Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Happy Birthday, Balky

Dear Balky,

Happy birthday. You would have been 47 today--I think, I can never really remember how old any of you are except Rich. We would have celebrated with your favorite overly rich chocolate cake and Nanny's dilapidated 4 and "Where's the stupid 7? Can anyone find the 7?" candles. You would have eaten the whole piece of cake and saved the icing for last, like you always did. I never understood how you did that. Just watching that ritual made me feel like my tongue was stuck to the roof of my mouth.

You've missed a lot these past 14 years. Babies, laughs, tears...many of them shed for you. Beth's kids are all grown up, and she is a grandma now: James and Dan have beautiful children of their own. Chloe and Katy are graduating from high school this year, and you never got to meet Peyton and Lily and Jinju. They would have loved to play "lump." I guess you see them. Maybe Papa told you about them.

Other things have changed. We moved, and now Nanny is coming to move in with us. Too much space and memories on Porter Street. Good and bad. She'll bring the good. Hopefully the bad will stay there and not spill bad karma onto any future residents. Porter Street is a mess, though, not sure how much hope we have of selling it. Although, we optimistically buried a St. Joseph statue in the front yard yesterday.

I still have the card you gave me the last Christmas you were here. I read it sometimes. You told me that Brad and I should cherish each other and the love we have. I wish that I had sent you a card telling you to cherish yourself, or telling you how much we cherished you. I wonder if it would have made a difference. I don't have the last note you wrote anymore because I don't like to remember you like that. I write that off as one of those notes that should have been written and never sent. I don't think it was meant for anyone to read, even though you may have felt that way at the time.

I try to remember you as the person I saw in my dream months after you died. You were happy and joking and smiling, and I like to think that's how you are in heaven. Cracking all the other angels up. I bet you are glad that Papa is there. Beth said one time this summer, when I had a rough day and too many glasses of wine, "Chris and Balky didn't get him for very long; it is their turn now." I guess. If I had my choice, you would all be here celebrating Christmas with us. But, I had to live with your choices and God's will. And I did my best. Still am, I guess, doing my best.

So on your birthday, and every day, I love you and miss you.


Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Under Construction

It's December. I love December. I love Christmas. Usually. Not this year. This year, I am literally and figuratively under construction. We are building an addition for my mom to move into. Why is my mom moving in with us? Because my dad died. So the former describes my literal construction and the latter, my figurative.

For the most part, I have dealt really well with losing my dad. He was old, had a great, full life, wouldn't have wanted to continue the way he was, declining and losing his dignity on a daily basis. He died very peacefully, in my mom's arms where he'd want to be. Blah, blah, blah, I have now lost my two superheroes. The two men who believed in me and encouraged me and taught me that anything was possible if you just believed enough. I feel like I'm alone now in believing as others roll their eyes and scoff at my idealism.

Well, that's not true, really. I passed my dreaminess on to my daughter, who wants to believe that real men love you like vampires do and sobs at the realization that they don't. Stephanie Meyer, I hope you're happy with yourself! This generation, girls and boys alike, is destined for disappointment because no love will ever be like Edward and Bella's.

I know that is fiction, and I can tell the difference, but I too want to believe in that. I want to believe people love each other enough to give up everything they know for that love. I want to believe in miracles and grace and God. I want to believe that being a good person does matter even if in the end, you need but to accept that Jesus gave His life for your salvation. I want to believe in doing the right thing even if you need but to ask for forgiveness, and through God's grace and Christ's sacrifice, you will receive it. But some days, it just doesn't feel worth it to try.

This is Chloe's last "real" Christmas at home. Next year, she will be away at school and coming home with new philosophies and dirty laundry. Of course, I want it to be special and memorable. Of course, my husband does too. I want to spend every possible moment with her, cherish every smile, every laugh, every bit of wonder this season brings. My husband wants to sink us further into debt to buy "stuff." We struggle with this every year. I try to make Christmas special and memorable. And every year, he looks critically at the material gifts I've bought and says, "It's not enough," and goes out and maxes out our credit cards to make Christmas "better." And I feel bad and inferior and like a failure.

This year, my heart is not in it. I am going through the motions and buying the material gifts. I forced myself to put out some decorations. We still don't have a tree. Thinking about getting one makes me sick to my stomach. When I was a little girl, my dad and I went to get the Christmas tree every year. In fact, my dad loved Christmas so much that he kept a little fiberoptic tree in the family room year round just so he could look at the lights. Because he believed in magic and wonder and miracles, and that little tree symbolized all of that to him.

So here I am, waffling between idealism and despair. Between wanting to make this Christmas memorable and wanting to go to sleep and wake up when it's over. Wanting to stay strong through this construction and wanting to curl up under my covers. I want to believe that God has a plan for me. I don't know what it is. As hard as I try, I don't know if I'm following the right path. But I keep trying. Because I just have to believe. "Faith means...knowing that something is real even if we do not see it." Hebrews 11:1.