Santa’s Day of Reckoning

December 19, 2007

Let me preface this entry with a revelation so alarming that you may just want to sit down: It’s possible that Tim was right about this. (And yes, Tim, I’ve said it in a public forum for all the world to see. Merry Christmas.)

For those of you who know me, you know that I am surprisingly unsentimental regarding my children’s milestones. For someone who can cry at a coffee commercial (That one where Peter comes home for Christmas? Gets me every time. Though I’ve always wondered about the age difference between Peter and his little sister. Or is it his daughter from a high school relationship gone sour? But then I digress…), I rarely summon up the tears other mothers seem to have at their children’s growing up “moments.” First steps? With Abby I was so excited for her that she had a whole new world to explore on foot — with the twins, I was horrified at the prospect of that new world, but certainly not sad. First day of school for my last two kids? I was all “Yippeeeee!” while others wept for their babies gone all day long. Honestly, I love my kids even more as they get older and as they encounter each milestone. I find great joy in their growing up into the people God has designed them to be.

But then there are firsts, and then there are lasts, I suppose.

How did we get here, I ask myself. I, who have screwed up many-a-thing parental, have at least always striven to be scrupulously honest with my kids. Yes, it means that we’ve had some uncomfortable conversations earlier than some people might with their kids, but I’m a crummy liar and I do believe in the inherent power of the truth setting us free and giving us perspective.

Years ago, before it was even relevant, Tim purported that we shouldn’t have the kids believe in Santa, because of the very notion of truth. If we lie to them (wow, “lie” seems strong, doesn’t it) about Santa, then why should they believe us about God, Tim said. But the years passed, and the kids so wanted to believe, and we (or at least I) didn’t want to disabuse them of the idea of such magic. Oh it will be kind of a gradual understanding, I reasoned. It’s not like we’ll have to have one terrible conversation. This coming from the woman who remembers the exact moment when I realized that Santa (and by extension the Easter Bunny and Tooth Fairy) wasn’t real — it was the summer between second and third grade at a pool at Hueston Woods State Park.

Why should my kid be any different than I was?

This morning, before school, Rob asked me the point blank questions about Santa. I hedged. I hemmed. And then I told him. I tried to sell it as a “Hey, you get to be in the Big People Club now, and you can help other younger kids pretend,” but he saw that for the load of crap it is. “How could Santa have flying reindeer?” he asked me and himself. I could see him struggle with his logical side and his desire to believe. “It’s just your parents, right?” he questioned, looking me straight in the eye.

Well, no, not just your parents, I told him. It’s the miracle of so many people who love you. People who want to give you love and presents. God who loves you enough to bless you with these people who love you so very much. And he got that, I really believe he got that.

But the sadness and resignation on his face.

“You okay, dude?” I asked quietly.

“Yeah,” he sighed with the weight of one too many truths about life. “I just really wanted him to be real.”

And oh, if in that moment I could have done anything to make him real, I would have.

My other two kids have had the more gradual dawning of understanding. But Rob is a lot like me, very black and white, right and wrong, good and bad in his thinking. He sat in my lap for a bit while I hugged him, and as I write that sentence, I realize that his lap days are numbered. He wasn’t angry at me about Santa, and he doesn’t seem to have any confusion about Jesus being quite real while Santa is not. Heck, I don’t know if we screwed up on this Santa thing, or if allowing them to believe was simply a fun addition to Christmas festivities. I do know that Rob will have a great Christmas and will be caught up in all the excitement of the season. I know, better than Rob, that the love from God and family is far more wonderful than anything we can pretend.

I just wish that someone had told me yesterday that it was the last day Rob would believe in Santa.

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Various and Sundry

December 17, 2007

I may never use paragraphs again. Life doesn’t happen in paragraphs, you know? Because that would imply that one aspect of life seamlessly flowed into another. As one of my lovely offspring would put it, “Snah, I don’t think so!” So, to bullet point it all out once again:

