It’s been nearly a year since I lost my mom . . .
“Why don’t you guys plan on staying for dinner tonight? I’m making my famous Chinese Chicken dish.” My mother held her hands out toward me and carefully took my newborn baby from my arms.
“Wow Mom, that would be great.”
The year was 2009, and school had started back up. After spending a lovely summer adjusting to our new roles as parents, my wife and I needed to return to work- my wife part-time, me full-time. And we now enjoyed the great fortune of leaving our new daughter in the capable hands of my parents three days a week.
Two years later, another baby came along, and she happily agreed to take that baby, too. During those days, my mother sang to them, danced with them, saw to a regular nap schedule, fed them, and – most of all – loved them beyond measure.
Yesterday my phone rang. It was my father. “It’s been almost a year,” he reminded me. I glanced at the calendar hanging on my wall, thought about the date. Yes, it has indeed been nearly a year. “I’m going to host a small gathering this Saturday,” my father continued, his voice solemn, “to honor your mom. I’m asking everyone attending to write a letter to her. I know you’re too far away to attend, but would you send something? I’ll read it at the gathering.” Of course, I assured him. Placing my finger on the red “end call” button, I paused. What will I write? I silently wondered. I could thank her, couldn’t I? I could thank her for taking care of my girls when they were so little. I could thank her for working three jobs so I could go to college. I could thank her for inspiring me to become a teacher. I could thank her for being not only the most wonderful mother anyone could ask for, but the most incredible human being I’ve ever known. I could thank her for her delicious Chinese Chicken.
Many have told me the loss of a mother takes a great deal of time to process. They are right. Later today, I will draft a letter to my wonderful mom. And once again, I’ll lean on writing- as I have in the past – to help get me through a difficult time.
My daughters are still working on balance . . .
Placing my hands on the handlebars, I lifted the small white bike from the gravel. Small whimpers quietly escaped my daughter’s lips, making their way into my ears as I dusted the dirt and small stones from her pants. “You okay, honey?” I asked, keeping my tone low. She nodded, gently wiping her nose. Looking up, I watched as her two friends expertly cruised on their bikes, maybe twenty yards away, around the tree-lined parking lot. “You’ll get this, baby,” I whispered. “It just takes time.” She nodded again.
Meanwhile, I looked on and observed my younger daughter setting up her pedals, getting ready to try again. For over thirty-five minutes now, the four girls had been biking around the empty bus lot; two girls who knew how to ride, two who desperately wanted to learn. Living on a road with no sidewalks and on which traffic often traveled at high speeds has not made for friendly bike-riding territory. Consequently, my girls have yet to achieve that magical milestone of balance. Unlike their two friends who had come to visit with their bicycles.
But I watched, as time after time again, my girls tried; sometimes alone, sometimes with help from me, sometimes with help from their friends. “Here, try this.” “You want me to push you?” “Try to keep your weight in the middle.” “You almost had it!” And yes, frustration reared its head on many occasions. But we celebrated small successes, especially when my girls’ faces turned to look at me beaming. “Four pedals, Papa, did you see that?!” Yes honey, I saw it. So proud.
An hour later, we left the parking lot, my girls still unable to remain upright on their bikes. But the perseverance they showed…that’s got to be worth something, right?
A very short slice about spring and more snow . . .
The Easter Season typically brings a spirit of new beginnings. In my mind, this time of year signals the turning of the seasonal clock from winter to spring. It is a time of renewed hope and eager optimism, as plants, animals, and birds spring to life.
And so, when I reached for my ringing cell phone during the dawn hours yesterday morning, knowing my superintendent would be delivering the dreaded message of yet another snow day, you might imagine my spring optimism suffered a major blow.