This weekend we laid my dad to rest in our hometown of Pensacola, Florida. It could not have been a more beautiful service. Our minister from our childhood performed the ceremony, and the words he said will stay with me for the rest of my life. I was so touched to see the people who took time out of their days to stand next to my family during a very difficult time. I think their presence moved me more than anything else.
It wasn’t as hard as I worried it would be. I had said goodbye to my dad a while ago, and have spent the past six months making peace with his passing through prayer. I think I was ready to lay him to rest. It was sad to leave him, though. I know that he wasn’t there anymore. The spiritual and rational sides of my brain tell me that. He has gone on, but it was still hard to leave him there by himself.
There was a soloist who sang my dad’s favorite hymn, “I Come to the Garden.” I can’t hear that song without thinking about my dad singing it in church. Actually, I can’t hear many hymns without thinking about my dad singing any of them in church. It was one of the reasons I had such a hard time going back to church after he passed. My dad had this big, loud, robust voice that might have been in tune, had he remembered the words to anything he sang. My dad didn’t talk much in front of people about his faith, so I think that’s why it was always sort of startling to hear his booming voice radiate out over a sanctuary. Completely uninhibited. I will miss that, but if I close my eyes, I can still hear him singing.
I come to the garden alone
While the dew is still on the roses
And the joy I hear, falling on my ears
The son of God discloses…
And he walks with me and he talks with me
And he tells me I am his own
And the joy we share as we tarry there
None other has ever know.
During the service, our minister talked about that garden. He talked, of course, about the first garden with Adam and Eve. But he talked more about gardens in our lives. Places we go to feel connected to God, or to whatever it is we seek. And the whole time he spoke, I kept picturing me sitting with God and talking in a garden, and my dad sitting on the bench with us.
My dad has passed on, and while I miss him every single day, there is a sweet kind of peace in knowing that he is sitting in that garden that he loved to sing about.
My dad’s funeral was on Saturday, so Friday evening, Chris and I sat down with Bean to talk with him a bit about what was going to happen the next day. We didn’t want to go into too much detail because we thought that might freak his freak even more than necessary, but we did want him to know where we were going and why.
“Hey, buddy,” I said lightly, “Do you remember where Granddad went?”
Without even looking up from the book he was reading, Bean goes, “Yeah, he’s at the North Pole with Lt. Dan.”
“Well, no,” I said slowly. “He’s in Heaven, remember?”
“Oh, yeah,” said Bean. “With Santa Claus.”
Yeah. We probably shouldn’t have talked about Heaven so much around Christmas. We seem to have some wires crossed…
Today I had a training seminar all day for my job. I was actually looking forward to it because it was about a program I was interested in learning more about. I was going with two of my favorite co-workers, and that just added to the excitement. I woke up this morning feeling energized, rested and ready to go. But when I walked into the media center where we would be training all day, there at our table sat one of the most obnoxious teachers that I work with. Now, I try not to talk badly about people (especially on my blog!), but this woman just works every nerve and pushes every button I have. The thought of spending the entire day with her in a small group setting was so disappointing. But, what are you gonna do? So, I pulled my chair up and tried to focus as much as I could on the things I was learning. The day ended up being better than I expected, but it was still not the great day I had hoped for.
After that sort of ho-hum experience, I picked the kids up from daycare and then did what I swore I would never do again. I took them grocery shopping at Target with me. I couldn’t help it. It was unavoidable. We had a can of corn in the pantry and a pound of spoiled spinach in our fridge. Times were tough, and desperate measures had to be taken.
This time, though, the kids were excellent. I brought them snacks, drinks, games, activities and stickers to keep them entertained, but we didn’t even really need them. They were content to just talk to me while I shopped, and it was heavenly.
So, we get to the check out line, and I am chatting it up with the cashier while I load my groceries on the belt and she rings them up. And it wasn’t until she told me my total that the cold panic washed over me.
I had left my wallet in my school bag.
I have been doing so good with the not switching purses/diaper bags/work bags around thing, but today I thought that I would just throw my wallet in my work bag to take to the training and I never got it out again when I got home and switched over to my purse.
I stood there like a goof, staring at the cashier helplessly. Finally, I asked her to just hold my bill and I would call my husband to come meet me with his wallet. Our house was further away than his office, so I thought it would save time for him to drop it by on his way home. Good plan, right? Well, it would have been up until the point where there was a major accident on the interstate that blocked Chris from getting to where I was. The only good news in all of this was that my day couldn’t get any worse.
For over an hour, the kids and I hung out at Target. The kids stuck stickers all over themselves, me and the very nice elderly security guard. We colored with markers. Gracie scribbled all over her hands before I could stop her. And then when I went to stop her, I sighed and thought, “Eh? Who cares?” and just let her go to town.
