The Great Carriers

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“Mom, can you carry my……”

Stick. Backpack. Shoes. Water bottle. Glove. Coat. Trash. Sweatshirt. Books. Ball. Gum. Ripstick. Scooter. Skates. Hockey stick. Socks. Deer antler. Bug. Feather. Half-eaten food.

(Newly designed cardboard) robot?

Please don’t drop it. Or lose it. Or break it, ok? Just carry it all around downtown Kansas City for me. Please?

When they’re babies, we, parents, hold our kids. We carry them. They ask or demand, “Hold you, Mama?” Or “Hold-you-me?” On our hips. On our chests. On our backs. In car seats. In expensive back-saving Ergo baby carriers. But then, something changes, all of the sudden, they want to use their legs to walk. Run. Jump. Fall. They don’t need us to carry them anymore. Most of the time. But, they definitely need us to be the great carriers.

The holders of important stuff. The grown-up, living, moving trapper keepers of their kid adventures. All sorts of day-to-day things. There’s nothing too great or seemingly too unimportant for a parent to carry. Our hands are bigger. Stronger. And less preoccupied by the next activity. We are highly intelligent when it comes to knowing where trash cans are. Oh. “Right there.” We aren’t planning on using our arms to climb across monkey bars or break our wreckless falls attempting to parkour or climb a random pole.

“Mom, can you carry this? Pleeeeeease?”

Ok. Fine. Yes.

And so we do. We carry their stuff.

We also carry loads that our kids don’t see. We carry the enormous weight of being a parent. We carry our hopes, our concerns, and our worries for our children. We carry or perhaps, drag our fears. We carry our struggles, our insecurities. We carry the uncertainties of other children who don’t live in our homes. We carry the past, our own childhoods. We carry our constantly evolving parenting selves the best ways that we can.

Sometimes, we carry far too much for one worn-out body to hold. That’s when we need help. When we’re holding too much to manage on our own. We need those who walk alongside of us. We need those who see us and graciously reach out to help us clean up our messes. They recognize our hunched over backs and tired eyes. They say, “I’ve been in a hurry” or “I’ve carried too much before, too. Let me help you.”

Isn’t that what we’re all here to do: Love each other and help each other get through. Life can be heavy and lonely and overwhelming. We can make it less heavy, less lonely and maybe underwhelming if we take a second or minute or hour to stop and recognize each other’s eyes and the weights we all carry.

“Let me help you.”

And we do.

 

Two ERs

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I woke up. Took a shower, and then I laid back down wrapped up in my towel. In fetal position. My guts hurt and I didn’t think I was ready to face the day. But I had to get up. I had to get my boys ready. I wanted to call in to work but I only had two shifts left. I took a moment then I got myself dressed. Because that’s what you do when you’re a mom. You have jobs, responsibilities and dependents. Even when you have a disease that lately keeps competing with your favorite interruptions in life, your kids.

So you get up. Get moving. Think positive. Keep the faith. You fight harder. You push back. You breathe deeply. You remind yourself how powerful your thinking is. And you tell yourself that you can do it. Then, you believe it. You pray and ask, or is it demand, for God’s help. You need his strength to jump start yours. Then, you take a moment to curse the disease. You may even irrationally tell it that you hate it and you don’t want it anymore. It’s not like you are childhood best friends or anything. You know it’s a bit absurd. As if you could just return it to the chronic illness store, at this point in your life. You’ve had it too long. No exchanges or returns. Sorry.

Some days, you’re painfully aware. Like the moments when you look down in the shower. This amazing life preserving sort of gift of your small intestine coming out of your body. It’s beautiful and visible and life changing. You recognize and appreciate the lessons that having the disease has taught you. The silly unimportant things it has freed you from, in order to help you focus in on the ones that matter. The gentle touch of strangers doing their job, taking care of you, getting you warm blankets. Because you drove to the ER alone. In the middle of the night. It’s what you needed to do and your husband needed to stay with the sleeping boys. Thankfully there are the kind hearted, the compassionate, the ones who don’t know you but they see you vulnerable, hurting and they tend to you like their own. They touch your shoulder, speak gently and tell you they love your name. The nurses.

Other days, you’re just so damn tired. More like utterly exhausted. From life. And you feel like the disease is the heavy weight champion and you’re curled up in the corner of the ring with your head in between your legs and your eyes are shut so tightly. Just. Go. Away. Leave me alone, will you? Please. You beg. And plead.

It’s the worst listener.

