I have a fresh cup of coffee and the ‘to do’ list I left on my desk last night clearly states that I should attend to my article on stroke and depression. I dawdle instead.
The word stroke makes me think of my Dad. He did not become depressed after his stroke but angry; I did too. That he lost his ability to do things around the yard, that he was slow and feeling older because of that, that he lost his smile because his body gave up on feeling invincible before his mind did. His anger melted in depressed helplessness over time, mine in tears of the same. Clinging to the shiny bits is how I can honour him and our time together.
Today I dawdle on writing about strokes because the morning walk reminded me of life before grownup shadows poured from the sky. The time when I was little and stepping out of the house into fresh, wet morning grass and my Dad would hand me a handful of half-ripen strawberries and smiles.
So I close my eyes and dawdle, lingering in the space where I can go no more, the place where I’d lie on my back in the tall soft grasses under the quince trees and make shapes with my hands against the sun, hiding my eyes behind leaves and feeling the slight tickles of ants crawling on my arms. The place of innocence and small daily miracles.
I miss that not in the whiny way that makes me unfit for today and tomorrow and life itself, but in the way that makes me ponder once again over the memories and precious bits of life I will hand my boys today so they’ll learn from and anchor themselves when life makes them feel unsteady.
It’s not about keeping them safe from harm. I have, since entering adulthood (I suspect that is what the land I find myself most days is called,) given up on the idea of creating a worry-free environment for my sons.
Life will use its sharpest sticks to poke you at times and it has nothing to do with your mom’s magic powers aimed to protect you. In fact, there is no such thing. There is the strength that we acquire by soul osmosis if you will. There are memories of sweetness, there is resilience, there is the remembrance of mistakes, loudness when loud does not solve anything anyway, mistakes corrected and tears wiped, the adorning with hugs when reconciliation drapes wraps us all in its long soft arms, and the resolution that tomorrow will be better.
That is what I can give to my boys. Time together is how I craft it for them, with them, and there is no guarantees either but faith, blind faith that the tree we nurture together will grow to have strong roots and a crown large enough to provide shade when needed – for them, for those they love, for those who need it when they need it. Faith that their hearts will never harden to refuse shade to those who ask for it.
I give them time, love through presence, the only things I have full ownership of. Mornings of snuggles and reading about boxtrolls with little boy, chuckles that come about as we read about creatures that don’t exist but how cute if they did. I listen to whispers of worry about things that little boys worry about, I am fortunate to be let in. Little boys wanting nothing more but to stay hidden in the land of playing knight games with wooden shields and swords and so much imagination it bursts out in stories that carry no punctuation but joy, lots of it.
I give big brother a quarter cup of coffee or so and the steam draws out laughter, stories, gazes averted but souls pushing closer to each other as uneasy topics nestle their elbows in between the two of us; we squeeze them a bit just to show they have nothing on us. Playing invincible? I used to. Now I play fair: sometimes life is overwhelming. My growing boy needs to know that, as he’s leaving childhood behind to enter the world that makes no sense at times but fills us with the kind of longing that keeps up going for seconds every day and every day after that.
For Mother’s Day just a week or so ago I got hugs, smiles and a wasp nest found in some sun-drenched woods. Cards made by them, adding to a pile that will one day become a framed expose of love bits. Cannot think of better gifts. Worthiness.
In the end, that’s what it’s about. Leaving traces that define us. I leave mine, they leave theirs. We make a mound of them and create the marker that will help us find our way back to the time when sweetness abounded and we held hands as we jumped over streams inflamed with rushing waters. So that neither of us will be swept away. Holding on is what I can give them. For now, that will do.