My Mission, part 2

Christina was beautiful and fair; half Caucasian half Mexican with a lot more Spanish blood than Indian. At 16 she ran away from the controlling and prison-like existence her father had imposed upon her. Because her mother had died when she was only seven, and her father had disowned her upon learning of her pregnancy, she had called me, a friend of the family, for support. I went through the pregnancy with her and was at her side for Ally’s birth. When the nurse handed the little whimpering bundle to me, I knew that God was handing her to me. Her tiny brow was furrowed and I gently rubbed her forehead until she relaxed. God was telling me to protect her, to take care of her, and to be there for her. I softly told her that everything was going to be okay, and that I would take care of her. Her father chose not to take responsibility and she had no grandmother so I, having no children of my own, at age 45, asked Christina if I could be Ally’s “grandma”. Christina welcomed the help and the free babysitting.

I did a lot of babysitting and loved every minute of it. I loved Ally as if she were my own. I clothed her, fed her, bathed her, sang to her, and rocked her to sleep. Christina spent almost every weekend with us, so I could look after Ally while she went out to be a teenager. Back in her father’s good graces, Christina had additional financial help and a place to live, and Ally had a grandpa.

Ally was not quite two years old when her mom again encountered the father of her child at a nightclub one evening. She brought him to my house that night to take a peek at their sleeping child, and then arranged a visit for them later that week. He seemed to be happy to have his daughter in his life, and his mother was even happier. After all, Ally was adorable. She was a bright and engaging toddler who warmed the heart of everyone she met. His family fell in love with her instantly and enthusiastically welcomed her into their fold. Incredibly, his wife was gracious and accepting of the child, at which I have always marveled. Whether she was truly a saint or the victim of her domineering, stereotypical Hispanic husband, I am not certain. She had a son only 22 days younger than Ally, which explains why he was unwilling to take responsibility when he learned of Christina’s pregnancy. After several visits I hoped that he would continue to be enough of a presence in Ally’s life to give her the security and connection with her father that every little girl needs. I knew her life would be difficult, and I dreaded the day when she would learn the details of her birth, but as long as her dad stayed in her life, she would know who she was and that she was loved by her father. Christina didn’t see it that way. When she had become pregnant, she was unable to wrangle him away from his girlfriend. She no doubt hoped she could now seduce him with the darling princessa they had conceived together. When that didn’t happen, Christina had little use for her daughter’s father. By now she had met Mr. Charming, a handsome and sensitive man with personality plus and several years her senior, and she cut off all contact between Ally and her father. She told me that Ally had said she no longer wanted to visit her dad, and I believed her.

To Regret Or Not To Admit Regret?

After reading Slidebar’s A Life Without Regret Ain’t No Real Life At All, (see repost) I began to think about all my regrets. Not that I have to read about regretting to be reminded of mine, but Slidebar’s points really hit home with me. I have a ton of regrets. There are some that did not dramatically change my life’s path, and some that did. Though I know that I would not be the same person I am today, had I not been through those regretful experiences, I still wish I had not made some (most) of those choices! Now, I am one to believe that there are consequences to every action, but I also believe that we are supposed to experience certain things in life to become what we are to become, and that those things will happen regardless of the choices we make. After all, if God is God, what sense would it make for humans to have complete and total free will and control over every single aspect of, in, and about our lives?

I admit that I am a recovering perfectionist. I have been admittedly imperfect for nearly 20 years now. Until my recovery began, I did not want to be reminded of my regrets, but I still had them – lots of them. It is interesting to note that back when I was “perfect”, I tended to repeat many (most) of those regrettable choices.

I suppose there are some people who don’t have regrets, or maybe they truly don’t remember their really bad choices. It could be that they are that “glass is half full” kind of people, or perhaps they just haven’t gotten over their perfectionism yet.

Hey, boomers (and beyond) – Check this out. Do you admit that you have regrets?

Slidebar

“It is never too late to become what you might have been.”  ~ George Eliot

I recently arrived at the half-way point in the human lifespan. While reaching this milestone hasn’t given me the desire to go buy a red sports car or have a lurid extra-marital affair, it has prompted a significant amount of thought and reflection.

A “Mid-life Review,” if you will.

I’m not obsessing about it, but I think it’s healthy to stop and consider the state of your life. Are you where you’d hoped you be by now? What have you done? What have you left undone? These are healthy questions to ask. They help you evaluate and make course corrections as needed.

