I’m hearing the word “witness” in many places these days. Sometimes people use it when describing a horror they have witnessed. Other times, it’s the wonder one feels at being able to see something unexpected or extraordinary. It’s the latter experience I will try to share.
I play the organ for my church congregation. The way the chapel is set up, I sit behind the podium where the speakers stand. It was from this vantage point that I was a witness to a tender moment I won’t soon forget.
Mary (name changed) is a tall, slender, 17-year old with cranberry red hair who sings like an angel. She is the middle child in a family with five children. Nathan (name changed), her younger brother, is also a tall, slender 14 or 15-year old. Due to the pandemic, I hadn’t heard them sing in nearly two years. In fact, the last time I heard Nathan sing, he was still a soprano. I was pleasantly surprised now to hear his rich baritone voice.
Sunday, they stood at the podium ready to sing a duet. As they listened to their mother play the introduction, Mary reached for Nathan’s hand. At first, he squirmed his hand away, but when she reached again, he held her hand. The podium hid their hands so the congregation did not see what I saw. Mary and Nathan didn’t let go through all four verses of the song.
As the song progressed, Mary became emotional and was having difficulty singing without crying. She squeezed his hand. With a quick glance, Nathan continued and sang Mary’s solo part giving her time to regain her composure. I learned later that Mary’s grandmother who was in attendance would be starting chemotherapy the next day. Her cancer had returned with a vengeance and her prognosis doesn’t look good. No wonder it was hard for Mary to sing.
This expression of family love touched me deeply. I am grateful to have been a witness.
My husband will eat anything (except scallops=allergy!). He has only one request when I cook. “Make lots of it.” It doesn’t matter what “it” is. He’s eaten my best cooking and my worst cooking. It’s either “good” or I hear, “It was fine, but maybe next time…”
Over nearly 46 years of marriage, my interest and motivation in cooking has gradually diminished. I would rather spend my time doing other things. Without kids at home anymore, I haven’t had much motivation. With the pandemic, we have fallen into survival level food. Take-out has been more frequent (curbside pickup is so tempting), and my cooking has been very basic.
Enter 16-year old granddaughter, Samantha. She is living with us for a few months and being a nanny for our new grandson–her cousin, Peter. This has been a very happy summer for me with her in my home. When I knew she would be coming to stay, my biggest anxiety was dinner.
“I’m going to have to remember how to cook again!” I said to my sister. Daily dinner seemed like a big challenge.
Imagine me going back and forth the five paces between kitchen and dining room as I put plates, forks, salt, and napkins on the table. A big bowl of shrimp pasta salad and a bowl of watermelon chunks were in the center.
“I’m so excited!” she said.
“Why?” (I assumed she would tell me about an activity she was invited to go on.)
“For this salad!”
“Oh! I hope it’s good!”
It really is the little things that matter. I have loved having Samantha with us, and I found that my pleasure in making food has increased. I don’t even mind doing the dishes. And that says a lot.
Christie Wyman’s Poetry Ponderings class began this week. We explored the functional, flexible, and fun list poem. The varieties are endless. My thoughts were drawn to my sisters. Our parents are gone and as we are getting older now, we depend on each other in new ways. We have an older brother, but he has always lived far away. The three of us live within 30 minutes of each other and are very grateful.
A sister can be…
a partner for jumprope an opponent for games a cheerleader a joker at the table an alto in the choir an accompanist extraordinaire a maker of beautiful things sewn, knitted, or embroidered a friend a companion on walks a sharer of stories a potato salad making wizard an appreciator a “Faithful Fretter” when things are hard a recommender of books a constant in times of change
We’ve been hearing of the return of our 17-year cicadas for weeks. Doug Kammerer, NBC meteorologist, has been giving updates daily for the last few weeks. Today was to be the day where we would really begin to see them.
My son, Tim, was 7 when he first fell in love with the odd, clumsy, red-eyed cicada. He collected their exoskeletons which are left as they molt and played with them. I don’t remember the details of that play, but it was such that he was excited when they came again when he was 24. Now he has a 7-year old himself, and the cycle begins again. A new generation of boy, and a new generation of bug.
Whether you are freaked out by cicadas or not, there is something comforting in knowing that nature continues to do its job, and yes, the cicadas arrived right on time.
On May 5, 2021, Tim posted the first pictures of emerging cicadas. His caption read, “I’ve been waiting for you.” He meant it in the most gentle way, finding nothing sinister in this unique creature.
I may have more to say later this summer when the incessant sounds of cicadas preparing to mate and lay new eggs become intense. But until then, I’m willing to let them be.
Over the last few years, I have been happy that my son is experiencing success as a husband, father, accountant manager, and baseball coach. He is in those very busy years. I admit sometimes I have wondered if I know how to be the mother or grandmother he needs me to be. Sometimes it even feels that I’m not needed.
People always said that a successful parent works themselves out of a job. The kids grow and establish themselves as adults. I get that. It’s probably true. I’m happy my kids are high-functioning adults, but there is sometimes a loneliness I feel that is hard to describe.
Today, I took my son to have surgery he needed. On the way, he was very quiet. I knew he was nervous, and I struggled to find words to comfort him. I found myself missing MY parents. I wanted to ask them how to do this phase of life, (parenting adults) but they are both gone. I kept my thoughts to myself and tried to be calm and reassuring.
On the way home, he was still coming out of the effects of anesthesia. It lowered his guard just enough. He was actually pretty hilarious–singing, and asking funny questions. He sang a high note. “That’s a C-flat.” Haha. Then, a low note. Then he sang some of Bach’s “Air for G-String.” So amazing how fast his brain was circling.
He asked me several times, “Did they get it? Did you see it? I didn’t die, right?”
But then he said, “Thanks for taking me, Mom. You’re a great mom. I’m a lucky boy.”
Growing up in Virginia, I have watched deer with reverence ever since I can remember. To see a deer made the day special whether we had just gone for a walk at Great Falls or driven to the Shenandoah Mountains for a hike near Big Meadow. Now I feel sad when people only refer to deer as a nuisance to their gardens. It can still take my breath away to see their gentle eyes, graceful legs, and sweetly-spotted babies.
The deer come when I need them.
Three deer came forth from the woods near our house the day that Stephen was diagnosed with cancer. One looked up and our eyes locked. It’s message seemed to be acknowledging how fragile life can be.
My first job as a reading teacher began with a five-deer sighting along the highway. That affirmed, for me, an important shift in my life. A new job, a new school, a new me. Blessed by deer.
Once at twilight, years ago soon after my father died, I saw deer in the snow near the Little League fields. I pulled into the parking lot to get a closer look. I rolled down my window and was just watching and listening to the quiet when a police car pulled up behind me. Apparently, I shouldn’t have been in the parking lot when it wasn’t baseball season. I told the officer that I saw the deer and just wanted to enjoy the sight. He said I had to move along.
Three deer grazed outside the hospital last Sunday morning at 5:30 a.m. I had just spent seven hours with my daughter in the Emergency Room. She was gravely ill from Dengue Fever contracted in Honduras. The deer brought a bit a of beauty, a bit of calm, a bit of surprising joy. Such a comfort.