Well, when you’re used to talking to yourself with possibly several few twenty people listening in asynchronously, as I do on this blog (people actually read this crap I spew? hey, you totally rock for doing so), then a cold-turkey 6-day period of no blogging is positively painful.
Don’t get me wrong, I love spending time with my son and hubby. HB is starting a new job and so we used the Florida wedding as a perfectly good excuse to see my tremendously old auntie, her perfectly sweet grand-daughter, and the beaches of gulf coast Florida.
I tried to keep up with emails flying back and forth on my Treo, but there’s something about having to see and do everything through a 1.5″x 1.5″ screen manipulated by leeetle beeety buttons that’s just an exercise in frustration.
Plus, it’s practically impossible to read my 3-5 daily newspapers (or should I say, headlines from) and assorted skim of magazines on a Treo. I was practically hypoglycemic from information underload. There’s no methadone for being unable to remark and record one’s thoughts.
Will Make You Weep
Okay, just reading the review of this memoir, Hope’s Boy, made my throat hurt with the kind of ache you get when you need to cry. First of all, the idea that children and teens endlessly cycle through the foster family system so rarely getting the consistent love and attention they need is unbearably sad to contemplate. (You find yourself naively wondering if perhaps you should volunteer to foster.) Knowing that the boy of the title had a mentally ill mother, and he very early on felt like her protector doubles the painful childhood you know he experienced. But perhaps most devastating of all is his deep well of devotion to his mother:
“My mother lost everything a human being can lose,” he says, telling me about one visit to his mother at a facility in which all of her teeth had been removed, probably to save money on further dental expenses. Bridge spent years not talking about his mother — “she was too special to me. I didn’t want people judging her.” But he was encouraged by co-workers and friends and by his editor for this book at Hyperion.
“I wanted to write it while she was still alive,” he says, though he does not think she will ever read it. “I love this woman more than anything,” he says, quoting a line in the book: “her arms challenge every subsequent embrace.”
It would’ve been easy and understandable for him to stop loving her. To give up on her. To become hardened, bitter, and cold in the face of her difficulties and her obvious incapacity to ably and completely love him back in the basic ways children long for. How moving: his loyalty and forgiveness.
So often parents say that the love they have for their children is profound– frightening in its stakes–and as emotionally complex as (if not more so) than what they share with their partners. But what no one tells you about children is that they are capable of abiding, powerful love that can wilt flowers, dissolve geographic separation, and turn stony parents into powder. You will love them with all your might and still you’ll find that simple strong emotion a thousandfold in them, easily dwarfing what most imperfect, half-listening, pre-occupied adult selves can give. It’s not what you give them. It’s what they give you, and with every fiber of their small selves.
Bridge’s protectiveness and redemptive love for his mother not only dignifies her, but somehow powered his exceptional rise out of obscurity, poverty, and a total lack of expectations for his future. (I’m sure he was helped by a few key adults along the way, but he provided considerable helpings of bootstrap.) It’s humbling and awe-inspiring to get even a small whiff of his story. Or to see what love is able to do in the world.
Florida is Flat
We visited DeSoto Park, a lovely set of public beaches near the part of St. Petersburg where my Auntie Y. lives. As much as I was prepared to irrationally hate on Jeb Bush for practically anything (the rain, hurricanes, a rock in my shoe), I have to say I was somewhat impressed with how nicely this particular park was laid out and maintained.
We rented a two-person pedal-powered surrey with a spot in the front for the Unreliable Narrator to sit. Together HB and I pedaled 6 miles down pleasingly curvy flat paths near the shoreline. We saw yellow-legged white herons poking about in the ditches and poison ivy-strewn grass lining the path. Prehistoric-looking pelicans flew through the air near us, casually pulling in their weathered-looking brown wings to knife into the water at sharp angles. I tried to catch them in the act of swallowing a fish, but they must’ve done it so quickly that every time they surfaced, it seemed they were but floating quietly on the water and shuffling their wings. The air was breezy and refreshingly free of bugs.
Every time we passed a stranger on the path, HB and I made sure to say “how do.” We’d forgotten that Florida is the south, where pleasantries count, and it took us a while to remember we were on vacation. People seemed to expect it of us, and here we were being all snooty Angelenos. There’s all the time in the world to say hello or make chitchat when you’re retired. I was also impressed by how many oldsters I saw tricycle blading (is that even what it’s called when you have a scooter split in half with a plank for each foot?), recumbent bicycling, or smoothly motoring along on a Segway. Hope I’m that spry when my hair’s all white.