You Are My Sunshine

It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. It’s not my fault. Nope. I still don’t believe it. No matter how many times I tell myself that it’s not my fault, I just can’t wrap my feeble brain around that fact that, in some small way, I didn’t do something to screw it up. I wasn’t enough. I did something wrong. I looked wrong. Said something incredibly stupid. I have been told it’s my fault for 21 years, so I automatically go there in my mind.

I will never call myself a strong woman. I’m just not. I’ve been in bed most of this week, getting out only when I had to. Just didn’t have the energy or drive to get up and do anything. Breathing was a chore. Hair in a ponytail. Just shorts and t-shirt. Avoided phone calls, texts, emails. It’s a miracle my kids made it to school wearing clean clothes and lunches packed. Not really. No matter how terribly I feel, I will always take care of them. They are my heartbeat. In fact, one day, I was laying here (yes, I’m back in bed) listening to the rain spattering against the window, and I looked up to see my little one standing by my bed. He’s a beautiful child. Obviously adopted. I could not make a child this gorgeous. Hair that shines like golden threads when kissed by the sun. Eyes the color of dew sprinkled blueberries. Perfect lips, so red and so wonderfully shaped, one would think they had been painted on by the hands of angels. He’s my little Romeo. This one “feels the feels”. He calls me Babe. Says he thinks it sounds like he loves me more if he calls me Babe instead of Mom. He’s under the age of nine. This kid. Anyways. I open my eyes and he’s standing there looking at me. “It’s raining, Babe.” “Yes, Boss.I can hear it on the window.”(Using my nickname for him.) “No, in your heart. I know it’s raining in your heart. And I’m here to bring you some sunshine. Scoot over!” And with that, this old soul bound up in the body of a young grade schooler climbed up beside me and we sang “our song” over and over and over until we were laughing so hard we were in danger of a bad case of “the sillies”.

“You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Oh please don’t take my sunshine away. The other night, dear, as I lay sleeping, I dreamed I held you in my arms. When I awakened, I was mistaken. Oh please don’t take my sunshine away. You are my sunshine, my only sunshine. You make me happy when skies are gray. You’ll never know, dear, how much I love you. Oh please don’t take my sunshine away.”

We take turns singing different parts, alternating words and phrases,I don’t even know if the lyrics are correct.(Apologies to The Rice Brothers Gang if we have butchered them.) He can even hold his own on the melody, allowing me to sing harmony with him. This happens only if he plugs his ears and looks away. “I can’t look at you, Babe!”, he giggles, “It messes me up!” If I had just a nickel for every belly laugh this little one has caused me, I would be the richest of them all.

But as I look at this wee boy, this angel in soccer shorts with a snaggle toothed grin,one chubby hand holding mine, head thrown back, singing at the top of his lungs, “You are my sunshine, my only sun shine….” I realize, I already am.

 

 

A View From The Floor 

Found myself on the bathroom floor today. No, I didn’t have some sort of great awakening where I “found myself”. I was literally on the bathroom floor. For a few hours. Laying there, crying oceans onto the floor until I had no strength to get up. So I stayed. Thankfully, I have several rugs to soften the blow of that cold, ceramic tile. I wish I could say it was a beautiful thing, that my porcelain and freckled face was so pretty as tears rolled in perfect harmony with one another, that my nose stayed that cream color only seen on angel’s wings, that as I laid in the floor my hair draped beautifully and hid my sorrowful face. If only. It was ugly. Swollen face, red nose of Christmas proportions, hair plastered to my face, cemented there by the liquid sadness flowing from my green eyes. I don’t even remember going in there. I just remember hearing someone sobbing. The sound started as a soft cry, but grew into these guttural whimpers that were just painful. Reality hit as my head hit the floor, bringing me back to these tear drenched, heartbroken minutes making up my life right now. It was me. My cries. My pain. I don’t know how long I cried, but it was long enough to cause an ache in my stomach muscles rivaled only by the ache in the broken pieces of my heart. Strong, intense crying from the depths. Purging. Dehydrating. Soul cleansing. 

