Archive for December, 2008

Trust

Okay, I just have to write about this now while it’s on my mind.

Some people have trust issues. It affects my life on a regular, if not daily, basis. I’ve seen how debilitating it can be for a person to live their life without the ability to trust even their closest friends and relatives. It has caused me some of the deepest pain I’ve known, and for a period of about two years I struggled with my own feelings of hurt, anger, and frustration at my lack of ability to cause a sense of trust in someone to whom I had done nothing worthy of mistrust before I gave it to God.

It’s so foreign to me. In our home growing up, my parents never showed any signs of a lack of trust between them. I honestly don’t believe there ever has been any lack of trust. They trusted us growing up to make the right decisions, there were rules, and there were consequences for breaking the rules. Hard-nosed enforcement of the rules? Never. We always had the choice to make our own mistakes.

Once, I talked to my dad about a situation I was getting myself into that had me torn between what my heart wanted and what my conscience said was stepping onto a slippery slope. I wanted him to tell me what to do, so I had a clear cut path to follow. I wanted him to forbid me or to encourage me, anything to give me an excuse to not struggle through it and make a choice for myself. He looked at me and I know he knew what was in my heart and how easily I could have made the wrong choice, and yet all he did was look me in the eye and say, “You know what to do. You know what’s right and what’s wrong, and I know you’ll make the right decision.”  I did make the right choice, one God gave me the strength to make and one that He saw me through.

That example of implicit trust is just an example of how I grew up. My mother is trusting to the point of being gullible. She does not believe anyone is out to screw her over. Sales people like her. But to some people, her lack of a reasonable amount of wariness toward the thoughts and motives of people around her constitutes stupidity. Truth be told, that also goes for me. I know without a doubt my trusting attitude has caused me to be labeled by members of my husband’s family as naive and unintelligent, even reckless. Trust is NOT a virtue in this family, it is an unfortunate tendency fostered by those with lower IQ levels. And we all know the IQ level in DH’s family is high on average, almost as high as their drive and ambition would lead them to believe it is.  I am neither unintelligent or gullible. I am, however, trusting.

But, even after all of that harsh generalizing, I realize I have more to learn. I’ve been frustrated and anxious over an issue in my own household that I can’t straighten out no matter how hard I try. All my life – or I should say: all my married life – I have wholeheartedly believed that this lack of trust was directly related to the choice of allowing bitterness and cynicism to rule over the natural tendency toward trust that we are all born with. I thought because of situations and circumstances that caused hurt and a loss of trust that those hurt chose to believe from that point forward that no one was worthy of trust until proven righteous. And even then they are still always worthy of suspicion.

All of these things I held to be true for years, until something came along in my life to throw a wrench in my thinking: my son. My son has been loved and cared for without fail, night and day, with all vigilance. The only thing in his life to ever cause him intentional pain or worry was his surgery, which was out of our control. Yet as long as he had his powers of reasoning engaged and was informed of all to be expected he was calm, collected, and understanding of the situation, far beyond his 3  1/2 years could possibly comprehend. It was uncanny. If he didn’t get the information he wanted and wasn’t sure what to expect, he was upset. It was then I began to get a glimpse into the part of him that came genetically programmed to belong to DH’s family tree.

Even with all of that constant care and love, J is still not a trusting child. He worries we have made a wrong turn when we drive places, and makes it a point to be informed of the names of the roads and where we turn when we go here or go there. And so he feels justified in pointing out where the wrong turn was made and where we should have turned to go where I said we were going. He gets information, he asks questions, he pays attention, and stores it all up in that sponge of a brain and then uses it. He thinks, he reasons, he forms opinions. I love that about him and I don’t want to discourage that in any way. But he does not think that anyone knows more than he does, and doesn’t seem to have the ability to trust that we are making wise decisions with information he’s not yet privy to.  I am completely at a loss as to how on earth I can instill a sense of trust in him. We are constantly telling him stories about children who trusted those that God placed in positions of responsibility and constantly encouraging him to obey us first when we ask him to do something, and then ask questions about the reasons behind it. It’s exhausting. I never thought I’d have to struggle  so hard to get my 5 year old son to trust me. It’s insane. And MUST be a trait he was born with.

