My life is full, fuller than it’s been in a long time. The long season of waiting seems to have ended, and life is moving forward, filling up. Some of this fullness is situational. Kids are home, filling in the gaps their absence left behind. They are not always around, we often pass like ships in the night, but their presence is tangible in the house… I can see the stacks of mail, the dirty dishes in the sink, and the laundry piling up in the basement. I also recognize that this is a moment. A precious moment of rediscovery. Their lives are moving forward in a not so straight line, but they are moving inexorably ahead. I will appreciate this moment as a gift. Knowing them again, in a new way. They are still mine, but not so much.
We’ve seen shifting in other familiar places recently. A treasured group has ended its weekly meeting, but not the life-giving friendships. We are feeling the loss and the possibility of something new in that space. The other day Keith and I noted that we miss the chance to gather folks around our table. At this moment, our table is full of our offspring and the children in love we now call our own. There will be time again for gathering less familiar faces, but this moment seems to call for a reconfiguring of these familiars. A chance to know each other again, like brand new.
Recently, I had just pulled on polka dotted pajamas when the phone rang. I could see from Keith’s face, an urgency I feared. He grunted, nodded, and said I’m on my way. Within moments, three others joined him as they headed down the road for the farm. Kaitlyn was alone when three dogs bolted out of the yard, night was descending, and Brian was at work. I was so proud of my family, with dogs running the neighborhood they dropped everything to step in and provide support and practical assistance. They were able to gather the dogs, including the ancient greyhound, a three-legged German shepherd, and a silly lab mix. They returned home, and resumed their lives.
It always shocks me, the way they turn toward each other’s need. Even though they rub each other wrong and often nurse long standing grudges, when there is a need they arrive to support. I don’t know that we taught them that. When the two younger siblings were in school, there was little to appreciate in their relationship. They bumped and grumbled against each other in big and small ways that pierced my heart. I feared they would never get by whatever it was that stood in the way of them appreciating each other.
So, no one was more surprised than I when we walked through the door to find them giggling on the sofa. When pressed, we learned that someone had threatened the little sister and brother bear had stepped in to provide cover. We didn’t get a chance to read the email. I went to bed that night, feeling a tender joy at the protectiveness and love they shared. Early the next morning, before my first cup of coffee, I was confronted by an angry mom whose middle school daughter had been threatened by my football player and his whole team. Horrified by the contents of my children’s email, I assured the angry mom that her daughter was not in danger, and that our son was not a threat.
I think in the intervening time, I’ve resigned myself to the fact that I cannot marshal this relationship, or the others inside our family. They will have to decide who they want to be in each other’s lives. They will open up or close down. Invite each other in, or exclude. They will grow into each other’s lives or away. It’s not up to me. This season seems to provide some additional space for these relationships to engage. I love watching my children overflow with generosity and care. It seems to come naturally to all of them. Each one can be found offering of their time and resources, selflessly and almost reflexively. When they see a need, they simply respond. I love that about them, but I am never happier than when I see them respond to each other with compassion and kindness.