As I go through this process, the word regret seems to cross my mind a lot. Regret is one of those words that’s considered bad, that to regret anything is bad.  People…

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To Love The Unlovable

I volunteered to serve dinner to the homeless men at the Union Gospel Mission last night. This is something I have wanted to do since I read the book Same Kind Of Different As Me.  As I filled the space in each divided plate with salad, I tried to make a connection with each man. Most did not make eye contact; some did, and others expressed thanks and appreciation. A few even quipped about not wanting salad or responded to my teasing that they need more greens. Equal numbers of white, black, and brown, they were all there to receive a free meal and a bed in exchange for listening to a sermon. I was told that many were probably drunk and/or high and had spent their day under the bridge, but that some had spent the day in therapy, rehab, training, and job searches. As I looked into their eyes, I wondered about each man’s story. What had brought them there? What had happened to bring them to the point of homelessness? What about their family? What did they think of those of us who were serving them? I wondered about their future. I wanted to talk to each and every one and hear their story. Do they feel unlovable? Do they feel unloved?

It would be easy to assume that they will be helped and tended to and taken care of. They will be taught and trained and counseled. They will learn that they are loved. Yet I cannot ignore this feeling that I should be a part of that. Is it guilt? Sympathy? Or a calling? I have not been able to stop thinking about those men; their eyes seemed to say so much. I don’t know what is in store for me, or how I am to be used, but I think I need to return. Whether it is my life that is to be changed or one of theirs, I am not certain, but I resolve to take this step. I will not let fear or laziness or indifference prevent me from exploring this opportunity and from beginning this journey.

When You Think Words Are Not Enough

I can barely hear the faint melody of Glenn Miller’s trombone bellowing out Moonlight Serenade in the next room. I’ve always loved the big band sound, as I was raised on it. My parents played the music of Harry James, Benny Goodman, Tommy Dorsey, and all the rest on our old HiFi in the 60s. Music from the 40s seemed ancient to me as a youngster, but I still appreciated it. Perhaps because they loved it so, I cherished it more. The memories are fond and cheerful. But hearing it now through the walls, the swing music sends tears streaming down my face. My mother is listening to the songs I helped her download onto her iPhone, as she lies in her bed, in the darkness, alone. My father, a few miles away in his bed in the nursing home, is sleeping in the fog and confusion of Alzheimer’s, weeks after his broken hip has healed. The smooth sounds of String of Pearls play at his bedside as often as we can manage. He was a trumpet player in his college band and a bugler on a navy ship. Does he remember? Does he reminisce about the glory days of his youth when he courted my mother? Do the songs playing in his ear evoke the same memories as hers?  What a cruel fate, to still have your husband of 62 years, and yet not have him. What does it do to a woman to be waiting for her mate to heal and come home, all the while knowing that she is really waiting for him to die? And what can I do to make the days, weeks, months not just more bearable, but a blessing? Will words be enough? Time spent?  I feel completely inadequate. The void she must be feeling seems remote and abstract to me, but I am struck by the truth that I can comfort her. I know that words will be enough and time spent with her will indeed be a blessing. And to the buttery trumpet sound of Harry James’ Blues In The Night and The Nearness of You, I will listen to her stories of college and dance halls and movies and anything else she wants to remember.

She called.

I absolutely adore my goddaughter. I practically raised her, because she has this sociopathic mother, former (thank God) monster stepfather, and her biological father abandoned her after conception. She lived with me for a year before her father came back into her life who now has temporary custody of her. I am happy that he came back for her after 12 years, but I miss her terribly. He reluctantly allows me to see her 2 or 3 times a month, for which I am grateful, but my heart breaks because I don’t have the daily contact I used to have. He is very strict and does not allow her to have a phone, email, or Facebook. Things aren’t great in the new family, but he is 10 times better for her than her mother.

She called tonight. She wanted to know if I would be coming to her basketball game tomorrow night. Of course I am. I haven’t missed a single game. I will drop everything to see this child. I cherish her immensely. God gave her to me to look after, to rescue, to nurture, and to love in the midst of some very ugly circumstances. I cannot accept that my job is done. Taking a back seat is one of the hardest things I have ever had to do. She is my precious child, who doesn’t belong to me. My heart aches.

Need a temporary, part time, intermittent job.

Okay, so I’m retired and married to an artist, and I need to make some money. But being “sandwiched” in between taking care of my parents and dealing with kids, I don’t really have the time or energy. I know I wrote that we had no children, but God thought it was funny, I guess, for us to have so flippantly made that decision on our own, so He gave us godchildren. And not just any ol’ godchildren, mind you, but godchildren who have immature, dysfunctional, destructive parents, which is why the poor dears need godparents. But that’s a story for a future post. Anyway, I can’t draw from my retirement yet, and I need some income.  I’m too old and tired to start a new career. My back won’t allow me to stand on my feet all day. I need to be available to take my mom where she needs to go (doctor, to visit my dad in the nursing home, etc.). I know there are others in this position, because I hear and read about the “sandwich generation”. But are they all financially stable and/or still working?  Am I the only one with an artist husband? Am I the only one who had to leave their job at age 53? Harkening back to the 70s – – follow your passion, check. All you need is love, check. Work hard, check. What was missing? Don’t be self employed and don’t get sick.  Oops.  Suggestions would be most welcome.  Meanwhile, anybody interested in buying some art?