Eventually, we got tired of standing with our full buggy of melting groceries, so we started venturing out and walking around the store. We tried on sunglasses. We picked out Valentine’s. We laid on inflatable mattresses. We rode bikes. We counted oranges. We modeled hats. We sniffed perfume.
We did all those things that we never have time to do when we’re in there on a grocery mission. And you know what? It was great! The perfect ending to a crappy day.
Of course, the mad dinner rush when we finally made it home and everyone was starving sort of buzz-killed that good feeling – BUT IT WAS THERE, DARN IT! And I guess that’s what counts. At some point during our days (especially during the crappier ones), we should find happiness and joy in little things. And in little people.
Bean and Gracie are 22 months apart in age, which has brought us both blessings and challenges. One of the pleasant surprises has been how great the kids get along. We were really prepared to have jealousy issues and sharing problems, but we haven’t really dealt with those. At almost two and three years old, we thought we had made it through the roughest part of having kids so close in age.
We were wrong.
Gracie, as we all know, has a very strong personality. For a long time, though, she had been content to shadow Bean very obediently. Wherever he went, she went. Whatever he did, she did. He could boss her around, and she was happy as a pig to just be part of the action. But in the past week, we’ve started to see a shift in that. As Gracie is getting older, she is forming her own interests and preferences. She has opinions (lots and lots and LOTS of opinions) and she likes to think for herself. Gone are the days of letting ANYONE tell her what to do. It has been frustrating to Chris and me, but lately I’ve started paying attention to Bean is reacting to it.
In a nutshell, Bean is REALLY annoyed with Gracie right now. And yet, he still wants to hang out with her. So, we hear a lot of these conversations coming from one of their bedrooms where they are playing:
“No, Gracie, you’re supposed to put that toy HERE!”
“NO, GRACIE! Put it down! You have to give it back to me!”
And then Gracie runs off squealing, and Bean starts crying and calling out to me, “MOM! Gracie won’t play right!”
And so I say that if they can’t get along, then they can’t play together. And then both Bean and Gracie shriek, “NO!!!!!!!”
Seriously. That cycle happens about 15,000 times a day, give or take. They remind me of an old married couple who can’t stand each other, but can’t live without each other, either. (One day, Future Bean and Future Gracie are going to find this post and be totally grossed out that I compared them to a married couple. But, I speak only truth, Future Kids…)
Honestly, we try to leave them alone when they get into those cycles. Chris and I both think they need go learn to work through that stuff on their own, without a referee, and so we leave them to it most of the time. But if we let them work it out for too long without some assistance, then they begin playing the Tattling Game. Which is when I want to grab a fork and stab myself in the eyeball.
“Mom, Gracie said poop.”
“Bean! Bean! Bean!” (that’s all Gracie can say when she’s mad, but we know that he’s done something…)
“Mom, Gracie kicked me.”
“Bean! Bean! Bean!”
“Mom, Gracie took my toy.”
“Bean! Bean! Bean!”
“Mom, Gracie isn’t playing right.”
“Bean! Bean! Bean!”
“Mom, Gracie looked at me funny.”
“Bean! Bean! Bean!”
“Mom, Gracie is breathing.”
“Bean! Bean! Bean!”
Then I take a different fork and poke Chris in the eyeball just so I have some company.
We’ve curbed the tattling a LITTLE bit for Bean by implementing the Three Tattles Rule. He gets to tattle three times. After that, they can’t play together anymore, and I take whatever it is they are playing with, no matter whose fault it is. Harsh? Maybe. But by this point I usually only have one good eyeball left and I can’t take any chances.
I suspect that this nitpicking at each other will probably last for a while. Like, into their early 20′s, which is when my sister and I finally stopped nitpicking at each other. But I also suspect that, like my sister and I, they will eventually learn to work through that nitpicking on their own. They’ll learn what’s important enough to get me involved in and what they can work out themselves. And they’ll learn the problem solving skills to help them figure out those situations by themselves. I also know from my own experience that there is a big chance that the time of them WANTING to hang out together will ebb and flow. I know my sister and I went through phases where we wanted the other around and then phases when we didn’t, and I’m pretty sure my kids will go through that, too. So, right now I’m trying to remember to be thankful that they are arguing like this because they WANT to hang out with each other. I think I would be heartbroken if they didn’t want anything to do with each other. And I’d much rather be frustrated over their nitpicking than heartbroken over their disengagement.
There are weeks when Chris and I look at each other and say, “We probably could have planned this age difference a little better… or, like, at ALL.” But really, most of the time – even on the frustrating days – we are so glad we had kids close in age. We can see them planting the roots of good, solid friendship between them. And we know that when your roots are deep, the little gray thunderstorms just help you grow even more.