  • My dad saw the ENT who wants him to have an MRI done of his sinuses (my dad’s, not the ENT’s)…yeah that shouldn’t take long to schedule. I say this semi-seriously — but I’m afraid the poor man’s going to have heart failure before the doctors quit passing the buck to decide when he can have this freakin’ surgery.
  • Yesterday Abby and her friend presented us with one of their endless supply of original plays (Gah, when can you as the parent say, “Kid, this is killin’ me.”). Abby was a member of the Nazi youth and she turned her friend in, only to feel guilty later, which led her to help her friend escape the concentration camp. Where do they get these ideas?
  • Rob has strep throat, but luckily we got the antibiotic in him, so that he can go to school tomorrow for his field trip.
  • Abby has a test on the Revolutionary War this week, and when I was quizzing her about Sam Adams’ contribution, she said, “Well, I know he has a beer named after him.” Awesome.
  • Tonight, well tonight, internet, I have a confession…I’m going…well, um…to the ah, um, Cookie Meeting, which would, I guess imply that I am going to be Cookie Mom again. Apparently, the drugs were working really well on the day I said I would do it again. And this year, The Girl Scouts (I’m just practicing my caps, I’ve gotten a little Rusty) performed a Background Check on all their Volunteers. Hopefully, they won’t discover well, the drugs, and those teensy little “problems” I had with minors (Heavens, I’m just kidding Council, just Kidding). Oh, and I’m not Cookie Mom, I’m officially the Troop Product Sales Manager. Yeah, I really really love my kid. And no one else volunteered. And crap, the learning curve for this job is about sixty miles long, so it seems like a waste to have a person receive the training one year, only to put forth for the firing line another person the next year. Oh hell, it was the drugs working, okay?
  • You tell your seven year old twins that an icicle is the perfect murder weapon. What with the melting and all. And then you proceed to have a ten minute conversation about it.
  • You find this so amusing that your children wander over to your computer and ask why you’re laughing so hard. So you let them hit the buttons. Again and again.

So at least when I’m found dead, in a puddle of cold water, and the boys are standing over me saying, “Finally, we got that sucka to quit her jibba jabba,” you’ll all know why.

We didn’t mean to get married on Pearl Harbor day. We tried to schedule our wedding and reception for Saturday, December 8, 1990 — but we couldn’t coordinate all the various locations, so we moved the wedding to Friday night. I was so lucky because I am probably one of the few people who had the wedding of which I had truly dreamed — Christmas time, green velvet bridesmaids’ dresses, holly in my wedding bouquet…several people that day asked me if I had been drugged because I was soooo very calm, and for those of you who know me, perhaps that isn’t my natural state. But I was calm. I was certain. And I was oh so very very happy.

In seventeen years, Tim and I have had many happy moments, of course — the birth (and for that matter just the getting pregnant) of our kids, fun vacations, silly moments when we’ve known exactly what the other was thinking and couldn’t look at each other for fear of laughing inappropriately (Richard ringing any bells, Tim?)…and of course, we’ve had crappy times too, times when we’ve sinned terribly against one another, times when we’ve faced the illness and death of those we love, times when life’s daily challenges seem to sap away everything we have for each other.

It’s impossible, in one blog post, to describe a marriage or to adequately encapsulate seventeen years of growing and changing. And what I’m about to say may sound negative, but I really don’t mean it to be read that way.

It’s simply this: seventeen years ago, so much of my life’s goal was wrapped around the concept that I needed to be happy. And I feared unhappiness so greatly that even in my best moments, I would sometimes worry over the infestation of tiny unhappy thoughts that would break through the bubble I tried to create around myself. If I found myself feeling good, I also found myself anxious about when that good feeling would end.

And here’s what I’ve realized: perfect happiness in this life is damn near impossible to achieve. Because for every wonderful moment, there really are correspondingly difficult ones. And what I’ve further realized is my choice in the matter. I can either embrace and relish the happiness life sometimes affords, or I can live in a fearful state of searching and even trying to create some level of “happiness.” Because here’s the thing, the God-thing if you will — happiness happens, as circumstances wax and wane. But contentment, maybe even joy, well, those may be ours for the asking. In 1 Timothy 6, Paul is discussing our love of money and how it brings no great happiness. And then, here’s the really cool nugget: “But godliness with contentment is great gain.”

So if we can grow to be more like Jesus, and if we can choose contentment — the reward is great gain. Seventeen years later I’m too old (and too weary) to believe that I’ll ever find lasting happiness per se. Life is too hard, too full of suffering. Over these last years, some friends have died far too young, people I love have gotten sicker than I could have imagined, and I certainly no longer believe that one person — Tim — can create all happiness for me. But don’t take all that to mean that I don’t experience happiness. In fact, in many ways, I’m the happiest, most centered that I have ever been. Or maybe I shouldn’t say “happy” — maybe I should say content. Okay. Cool, if you will.

I no longer fear what lurks around the corner of a happy feeling; in fact, I know all too well that there really are monsters on the block. But God is greater than it all. God can give me contentment and yes, joy, in circumstances, regardless of the quality of those circumstances. Happy anniversary indeed.

Up and down dates

December 6, 2007

Item the first: My dad’s surgery is NOT today because he has still been coughing up junk, and the general feeling is that one’s lungs should, in fact, be clear when one is put on the heart-lung machine and then taken back off it. Picky, picky, picky…he has an appointment with an ENT in the next week or so, who will give us insight as to when exactly he can be cleared for surgery. At this point, we’re anticipating a time after the first of the year, though the surgeon has assured him that surgery will be done as soon as possible. So…again, we wait. And golly, waiting is fun.

