My People

My People
My matched set of grandchildren - Oliver and Cosette

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Sarabeth and the Secret

When I realized I had this big gap of time away from work, I just saw the blank days on the calendar and thought it would be nice to have a time to rest and heal. Over the course of the past two years I have learned to plan less, expect less, build a cushion of recovery time after every time of activity and just to know that chances are that if I have to choose doing something I love with someone I love despite the pain it causes, more often than not, I'm going to choose not to hurt. It's not that I love that person any less, it's just that when the pain starts, I'm not myself. I don't think straight. It's hard to communicate. The only thing I can think about it getting to a place where the pain is diminished.

It makes me sad at times. Other times it just makes me wistful. I wish I had done more before the pain started. I wish I had more relationships where, instead of being put into a painful situation, people would meet me where I am and allow me to share in their lives where I can be comfortable. And there aren't many places that I'm comfortable.

My mom comes and sits in my room with me. She folds clothes on my bed. She sits in my makeup chair or on the little footstool beside my bed that Oscar uses to climb into bed with me. Before I lived there... I couldn't bear the hundred mile trip unless I built in recovery days afterwards. Now, circumstances have brought me to a place where I get to see mom, Pop, Cody, Marquee and all our fur babies on a daily basis. I didn't realize how lonely I was until I moved down there and got to actually interact with three dimensional people!

Even sitting on a couch, which you would think would be comfy and cozy, because of the pressure it puts on my lower spine, is agony. Sitting around a kitchen table on hard wood chairs... forget about it. Going out to eat is a whole 'nother level of hell because there is inevitably wait time... sliding into a booth requires a side to side movement that makes my legs go numb... the chairs are hard... and so forth. Socializing is difficult.

I'm in that period of declining ability where I look perfectly normal. Old people glare at me as I get out of my car parked in "Princess Parking" (a handicapped space).  I don't need a cane (or as my Grandma calls it... "a walking stick") but there are times that that extra stability would be nice. I can walk. I just can't walk far. I can't climb stairs without pain. I have to plan the route before I go somewhere to make sure it's something I can handle. We went to Walmart yesterday and, even leaning on the cart, the last few minutes in the store were difficult. (And to add insult to injury, the computer I was going to buy that was $288 was out of stock and they wouldn't offer me a rain check.)

There are friends I want to hang out with. Family members I dearly miss. Lots and lots and lots of free time that I could and would and SHOULD be filling with loved ones but it's just so hard to go where they are.

Then yesterday... Bubba asked if I could take Sarabeth to basketball practice. Jamie had a game at 5:30 in one location, Bethy had a practice at 6pm in another and Angie was out of town. Austin and I were just sort of sorting out the Christmas stuff we brought up from Riverdale and I thought that Sarabeth would have fun going through that in between the time her dad had to go and the time we needed to leave for practice.

They got there... Jamie was dressed in her little basketball uniform. She asked, "are we Pilgrims or Indians?" Her dad told her that I would know. "Pilgrims" I told her. "On the actual Mayflower, Stephen Hopkins was your 11th great-grandfather and was the father of the baby born during the voyage." She processed that knowledge with her little Popeye wink, looking into the glare of the afternoon sun. I didn't expect Jamie to be an athlete, since she tends to take after me but she made a free throw the night before in a game! And Sarabeth is tall and lean. She makes a great basketball player.

So anyways... Jim and Jamie left and SB came in with me.  Austin had supper ready (because we have him in the habit of eating with the old people at 4pm)... so she and I sat at the table and ate our steak and fries. Austin went down stairs so we could have "girl talk". I explained what I was thinking about doing with the decorations and was deep into explaining the whole ribbon, light, garland perspective when she... looking down at her plate... says to me, "I know the secret." I lift an eyebrow and say, "THE secret?" "Yes." She says, wise beyond her ten years. "But Jamie doesn't know so we can't say anything to her." I said, "What made you..." and she interrupts and says, "I have known for a few months now. I asked my mom and at first she didn't really say... she just said that she knew Santa very well..." and she went on to tell the story of how it all came out.

I should sidebar here and say that my brother Bryan, you know, the New York City lawyer who could read when he was two (ok, maybe a little later than that but... still...) found out by reading the Home Life magazine that they pass out in church. In it was a little vignette that made him realize "the Secret". He cried all during church. He was probably around 7.

 I told Sarabeth, "You know who told me? It was YOUR DAD." I was seven. She said, "well, there were a lot of kids in your family. It was probably hard to keep a secret." That cracked me up. Insightful little doll.

I told her that finding out that someone in your life who you KNOW and see everyday wants to give you things that you really want is a precious, wonderful thing and that knowing the secret helps you know how loved you really are.

We set to work putting together my parents' artificial tree. Austin couldn't figure it out but with a helpful hint from Mawmaw, Sarabeth was able to put it together handily. We gave her eggnog with nutmeg sprinkled on top (our family imperative for decorating). She didn't know if she had it before but she liked it... said it tasted like melted ice cream. I talked to my mom on the phone and told her Sarabeth knew "the Secret" and SB shot me a warning look and whispered, "does Austin know?" Which shows you that her 18 year old cousin is, in her eyes, just a big goofy kid. And he is.

We talked about the computer that I'm going to buy. She gave some suggestions. She showed me the computer game she likes on And then it was time to go.

Practice was being held at her school which is about a ten minute drive from our Mountain house. There's an intersection with a stoplight (just the one) where we needed to turn left. There isn't a turning light so you have to yield to oncoming (swift) traffic. We waited almost an entire light cycle to be able to turn and she asked why we had to wait until everyone else went... so I explained the whole "right of way" perspective. She worried that I wouldn't know where her school was and I reminded her that it was on my way to work for four years... and that I had been there several times. "Yes.... but we are coming from a different direction than my parents usually come so we will have to turn right instead of going straight at the four way stop." She talked me through it... "this is it... this is the four way stop here..." and so forth. She was very brave and didn't need me to stay with her... which was good because there was no seating available other than criss cross applesauce on the gym floor.

I left and thought what a fabulous time that was for me. It wasn't Disney World or unicorns and rainbows... it was just hanging out... getting to hear her thoughts... knowing that this formerly shy girl speaks openly with me.  It was her being where I was... like a balm to my soul!

I spent the evening afterwards watching Big Bang Theory on Youtube. I stayed up late - until after midnight - and slept until nearly 8am. The only thing on my agenda today is a shower and trying out these big curlers that my mom bought from AVON. Austin had Fat Pat over on Thursday night and Logan came over yesterday. And, of course, we got to visit with the nice folks at the bakery and Bubba and the girls... so we haven't been lonely here at all. It's the perfect balance, almost...

Life sure is sweet.