When the flood finally ceased, my eyes were close to being swollen shut. Vision blurred, my corneas overwhelmed by their torrential baptism. Lips swollen, mouth as dry as dust. My body was limp. There was no strength left. I didn’t sleep last night at all. Restlessness and a hurting heart had driven me from my bed to the back deck outside. I sat in the gentle rain and watched the morning creep in. If I had slept, maybe I would have had the strength to pick myself up now and leave this unyielding floor. But  it was too late and I was too tired… and too sad. 

It’s funny what you notice when you’re laying on the bathroom floor. Laying curled up in the fetal position put me at eye level with the bathroom scale…that hateful instrument of torture. I wondered if I had lost any “water weight”. Buckets of tears…who knows? I noticed several dust bunnies. These are not the cute variety of bunnies.  These are reminders that I desperately need to sweep. There was an earring I thought was lost forever. My brain told my arm to move and pick it up, but there was no response. I had nothing left. It’s still there. 

Bored with the view, I found my thoughts wandering. When my mind is idle it can go to dark places. Instead, I try to count blessings. However, I didn’t want to think today. Hell, I didn’t want to breathe today, much less count blessings. Then a name popped into my head and I could see his face as plain as day. The friend who answered my desperate text for help at 4am. He-who-talked-me-off-the-ledge gives wise advice. His words have had many effects on me recently. I’m grateful to know him and have him in my life. Now that my sobs had ceased, I could listen to the silence. Peace. Calm. Much needed after the war my heart had waged in the early hours of this rainy morning. Another blessing. More of them began to parade themselves through my cloudy mind. Little miracles that I had been granted, helping me cultivate an attitude of gratitude.

My most treasured remembrance of the morning was when I forced myself to think of him, my Captain. I could feel the tears welling up again and I mentally scolded myself for even going there. If I’m going to get through these days without his presence in my life, I cannot shove it all deep within. So I began to think about our stolen minutes, sacred moments. I deliberately went over each time we were face to face, reliving, remembering, refusing to let go of him. As I smiled through a fresh shower of tears, I felt myself relaxing. 

I knew I would eventually get up from the floor and be able to breathe again. Maybe I’ll end up  back there tomorrow. Who knows? Sorrow and loneliness can drive us to desperate places…or maybe just to the bathroom floor. 

O Captain, My Captain

It’s 4:30am and the tears have finally started. Rolling down my cheeks faster than yesterday’s rain. I feel as if I could drown in them. There is a pain in my chest where my heart resides. I thought I had it so well protected,insulated ,guarded, hidden. I’ve had to give myself many pep talks during the last few months. “Love cannot be a part of this.” I tried to remind myself each time I heard his voice, saw his sweet face, read his words, rested in his arms. Now I’m left wondering if I will ever be in those strong arms again or put my hands on that face that has become so precious to me. A question asked with the wrong words, given the wrong impression, has ruined me. I’m undone and once again I’m alone. How could I make him think I would even want anyone else?The thought is a knife twisting in my already shattered heart. It’s him. Only him. He’s the balm that has soothed my weary and aching soul. Yes, we need each other. We found a sanctuary, a sweet hiding place within one another. We were gaining momentum, showing promise. And we were excited about it. Like a child who is anticipating their birthday and all of the magic and surprises that day holds… we were looking to every moment together as a treasured gift. It’s rare to find this gift, these unexpected moments, delighting in one another. We were learning one another. He was allowing me in to see the secret places of who he is. I was a giddy school girl each time he held my hand, yet a desirable woman each time he held my body. He called me beautiful, as if it was the name given me at birth. And I came to think of him as my Captain. How fitting, this title my heart bestowed upon him. He was guiding me, leading me through uncharted courses, teaching me more of myself, causing me to yield more and more to his capable, caring hands. 