That’s the only explanation I can come up with for why a 5 year old child cared for and provided for and loved without fail would be so resistant to trusting his parents. I think this will be a matter of prayer in my life for the rest of my natural born days. *sigh*

With all my heart I hope my children don’t choose the lonely path of distrust and apprehension. In my heart I equate that attitude with the self-fulfilling prophecy of calling a child stupid.  Be suspicious of people and they will become worthy of your suspicion. Tell a child he is stupid and soon he will be – because he believes it to be true.

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Christmas

Christmas morning found us up when we’re usually up. Long before the sun rose and kids tumbled out of beds, we sat on the hide-a-bed with the lights on the tree and the glow of the fire our only lights. We drank our coffee and listened to the Christmas songs on the radio, and waited for our three little kids to come down the stairs and drink in the wonder of Christmas morning.

EM was the first up, our little “coffee bean”. She fussed at 6 and got to come join us on the hide-a-bed and snuck a box of raisins out of her stocking. She’s the one who loves to snuggle and is content to just be held. By far the most sensitive of our children, we have always loved having her join us even in our quiet moments. Something in her sensitive soul drinks in the quiet, unspoken thoughts and she understands something beyond her years.

The other two were sharing a bed for the night, tucked away in their cold, drafty room under the big warmy blanket. We heard them come quietly down the hall and giggle at the top of the stairs, wondering if they should come down or not, since it was still dark outside. We called up to them and they rushed down the stairs, halting with big grins at the bottom, silent with anticipation, the lights of the tree reflecting in their lit up eyes.

We opened gifts by the light of the tree, in the dark, and it was all over much faster than even my cynical self could have imagined. They enjoyed each of their gifts, and they knew no disappointment over the lack of a big box wrapped in the living room, even forgetting to ask about it. As their mother, I was sorely disappointed that I couldn’t set up the swing set in there for them to wake up and see  on Christmas morning. It will have to wait till spring, and we told them about it over breakfast. It was anti-climatic, especially since that purchase made up the bulk of the budget for gifts, and then was left out of the festivities all together. But, they will love it in June, regardless of when I bought it and what it was for.

At the end of the day ELA was still napping when it was bedtime, EM went to bed a little early since she was up early, and I laid down on the couch with my son’s head on my arm and the smell of his hair drifting up to me. DH sat in front of the fire, and I fell asleep thinking back on my favorite memories of Christmas.

Drinking My Coffee

I’m just sitting here this morning, drinking my coffee and listening to the wind howl outside like it’s March 1st. The house is still a disaster and the same old Christmas problem awaits me – where to put all the new stuff in a house that’s already full to the gills with excess. Most of the leftovers are gone now, all of the Christmas music is missing from the radio stations, and it seems the only reminder that Christmas just came and went is the Christmas lights still decorating the houses we drive past.

I have more to write, but it will have to wait for a more peaceful morning! 🙂

Just Add Water

We live in such an “instant” society.

Want to talk to your friend? Call her! Not home? Call her cell phone, which should, of course, be turned on, charged up, and on her person at every moment of the day.

Hungry? Forget about making beans or stew that takes a couple of hours to cook, just run down to the McDonald’s! Drive thru open 25 hours a day!

In the mood for love? Takes too long to build a lasting relationship and put all things in the proper order, so just hop online and find someone compatible with your tastes who is willing to sleep with you, and there you go!

We buy instant coffee and instant potatoes, and when we’re still too lazy or in a hurry for that, we go for the fast food. We turn on the heat and seconds later feel warmth. We get cranky when we can’t get a hold of someone on their cell any time of day or night, and information is at our fingertips constantly through the internet. Diet not working? Go grab a bottle of pills!

Patience is no longer a virtue in our world today. Patience is equated with stupidity. Being so is seen as letting ourselves fall a step behind our peers, behind the times.

There is very little in our lives today that prepares our children for learning patience. There is nothing to train us in that virtue unless we choose it, or unless God hands it to us. Even then we have to choose to accept it, to still go in the order God ordained for us and not get our lives out of order because we are impatient.

