Trouble Letting Go

“Wanna walk side by side a while
Just a few blocks up 7th Ave
By the time we hit the park
You’re gonna be too old to wanna hold my hand
It feels so good I’ll have trouble letting go”

Trouble Letting Go, The Avett Brothers                                                              Songwriters: Scott Yancey Avett / Timothy Seth Avett / Robert William Crawford Jr.

I am sitting in a hospital waiting room before dawn listening to the Octonauts theme song blaring from the wall-mounted television. The bright fluorescents are almost profane at such an early hour. I close my eyes hoping when I open them the brightness will subside.  It doesn’t. 

monitor screen turned on
Photo by Daan Stevens on Pexels.com

My youngest son is having surgery. Countless forms and signatures, check-ins and waiting before he’s in a hospital bed, his tiny frame lost in a tangle of monitors and IV.  The nurse gives him some red liquid to drink, a mild sedative to calm him before he leaves.  A few minutes later, he is smiling but his bright eyes have a dull, heavy haze to them.  Finally, the nurse comes and unlocks the wheels to the bed with an authoritative stamp of her foot.  We hold his hands until the last moment, and he is pulled down the hall toward the operating room. With heavy hearts and worried minds, his mom and I both let go. 

That is always the hardest part, the “letting go.”

And lately, it seems like parenting is various stages of letting go.  When he was a baby, we only let go long enough for him to sleep.  Then we were letting go at daycare, at overnight stays at grandparents. But soon it will be letting go of the bike, letting go to elementary school, sleepovers with friends., middle school, high school.  Letting go to drive, work,  date…More and more letting go, and to be honest, I have trouble letting go.

photo of white paper boat on body of water
Photo by Dan Hamill on Pexels.com

In the end,  I realize there is some good in letting go.  I understand life is sometimes like a paper boat on a river, it only moves when we let go.  So even though I have trouble, I will eventually let him go to dream, to hope, to be his own man. I will be letting go so he can make his own path down the river and I will hope he doesn’t let go of the memories, the laughter,  and the lessons as he does.

For now, though, he is still young enough to wanna hold my hand, so I am not letting go just yet.

Apple Peels

apple-apples-background-583841Every once in a while I think about death, usually when I am peeling an apple.  It sounds odd I know but let me explain.  There is a scene in Sleepless in Seattle when Tom Hanks’ Character, Sam, is talking with his young son Jonah.  Jonah tells his dad he is starting to forget his mom, who recently passed away.  Sam begins to tell his son things about her, to help him remember.  One of the things he says is, “She could peel an apple in one long, curly strip.”

For some reason, that scene has always stuck with me.   Now, every time I peel an apple, I think about Death. And even more specifically, I think about my own death. I wonder, what my sons will remember about me when I am gone.  I wonder what my wife would tell them to help them remember the little things about me.

Will they remember me as kind, compassionate, loving, affectionate, honest, trustworthy?  Will they think of me and remember my smile?   Will they remember me reading to them at bedtime or chasing them on the playground, teaching them to ride a bike or play guitar? Will they remember Nerf battles, hide-n-seek, and pillow fights?

I worry instead,  they will remember me as distracted, distant or disconnected.  I worry they will remember my face in a cell phone, or more recently, a video game.  I worry they will remember my flaws, my faults, and my failures because there are so many.

I worry that, like Jonah, they will forget me, and that is even worse.

Sometimes I need these little reminders.  I need to peel apples so they remind me to make the most of my time here.  To live so that when I am gone, my family will remember me, remember adventures, smiles, and laughter.  To impress upon them everything I can now, and maybe when I am gone those impressions will last.  Maybe they will laugh while they reminisce about my quirks and idiosyncrasies.  And maybe one day, they will even remember the pensive look on my face as I peel an apple, in one long, curly strip.

“Every man’s life ends the same way. It is only the details of how he lived and how he died that distinguish one man from another.” -Ernest Hemingway

 

Bedtimes and Roller Coasters

I’m standing in the hallway watching my wife tiptoe into our oldest son’s room.  Her hair almost glows from the deep gold light of the Minecraft lamp on the dresser.  She leans low, one hand pulling her hair away from her face while the other steadies on the edge of the bed.  As she bends to kiss his rosy cheek, I stand in awe.  It’s a beautiful moment.  A mother expressing her affection for a son who is completely unaware.

Twenty minutes before this sweet moment I was exasperated.  I had spent the better part of an hour arguing with a six-year-old about bedtime.  No matter what time our routine begins, it inevitably goes off course.  Bargaining for more snacks, one more video game, more time playing Legos, additional bathroom breaks, and of course at least one attempt to sneak from his bed into the living room and hide behind the sofa unseen, all bring the bedtime routine from a relaxing wind-down to an all-out battle.

There is a roller coaster at Six Flags over Texas called The New Texas Giant.  Before it was known as The New Texas Giant, it was simply The Texas Giant.  “New” was added to the moniker in 2011 when the enormous coaster underwent a remodel, replacing the old wooden tracks with steel.  I was fortunate enough to ride the coaster before the remodel.  The coaster was boisterous, to say the least.  As the car ascended the first hill, chains clanked, wooden beams creaked and the car shook violently.   The wild ascent would culminate in the car reaching the top of the first hill and stopping for a split second before smoothly gliding down the hill at breakneck speed.  After a few moments of flying effortlessly down the track, the coaster would turn violent once more.  It would shake, rumble and roar as it attempted to climb hill after hill only to glide silently and smoothly down each hill.

