Tuesday, June 28, 2011

To be loved....

Ask yourself the first time you felt love. Maybe you remember an age. Or a time. For me, I remember scenarios as clearly as if they were last night.

One afternoon in 3rd grade, a classmate of mine since kindergarten, was the subject of conversation for several boys in my class. She was having a sports-themed birthday party the following weekend and they were quite excited. You know it had to have a sports theme to get 8 year old boys interested in attending ANY girls birthday party. And one more reason for me to say Hallelujah for being born in 1971 long before Dora the Explorer and Polly Pocket were on the scene.

I was friends with this group and wondered if my invite was perhaps delayed. Surely, she would mention it to me before the weekend and expected party day arrived? The days ticked by and I was increasingly awash with those forlorn and mixed-up feelings typical to little girls. The day of the party, I recall standing in my parents kitchen with giant sad tears pouring out of my face over this potential exclusion.

Rather than brushing me aside, my Father, the man least comfortable with histrionics, assured me my invitation was likely just lost. With a hand on my head, he told me he would see if he could solve the problem. He pulled out our phone book (remember those?) and flipped through until locating the data he needed. He then phoned her Mom and explained the situation (as if she couldn’t hear the commotion and cobble all the clues together herself.) Her Mom insisted my invite was in fact lost and asked him to bring me over immediately. I went to the party with my angst assuaged where I played and played, never the wiser at the time.  

Oh, what a delightful woman you were, Mrs. B, to take one for the team when you didn’t have the heart to tell my Father that it wasn’t a technicality. The party was a for a girl, a serious tomboy, who opted for a tomboy party with basketball and only boys who could play Horse with the best of them. And rather than brushing off my abundance of tears, my Father made the call, made the drive and swept away the evidence of my despair. And likely, he told me to get on that court and sink them in since he was, after all, my basketball coach at the time. But no man wants to see their  daughter cry over something as intangible as hurt feelings. So he set about to fix it, and he did. And in this small transaction, I was capable of feeling the very real protective blanket of Fatherhood, and also what it meant to be loved.

7 years later, this same girl was on the way to school one morning. Her sister behind the wheel and her brother in the front passenger seat. Yet, this day, unlike every other day they traversed this exact same path, something happened that was a life-changing moment for everyone in the car and in the family. The loss of a child or a sibling is something no one should have to experience but because it isn’t planned, it can not be avoided as if it simply something you never put on your to do list.

And that day was full of impact for me too, but for clear and distinctly different reasons. A day I still remember vividly from the room and exact chair I was sitting in when they made the announcement, to the collection of angst that spiraled around us.  I was ill-equipped to handle death not because I was immature but because I was not experienced. Yes, I had lost grandparents but most of them when I was very young so the emotional reverberation in those scenarios really stems from  being privy to your parents anguish, not because you thoroughly understood loss. 

But to see a friend, a girl your age, wearing the same Nike shoes and Members Only jacket you also wore, taken out of her own life like a edited movie clip was overwhelming.  My own Mom, having heard the news, called my SD (Step-Dad) and told him what happened. Intuitively, the knew that I would struggle with something close enough to touch but far too foreign to navigate.

As I sat in our high school gymnasium with throngs of other teens under a heavy layer of sadness and bewilderment, no one had the technology at the time to simply ring your Mom on a cell phone. Or send a text reading “ I need you.” And at that time, you rarely if ever phoned  a parent at work. After all, this was a period of time in the work force where work - life balance was not yet a firmly established phrase.  The primary focus of work was to work.

Packed into the bleachers heads bobbing in a sea of sad faces, suddenly, I see my Mom’s face with my Dad only paces behind. The intense relief I felt served as proof teenagers still need their parents.  I wanted to back up the clock and put everyone, especially this girl's family, in a new and brighter situation. Without that ability, I wanted nothing more than to be sandwiched between the powerful and knowing arms of my Mom and Dad. Those arms could diminish the fear that knocked me at every chord.  Because we knew people died but old people. We were kids. We were invincible as our lives rolled out in front of us under the custodial eye of our community.  We were destined to spend our days studying chemistry and reading Walden or Tuck Everlasting and then to spend our nights listening to Steve Miller or  Wham! cassettes and fretting over whom to take to Sadie Hawkins. But here is a reason that anyone who ever cared about you may have told you at one time or another to 'be careful' and it is because they know unfortunately well that at any moment, life can take a very hard turn.

