Thursday, March 29, 2012

She Believed in Me

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

I steeled myself as she asked the question I had known was coming. It was normal, new doctor-patient chit-chat. No matter how many times I'd heard it before, I still dreaded it. I was caught in the great societal divide and about to be outed. I wasn't just a stay-at-home mom; I was a HOMESCHOOLING stay-at-home mom. I waited for the inevitable, almost imperceptible, arch of the eyebrow. The one that said, “Oh. You are one of THEM.”

Sometimes I'd make a joke of it. “Ha-ha! My husband pays me to stay home.” Other times, I'd simply mutter, “I'm a stay at home mom. We homeschool,” and try not to recoil as I waited for a hiss of incredulity. This day I fought the urge to roll my eyes in disgust for her. “I don't have a job. I'm just a stay-at-home mom who homeschools this fella and his older brother.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Yep, there it was. The look. But, maybe no? Her gaze was impassive and matter of fact. She was ready to move along to the meat of our visit without further judgmental ado. In the nano-second that I began to let out a sigh of almost relief, a little voice piped up from the floor where his blonde head overshadowed a pile of Lego’s.

To our surprise, he surfaced from the Legoland he had created on the floor of the exam room long enough to set me straight. “Oh, Mommy! That's not true. You DO have a job. Why - you are a WRITER!” He looked at the doctor. “My mom does too have a job. She's a WRITER!” He failed to hide his indignation.

My involuntary, nervous laugh bubbled up and out. Silly kid. He had to pick that moment to be listening to what was going on around him. I looked up, afraid to make eye contact and sure I was a goner. Stay-at-home mom. Homeschooler. Writer. I wanted to run and hide rather than stay and prove my worth given the three labels now stamped across my forehead.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
Though the room was windowless, it was as if rays of sunlight illuminated her face. Her smile spread wide across what had been the proper professional distance between us. She rolled her three-legged stool closer as words began to tumble out in rapid fire succession. “Why, you are a writer? What do you write? Do you write books?”

I may as well have been a snake a-waiting the music of my charmer so captivated was I. The lilt of her Indian accent transfixed me as the bond between us locked tight and sure. I tried not to stutter and stammer as I admitted that I had written a few articles for a regional magazine as well as an essay for a book published several years ago. Yes, I was even working on a book. Her smile grew so bright that the overhead light seemed to fizzle out altogether.

You know, I do not read enough. I'm so busy. Can you give me a list of books? Books that are fun but would give me a window into the culture here?” I got lost in the lyrical cadence of her speech as her world became enmeshed in mine. She, a doctor for Pete's sake, wanted MY opinion and was excited by the idea that I was a writer. What's not to love? Before I left, I tucked my list of book recommendations into her hand.

Son #2 with Poppy - 2011
I've lost track of the years. Three, maybe four? This week, Son #2 towered above her as she entered the exam room. “I don't think I've met this son,” puzzlement filled her voice because she knew us so well. How could there be one of us she didn't know?

I laughed. “Oh, you do know this one. This is Son #2, the one that told you I was a writer.” Her head snapped up from the chart she was examining, and her laughter filled the room. The warmth of her smile embraced us in that now familiar cocoon of belonging.

“Oh, MY! Look at you. You've grown so tall. It is you. You know,” she turned to look at me. “I'm so glad you are here today. I was so afraid I was going to have to call you. I'm moving. I'm not supposed to be here tonight. Last night was my last shift, but I'm filling in for another doctor. I could not imagine leaving without saying goodbye. I thought I would not see you again. Now, here you are.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
That peculiar kind of ache began to spread across her space in my heart. She would always fill that spot, but it would never feel completely full again because life was carrying her away to new and wonderful places and people. I tried to be brave, but I wanted to cry.

In the not so distant past when I had not believed in me, she had. She could have brushed aside my young son's indignation and rushed through her duties that night of our first meeting. Instead, she became one of my champions. She cared for my family as a competent medical professional, but she was a champion of my soul.

She wrapped up that final medical exam, and we said our goodbyes filled with bittersweet sadness and hope. She accepted my business card with a hearty promise to stay in touch. “I will hear about you,” she said in the way that only she could say it. “You are going places. I know that. I do.”

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
I close my eyes now on the eve of her departure knowing I have seen her for the final time. I replay the meetings over the years. I see her brow wrinkled with concern on the sickest of our days. I see her eyes twinkle with excitement as she anticipated a new and bright, but different, future.

I don't know what you call this, but the way it has happened has been so strange. I've gotten to say goodbye to all the ones that were special to me. You were the last. I was so afraid and then, there you were! You were here. I am so glad.”

A single tear slips down my cheek. Knowing how life carries us along, I know that she most probably will not keep in touch. The odds are that I will never be famous nor go places. Another tear slips down my cheek. From where I sit tonight, I'm ok with these truths. I am ok because in a moment in time when it mattered more than she knew, she believed in me. How do you repay a gift like that? 

