My Heart Hurts

J.S.’s good friend S. came over last night. She was on her midterm break. I adore S. Our family has adopted her. She, in a way, is the daughter I never had. She is pretty, smart, funny, and a good person.  Of course, I didn’t have to nurse her, change her diapers, get her through school, or now, pay her tuition through college. Bonus!

She has known J.S. since before kindergarten. She is his oldest friend. They have a history.  They have had their ups and downs.  They even went to prom together as friends.  J.S.’s boutonniere still sits in my refrigerator over a year later. I just can’t seem to get rid of it.  But what has remained between J.S. and S. is their friendship.  Hopefully, it will be life long.

But seeing S. made me realize, that I cannot see or contact J.S. whenever I want. I cannot call him whenever I want. Or text. Or Skype. I CAN do these things, but I will not get a response – right away or even the next day or even the next. He is in Power School. A tough, demanding school that requires he give 110% of himself at all times. He fortunately has a high enough grade point average that he does not have mandatory study hours. However, he still spends at minimum, 20 hours studying.  I am so proud of him! I never knew I would feel so much joy at someone else’s accomplishments. MY son’s accomplishments.

My son. Really? I have not only one son, but two? I did not want children, which I may have said previously. I knew the pain they could feel. I knew of the helpless I would feel when I could not heal their pain. I knew that caring for and loving another human would be dangerous for me.  I care so much, I am an empath. I actually physically feel the pain that my love one’s feel. I also knew that I might accidentally hurt them.  The thought of having another human feel pain, a human that I had created, was more than I could bare.

But here I am. I have two people I have created. The good news is that I have never thought of them as my “property.” They are their own people.  My job is to give them roots to grow and wings to fly.  It was a saying that my mom often said. I try to follow it.  There is a lot of wisdom in that saying.

But J.S. has flown in a way I could never have imagined. The NAVY?? He is my son, but the Navy OWNS him – body and nearly his soul. He has grown physically, but even more importantly as a young man.  He is learning responsibility that most 19 year-olds would not even comprehend.  He is a good person and becoming an even better one.  (Mind you he is not perfect. There have been times when kicking his ass would have been a perfectly appropriate response to his actions.)

And so back to S.  It was wonderful to see her!  She didn’t even call first.  She came over, just like family. We probably talked for over two hours.  We talked about school, her classes, her adventures, her friends, her dorm, her “special” friend, her parents, her siblings. It was easy and lovely. She has grown into a beautiful young woman. She is special.  And I could hug her (and I did!). And if I wanted to see her, I could drive an hour to see her and hug her again.

After she left, I lost it. I remember I teared up at his swearing-in ceremony.  I don’t remember crying that much after J.S. left for boot camp.  I will admit to be shell-shocked for the next couple of weeks. I was thrilled to get his box of civilian clothes.  Though I was puzzled as to where his underwear and socks went. I loved getting all THREE of his letters. (Eye roll). I remember being so excited for his boot camp graduation.  I might have teared up seeing him after graduation. I might have teared up leaving him at the airport to go to his base. I have been sad, glad, worried, and happy.

But last night, all the emotions that I had apparently pent-up, came pouring out in a flood. I could not stop crying. I missed and loved this child, this creation, my son, more than I could ever imagine.  I hurt. I did not want to hurt.  But I guess this is what parents go through?

A song by Sean Mendes just played on the radio, some of the lyrics rang so true. I felt them in my soul. While the song is about two lovers, one wanting to be free, some lyrics are so applicable to my heart and my son:

Please have mercy on me
Take it easy on my heart…

Would you please have mercy, mercy on my heart…

I’d drive through the night
Just to be near you,…

I’m not asking for a lot…

I’m prepared to sacrifice my life
I would gladly do it twice…

Please have mercy on me
Take it easy on my heart…

I suppose it will never be easy on my heart. It hopefully will get easier with time. He will be in the Navy for 1 year at the end of November. Only 1 year. He wants to make the military a career, 30 years. I will continue to feel, care, and love.  It is my nature.

I think I have come out of my crying jag, for now. My heart has had a bit of relief.  I will continue to savor the time I am able to communicate with J.S. I will enjoy when his friends come over to talk, eat, ruffle my youngest son’s hair, and the ability to hug them.  But I might cry again. But it will all be okay.