We both struggle with situations that have fueled our search for respite. Unmet needs, uncaring hearts. Yet we found each other. I think he found me first and his name had been the song of my heart ever since. It can’t be ending. Please don’t say it’s ending. We’re just starting. There is much more caring, holding, learning, touching to do. So much more. My heart is so full of the deepest affection for you. Before you, I was so lost and lonely. I had given up on ever being truly cared for. I need you, my Captain. And you need me. These are stormy seas but with our strength carrying us and our hearts compelling us, we can navigate this storm together, proving to ourselves what we’ve known…what has grown between us is a good thing. A bond. Let’s not allow outside forces to break it. We need each other so desperately. We can get through this and make it work. Please. I’m drowning without you. 

Trading Shoes

She is three years old. A girlie girl who likes to try on my shoes, no matter how high the heel. A girl who always wants ribbons in her hair and simply has too much on her agenda to take a nap. Her mother was my flower girl in my wedding many lifetimes ago. We are related, but even if we weren’t, I know we would be family. She and I are kindred spirits. I look at this little one and I can smell the honeysuckle bush from my childhood home. It’s in full bloom and the heat of a summer’s day causes the yellow and white blooms to send out the sweetest of fragrances. I feel the satin of my own hair ribbons and the soft crinkle of grass under my bare feet. Her little girl giggles are a song to me, calling to mind my own carefree days of just being a child. Of just being. All of the daydreams and adventures when you are small become your whole world. Those magical days of wonder…fireflies, picnics, new puppies, learning to swim, to ride a bike, blowing bubbles, and jumping in those glorious mud puddles! She reminds me of happy yesterdays, this little fairy. So beautiful. So full of energy and curiosity. 

She’s now lying in a hospital bed. At the age of three she has become acquainted with pain and sickness.  The word Leukemia should not be one that she knows. Those invading needles…no lolly pop or stuffed animal can ever pardon their offense. There isn’t enough ice cream in the world to make up for having to sleep in that unfamiliar bed or being asked to hold very still for just one more thing. She comes from a family of strong women. I’m hoping she knows this. I’m hoping something deep inside her tender heart compels her to fight. Fight this ugly illness with all she’s got. 

We traded shoes one day. She and I had attended her great-grandfather’s funeral and found “ourselves” a bit restless at the cemetery. Both of us, yes both, were instructed to leave the dirt alone. Our families know us so well. When they saw us take off, hand in hand, toward a gorgeous mountain of fresh earth, it was both of our names they called. They knew I was not going to be able to resist…the girl’s wishes or that wonderful hill of potential mud pies.  Brown, fluffy, soft dirt. We were drawn to it! Before it could make its way under our fingernails or onto our dresses, we were recalled. As we walked back to our people, she asked if she could try on my shoes. I told her only if I could try on hers. That little pixie sat right down, removed her tiny ballet style slippers that perfectly matched her dress, and handed them to me with a grin and a twinkling in her big eyes.  I had no choice but to plop down beside her and remove my shoes, handing them over to her. She squealed with delight as I proceeded to try and squeeze a few toes into each of her slippers. As I stood up, she reached her hands up to me so I could help her stand in my shoes. She was wobbly and unsure, but had a smile that seemed to wrap all the way around her head. I made her promise to keep her tiny hand in mine. She gave me a knowing look and said, “Okay. I won’t let you go.” 

If only I could hold your hand right now. If only I could bear your illness for you. If only I could shield you from the pain and uncertainty that comes with a diagnosis of Leukemia. I would hold your little hand and I wouldn’t let you go. 

And if we were blessed with another day together, just being girls, if we had the chance to trade again, I wouldn’t trade shoes with you, sweetheart.  I would trade places. 

Our Birth Mothers

Sleep was not my friend last night. We have had a break in our relationship, so it seems. Two hours per night. That’s it. Two hours for the last three or four nights. *yawn* What’s my name again? As I sat in bed, listening to the migraine-inducing, anger-provoking, want-to-tell-him-to-go-play-in-the-street SNORE coming from his face, I thought I would distract myself and try to write for the blog. I innocently turned on my bedside lamp, the darkness was pierced and the sleeper awoke! Oops. My bad. I don’t know how that light woke him so quickly, with that pillow over his face. Anywhoo…it rolled over, stopped snoring, and I was going to finish the blog. Right? Karma, with whom I have also had a break in relationship, reared its ugly head. After writing for an hour, I typed something wrong and didn’t know how to fix it! Boom! Disappeared. It was all gone. And it was a good one too! Not like this drivel I’m pounding out right now. After waxing poetic and being all smart and stuff, it was GONE! At the point of wanting to accidentally drop my laptop onto the snorer, who had already rolled back over and was currently breathing so hard he was changing the part in my hair, I gave up. I don’t remember half of what I wrote and did not use the “save” feature, so yeah. Good times.