Planning and patience. Two things I strive to do better at every day.

I kind of got sidetracked from where I was going with this, but that’s okay. I was going to talk about my mom again. Seems everything kinda goes back around to her. Anyway, the thing is, she wants to be able to get in touch with me at all times, and calls me every day. If I don’t answer her calls or call her back and three whole days go by, she’s calling in the cavalry. She calls around to my in-laws, trying to find out if I’m stuck in a hospital somewhere, or worse. I can’t decide if she genuinely thinks I’m injured, or if that’s just an excuse to give me guilt about not talking to her. She does genuinely have an unreasonable fear of death and dying, and not being able to say goodbye to those she loves. I’ve dealt with that fear all my life and I’m generally used to it, but sometimes it just seems so completely unlikely that she could believe that if I were dead or dying in a hospital that no one would bother to call her for 3 days. That’s beyond unreasonable, especially when you consider my in-laws are very intelligent, diligent people who would not neglect to call my mother in such an event, even if they do have whatever ill feelings toward her that she thinks they do.

Wow, I hope that makes sense because I am so not going back and rewriting it.

So, I really don’t mind the talking to me every singe day part, most of the time. It’s just that the daily phone call always goes upwards of an hour. Although, she has kind of learned that weekends are off-limits. Don’t expect me to answer, because I usually won’t, and I’ll call her back first thing Monday morning to catch up on all the goings-on. I’m spending time with my husband and family on the weekends, and they come first.

All the rest of the days of the week, however, belong to my mother. At least an hour on the phone, just about every day. If I sound disinterested, trying to wind down the conversation, she gets offended. If I tell her I’ve got to run, but don’t have a good reason, she gets offended. If I try to limit how often we talk or for how long, she gets offended. She’s gotten worse since Josh’s surgery. I think she felt horribly guilty for having to leave the next day, for not staying longer when “I needed her most”.  I don’t know, I think I would have ended up just having another person needing support from me and I had no extra to give at that time. It was better they left when they did. But there’s no convincing her of that.

She is a guilt driven person, and in reality, so am I. I just fight it harder than she does. That’s not how I want to live my life. And the truth of it is, when I get off the phone with her after our daily gab, I feel drained. I feel frustrated at the things I didn’t get done, at the things I could have been doing with my kids, and I have no energy to spend on conversations with the other people in my life. Letting her have that space of my time every day has strangled other important relationships because it is so emotionally draining. I have let slide numerous other friendships because of this. That’s a sad fact, and one that I need to face and deal with.

Even 20 years ago we would have only had one conversation a week, and sometimes not even that, because any more would be so impractical! 50 years ago we would have spoken maybe once a month, and written letters once a week. It’s amazing how far we’ve come in instantizing ourselves to the point of being ridiculous. We need some perspective.

The Impending Crash

“Bloom where you are planted.”

How many times do we as Christians hear that phrase? It has become a cliche, a bandaid we give someone who complains about their circumstances. But for me it’s something I try to absorb and take to heart every day. It’s a struggle.

I don’t hate it here, I don’t hate my new family, I’ve even learned to love my old drafty 200 year old farmhouse. Or at least I have fond feelings for it now. But there are so many things this place is missing for me. I always thought my kids would know my parents, would go to Grandma’s house for Saturday night popcorn and fruit. I thought they’d know Papa and hear his stories about the trees and woods and have lessons every Sabbath as they walked down to Wind River. I thought they’d be bonded to their cousins like I was to mine, spending every holiday together, playing for endless hours in the woods behind the house. I thought they’d grow up in the mountains.

There are so many resources out west, so many possibilities that are absent here, that aren’t even missed by those who grew up here. I keep trying to explain and often I feel like it falls on deaf ears.

This comes up for me this time of year because I’m homesick. I think of my parents and my brothers and their families, all together out there, and us out here. Yes, sometimes we go back home for Christmas, but it’s never enough. I think my mom started celebrating Christmas every year the first of December. And the more I remember about the way she made the holiday so very special, the more I’m amazed at how she bloomed where she was planted. She spent every Thanksgiving and every Christmas with Dad’s family, because her family was spread all over the country. Her mom died before I was born, and her Dad died when I was 5. Her brothers and sisters were never all together again since their mom’s funeral, and now two of them have also passed away.