 

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The Rack is Empty and There is only One Drawer Remaining

It is still a shock to me sometimes, that J.S. is gone.  He will not return home, except to visit. It is not like he went away to college.  I cannot go down and visit him whenever I would like to and he cannot come home whenever he would like to. He has chosen his career earlier than most. He is in the Navy to stay. He wants to stay in 30 years.  (At 19, I certainly did not know what I wanted to do with the rest of my life.) However, standing by his choice should not come as a big surprise to me.  He used to choose his Halloween costumes by early September.  And no matter how many other interesting costumes came out, he stuck with the one he had chosen.  No looking back, no regrets.

He is now in his second of three schools for the nuclear program.  It is called Power School.  He is learning the nuts and bolts of nuclear reactors, being taught high math and physics.  So far, he is doing well. This is a 6 month school. He will graduate sometime in January 2018. I might see him before then.  There is a 3 week stand-down of the base during the holidays.  He might have a one week leave.  He will leave his warm, southern base for our cold and gray northern state.  He will have to shovel, if we get snow.

When, and if, he comes home, his rack (known to civilians as a bed), will have to be made.  The room itself, has become more and more of his brother’s. We have cleared out the closet (we do not need his 5th grade costume from a play) and cleared out almost all the drawers (went sent him all his socks and most of his sweatshirts).  The drawers are now his brother’s or are simply empty. We live in a small, 1950’s ranch house, with two bedrooms.  So J.S. and his brother shared the room and drawer space. So drawers everywhere were a must. Drawers were in a nightstand, under a bed, a part of a bunk bed, in the desk, and of course, a dresser.  No drawer went unused.  Until now.

There is one drawer that is still his and it has some personal items that he didn’t want to take with him, for now. There are some religious items and some other personal items.  If I am looking for something for his younger brother, I will start looking through all the drawers.  This usually occurs when I get the call of, “Mom, I know it is my room! Help!”  So I start the search.  And then I get to that drawer. And it hits me. This is all that is left of the young man who used to live here full-time. And I sigh, my heart hurts a little, and I continue my search for whatever oddball thing my youngest has lost.

(Full disclosure: there are a few shelves in the bedroom that have some of his things as well.  They are art projects, books, a RC helicopter, a trebuchet, and the game “Cards against Humanity.” For some reason, these items on the shelves don’t bother me as much. Perhaps those things are like other tchotchkes in my house.  They are there and occasionally I dust them.)

Drawers can be impersonal or very personal.  My husband and I have separate dressers. His has four large drawers.  They contain clothes and maybe few watch manuals (which he never looks at).  It is a piece of furniture with drawers, it is practical. For me, my dresser has six drawers, most of which have some personal items in each drawer.  The first drawer has a sachet from my grandmother and the garter from my wedding.  The second drawer has jewelry, old glasses, sun glasses, some cameras (mostly old) and some clips with feathers to be worn at Renaissance Faires.  The third drawer has my nice works shirts.  The fourth has my tee-shirts and “special tee-shirts.” Tee-shirts which have special meaning.  And yes, tee-shirts can have special meaning. (I doubt my husband thinks so.  He will wear any tee-shirt until it has holes.) I have several Wisconsin Badger tee-shirts, an Israel army tee-shirt and some from different countries. One of my favorite tee-shirts is a purple one with sea turtles from Puerto Rico. The other two drawers have shorts and work-out wear.

But when J.S. comes home for a visit, what will he feel when he looks in drawers and finds almost nothing of his? Will he be shocked? Feel nostalgic? Feel like he is in the wrong place? Feel like home is not really his home anymore? Or will he, like his father, shake his shoulders, dump out his sea bag and just be glad to be home.  Or now, his respite place. His home is the Navy and wherever they send him.

I will keep his one drawer. Maybe I will put some other things in there; things that will remind him that he will always find love here, be welcomed here and know that he is never out of our thoughts.  I think I may look for a special rock, a gift card, a small stuffed “Bob Ross” (don’t ask, I don’t get it), a cool fidget object, a picture of our family.

J.S. I will always love you. I will always miss you. But I have a small piece of you, your one drawer that remains.

Writers know that sometimes things are there in the drawer for decades before they finally come out and you are capable of writing about them.” — Gunter Grass

 

Home is the Sailor, Home from the Sea…

Home is the sailor, home from the sea:

Her far-borne canvas furled

The ship pours shining on the quay

The plunder of the world.

J.S. is home.

He graduated from his A School on Friday, May 12, 2017. He passed the training with a high enough grade point average to earn the statement “graduated with distinction.”  The statement was mentioned in the program for the graduation ceremony and as he walked across the dais.  I am so proud of him.  He worked and studied like he had never done before. Eight hours of class and at least four hours of studying at night.  Five days a week and sometimes he had watch for two hours on some of those school nights.