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There are moments as a parent when I feel my world is shaking violently.  Kids scream, argue,  and fight.  They are messy, stubborn, irrational and loud.  Some moments I wonder why I got on the rollercoaster, to begin with.  Then, there are moments like last night.   Moments when the ride is smooth and my face is plastered with a smile.  Moments when I forget about the commotion, the noise and I am reminded of why I took this ride.

I hope in the crazy moments, the loud, boisterous, annoying moments, I remember how worthwhile it all is.  I hope I can remind myself of the smooth descent ahead.  I hope I remember that, eventually, the ride will be over and not only will I miss those smooth moments of quiet joy, but I will miss the loud, wild, world-shaking moments as well.  Because eventually, wooden coasters become steel, children become adults and I become too old to ride the roller coaster.

“How many times have you noticed that it’s the little quiet moments in the midst of life that seem to give the rest extra-special meaning?” – Fred Rogers, The World According to Mister Rogers

 

 

 

In the Storm

I haven’t posted in a while.  It’s not because I haven’t wanted to, it’s simply a matter of time.  I’m in my final few months at Iowa State University, finishing an Undergraduate Degree in Biology. I’ve busied myself with classes, prepping for and taking the GRE and applying to Graduate programs.

The path has been long and sometimes I lose sight, not only of where I’m going but of how I got to this point.   The past few months have been especially difficult, filled with uncertainty of the future, but I was reminded yesterday of the beginning of this journey. I decided to read through the CarePage entries I wrote during Emerson’s stay in the hospital.  As I read through them, one stood out.  It was written five days before we made a gut-wrenching decision to remove Emerson from life support.  It reminded me to trust God, even when the path seems uncertain.

August 24th, 2013

“The wise man in the storm prays God not for safety from danger but for deliverance from fear.” Ralph Waldo Emerson

The early morning light hasn’t yet reached the dark woods. I can hear my dad’s boots crunching in the fallen leaves ahead of me and my brother fidgeting with his bow behind me. Occasionally my dad will turn and whisper directions to us, “Watch out for this low branch” or “be careful, the path is steep here” otherwise we walk in silence. Somehow in the pitch black morning, my dad knows where he is going. It doesn’t make us any less afraid of thback-light-conifers-dark-164018e darkness. It doesn’t keep us from jumping at every owl that hoots or every pair of raccoon eyes we spot near the path. We are both afraid, at 10 and 12 years old though we would never admit it. We are afraid, but still, we follow deeper into the woods. We trust somehow Dad can see into the darkness. We trust that he knows the path so well he doesn’t need sunlight illuminating it. We trust him, and despite our fears, we walk through the pitch black woods.

Emerson is doing better today, not much change which is a good thing. With all of the problems, he has had it’s amazing how tough and resilient he is. Most of us wouldn’t do so well considering he is now fighting a bacterial infection, a viral infection, meningitis, and pneumonia in addition to Chronic Lung Disease.

We were able to cradle him a little today. Not pick him up out of his bed but at least put a hand on his head and belly. We stood there watching his chest move in and out to the whir of the ventilator amazed at the life God created and placed in our care. We are doing our best to trust God through this, but sometimes its hard to trust. When the path is dark and the woods are frightening it’s easy to lose faith. I have to remind myself to trust God knows the path, he is the one who laid it in place after all. And every once in a while, if I walk quietly, I will hear him whisper, “be careful, the path is steep here”.

Proverbs 3:5
Trust God from the bottom of your heart;
don’t try to figure out everything on your own.
Listen for God’s voice in everything you do, everywhere you go;
he’s the one who will keep you on track

Tee Ball

My oldest son plays Tee-ball.  Well, he’s four years old,  he doesn’t so much play Tee-ball as he does draw in the dirt with six other boys wearing the same color shirt. I decided to help out and coach the team this year considering it’s his first time in organized sports.  Although the word “organized” should probably be in quotations and taken very lightly.

I’ve never coached anything in my life so it’s been a new experience for me but very balls-baseball-close-up-1308713rewarding. As the coach, one of my responsibilities during the game is to walk the kids up to the Tee when it’s their turn at bat.  I help them with their stance and then yell, “Run!” when they hit the ball.  Then I immediately follow that with “No!  Other way!  Run to first!” as they take off in the entirely wrong direction.

It’s the middle of the second inning of our second game.  The infield is filled with impatient four-year-olds and the stands are filled with beaming parents and playful siblings.  The sounds of bats cracking, parents cheering and coaches yelling carry over from adjacent fields.
I’m standing at home plate motioning for one of our younger players to come bat.  It takes a moment but soon he saunters from the dugout, bat in hand.  As he walks toward home plate, he carefully scans the stands behind me.  Suddenly his eyes grow wide and he sprints the final distance.
“Coach Justin!”  He exclaims as he tugs on my shirt, “My Nanna is here! Can I go say hello and give her a hug?”   He grins and his focus alternates between me and the stands as he waits on my response.
At that moment I have two choices.
Option 1:  I’m the coach and this is a ball game.  There are 10 other kids on the field waiting for us to hit so I say, “Why don’t you just wave at her and then after you hit you can see her.” This is the practical choice the responsible adult choice.
Option 2: I’m a dad and this is simply a four-year-old boy who wants to hug his Nanna, so I say, “Of course you can! Run out there!”
Let’s just say Nanna did not have to wait for her hug, instead, two Tee ball teams stopped in the middle of a game to let a little boy hug his grandmother.
Sometimes the world is beautiful, especially through the eyes of a four-year-old.