And yet, my mom spent a whole month decorating, singing Christmas songs, baking, having parties, and so on, without anything in it for her other than the joy of watching her kids have fun. She rarely received any gifts. She never got to see her family. There wasn’t any recognition from us for all the work that goes into that sort of thing. And still, even now, every times she passes a house lit up with Christmas lights her eyes light up and she has to point it out.

I’d like to be that content someday, that able to let go of my disappointment, my bitterness at things my husband’s family does during the holidays, and just let God give me peace so I can bloom where I’m planted. Because this I know: I was planted here. For whatever reason, for however long a time, this is it. I was given to this man, to be his wife, to be his helper, not his thorn in his side, and not to control him, but to let him lead us as a family. Even when that means leading us places I don’t want to live, for time frames I don’t even want to think about.

I know Christmas will be gone before I know it, before I’m ready for it to be gone. And after the wrapping paper is all cleaned up and the new toys have found new homes in toyboxes, I will crash. There will be 3 months of winter, of snow and ice, of below zero temps, of brushing off snow and bundling up kids against the wind before I can go anywhere. Worst of all, there will be 3 months of very little to look forward to besides trudging through this winter, trying to survive ’till spring.

Things I’m Neurotic About

Been thinking about this post for a while. Now and then I realize that most normal people don’t do something that I do on a somewhat compulsive basis and then I sit back and try to figure out where I got that weird little behavior. Usually I end up at the same place: my Mom.

Take for instance – a few years ago when J started playing with Play-Do, I could hardly let him do it. For one thing, I don’t want to play with it myself. I never really enjoyed it all that much. How many snakes and tiny balls of play-do does one kid need to make before it gets old? I guess I just wasn’t all that creative. Second, how can anyone handle the mixing of colors?! It’s horrible! Each color needs to be separated back into it’s original can with all the rest of the bits of play-do of the same color.

I even tried to compel my 2 year old son to maintain some sort of element of separation of his colors, but soon it all started to turn brown. I couldn’t handle it. He didn’t get to play with the play-do anymore. Except when he went to his Great Aunt G’s house, where he made all the brown play-do he wanted and she revelled in his childish boyness. I started to realize I wasn’t normal in my aversion to brown play-do. So I started asking a few relatives, and come to find out BOTH my brother’s had the SAME aversion! We all laughed about it and then – asked Mom. Yep, come to find out, we were all apparently scarred for life by someone obsessed with keeping the colors seperate. It’s a family joke these days, and yes, I do let my kids mix it all up now to their hearts’ content.

I’ve been TOLD I also have neurotic tendencies when buttering my toast. Okay, okay, so I do have to make sure it gets all the way out to the four corners, but I don’t think that’s so abnormal. And I do tend to spend more time than necessary with the waffles but hey, there are so many little holes and it’s hard to get the butter evenly spread!  Thanks again, Mom, for sharing that weirdness with me.

My other one is about doing dishes. I can only use a dishrag once, and then it’s gross and goes in the laundry. I only use sponges to wash dishes with under running water, instead of in a sink of soapy water, and when I do that I hate it when my sponge falls in the water or gets wet when I don’t do it purposely. I know it’s weird, and I didn’t always do it that way, so I really can’t blame that one on my mother.

So. These don’t sound nearly as funny written down as they did in my head, but oh well. At least they’re out of my head now! I’m sure I have a lot more things I could write here that I’m just not aware of, living in happy ignorance here in my own little world.

More Week In Review

Well, it was a pretty pleasant weekend, all said. We spent most of our time all together as a family, and actually got out of the house and did some fun things, and that was a nice change of pace.