I flew down to his base on Wednesday, May 10.  I nearly didn’t make it.  A storm was rolling in and the tower was already issuing warnings.  I flew Southwest and the stewards made it clear that they wanted to get in the air as much as I did.  They told the passengers, in no uncertain terms, that they were to board quickly, in an orderly fashion.  The passengers were to stow their things and find a seat, any seat.  Quickly.  We took off.  I can’t remember feeling so relieved.

J.S. met me at the airport in his uniform. He looked great.  I had rented a car and then returned him to base.  The Navy has strict rules on where you are supposed to be and when.  The freedoms that most people take for granted – staying out late, partying whenever or just doing what you want to do – J.S. does not have being in the military.

I explored on Thursday until J.S. was free. We had dinner with some of his friends. On Friday, the graduation was in the morning and then J.S. and I could explore the city. He wanted to see a decommissioned warship.  I wanted to see an old Civil War fort.  As it was his day, we went to the warship.  But…before going to the warship, I noticed a helicopter.  We bought the tickets for the helicopter ride. We took off and it was amazing. (I did see the Civil War fort from the sky.  Good enough!)  I hope it is something that J.S. will remember.  In a helicopter, you get a feeling of freedom. And you wish you were a bird that can fly.  And I had a slight pang of insight, J.S. had really taken off too. We did see the warship later.

We left early on Saturday morning to go home. During his week home, J.S. was to work at the recruiting station during his leave (so he wouldn’t actually lose leave time). However, he came to the understanding that everyone wanted to see him. No rest for the weary. He didn’t work at the recruiter’s station.

Home is the hunter from the hill:

Fast in the boundless snare

All flesh lies taken at his will.

And every fowl of the air.

It is wonderful to have him home.  Nothing has changed, yet everything has changed.  He hasn’t changed, yet he has.  Our schedules this week are chaotic.  Who needs the car?  Do we need more food? What is J.S. doing today? Does he need to wear his uniform?  How much can we squeeze into the time we have with him? My feelings ricochet.  Delighted to have him home.  Sad knowing he has to leave again.  Aggravated that he still leaves a trail of his stuff around the house.  His younger brother is so happy to see him, that he doesn’t quite do with his emotions so he is stressed out.

He seems to be enjoying his time at home.  He is relatively free.  No one is commanding him do to something.  He can mostly wear civilian clothes.  (Except when his father or I ask that he wear a uniform so we can show him off.) He can eat when he wants. Sleep when he wants, in his own bed.  He has more privacy than he has had in about six months.   J.S. is thrilled to see our cats.  Only in civilian clothes does he cuddle and play with them.  Despite his best efforts, he will go home with cat fur.

When he goes to his home on base on Sunday, we all will have to say good-bye again.  His friends will have to say goodbye again.  The price of love is loss.  I know I haven’t really lost him, but as he continues to mature, I have lost my little boy.  The little boy I used to call “bear cub.”

I will learn to adjust again.  We all will learn how to adjust again. And Jonathan will go back to guard duty for two months and then he will start his next school, Power School. It will last six months.  During the next eight months, we will try to visit him.

I will miss him. I guess for a parent, the missing doesn’t stop.  It only lessens.  Perhaps this is how it should be. My only hope is that occasionally, he flies or comes home from the sea, to be with me and his family.

‘Tis evening on the moorland free,

The starlit wave is still:

Home is the sailor from the sea,

The hunter from the hill. (1)

(1) A.E. Houseman, poet, 26 March 1859 – 30 April 1936

 

 

 

Making the Writing Transition

My son, J.S. graduated from boot camp on January 27, 2017. I saw him for a few hours after graduation and the next day at the airport. And then he was gone in the blink of an eye.  He will graduate from his A School on May 2017. So he has been gone for almost 4 months.

Though we have been able to text, Skype and call (which has been wonderful), I realized I desperately missed writing my 9 to 11 page missives to him.  They were mostly hand-written and in cursive. J.S. jokingly complained that it took him two hours to read my letters.

My letters contained everything from the weather to how the family was (including cats) to politics to funny stories and memes (at least when I wrote the letters on the computer). In a way, they were my outlet to let him know that his family was okay, we loved him, missed him and to encourage him.  Boot camp is hard.  Not everyone makes it.  Some people get held back for various reasons.  But my son made it. I was so proud of him.  I am so proud of him.