It’s really a great big juggling act balancing all the present thoughts, feelings, pain, anticipation and previous medical experiences. Then, there’s the future. What are your options? Will this be the thing that kills you? Should you ever go to that land of unknowns? Probably not. Just stay where you are. You stay positive and present with the many, many painful experiences you’ve had before. You let gratefulness fill you up and smother the little flames of pity, fear and shame. You know that you’re not as bad off as you have been before. You’re hopeful that like all the other times, you will make it through this valley filled with it’s fair share of obstacles. You will always, always learn something that’s bigger and better than the pain. And soon, you will look back once again to realize that it wasn’t ever your strength so much as it was the overwhelming and never ending strength, love, and support of those surrounding you, encouraging you and helping you. You will never ever forget the friend who picked you up on the curb. And drove your tired body home and acted like you gave her the greatest birthday gift in letting her help you. You will always remember her. You will remember that love wins. Every time.

You know that when you get to feeling better you will do everything possible to show others this kind of readily available, self sacrificing, beautiful and rare kind of love. Because you believe that it’s not fair, every person deserves to feel this kind of love. Not just you.

Monday Morning

imageI held on tightly to the cold scrawny hands of my seven year old boys. I habitually reached down for them when we had to cross the road. And I didn’t let go the entire walk to school. My boys must have understood that I needed to hold their hands today. And maybe they wanted to hold mine too. After a weekend away at work, holding other kids’ hands as they cried, I had a hard time letting my own boys go as we approached their school. I love them so extremely much all of the time, but in a painfully sensitive and grateful way on Monday mornings. I stood on top of the hill and watched their backpacks bop up and down as they ran and disappeared through the school doors.

I didn’t think I could walk home. Physically. I felt like Monday had already knocked me over. And held me down. I felt defeated and it wasn’t even 9 am. The “I just can’ts…”had already crept into my head. “I just can’t brush my hair. I just can’t clean the house…and so on.” I walked across the street and Connie, the school crossing guard, told me to hop in her car and she would give me a ride back up the hill. She has done this for me many times. Maybe she notices the lack of pep in my step. My ratty hair. My coughing. Or the bags under my eyes. I always plop down in her backseat because she usually has a laundry basket in her front seat. She’s always giving stuff away to others. She’s enormously kind-hearted and will go to great lengths to provide for and protect kids. She takes off her neon vest and a few layers of coats, scarves, etc. before she sits down in her car. And exhales. She drives me around the block, up the hill and into my driveway.

It’s a small gesture that feels like a million bucks. She and I have the quickest, most deep, honest and awesome talks in those short minutes. We usually sit in the driveway finishing up our conversation. She graciously shares marriage and mothering stories with me. The lessons she’s learned. The sacrifices she’s made. She relates to me, encourages me and helps me feel less like I’m drowning most hectic mornings. She tells me I’m a good mom. And I believe her.

One morning, she held her stop sign up as we crossed the street. My husband was out of the country. I was trying to be two-parent strong by myself. And I’m not a morning person. I walked across the street with my three boys and two nieces. One of my boys cried the whole walk down the hill. I talked with him but couldn’t get him consoled before he entered the school building before the second bell rang. I felt awful. Like pure therapeutic grade shit.

Prior to leaving for school, my son had playfully laid on the floor kicking the wall with his shoes, accidentally leaving several mud prints. I didn’t freak out. But we were running late. I told him when he got home from school, he would have to clean up the wall. My request turned him into dramatic melt-down mode because apparently he thought he would never get to play again. In his life. Because he would be cleaning the wall. F-O-R-E-V-E-R. I tried to diffuse the situation with no success. So he cried. And cried. And he must have envisioned himself cleaning those three mudprints and missing out on the rest of his childhood. The whole walk to school.

Connie saved my morning. She talked with me. And helped me with that sneaky guilt that had leapt onto my back as I headed home. She told me I did need to have him clean up the mud prints. She told me I had done the right thing, even though I felt like crap. She reminded me that kids recover quickly. Then, she shared one of her stories of raising her son with me.  She helped push that mama guilt down off of my back. It still hung out by my side as I walked up the hill. It was easier to ignore there.  So, I purposely left it outside my door when I got home.

Connie unknowingly reminds me of the beauty in small kindnesses. Sharing a story or two, some advice, encouragement and a ride up the hill. She also stops cars and kids from running into school traffic. And she helps build up, encourage and strengthen parents like me. A real crossing guard kind of personality.  She’s a true hero in my book.

You really can’t ask me for much on Monday mornings. I don’t like to talk politics(really ever but especially not on a Monday). I don’t like to brush my hair. I need coffee. And patience. Lots of both, please. I’m an overthinking, over feeling, exhausted, missing my boys sort of mess. My favorite answers to questions are “I don’t know” or “give me a minute” or “I’ll do it tomorrow.” But there’s one thing for sure, if you ask me if I need a ride back up the hill, I will gratefully answer, “yes.” Every Monday morning.