So after the excitement of this week, I had kept my spinning off the road to myself for the most part. I don’t really have a huge need to air my mistakes in public! I didn’t post any of that on facebook for my friends to laugh at or sympathize with. But, when I got to church, my FIL was on the podium, and during praise/prayer request time, he made sure to thank the Lord for His protection for us on the road, which I’m fine with, though I was a little chagrined at the time. Anyway, I did raise my hand and add my thankfulness for our protection during the same incident, and added the story about J falling through the floor when I was in the barn, leaving it with how thankful I was that he didn’t get stuck in the hole or fall on his head. Immediately this was followed by J popping up off the pew and announcing in the loudest voice he has, that “I fell on my BUTT!”. Snickers rippled through the congregation as I clamped my hand over his mouth and tried to slide down in my seat. *sigh*
I did remember what else I wanted to post about the other day, though. The old family barn fell in on Monday. It stood for 116 years over there on the south side of town, a piece of history of this town, and testimony to the 7 generations of DH’s family born here. It has now “joined the big house” as DH puts it! It leaves a big hole in the skyline as you drive by, and it really is sad that it’s gone.  Thankfully there were no animals or people in it or near it, no great damage to other property. Aunt K said it shook the ground as it went down. I’d post a pic if I could, but my camera is finally dead for good now.

I can’t believe it is just 10 days ’till Christmas! Tonight is the piano recital, Saturday we have a birthday party for Jesus with the Sabbath School kids and their families, then in the evening we are going to a sledding party. This past Saturday night we drove up to ER and walked through the town during their candle walk and enjoyed it immensely. The streets were shut down, there were fire barrels out in the street and Christmas music blaring from big speakers. There was a horse-drawn sleigh and ice carving, and Santa and Mrs. Clause were taking pictures in a restaurant. J really wanted to go in and see them, so we did, and he and ELA ran right up and sat on their laps, no shyness to be found there! EM is my little shy bean, and stayed safely within Daddy’s arms.

Right after the pic was taken, Santa asked J what he wanted for Christmas, to which he replied, “We already have a big box out in the garage for our Christmas present.”

Santa, “Oh really? What’s in it? A car?”

J, “No, I think it’s a WHOLE BUNCH of race cars!”

Santa, “I see. What else would you like for Christmas?”

J, “Momma says Santa’s not real!”

Santa then gave me a quizzical look, and I pretended to be busy with EM while I hid my snort of laughter.

We had an interesting conversation on the way home, it’s hard to explain to kids at this age the difference between reality and fantasy. Kind of like with dinosaurs. Anyway, no matter how many times I try to convince him Santa is not real, he can’t quite grasp the concept, and is convinced Santa will come down our VERY crooked chimney and eat the HUGE cookie he intends to leave for him. Oh well, there will always be time for reality later, and one thing I do know about J – he is his father’s son, and no amount of training from me will change that hard-headed gene.

My Husband the Binge Reader

It has been a busy week. We have 24 inches of snow on the ground and no relief in sight. DH leaves for work at 5 am and doesn’t get home until 6 or later. When I can, I do all the outdoor chores so he doesn’t have to when he gets home. Which means doing the shoveling if necessary, feeding the dogs, chopping and bringing in loads of firewood from behind the garage, feeding the barn cat, and feeding the horses. All together it takes me about 45 minutes on a good day.

The only way I can get this done with three little kids to look after at the same time is to do it during nap time. Well, nap time can, and usually does, get hairy with a 5 year old who doesn’t think he needs a nap or quiet time, a 3 year old who still tries to go poo in her closet now and then (or worse places you don’t want to know about) , and a tiny tot whose room is right at the top of the squeaky old staircase. During this time I will often lock their doors because I believe it’s the safest place for them to be when I’m out of earshot for more than a few minutes. Apparently this is not always the case. On Monday I was out for quite a while in the barn, trying to find the cat, and came in the house to find a crying 5 year old in the living room. Not so terribly odd, except that he had been upstairs in a locked room when I left the house! He had opened the grate in the floor of the room (did I mention we live in an OLD farmhouse?) and tried to rapel his way down a “rope” of carpet fiber to escape, and had landed not so softly on his rear end. He is fine, nothing broken, just a little bruise, but I think we’ve both learned our lesson. I don’t lock him in anymore and he doesn’t open the grate.  Now he tells everyone that he fell from his room down to the living room now, which makes an interesting conversation starter in public. I never did find the cat, but DH did later and brought her into the back room where she stayed for a few days  before escaping back to the barn. But the cat is a whole ‘nother story!