But as he entered A School, the letters were no longer necessary.  We could encourage him and support him electronically.  I could see him. And because I am his mother and am totally biased, he looks very handsome in his uniform. Something about a man in uniform?  Whether it is his winter blues, summer whites, his everyday tan and black uniform or his blueberries (the blue camouflage), he looks good.

But as I learned that letters were not necessary, I found two other sailor recruits to write! I was thrilled! I knew I would not write them as often as I had written J.S., he was my kid after all, but I could write again.  The first recruit was a friend’s daughter. She was in her early 20’s and had gone to college.  I will call her “A.”  The second recruit was a friend of my “adopted” son (more about that later).  I will call him “J.”  A and J started Navy boot camp about the same time.

A is going into the medical corps.  Being slightly older than the rest of her division, she was ranked up and was the head of her division. And I wrote to her.  I wrote her letters on the computer because I did not want to scare her with my cursive.  Though really, it isn’t that bad.  I write about once a week and it gets my writing urge taken care of. I tell her a bit about my life and family, talk about the weather, print memes and pictures that show up on her father’s Facebook feed.  I try to add some humor, but always include encouragement.

But then I got a call from her father.  She had defied a strict rule: no fraternizing with the opposite sex.  Apparently, she had sent a note or notes to a male recruit. “Oops” just doesn’t cut it with the Navy.  The Navy, once you have sworn in, owns you.  They own you, body, soul and mind.  Rules are RULES.  While apologizing in the “outside” may work – think of presidents, celebrities and regular folks – it does not work that way in the Navy without severe consequences.  A was held back three weeks from her original graduation date.  Staying in boot camp any longer than originally expected must just suck beyond belief.  I assume she also lost her ranking. She was assigned to another division.

So I have continued to write her.  I think she needs even more encouragement and support.  I cannot imagine what she went through.  She had to talk to her superiors and confess to her parents what happened.  I was glad she was not kicked out.  She will now graduate in May. I am hoping to meet her in person, but that will be up to her parents.  So in about 10 days, I will need to stop writing her.  Letters sent after a certain date may not get to the recruit at all. I hope she has learned from this experience and I hope she now excels in her further training.

But as I said, there was another recruit, T. My adopted son said that he was not a good fit for the Navy as he did not like taking orders or having to do things at certain times.  But, hey, he wants to try, why not?  So I wrote him three times. First I wrote a letter and then sent a card.  And then on Facebook, there was a message that T was having a hard time in boot camp.  There wasn’t a lot of information to go on. So I wrote another letter, which I tried to be as encouraging as possible. And then another Facebook message.  He was being separated from the Navy. It wasn’t for his possible problem with authority figures and rules, it was due to asthma. He could not complete his physical.  He was held in an area at Great Lakes for a month for the separation to be finalized.  He is now home.  So now I no longer write to him.  I wish him the best in his future endeavours.

Writing to these recruits, despite what has happened to them, helped me transition from writing every day, to writing once a week.  I am not sure how the transition will go from writing everyday to writing once a week to not writing any recruit at all, but perhaps this blog will help.  After finding out about these two recruits had gone through, I realized what my son had accomplished.  While he could have possibly done more during boot camp (which I encouraged, but had zero control over in the matter), he had a plan.  He wanted to keep a low profile, do exactly as his supervisors said to do and get through.  He completed his plan, his way.

At 11 p.m. or so, one night, after hearing about A and T’s issues, I sent him a text. Mind you, it was 12:00 a.m or 0000 J.S.’s time.  I didn’t care. He could read it when he woke up. I sent him this text:

“Hey! Know you are asleep. But wanted to let you know how proud of you I am. The Navy recruits I know have had a rough time. You made it. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart. I love you.”

I will adjust. Adjusting to change is not my favorite thing to do. But it is necessary.  While I might not be writing my son, I will alway be in touch with him via texts, Skype, emails or simply through my heart.  It is where he always is.

 

 

 

 

 

Sailing into Rocks…

When sailing with your child during his or her life, you are bound to hit rough weather, face choppy water, run into a sandbar or twenty, possibly start sinking, and/or have beautiful weather. But there comes a time, when the child wants to sail on his own ship. He does not want to be too far away, yet not too close to the parental ship.

I have found this transition difficult. When J.S. was in boot camp, my job on my ship while he was on his own for two months was to be part of a support system. My ship sailed straight, strong, and steady. I wrote him every day. It did not matter how tired I was or what else was going on in my life. It was my anchor chain to him. Not anchor, just the heavy chain, as I did not want to keep him down, just attached.

