On a Wing & a Prayer

Yesterday was one of those parenting days that leaves you wrung out and feeling like a pile of wet ashes. I’ve been pretty lucky that even with all we’ve been through, my kids are good human beings, and we have decent lines of communication. Under the best of circumstances, transitioning from parenting children to parenting teenagers to being a parent to a young adult isn’t a path with clear markers and boundaries, and it’s hard.

I’ve been 12, been 15, been 17 before… but they haven’t, and the world in which they live is so very different from the world when I was those ages. I don’t always know what to do.  So much of parenting is on a wing and a prayer. Years ago, an older friend who had been through the ringer with her four sons told me “Just love them. You love them through it. No matter what happens, you just love them.” My kids were very small at the time, but her words have continued to have ripples in my life.

When I don’t know what else to do, when I don’t know what to say, or when I cannot (or should not) fix things for them, I default to making sure they know they are loved.

Days like yesterday are when I most miss calling David. His gift of insight was profound, and he was uniquely good at finding the perfect pearl his kids’ needed. It’s not revisionist history, and I’m not glancing over his flaws; but he was like a concentrated mineral or resin; what he could offer might have been small, but it was potent and essential. There was light he could shed that I have a hard time always finding myself.

To the child yesterday, I said “I wish your dad were here. He would do better at this part than I am…” and the child looked at me and said, “Dad is just stories to me.”

My heart stung and split again in a perfect aching wave of sorrow and grief. Over and over this happens. You relive the loss, you revisit it, the waves catch you off-guard and vulnerable, and it just never goes away. My child spoke the truth. They don’t remember him, they don’t know the man I knew, they don’t carry him with them the way I do, they never got to know his bright and shining wisdom, and that loss will never be recovered. I want to wail and scream in sorrow, but I don’t. I swallow hard, and nod at my kid, who is speaking what is true for them, and I honor it. This isn’t about me.

When Jon got home, we sat on the porch steps and talked about the day, and about all five of our kids and their wildly disparate needs, and how we could (or could not) meet those needs. Big picture, mostly we’re okay, and mostly so are the kids. We know this, and we’re grateful. We know there will be bumpy days, and sometimes bumpy stretches. I carry the words of my friend in my mouth like a prayer, “Just love them. Love them through it.”