So on Wednesday, J had a dentist appt. for a cleaning and checkup, and though we’d heard we were supposed to get more snow overnight and I was planning to postpone the trip, the snow didn’t come. So I didn’t have a babysitter and packed all three kids into the car and up to the dentist we went, where the girls and I sat in a corner chair while J had his teeth cleaned. Thankfully we didn’t have to try for more x-rays. After all of that hassle and after I’d been cooped up in the house with three little ones far too many days in a row,  I decided to go for a bit of a drive, nowhere to go in particular, just to be out of the house for longer than 1 hr. So I kept driving past the house and towards town, where I fell in behind a guy going 15-20 mph the whole way out to the highway, about 8 miles or so. I thought for sure once he got onto the clear highway he would speed up, but he didn’t. Soon the cars piled up behind us and we were all getting a bit impatient. So when I saw an opportunity, I took it, and passed the guy. Almost immediately the tires broke loose and I realized that the whole highway was a sheet of black ice. We fishtailed for several hundred yards, across both lanes of highway, and I kept the rear behind me as long as I could, not touching the brakes, just steering into the slide, but we were going down a hill and picking up momentum, and eventually the back passed the front, and we went off the road into the soft snow on the edge. If we had hit a patch of dry pavement we would have flipped. It was scary, and I had to struggle to keep my own adrenaline and emotions in check because the kids were scared to death in the back. I’m so thankful our angels were keeping watch over us and keeping us from so many terrible possibilities. We were all safely belted into our seats and the car had no damage at all. The only cost to us was the $80 tow truck fee for yanking us back up on the road. We drove away from there a very blessed little family. While I was stuck there, I called DH, who called two of his friends, both of whom were willing to come and help us, but because we were on the highway we had to use a tow truck service. I was also called by a friend on the road commission who heard my name on the scanner, and he wanted to make sure we were all okay. And then, when I was just pulling away, DH’s aunt pulled off to the side of the road because she saw us there and was worried. DH also received a few other phone calls from friends and acquaintances who saw us as well. That is how much of a small town we live in and how concerned everyone is with taking care of each other. It’s amazing. You put that together with the neighbors of ours who have come and snowblowed our driveway twice so far this winter, and the other neighbors who have just simply adopted us as their kids (and grandkids) and I truly feel blessed to be part of this community.  To have people who care for me like that.

I’m sure there is more that I intended to write about this morning, but I have already been trying to finish this for over an hour, so I’m going to end now and hope to remember the rest later, and write about it at 5 am, the only time I can sit uninterrupted by kids, and write on weekdays, the only time I am uninterrupted by DH.

This is the book he has been reading most recently. A very interesting book written by a highly educated man with writing bent toward true literature. It’s one that I would enjoy reading myself, or together with DH, but that I HATE being interrupted constantly for, especially by someone who doens’t enjoy literature and has no sense of reading with a literatic rythm. DH loves to read me tidbits, and starts all of his interruptions by the word, “Wow.”, which is my cue to quit whatever I’m doing and wait patiently for the quote that follows. So this morning DH tells me, as I’m fixing his coffee at 6 am, that he feels that we have made some positive changes since putting in the stove, and that he’s happy we are watching less tv in the evenings. It’s true – we only attempted to watch one episode of Crossing Jordan on a netflix during which I fell asleep.  He tells me how much he has enjoyed just sitting by the fire and reading his book instead. And then, he says, “I think I’m doing a better job of not binge-reading with this book.” I couldn’t help but laugh. I guess you have to know the man to understand why!

Remembering

20 years old here

20 years old here

It is December 2nd again. I can’t believe it has been 7 years. I probably say that every year, don’t I?  It’s hard to believe how fast the years go by when each day seems to go so slowly and tediously at times with three little kids. I’m looking at pictures of a birthday picnic by the river for his 23rd birthday. My word, but we were all just kids back then, weren’t we?