He then graduated boot camp and was off to his A School in less than 24 hours. I cannot remember feeling so many emotions in such a short period of time.  He was then able to write, text and Skype. We could be in touch again! I could send him packages! But things were different.  He had matured. He no longer needed that thick anchor chain.  He may not have wanted it anymore either.  So while his ship continued to sail into different waters, I found myself without a compass and without that firm attachment.

Do I continue to write him? How often do I text him? Do I call?  How often do I call? When should we Skype?  Why do I look so awful on the Skype camera?  (I do need to touch up my roots.) J.S. was no longer my little boy or young man. He was becoming a man. To be cliché, the tides were changing.

I found myself repeatedly crashing my ship into rocks. Don’t write anymore because he won’t read it. Really, my cursive wasn’t that bad… Don’t text during certain hours because he won’t be able to read it. Also, you may not get a response text back. Be careful of calling because you may interrupt a raucous trip off base. (No, he doesn’t drink, smoke, do drugs or chase women. Chasing women may come later.) The trips usually include a restaurant that has a challenge to see who can eat the biggest hamburger.  Skyping had to be carefully coordinated.

So I stopped writing. I stopped texting so much. We used to have a game before he left for boot camp.  I would send him memes late at night from my room and he would respond loud enough for me to hear, “Mom, plz.” I miss that. I call only when I get a confirming text that he can talk. We Skype only on the weekends. I send packages, but only with necessities, such as the clothes he wore before the Navy. I do not need to buy him new white boxer shorts to go under his spring uniform. No matter how much I want to.  He can buy them himself!  I will admit to previously sending four pans of rice krispie treats (he has three other sailors in his suite), poop emoji lollipops and a Rubik’s cube.

From a logical standpoint, it is fascinating to see what your child is becoming.  From my motherly point of view, I am wondering, “What the hell happened? Why wasn’t I given notice? Who approved this?”

So while I could continue to be stranded on the rocks of this new relationship with my son, I am adjusting (not exactly willingly, but I am). I have gotten out of my comfortable ship, stood on the rocks, gotten scratched and bloody, but I have shoved off the rocks to sail in a new direction. My ship is scratched and dinged, but if I learn and continue to learn, my ship can still sail smoothly in this new relationship with my son.

The attachment that my son and I once needed to survive during the beginning of his life’s sailing journey has lessened. It is not the love that has lessened. My mother always said, “You should give them roots to grow and wings to fly.”  I guess in J.S.’s case, it is flippers to swim.  What holds us together now is a thinner, shipping rope made out of natural material, not solid metal.

What I have found wonderful about this new sailing journey, is that sometimes my little boy sails back to my ship and tells me he loves me – all by himself.

 

Navigation

Navigation, noun: 1. the process or activity of accurately ascertaining one’s position and planning and following a route.  (1)

Navigation, in theory, appears to be an easy task. According the above definition, there are two main steps required to complete a navigational mission.

A.  You find out where you are (I am on Earth, on the continent of North America, in the United States, in the State of Illinois, in the county of Cook, in the city of Chicago, on North LaSalle Street, at the address 123).

B. You plan and follow a route to a destination. (I need to go to Kahului, Oahu, Hawaii. What route do I need to plan to take and follow to go to Kahului from 123 North LaSalle Street, Chicago, Illinois?)

However, these two seemingly effortless tasks for navigation got completely thrown out the window when I became a parent.

After having J.S., I could no longer ascertain my position in life.  Who was I? I was lost. Was I still Callie? Was I still my husband’s wife? Was I only J.S.’s mother? Was I still a paralegal in an important government agency? Was I really someone’s mother, instead of just having a mother? The world seemed to be spinning out of control.

As for planning and following a route to a destination, that is laughable when it concerns raising a child. I had read What to Expect When You are Expecting and the following books. They are good books, but were not especially helpful to me. As many mothers and fathers might agree, there really are NO guidebooks as to how to navigate being a parent.  You wing it.  And as I did not originally want children, I was completely pissed that after thousands of years, no one had a manual on how to do this correctly.

I guess the one thought I had about children, was that if I was going to have a child, I would do whatever was the right thing to do for it. Regardless of my mental health. (I would not recommend that to anyone looking to become a parent. Lesson learned, if a bit late.) If that meant staying home for awhile, nursing the child for a year, or reading the book Moo, Baa, La, La, La a thousand times, I would do it. And I did. I still remember most of the book Moo, Baa, La, La, La, to be honest.

