am thinking deeply about all these events, all these people and trying (imperfectly) to lay the care on God, like he said I could. He wants me to know, to care, and to love – but then to hand it over and let him do any heavy lifting.

I have a regular job cleaning my brother’s business place on the weekends. I didn’t really want to do it today because … those expectations again. But as I emptied garbage and straightened things up, I got in the rhythm of work and started to forget sadness. Seriously, if you ever want to change the way you’re feeling, go find a mess and clean it up, focus on getting rid of some dirt, make a difference. What a gift work can be. God meant it that way and I am thankful for work, even on Mother’s Day. Or perhaps, especially on Mother’s Day.

A special rest spot on the hiking trail – my three brothers and my niece. What are they looking at?
They are looking out over the beautiful Namekagon River valley, one of the National Wild and Scenic River areas.

The Birthday Problem

I have no one to blame but myself.  I think it all started for me with that first picture (I have no actual memories of the event),  the one where I’m in my high chair with a cake with one candle in front of me.  I have an unknowing look on my face but I’m about to start a lifelong habit of expectation.  People are lined up on both sides of the table and I’m obviously the center of attention.  And why not, it’s my birthday.

Ever since then birthdays have presented one kind of problem or another.  Sometimes it’s a problem for those who remember and must plan an event, a card on time, a meaningful greeting or those who forget and have to assuage their guilt.  Other times it’s a problem for the birthday boy or girl who can’t decide if they want people to know or if it would be better to pass the day in anonymity

There are some people, the husband for instance, who must not have had their birthday expectation pump primed in infancy. There is never a hint about the approaching holiday. There is never a post birthday let down.  It’s just another day and these people might even be surprised if you remind them that they are a year older on that day.  There are others who, like me, anticipate what might happen with a fair amount of excitement.  I have a list of these kindred souls.  Some years I even go out of my way to feed their birthday appetite.

And so it was several years ago with my friend J. Carroll Barnhill.  He talks about his memorable birthdays and always includes the one where I kidnapped him out to the beach with a picnic supper.  He hadn’t been there in years and it was quite a trick to get him out of his boots to wade in the surf.  A little sand on the fried chicken, a picture of the sun setting with a sailboat silhouetted against the sky, and you have a birthday memory.

There was also the year that he actually cleaned off the back porch and I got him a swing to hang from the rafters. Another time we had a breakfast party with a stack of whipped cream frosted pancakes for a cake.  And the year he turned 80, I managed to get the word out to most of his family and friends for a get together complete with presents and pot luck food.  Why do I do these things? Because I know he loves the fuss.  How do I know that?  Because, like a kid, he is reminding me that his birthday is coming.  Sometimes once, sometimes twice or more.  He clearly hopes to have fun because of what happened on seven, twenty-seven,thirty-three.

This year, knowing I would be out of town on the infamous day, I took him out to dinner at a restaurant.  It wasn’t his favorite restaurant but it was convenient and he had a good meal.  And we enjoyed ourselves.  It’s your day J. Carroll and I’m giving you a little notoriety on my blog to memorialize the event.  Happy birthday fella!.  Hope you’re having a great day.

Here you go, birthday boy!  Not bad for 80+.
Here you go, birthday boy! Not bad for 80+.