Mother’s Day is one of my most favorite days. For so many years, I dreaded it and was miserable the whole day. I have wanted to be a mom since I received my first doll as a wee one and would drag her around by the hair all day. (What can I say? The nurturing is strong with this one. I outgrew that by the way.) When I married, I immediately wanted to start trying for babies. He said we should wait. He was finishing up his undergrad and we knew we would be moving away for his grad school. So on our two year anniversary, I stopped taking the pill, bought some pretty nighties, and tried to think fertile thoughts. Fast forward five long years later, my arms were still empty, desperate to hold my baby. I never knew I could miss someone I had never met. I begged him to spend our precious savings on procedures that doctors said would help us conceive. After all of the years he spent convinced that I was the problem with our fertility, we were told it was not me. I don’t think he ever accepted that. I know it has to be a blow to a man’s ego….You can’t give your wife babies. So pay for the stupid procedures! Do what you must in order to see these same green eyes looking back at you from the high chair, watch me tie up loose auburn curls in a pretty ribbon for her first day of school, or see your hazel eyes looking with an ornery grin out from under his ball cap, or maybe sit by his crib and listen to his soft, whiffling breathing that may, Oh Lord help us, turn into that same, wall-rattling snore. But no. He would not. The “why” of it still escapes me. It’s the biggest heartbreak of my life…never feeling my babies grow inside of me, their kicks, seeing the ultrasound pictures, being proud of my growing belly. The death of a lifelong, cherished dream.

The snoring one was adopted when he was a little boy. Adoption was always on our radar. We knew we wanted to adopt, but we wanted biological children first. Since that dream was fading with each breath, we began to talk about adoption. We spoke to friends and family about it. Different adoption agencies told us that just to begin the process, we would have to give them $5,000-10,000 up front and our names would go on a waiting list for five years. WHAT?! We contacted a private attorney and decided to have him handle everything for us. Through the next eight years, we would have two precious girls come into our lives and change us forever. No, they are not my daughters, nor any other relation, but we are tied by our heartstrings. A forever connection formed between two people desperately wanting to be called those most blessed of names, “Mommy”, “Daddy”, two sweet baby boys, and two young girls, just babies themselves, in situations they were not able to handle.

Thus, our family was formed through the miracle of adoption. Two beautiful baby boys, born seven years apart. We speak openly about adoption in our home. I didn’t want it to be some big surprise or shock that they found out one day, digging through papers or some woman showing up at their college graduation…strike that….medical school graduation…and saying “I’m your real mother!” Nope. I want these boys to know that these precious girls made a very difficult, but loving decision to release them….NOT give them up….willing, lovingly, gently, painfully released them into our arms, our hearts, our family, and allow us to be their parents. These two young birth mothers knew they weren’t ready to be mothers and they were not able to give their babies the things they would need and want. You see, our birth mothers were ages 14 and 15 when they conceived. Babies having babies. They may have needed to be adopted as well. So young. People have tried to encourage us through our two adoption stories (I will write the stories some day! They’re amazing!) and tell us how great we are for adopting these two baby boys. I appreciate the words of affirmation, but I want to say that we aren’t the heroes here. The birth mothers are the heroes. They really know what it means to sacrifice, to love selflessly. They loved their babies, wanted to keep them, to raise and nurture them. It would have been impossible. They had little to no support at home. Neither of the birth fathers were in the picture. They scooted on out of there once they found out a baby was coming. They wanted nothing to do with them. Losers.