My husband and I then navigated daycare.  He got his finger stuck in a play baby’s bottle. His finger needed to be cut out. He learned that if he walked around the classroom with one crayon, pretending to clean up, others would clean everything else up.  He learned that making up stories could be a problem.  He told his teacher that I was pregnant. I was NOT.  I got congratulated and when the teacher saw my utterly confused face, she said that J.S. had told the CLASS I was expecting a baby.  I cleared that up right fast, but needed to discuss with J.S. that sometimes making up stories, was not always a good idea.

And then the daycare years were over.  We knew where we had been and followed the destination.  But more navigation was required.  J.S. was now going to go to elementary school.  And while I did not realize it at the time, he was slowly navigating away from home, our family and me.

I found the word “navigation” swirling in my head recently. In the Navy, the ships must be navigated. Other areas in the Navy must be navigated too; personnel, equipment and military situations. Life, particularly with children, must also be navigated.

J.S. was now navigating a new world, a new life in the Navy.  He knows where he is.  He is planning and following a route. And I am very proud of him for what he has done and what he is doing.

Yet, I found I was navigating a new world as well, in relation to J.S.  I no longer knew where I was.  Where was I supposed to be in his life? His mom? His friend?  And as for planning and following a route? There are no manuals on this either, dammit. In planning and following a route, I guess it will be trial and error.  I hope I can figure out the right balance of Skyping, texting or letter writing. I don’t want anything to impede J.S.’s navigation in the world.

(1) Google, downloaded on March 6, 2017 at https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&rlz=1C1NHXL_enUS703US705&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=definition+of+navigation&*

Ode to Joy

Ode to Joy – written by poet Friedrich Schiller

Joy is of the will which labours, which overcomes obstacles, which knows triumph – William Butler Yeats

I did not feel joy when J.S. was born. There was terrible anxiety, crushing depression and overwhelming feeling of failure.  However, there were tiny sparkles of joy. Those sparkles were a gift from my mom, Jeanette.

My mother stated that “she knew she would love her grandchildren, should they ever come.” She never pressured me to have children.  What an angel. She understood my fears of having children. Then she had grandchildren.  My J.S. and my brother’s first child.  She then varied her statement.  “I knew I would love my grandchildren, but I NEVER knew how much!”

I was able to bring J.S. to see her fairly often. I have never seen her so happy, so joyful. My mom suffered through many things during her life, but she SOMEHOW always found the silver lining, the bright side, the joy in life.  She unfortunately did not pass this trait onto me.  It wasn’t her fault.  A life filled with abuse and abandonment, does not tend to feel joy.  Any joy I felt, was usually mocked or viciously taken away from me through various means. I did not trust the feeling of joy.

Yet, when my mom saw J.S. (my husband and I became somewhat irrelevant due to the grandchild; I understand this is typical), she opened a small window in my soul that allowed me to see joy.

My mom bought all sorts baby gadgets, toys and books so that I and J.S. would feel comfortable staying with her. “No Mom, he does not need the Encyclopedia Britannica at six months old.” My mom cooed over him. Loved seeing his small fingers and toes. Rebuked me when I said that J.S. looked like a boiled chicken. Was so impressed that I was breast-feeding him. She giggled and slightly worried when I gave him a bath when he was asleep. And then J.S. smiled for the first time at her house.  Her heart melted.

And with that first smile then I felt the first spark of joy.  It was a remarkable feeling. It hit me like a lightening bolt, to use a cliché.  And because of my mom, I felt SAFE feeling it.  It wasn’t going to be taken away from me. As J.S. grew and started to become a person, my mom would always point out the joy of what he was doing and becoming. Mind you, when he would disobey me when he was older, my mom would chide me that I was being too hard on him. I just sighed and realized that this is what a grandma does.

So I knew that feeling joy was possible. I was still careful about letting myself feel it.  But it was there.  I found the feeling in watching J.S. grow up. In seeing my husband interact with J.S. I felt joy when I watched our cat Buddy loving care about J.S. when he cried.  And then I found joy in nature; seeing the magnolias bloom, butterflies fly and eating raspberries. There were other joyous moments, but they don’t come to mind at the moment.

Now J.S. is fairly grown up. He calls it “adulting.” He will continue to grow, physically, mentally and socially. I find that his absence tugs at my heart. But with that tugging is the feeling of joy.  His father and I have launched him successfully into adulthood. He now buys his own food, gets his uniforms clean, studies on his own (a little nagging still comes into play) and is a good person.  What person could not find joy in that?

His elementary, middle and high school years, however, did test my ability to find joy…