Yesterday I remembered a post I had written on May Day back in 2006. That was a really good time for me. God’s love had become profoundly real. I was grabbing people’s sleeves and telling them, “The Bible is FULL of the love of God.” This was often met with nervous glances. No one knows what to do when someone says something obvious with total wonder. Only kids can get away with that sort of behavior.
I had been held hostage by the grace of God for years, roughly since I became a mother. Stockholm Syndrome had finally set in and it was wonderful.
These days, I’m focusing on hope and clutching at people’s sleeves again stating the obvious with awe. Hope seems to be really important to God too.
Up until a few months ago I’d missed that as well.
If you’d like to read that post, it’s right HERE.
I recently joined the 21st century and bought the iphone 4s. My kids were elated. Christopher immediately set up Siri and had her address me as “Alpha Mama.” He thought that was hilarious. I made him change it to my first name.
I enjoy having a smart phone but I’ve only taken advantage of a few things. I rarely use Siri but I do like her measured, unflappable tone. Years ago, when I worshipped my idea of the perfect mother, I think she would have sounded a bit like Siri.
Eden was with me in the car a couple weeks ago when I asked Siri to look something up and she couldn’t.
“Ugh!” I said.
“Frankly, Alison, I feel the same way.”
“This is stupid!” I said. It was ridiculous that this program could respond with humor but couldn’t fulfill this simple request.
“You’re certainly entitled to that opinion.” Siri said.
I put that phrase in my back pocket. With two teens, and an almost tween, that was gold.
The other day I said, “Call home.”
“Which home?” Siri asked. ‘Home’ or ‘Harmon Home’?”
“Home.” I repeated.
“You have two phone numbers for contacts named ‘Home.’ Which one should I use?
I glanced down and saw the numbers to the two rental houses we lived in after the fire. I haven’t written about the first rental that we lived in for just three months. I’ll get there eventually, just know that things didn’t go well.
The numbers themselves are a bad memory. After the fire, we forwarded our calls to Paul’s sister’s house, where we stayed the first six weeks. When we moved to the first rental I tried to transfer the number. Our kids had lost everything and it became important to me to keep that number, to maintain one, literal line of consistency for them. I spent hours on the phone, I talked to so many people at Comcast, for nothing. They couldn’t or wouldn’t let us keep the number.
In protest I never used our landline. Up until the fire, I rarely gave out my cell number, it was for my use, but afterwards, I used it exclusively and gave it out freely. And yet I thought, once we moved back to the new house, I had entered our home number, but I clearly hadn’t and I’d never bothered to remove either of the rentals.
It is strange what triggers sorrow. Regardless of how far down the road we might be, how over something we think we are, there are still the small things that flare and, if for only a moment, flame and then burn out.
I saw these numbers and was surprised. I felt the visceral pain in my stomach and a lump formed in my throat.
“I couldn’t understand what you said, Alison.”
“Call Paul.” I said.
And she did—without a question—as if she knew that Paul is, first and always, home for me.
You might notice that this dear girl’s eyes look a touch squinty. Poison ivy, or oak or any number of things was the culprit. Fortunately she’s doing well.
The other day I wasn’t feeling so hot. It was one of the last days of spring break. The kids were all sleeping in and I got up early with Paul but wanted to go back to bed. My reflexive shame kicked in and the monkeys starting beating drums, “You’re so lazy. You’re such a loser. You will NEVER finish your proposal.” (It almost always comes back to the stinking proposal, but that’s another story.)
I went downstairs to get a cup of coffee and realized I was hungry. In a rare moment of self compassion I decided to make myself breakfast in bed.
Later, when Eden got up, she came to my room and saw the tray on my bed and asked what I was doing and I told her.
“You just said my dream out loud.”
“It’s my dream to have breakfast in bed.”
“I’ve made you breakfast in bed.”
“But I had to ask for it. My dream is to just wake up and – there it is. You know?”
I did. As much as I preach the need to “Make a request” it is so lovely when someone knows you so well and surprises you with exactly what you want. I tucked away the reminder to do this for Eden some day soon.
Paul is sick today. He has finally learned to just take a day and get a lot of rest in order to avoid dragging for a couple of weeks. He called into work and then put himself back to bed. Eden and I left him alone until late in the morning I asked her to sneak into the bedroom and get something off my nightstand.
She brought it right back with the report that Paul was stirring. “We could make him breakfast in bed!”
I asked if he was really awake. She assured me he was. I should have run up myself to double check, but Eden already had a tray and was picking out Paul’s favorite bowl. I didn’t even know he had one.
While Eden poured the milk and cereal, I doctored up a mug of coffee, grabbed a napkin, a spoon and a pretty dish towel. Eden stripped a small branch from the redbud in a vase on our table and I filled a little glass bowl with water. These niceties, I don’t want to say they’re wasted on Paul, but they’re really for Eden and me, I know.
Eden led the way, I carried the tray and the dogs followed along.
We both knew he just needed to sleep and yet… Paul rolled over and pushed up onto his elbow. I gently set the tray on the bed. He took a few sips of coffee and ate a couple bites of cereal then thanked Eden. We left him to go back to sleep with the big black dog sprawled beside him.
Years ago, not too long after my dad died, I said to a friend who was a social worker with Hospice, “Don’t you feel like you know so much more about how to support someone who has lost a loved one?” I had learned so much as my dad was sick and dying about the logistics of suffering and assumed she, who had walked with dozens of families through the valley of the shadow, would be even more equipped.
An expression I can only describe as stricken, came across her face. “You know, I actually feel less prepared than before. I have seen time after time, something that would be perfect to say to or do for “that” family is the last thing that would be supportive for “this” one. I’m actually stressed that, no matter what, I’m going to say or do the wrong thing.”
When someone we care about is in crisis it can be hard to know what to do. Some of us get so tangled up in our worry about doing the wrong thing, we fail to reach out at all.
Others of us know exactly what that person needs and, with a heart full of love, barge in with an unwanted, albeit lovely, tray.
It is such a relief to remember that there is grace for all of us, still.
Sadly, they were too big. Eden slapped the jacket on him next and that was too small. We have decided to return everything tomorrow and bring Oliver with us to ensure the fit.