I recognized my parents could not alter or improve the situation, the environment or the tragedy. But while reeling from the loss of a friend couple with a very remote and jagged comprehension of the true loss her family would experience forever, I knew my Mom realized the necessity of her presence.   She got in the car, picked my Dad up from work and drove all the way to my high school parking lot with only one thought in mind: consoling my juvenile and foreign grief.

And this too, although not as simple of a transaction, served to reiterate to me in no uncertain terms I was deeply loved.


Similar scenarios are peppered throughout every year of my life. And the fundamental take away is that we are so incredibly lucky to not only be loved but to know it. It is our privilege and responsibility to pass that along to everyone that matters to us.

21 comments:

The Vegetable Assassin said...

So sad! I lost one of my friends when we were 12 in a similarly sudden and senseless way and it's true, it's a hard jerk to reality and things bigger and less innocent than childhood. That's all I have to say really. If it's not sarcastic, I get all shy and confused. :)

Julia said...

What a poignant story. Thanks for sharing.

Jenn @ Youknow...that Blog? said...

Easy to take that sort of love for granted, and it's a testament to those very parents that you haven't. :) I am equally lucky, as are my kids, naturally... but not everyone is. Great post, JM.

Secret Mom Thoughts said...

You have great parents. Touching stories.

Intense Guy said...

...and that steady shower of love helped make you the magnificent woman that you are today...

Eva Gallant said...

What a wonderful post. You were indeed lucky to have such loving parents!

vanilla said...

The experience of your third-grade self as intro binds the elements of your story together in a wonderful way. A child blessed with loving parents is indeed fortunate.

Ed said...

Beautiful post.

Brian Miller said...

you moved me to tears so early in the morning, dang you. smiles. i have sat in those bleachers at an early age...heavy...but what your dad did with the party is precious and he is a good dad...

you are deeply loved...

singedwingangel said...

Such a sad and heart wrenching story. My son's class lost 3 before senior year. My middle son's 2 before out of junior high. Regardless of how much or little they knew them the greif and shock were earth shattering.

Sara said...

What a great post! Crying in my office. Darn bladder too close to my eyes. Your parents did good.

My two lost a friend when they were 2 & 3. Three years later, they still talk about him, still process the loss. Not with grief, but with the life lessons that life isn't permanent. It floored me when out of the backseat I heard my 5 yo assert to his sister "Little kids die too. Not just old people."

ipenka said...

A very beautiful post. Thank you for sharing.

Pricilla said...

That feeling of love and support must be heavenly.

Eric said...

So is it pessimistic to keep reminding yourself of mortality? Or is it worse to go through life without an 'eye on the clock'? Regardless, as you say, it's good to pass along.

Colleen said...

What an incredibly moving post.

webb said...

It has always seemed to me that parents have two primary jobs: to raise children who are ready to launch and to raise children who are absolutely certain that they are loved and valued. I think your parents succeeded, and I suspect you are doing so, too.

So. Cal. Gal said...

In my teens, I knew 2 kids who died unexpectedly. I'll never forget their names although I only knew one of them5.

It's wonderful that your parents knew that you would need them. My mom didn't know these things had happened til I got home and my dad wouldn't have cared.

the walking man said...

To know love is a great thing to pass it to another even when they are not so lovable is an even greater one.

Amanda said...

Delurking to say thank you for your great blog writing, always, but especially for this thoughtful, well-written post. I was fortunate as a young person not to have suffered such a loss but this reminded me of the many ways a parent can show love to a child. I received it, and need to keep conscious of all the ways I can pass it on to my 3.

Kir said...

This was such a beautiful post, It touched me in so many ways. Your words were just so Heartfelt and true and sad and hopeful too....

The thought of your parents coming to you, knowing you needed them, will stay with me for a long time. That simple act of love, meaning such BIG things.

Maria said...

You are absolutely right. If you are loved, it is your duty to show love to those important to you, and those who aren't. You may be the catalyst for someone to change a negative life course.

So sorry about the loss of your friend. Those years of adolescence are hard enough without experiences like this one. So happy that your parents made the right call, and that you were able to recognize that, even at such a young age.