Item the second: I survived my procedures (as is probably obvious, since I’m posting). I remember the wee-est tiny bit from the beginning of the colonoscopy; however, my only thought was, “Huh, I wonder why nothing hurts and this isn’t bothering me in the least.” And then I was, blessedly, OUT. Sorry for any blindness (Kori) that my previous post caused. In short, yes, I have reflux, and yes, I should keep taking medicine for it, but no, nothing appears more serious than that. My colonoscopy showed that everything in that particular nether region is fine, though the doctor did note that I appear to eat a lot of popcorn. (Rim shot. Sorry, I couldn’t resist just one more disgusting visual.)

Item the third: Preparation for a colonoscopy — the pills that cause what is euphemistically called the “cleanse” and the 24 hour liquid diet — is no fun whatsoever. All that is way worse than the actual procedure, especially the waking up at 2:00 a.m. to ingest yet more of the pills for further “cleansing.”

Item the fourth: I love me some good drugs. I slept all afternoon yesterday. Yay me.

Item the fifth: Somehow, somehow, I must find a way to get myself less stressed, less in hit-the-panic-button-at-any-given-moment-because-my-parents-might-need-me mode, and try to enjoy — not just tolerate, but enjoy — the holidays with my kids and the rest of my family and friends.. On the plus side, I power shopped last weekend in preparation for my dad’s surgery, so I have very little left to buy.

Item the sixth: Tomorrow is our 17th (!!!) wedding anniversary.

Item the final: Thanks all for your prayers and support.

Self, I said, what could make these holidays more cheerful, more bright, more holiday-ish?

Because my dad’s surgery isn’t really enough (incidentally, he’s still having sinus symptoms, so I’d say that chances are good that the surgery will be put off. Again. Heavens, please pray.). My mom’s health problems? Still not quite enough to put the appropriate spin on the spirit of the holidays.

So…guess what? I am scheduled — this Wednesday at 6:00 a.m. as it turns out — for both an endoscopy and a colonoscopy. One friend asked me (and I don’t think she needed to be laughing quite that hard, but whatever) if they’ll do them at the same time and just run one scope all the way through me.

Sorry for any visuals the above sentence may have created. If you have to poke out both your eyes with a sharp stick, I totally get that.

A little history: I have been having wicked heartburn for the last several months, the kind that makes me barf and just generally feel miserable. I had an upper GI study (where I had to drink the chalky barium crap, and can I say, wow my daughter was a lot braver during her GI study than I was?), where they discovered that I have a small sliding hiatal hernia. God, I love to link you folks to digestive disorders, don’t I? Basically, a wee part of my tummy comes up into my esophagus, which causes the tremendous fire-like sensation in my throat, and sometimes even produces an upsurge of…well, you know, puke. (Okay, now you can poke your eyes out if you haven’t already.) I’m on some reflux medication — let’s all say GERD together now, friends. But my doc wants to check out everything to make sure there aren’t any significant changes.

As for the colonoscopy part (and no, I won’t provide you a link, to your everlasting gratefulness, those 2 of you still reading by this point): I won’t go into details. Let’s just say that my bowel has been…well, irritable for several months. ‘Nuff said. Okay, okay, there’s been a lot of gas.

I feel your love, internet.

The real bonus here is that this guy at St. Ann’s does these two procedures together. I mean, wow. Just wow. But with everything else happening in my life, it truly does make sense to go into the hospital only once. And I want to be OUT. Out out. I want to feel the lovely medicine hitting my system, and I want the next thing I see to be the sweet nurse saying to me, “We’re all done.” Let’s be honest here — I’m a big girl and I’m not at my best or nicest right now — it is to everyone’s advantage to knock me out. Completely. If I feel anything, if I sense anything of a scope like presence, there will be total hell to pay.

And tomorrow promises to be a real boon, as I get to be on a totally liquid diet (which yay! includes diet coke, but boo! does not include copious — or any — alcohol). And I get to take 32 pills (I could not make this up) over the course of 6 hours that will apparently…cleanse me. “My eyes! My eyes! The sockets where my eyes used to be!” you shout to yourself. By the time the kids come home from school, I’ll probably be hungry enough and mean enough to eat one of them. Watch out, my little lambs.

Honestly, I find this whole thing frickin’ hilarious. How could I not?

And Kori, you promised that you would comment if I posted about this. I’m so holding you to that. I mean, I’m being double scoped, what’s one tiny comment?

The doctors office assures me that I will feel quite fine by Wednesday afternoon, as I will only be under light sedation (remember what I said — out out out out), though she promises me that I will remember nothing. It’s not like I would really hunt her down and kill her if she’s wrong. Not really. I guess.

So, a Merry Christmas to all and to me a good procedure(s).