Our birth mothers are on my mind a lot. I have pictures of both of them put up for the boys. Someday they will ask and I will show them. My older son, a boy trying to become a man, has her high cheekbones and eyes as black as midnight. He is my tall, dark haired, dark skinned warrior. My little one, so tender hearted, has his birth mother’s rosy little mouth, peaches and cream complexion, and her large round eyes.  Legally, we are not bound to keep in touch with the birth mothers, because we wanted closed, private adoptions. For the boys’ privacy and security, we have chosen not to have them as part of our everyday lives, but I do send a letter and pictures through our attorney on the boys’ birthdays. I often wonder how their hearts are. Have they found love? Do they have the joy of other children now? What were their pregnancies like when they were carrying these precious treasures that are growing up to call me Mom? Above all, I wonder how in the world did these girls achieve a level of maturity at such young ages, that they could make such a life-altering decision and handle it with such grace and poise. I remember the days we brought each of the boys home from the hospital. I was nervous, not knowing what to expect. Would there be a scene? Drama? Tears? Yes, tears. But I remember peace. A strength and sense of calm as my sons were placed in my arms for our journey home. Both of our first nights home with the babies, I sat by the bassinette and thought of her. Was she ok? Was she awake or crying or in pain? Did she miss her son? After all, they had been together for all those months, sharing her body, growing together from the first moment. Did she feel lonely? I begged God, “Oh let her never doubt her decision. Give her the assurance that she has done the right thing. Speak to her heart and tell her she picked the right family…the family who will love this boy, raise him to be a great person, give him everything he needs and almost everything he wants. Let her have peace. Comfort her broken heart. Bless her, please.”

Such gifts to be given. I’ll never know how our birth mothers felt during their pregnancies, the adoptions, and the weeks, months, years afterwards. When they are old enough, if it’s their desire to find them and meet them, I will be the first one cheering them on as they walk through that chapter. If I had the blessing of seeing these girls, these givers of perfect gifts to us, what would I say? How do you thank someone who has given you the opportunity to be a mother? I choose not to wait to thank them. I choose to thank them each day, in the way that I raise these boys. May I honor the sacrifices they made so that their sons could have a life that they weren’t ready to provide.

What does that look like? My heart knows what it looks like. Sometimes it’s difficult, painful. I have children to love and to raise, promises to keep, and in the loving and the keeping, I’m often hurting, lonely, lost. My life has had a few heartbreaks, as all lives have. These dark, ugly times have forced me to look inwardly and see who I really am…who I really want to be. My dream is for my sons to look back and remember a happy childhood in which they grew up in a home with a mom and a dad, where they were loved unconditionally, where they learned, grew, and had an absolute blast! I choose their happiness. Theirs. Some days I want to choose differently and walk a different path only to relieve the pain in my heart, caused by another. To walk that path would break their hearts and I will not do that. So yes, some days, it IS an “either-or”. Their joy, their peace of mind, their sense of being loved and cherished…..or mine. It will always be theirs. Always.

There, in the honoring, and the staying, may these beautiful young girls, now women,  be heralded as heroes. Givers of themselves. Unselfish. Brave. Loving.

Loved.

 

