Hurricane Sandy blew in with a vengeance. She left me with no power. This seems both literal and figurative as I reflect on the last few months.
For one whole week I was without electricity, and then for another week or so, we suffered sporadic outages. All things considered, I was one of the lucky ones. We all know the prolonged devastation that resulted on the East Coast that fateful day in October. So I’m not complaining.
Then I was swept up in the Elections, and rejoiced in the Democracy that we enjoy in this country.
Before I could fully recover it was Thanksgiving. My son was home. It was joyous, celebratory and warm. I hosted the family on Thursday and again on Friday evening. My son’s friends enjoyed an open door policy to visit. He basked in the glow of familial love, camaraderie and feasting.
Disaster struck again. And again.
On Saturday morning, right after Thanksgiving, and following a fun-filled night of much laughter and good food, I fell down a looong flight of stairs in my home. We had spent the night before enjoying an extended and boisterous game of Taboo – all the kids were there, all the cousins, all my sisters in NY and several friends.
I forgot my stairs are crooked; I miscalculated the rise. I first felt an absence of gravity and then found myself bumping down the stairs and just knew I would end up dead. Heart failure, stroke, or a lethally bruised behind! Instead, I landed in a heap in the hallway, to blessed silence after my noisy descent. I confirmed I was still alive, and as with a newborn, checked my extremities. To save me embarrassment, everyone was still pretending sleep until my outcry, “I broooke my tooooe!” Turns out I had almost severed the left pinky; it held on only by a few strands of soft tissue. My son sprung into action, lifting me up, propping the toe back in place, and cleaning up the flowing blood. My faithful twin came to the rescue. Post-surgery and seven hours later I was back home and now have great stories to tell about the awesome Greenwich (CT) Hospital.
That was Saturday after Thanksgiving. Thursday, on crutches, I started a new job. A fresh adventure with lovely people and lots of learning opportunities.
By the following Sunday I was forced to find my son another school. Due to circumstances beyond my control, but certainly within his (errant) control, he was EXPELLED from his beloved boarding school.
Hobbled and humbled, I embarked on my new job and on finding him a new school. Mid-year. And not just any year. Mid-year Twelfth Grade. College applications. Obscure Essays Topics. Financial Aid. I won’t wish that on my worst enemy. And it was easier on me than on him. His self-flagellation, his remorse, his second-guessing, his shame, his fear, and his despair were not easy for a mother to bear. Two weeks, 600 highway miles, 150 emails, 50 phone calls, 149 rejections later, we find a new school-home.
The lessons were abundant and mostly painful. He took full responsibility for his actions and he will be more thoughtful in the future. His decisions will be based on safety and not loyalty. In the future, he will be more merciful than those who held his school career in their hands and chose punishment over compassion. In the future, he will believe in second chances because he was granted one. By strangers, people who looked beyond the circumstances, saw a hapless teenager, and opted for grace. I will be forever grateful. And I’m gratified my son will graduate from a school that teaches by example, rather than a school which claims a Christian doctrine, but practices no forgiveness.
One day after finding this wonderful new home, twenty beautiful lives were cut short at Sandy Hook Elementary School. Massacred by a young man who also deserves our prayers; his family joined the many victims of this horrendous event. As the nation collectively mourned, I spent days curled up fetal-like, watching the news; reading the reports. I felt awful for the parents, while at the same time, I felt grateful for my son. I cried that he’s alive, that he’ll be fine, in spite of the rough period we’d just gone through. I felt shame to rejoice in our survival, but couldn’t help myself.
Christmas came. And it was like every Christmas, in spite of all the troubles. Blessed, celebration-filled. My cast came off and the four-inch pin came out of my pinky toe. My tree was huge, shiny, and gorgeous, with a sinfully beautiful angel. The gifts were modest and practical, but welcome. We had a great time at my sister’s. And for New Year’s Eve, as usual, I held the blow-out party. Pink-tinted champagne haze; this year was even more fun.
This month, January, marks two milestones.
Hurricanes, elections, Thanksgiving, surgery, expulsion, school search, massacre, Christmas, New Years. All served to distract me from my regular life. They took a toll on me, on my psyche, on my energy, on my health. I struggled to handle each new thing as I kept up with the mundane. Even with foregoing laundry, car repair and manicures, each event was another punch to my solar plexus, sucking my most valuable commodity – my time.
So I was almost taken by surprise at the advent of January. I turned around and here it was. My son’s eighteenth birthday!
Turned around again, and it’s my fiftieth! And so, to me I say: Cheers! Happiness! Prosperity! Abundant friendships! Harmony! Peace! Charity! Clarity! Love! Glowing Health! Blessings! And finally, self-acceptance! I may not be perfect, but I do well enough to have lasted 50 years!
And to my son:
Young man, I remember when. I remember when you were but two button eyes and a button nose, long crinkly lashes on round brown cheeks, in a round brown head, with a round brown belly. And brown curly toes. You delighted all who met you. Those eyes always sparkled and shone with love. That head always heard and saw more than it should. Today, belly flat, cheeks shaved clean. You’re still my round brown boy I’m so proud of. You remain my baby. Know that I will always be here. Know that you will always be loved. I’m inordinately proud of you, and expect to be prouder still.
Be prudent, be thoughtful. Show compassion, and courage, but good judgment too. (Remember Aunt Jackie’s words: You can always say no if it doesn’t sound right!) Work hard, and work smart. Love deeply. Only demand from others what you’re willing and able to give. Give unto others what you’d like from them. Education is important, reading mandatory. Worship God daily. Brawling is for barbarians, fight the good fight. Live healthy, exercise your mind and body. Get enough rest. Meditate. Be the bigger person, apologize; especially if you’re wrong. Take risks, using your conscience as your life’s GPS. Remember your heritage. Cherish family. Buck the stereotypes, stay faithful to your woman. Be loyal. Keep your word, it’s your abiding honor. Don’t do or say anything you won’t do or say if being recorded. Respect your elders. Be proud of who you are. Choose wisely. Stand straight and tall. Watch your words; they can be diamonds, but like diamonds, they can cut deep. Do It til you get It right. Failure teaches you what to change to succeed. Dare to be different, but not perverse. Enjoy the world but protect our Earth. Be charitable, give generously. Laugh out loud with your eyes squeezed tight and head thrown back. Believe in the magically impossible and make it happen. Don’t be too much of a man to cry sometimes; it cleanses the soul. Happy Birthday!
So here we are, milestones reached. Life goes on in spite of trying and tumultuous times. My small but relished pleasures, such as writing and interviewing people, were collateral damage. I hope to return with my regular blog in the next week or so. Sandy knocked the power out, but could not extinguish my spirit, which stayed strongly lambent.
Thanks for indulging my life reflections; Come back again soon.