Coutesy B. Creasy
Ephesians 2:10 (NIV) For we are God's workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do. 

Ephesians 4:1 (NIV) As a prisoner of the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the call you have received.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Will You Remember Me?

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
A foggy drizzle shrouded the little yellow house in an air of forlorn resignation. Traffic whizzed by. Tires spit ponded water up and over the curbs evoking images of elementary school boys pitted against each other in a mischievous contest. Cars stopped and started as the three-eyed robot changed green, yellow, and red over and over and over.

Everyone was in a hurry to somewhere else. The planet hurtled on into the future. No one seemed to notice the past slipping away. Behind the modest little house, a new structure rose into the rain. Its open, hulking framework already overshadowed the more humble dwelling below. Such is the nature of progress: newer, bigger, better.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
The swishing of tires mingled with the echoes of time. Memories long ago buried under decades of the newer, bigger, and better began to dance into the here and now. His newly minted post-pubescent voice was startling as he prodded me to move with the traffic flow. We too had places to go and things to do.

He sighed an old man's weary sigh. “It doesn't seem fair . . . no one will know how truly wonderful she was. There has to be a way for us to see to it that she is never forgotten. More than just what we write on her headstone. I don't say a lot about her. She's gone. I can't change that. I don't even feel sad a lot. I guess that's the way Aspies are. Today, I'm sad. I miss her. I don't want her to be forgotten.”

By then, we were blocks and blocks away from the little yellow house that is really a dental office. Yet, as he spoke, the vision of the new office overtaking the old swam before my eyes. “Tell me more.” I almost whispered lest his spell be broken.

Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative
No one will ever know how much she encouraged me. I didn't spend enough time with her, and I think maybe I was mean a lot of the time when I did. I don't know why I acted like that. I know I've changed, but I'm sorry she doesn't know it. Every time I saw her, she encouraged me to act better, to study harder, to love Jesus with my whole heart. She always prayed with me. All she ever did was encourage me. She never knew how much she did.”

His pent up emotions seemed to surprise him. The foggy drizzle of his grief surrounded us both and swept us away. I reached across the van and clasped his hand. “Oh, she knew. She knew. When you would run giggling to the car while yelling, 'Hurry! Let's RUN before Woodruff catches us!' she knew. It was your special game, and it always ended with her getting one more squeeze.” We began to laugh even as tears threatened like rain.

I led him gently down the path of grief even tho' I, myself, have yet to grope and pick may way across the same terrain. "As you grow into the fine young man you are becoming, everyone who knows you will know about her. They will see her in you. When asked why you are who you are, you will have the opportunity to tell them about her impact on you. I guess you need to be mindful, as you continue to become a man, what you want her legacy to be. You are her living legacy. She will not be forgotten because she lives on in you and your brother.”
Courtesy Mad Penguin Creative

The little yellow house cum dental office sat in the rain awaiting the not too distant day when heavy equipment will scoop it up and away. A parking lot will erase all but whispers on the wind. New patients will come and go as younger dentists continue on where their mentor laid a foundation.

In a decade or so, no one will remember the modest yellow office that sat shaded by old oak trees who stood guard as children became parents with children of their own. Even before the old building is gone and the new one has begun to fulfill its purpose, the never ending process of life has begun all over again. Past, present, and future entwine like drizzle in the wind.

I saw the future coming but could not imagine how quickly it would arrive. Baby Boomers around me are graying, and their steps are no longer as buoyant or triumphant as they were only a decade ago. We begin to face our own mortality and wonder when immortality betrayed us.

The face in the mirror stares back as we begin to take stock of victories won and battles still raging. More than a few wonder why we ran so hard to lay hold of something we could not catch when what we had was all we ever needed. No matter what the questions echoing back from the mirror of our souls, we realize now that life boils down to one small question: When I am gone, will you remember me?

Ecclesiastes 1:9-11
What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again;
there is nothing new under the sun. Is there anything of which one can say, “Look! This is something new”? It was here already, long ago; it was here before our time. No one remembers the former generations, and even those yet to come will not be remembered by those who follow them. 


Hebrews 11:13-16
Courtesy B. Creasy
These people all died controlled and sustained by their faith, but not having received the tangible fulfillment of [God's] promises, only having seen it and greeted it from a great distance by faith, and all the while acknowledging and confessing that they were strangers and temporary residents and exiles upon the earth. Now those people who talk as they did show plainly that they are in search of a fatherland (their own country). If they had been thinking with [homesick] remembrance of that country from which they were emigrants, they would have found constant opportunity to return to it. But the truth is that they were yearning for and aspiring to a better and more desirable country, that is, a heavenly [one]. For that reason God is not ashamed to be called their God [even to be surnamed their God--the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob], for He has prepared a city for them.