When Pigs Fly

Here I am, returning to that place I left long ago. Only I am standing in the dining room, on that hideous red shag carpet, seeing myself in little-girl form… Fresh from my bath, auburn hair, wet and hanging to my waist in ringlets, barefoot as always, wearing the light green nightgown with the pink ruffle along the bottom, trimming the sleeves and forming what Mom called a Peter Pan collar. I can still see the pink  pigs that were mercilessly scattered all over the fabric. Ugly, but my favorite. I always put it on when I needed to feel better, brave, reassured. It helped get rid of those pesky butterflies that were in my tummy. I am in first grade and have written a letter to my Daddy. I’m so proud of this letter because it’s my very best handwriting…big, fat printing with a two-finger space between each word. I meticulously wrote it several times so he would not see the thin spots in the paper. My eraser received the workout of an Olympian on this day. You see, this letter was not just for any Daddy… he who could do no wrong, Daddy. My teacher said I was supposed to tell Daddy what I admired about him. Can you admire someone who kept his distance and seemed like a stranger? He worked a lot. He was very important in our town and in our church. There were meetings and places to go, people who needed him. I tried my hardest to write nice, important things, things that would make him see how great I thought he was. But what came out on my paper each time was the cry of a little girl’s heart to be noticed and loved by her Daddy. I told him I knew he was very important to people and that they all liked him and wanted to have meetings with him. I told him it was okay if he needed to be late to my piano recital if he had things to do, because I would ask Mommy to save him a seat and I’d even ask her to bring him a sandwich if he missed dinner. I told him I wanted to go “knock on doors with him”. He was running for City Council that year and I would go out walking the neighborhoods with him, knocking on doors, campaigning, until my feet were blistered and I was exhausted. My seven year old self tried as hard as I could to tell my Daddy that I cared for him, I thought he was great, he was so good at everything, and I needed him. My hero. 

Do you know how he responded? That man sat on that ugly red and gold couch and proceeded to correct my letter. CORRECT it. There were no thanks. No words of love or affirmation for his daughter. Only “Your grammar isn’t right” or “This needs a comma if you want it to make ANY sense” and, oh yes, my favorite one of all…”Honey, no one would DARE eat a sandwich at a piano recital! How ridiculous!” I could feel the shame and embarrassment coloring my freckled cheeks. Sadness filled these green eyes and spilled out, dotting the front of my nightgown. I tried to tell him how sorry I was, but I just choked on my tears and humiliation. I hugged him and bid him goodnight. 

In the sanctuary of my room, I stood in front of my dresser mirror and tore the letter to shreds. My heart felt each rip, each insult to this work that had earlier given me so much joy. In the soft lamplight, I could see the pink pigs on my nightgown. Why had I never noticed that they had wings? The humor had been totally lost on me. My favorite nightgown, this suit of armor that had just failed me miserably, would be found the next morning in pieces, mingled with the remnants of the letter. 

Where’s My Do-Over?!

Today has been one of those days that I wish I could go back and do over. Golfers get mulligans, right? Actors get multiple takes. Musicians, when rehearsing, get a good old “play it again, Sam!” So, why can’t I have a do over on this day? I would ignore the sting of rejection and rejoice in the warmth of the sun on my face. My heart would sing instead of sigh. I would be better, do better. Deserve affection. Have arms around me instead of just moments of whatever. 

I’ll borrow from my pal, Puck, also known as Robin Goodfellow, in A Midsummer  Night’s Dream by William Shakespeare. His monologue in Act Five, Scene One pretty much sums it up for me right this moment…..

“If we shadows have offended, 

Think but this, and all is mended,

That you have but slumbered here

While these visions did appear.

And this weak and idle theme,

No more yielding but a dream,

Gentles, do not reprehend:

If you pardon, we will mend:

And, as I am an honest Puck,

If we have unearned luck

Now to ‘scape the serpent’s tongue,

We will make amends ere long;

Else the Puck a liar call;

So, good night unto you all.

Give me your hands, if we be friends,

And Robin shall restore amends.”

Puck reminds us that this whole play is basically a dream. So, if we are offended by it, or do not like it, we are encouraged to embrace it for what it is…a dream,  a non reality, nonsense. “That you have but slumbered here while these visions did appear”…see? We were merely sleeping while these things happened. And wow! What a crappy dream! Bring on my “do over”….you know….the one where I am fully embraced. The one where I am NOT held at arm’s length….kept at a “safe” distance where I feel like I have to beg for affection or be perfect in order to earn affection, time, and attention. Please, someone, wake me up already! Remind me that I am worth it. I have value. I have worth! 

“Gentles, do not reprehend. If you pardon, we will mend.”  Yes, let the pardons begin. I have much for which I need pardon. The mending will follow. Maybe. Hopefully. There is so much mending needed. My heart has so many ragged edges. Blest be the needle and thread that take up this endeavor. I’m tired, worn, and weary. 

This is only a dream…only a dream….only a…..*yawn*