Taking Too Much For Granted

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I was driving in one direction, and T was heading the other way.   We were both on the same two-lane road, so it was inevitable that we would eventually see each other in passing.  We were talking on the phone at the time.  I waved as he passed by.  He lifted his hand in return.  As his image faded into my rearview mirror, we continued talking.  T said, “I hate to admit this, but I am tired of being a parent.”  Ah….I knew how he was feeling. I was feeling tired at that moment, too.  T quickly admitted that he felt terrible for even saying such a thing, and I told him that it was OK.  I said, “It’s OK to feel tired, because I know that you will never stop caring about them and being a good parent.”

Our week had been rough in so many ways.  One kid needed $2,800 immediately, yesterday, for six months’ rent that we thought didn’t come due until January.  Another kid needed $1,900 immediately for a tuition payment.  Not such great news at Christmastime.

Last week also brought December 11, the day when both my daughter and my dad died.  I was in conflict for days.  Basically, I was in a zone of depression, fear, and anxiety that something else bad would happen on that date.  I couldn’t decide what to do.  Should I go to the cemetery?  Should I take the day off work and stay home?  What if I went to work, and I wasn’t able to keep it together?  What if I started crying in front of people?  In the end, I decided to go to work.  I could always go home early if necessary.  The day was terrible.  I cried in my car during lunch.  But that’s not what this blog is about.  I made it through another difficult anniversary, and the sun rose on another day.

Wednesday and Thursday, I plugged along.  I could feel the November/December depression beginning to lift.  Soon I would be spending time with the kids for a few weeks during Christmas break.  I began to feel optimism.  I felt hopeful.  I have vacation time scheduled.  For the first time in a very long time, I will be home for almost two weeks.  While we have nothing planned, I am looking forward to recharging my batteries, working around the house a little, and relaxing a lot.

On Friday morning, T and I woke up at 5:00 a.m.  I’m not sure why, but we were both wide awake almost two hours before the alarm clock was due to wake us.  We decided to make a pot of coffee and enjoy the quiet darkness of early morning.  I curled up in my robe, a cup warm in my hand, and fired up my laptop.  I logged into Facebook, and the first thing I saw was sad news.  A friend of mine had posted the obituary of her 46-year-old brother.  He had died unexpectedly from a fall in his home.  I felt sick to read such sad news.

Moments later, as I sat sipping my coffee and scanning through the Facebook news feed, I heard coughing.  I sat down my cup of coffee and strained to hear.  It was Lola.  Hmmm….I hoped that she wasn’t catching a cold.  The next thing I knew, she was standing in my room with vomit dripping down the front of her footie pajamas.  The quiet calm of the dark morning was over.  I jumped up and yelled downstairs for T to come up and help me.  We both sprang to action, cleaned up her bedding, cleaned up the kid.  I settled her on the TV room couch and went to wash my hands for about the 20th time.

T and I needed to discuss our plans for the day.  Whose schedule was more flexible?  Neither.  Who was able to stay home this morning?   Neither.  What was Emily’s schedule for finals today?  I told T to go ahead and go to work.  I would stay home for the morning until Emily was back home.  He could settle things at his office, and then come home.  Tag team parenting.

A couple of hours later, just as I was about to walk out the door, Lola was sick again….this time on the TV room floor.  We had shampooed the carpet in that room the previous night in preparations for the upcoming holiday.  UGH!  We were out of Ibuprofen and Kleenex.  One paper towel was left on the holder in the kitchen.  Our life seemed to be in major disarray.  Luke was coming home from Milwaukee that night, and there were no sheets on his bed.  Life was feeling like one big chore.  Lots of work, and no joy.

T and I talked as he drove home, and I drove to my office.  What has happened to our lives?  Why do our lives so often seem like monotonous drudgery?  When are our adult children going to grow up and stop depending on us so much both financially and emotionally?  We talked about our own lives.  Married at 20 and 22, we never asked for, or accepted, any financial assistance from our parents.  EVER.  Yet, we wanted so much more for our own children.  We wanted their lives to be easier, to have more opportunities.  We wanted to be able to support them and lift them up, to help them aspire to their dreams.  We knew the sacrifices and hard work were worth it.  They are great kids, but we vowed to speak to our older children during the holiday break and gently remind them to be more considerate and appreciative, especially when it comes to financial requests.

And then it all seemed so petty.  Within moments of sitting down at my desk that morning, someone came in and told me to look at the news.  There had been a school shooting.  What came next occupied the remaining moments of my day.  How could this happen?  Why?  How many?  Oh, my God…  Like millions, I cried as the horror of the situation began to sink in.  Suddenly, immediately, my impatience with the trials of an ordinary day made me feel shame.  My beautiful little girl was safe at home tucked in on the couch watching Nickelodeon with her big sister.  I was suddenly grateful for the financial burdens of raising our four children.  Thank God!  They are healthy and whole, and able to pursue their educations.

How do we even begin to sort out such evil?  It is impossible.  Hundreds of lives have been forever changed.  Parents, grandparents, siblings, aunts and uncles, neighbors, friends, classmates are forever changed.  An entire nation mourns.

I called my boys that day, and I cried as I told them that I loved them.  That evening when I returned home from work, I hugged my girls, and we cried.  T and I sat in the living room and watched the horror on the news until we could take no more.  I felt guilty as I turned off the TV.  The families mourning the evil and violent loss of a loved one are not able to “turn it off” and move onto something less horrifying.

I couldn’t sleep at all that night.  I couldn’t even bring myself to walk up the stairs to the bedroom.  I sat on the couch.  I sat quietly praying, mentally sending my sympathy, sending my hopes that the grieving families would somehow find strength and solace in the days to come.  I could not sleep with the cloud of sadness hanging low over our country.

Once again, I am reminded that the only thing we can be certain of is today.  Time with the ones we love is precious.  None of us know what tomorrow will bring.  Say the words, “I LOVE YOU.”  Hug your children.  Cherish every moment of happiness.

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