Watching Them Grow

As I sit here in room 3318, I hear the soft hum of machines, a barely audible television playing National Lampoon’s Las Vegas Vacation, an air vent blowing air making this already too warm room stuffy, I am having a had time being still. Both of my parents softly snore as they sleep and there is nothing much for me to DO. I feel helpless in these tiny accommodations. I can’t help my mom get better – and looking at her lying in the hospital bed with wires coming from all of the folds in her oversized hospital gown – I feel so helpless. My dad sits in the “comfy” chair in the room, as close to my mom’s bed as he can be. He is napping, but wakes every few minutes just so he can worry some more.

How did the years go by so quickly to bring us to this point where I am now taking care of them? It seems only yesterday that they were the caretakers, making sure I ate well, fixing my boo boos, and reassuring me of their everlasting love. And now here I sit in that role, making sure they know they are eating well, helping to fix their boo boos, and loving them for hard.

I saw a quote today and it fit so well into the flurry of emotions I am feeling.

When you’re a kid, you don’t realize you’re also watching your parents grow up

As children we do not have the awareness to understand that our parents are still growing up – into adulthood and parenthood. We don’t really understand that they have their own worries and stressors beyond our own little worlds. Today I feel the message of that quote in a big way. Today I am seeing my parents in a whole new way.

I pray that they have many more years left on this Earth…because there is just not enough time for me to thank them and try to take care of them – even though it will only be a fraction of all that they have done for me. I hate that my mom has had to go through this experience, but for me, the blessing is a whole new level of love and appreciation for these two human beings who gave me life. And what a good life it has been.

Home

I went back to college in my late 30’s to earn a teaching degree. I had two school-aged children at the time. To say that managing it all was a challenge is an understatement. One year into my three year journey, my 16 year marriage ended. This event did not make life easier. But I kept going… My senior capstone work was creative writing. Considering the season of life that I was in, my writing from that time was raw and full of emotion. After the program was over and I had graduated, I put that writing portfolio away. It was a reminder of the pain and hardship of that time in life.

Recently, I came across my senior capstone portfolio. As I sat in my basement office in our quiet house, I read. And read. And read. Tears flowed freely as the words flooded my mind and heart with the memories of that year. I was surprised by some of the pieces. I hadn’t even remembered penning the words. Some of the writings were almost too difficult to read, and I moved through those quickly. But others were full of sentiment and happy memories of life “before” all of the hard stuff came along.

These writings have been in a beat up red file folder for more than a decade, and I would like to finally share them. So, over the course of the next few weeks I will share one at a time. The first piece is called “Home.” This was written in November, 2008.

Home

Home is the smell of sausage frying in a ridiculously heavy, old cast iron skillet once belonging to Granny. The smell would sneak down the hallway to my bedroom in the early morning hours. It was our signal that it was almost time to get up. The sound of cabinet doors and drawers opening and not so gently closing always came with morning. Daddy was the responsible party – and we knew when we smelled the biscuits in the oven, it was time. Daddy would whistle while he cooked each morning – yet another not so subtle wake up call for us. And when we finally stumbled to the kitchen we were always greeted by an awful mess. Homemade biscuits always left a trail…a light covering of flour on every available surface.

Home is the quiet of late afternoon – the dull rhythmic thumping of the dryer in a distant room. Background noise – a lone television broadcasting afternoon headlines to an empty room, the occasional creak of the ironing board as my mother ironed in the living room. The perfect blend of these sounds in the late of day is a recipe for home.

Home is the small tree growing in the front yard. Not an impressive tree – at least in stature – but to my sister and me it was…a princess castle, a pirate ship, a mountain top, in the jungle, a hiding place, base, and adventure, a swing, monkey bars…and the dreaded sources of our daddy’s “switches” – used only in the worst of circumstances. When Daddy went to grab a switch from our beloved tree, it was only then that we wished it didn’t exist.

Home is dinner around the dining room table, saying prayer before eating, holding hands as a family and thanking God for the nourishment which he had provided. And not complaining about what was on the evening menu. “It’s not right to thank God for our food and then complain about what it is, ” Daddy would often remind. Familiar meals, comfort food, were served in a weekly rotation…foods such as meatloaf, and fried chicken, and once a week…breakfast for dinner…a concept my own children will not warm up to.

Home is the conflict and tension of teenage brothers, resentful of their “step” mother and angry over the death of their own. It is the open defiance and harsh words heard by my sister and me as we hid at the top of the stairs – terrified but curious. It is the sound of objects thrown, painful sobs, and endless slamming doors. Home is the feeling of being torn between family members. Admiration for older brothers, and the natural love for a mother and father.

Home is the gentle reminder from our father each time we left the house. We were not sent on our way with rules or threats but rather with four simple words from our soft-spoken patriarch…”Remember who you are.”