(***** sorry, sweetie! I thought about cropping you out, but it’s so beautiful just the way it is. No one I know reads this, except you 🙂 but if you want me to take it down I’ll do so.*****)

carl1

2001 made us all grow up in so many ways. It was the year I hopped on a plane with a one-way ticket away from home with a suitcase full of clothes and $42 to my name. And then Jake became a dad, only the second in our group to become a parent, and to me it seemed the whole universe added another dimension with that birth! I took my first real road trip in the midst of a confusing break up and made some lifelong memories!

Jeremy got married, and just a week later the sky fell down around us when the Twin Towers collapsed. The realization that such a thing was possible in our own country was startling, it took years for that shock to wear off, and I still hesitate sometimes when I turn on the TV in the morning to watch the news. My breath catches when I see a Breaking News segment flash across the screen, and I can’t help but say a prayer. Just a few weeks after that I got married, moved across the country, and started a new life. A month later Scott was in that terrible accident, and left behind a young widow and three babies.

At that point I thought I was nearly numb – so much had already gone wrong, so much to process already with 9-11 and Scott’s death.

And then Carl. Beautiful Carl. 24 years old, gone. So final, there is no going  back. There is no chance to say the words you might have said if you had known he would be gone. No way to change anything. I remember the last time I saw him, standing on the stone steps of the church. He looked so lonely. I wanted to invite him over for dinner, especially since my parents were visiting, but we had already made plans to go to D&B’s for dinner. I didn’t explain that to him, and looking back now I know no one would have cared, even D&B, if he had come along with us.  I know, it’s all fruitless regret, part of the process of coming to terms with it and making plans to not have regrets with the rest of the people you care about. I guess I’ve come to terms with it as much as is possible. As much as a person can come to terms with something God never meant us to know, to feel. We were never meant to have to know death in that way, or so many other things that are the result of a fallen world, of sin and selfishness. Only God can redeem us from the cynicism, guilt, fear, false securities we place in our hearts as a result of these hideous things, and only He can heal those scars, both those placed there by others and by a sinful world, and those we put there ourselves.

20 years old, at my 18th birthday party

20 years old, at my 18th birthday party

So this is the first year of the anniversary that John is dead, too. I can’t help but wonder if they buried him next to Carl. That part of it doesn’t seem real to me, I still have this fear in the back of my mind that I can’t quite get rid of, even knowing he is dead. Maybe I would believe it more if I could see his grave. Maybe it is less a fear of the actual person and more a fear of the unimagineable. Because in that moment, hearing my brother’s voice, those words seemed far away, in a distant world that I didn’t belong to. And then, the disbelief was slowly displaced by facts, by reality. Somewhere in those hours of sleeplessness I had to face the fact that even the most evil, hideous things, only dreamed of in the minds of demons, really do happen. Innocence is gone in a moment, replaced by fear or faith, whichever you choose. Sometimes that choice is a desperate, daily struggle, especially since becoming a mother, since knowing I cannot make my children safe. I can do my best, but it will never be enough. Never. They are in God’s hands.

It was horrible to go through J’s surgery. I really had to place him over and over in the hands of God, each time struggling with the knowledge that it’s possible for someone so young to die, to be lost in a blur of pain and memories that fade, to be gone when there is so much potential yet to be realized. Maybe I would have dealt with it all differently if I didn’t know that, but that is a knowledge you can’t remove from your soul.

I remember Carl’s smile, I remember his laugh. I remember hearing his laugh once very distinctly rising above the tall grass through the apple trees in the orchard and it is a good memory in many ways. I remember his voice singing beside me as we trudged through the snow singing carols for ingathering. I rememer sitting with him in the ski lodge while we drank hot chocolate and talked about watching people while he waited patiently for my feet to unthaw. I remember sitting in a theater with him while I cried over Rose and Jack. I remember him standing thigh deep in the water of the American River, the sunlight on his back, watching him watch R. I remember him standing on a pinnacle 2000 feet straight down to the rocks below, nonchalant, no fear. Hey, if Jake could do it, so could he.. and that was an arrangement that worked both ways with those two.  I remember the sleet and snow the day of his memorial and the tears that wouldn’t stop. It’s good to remember, though. I’ll always remember.