channeling betty

We never know the love of the parent till we become parents ourselves.
~Henry Ward Beecher~


Some of the most unnerving moments in my life have come in the form of saying-and-or-doing things that I swore I would never say-and-or-do.  I’ve been doing this a lot lately. 


The litmus test will be when I can spider scale the walls and emote green pea-soupy stuff.  But.  We haven’t had to call the priest just yet.

Moving on.

Oldest son is home for the long holiday weekend.  In typical college student fashion, he deposits his dirty clothes in the laundry room, spends exactly 30 minutes, give or take 45 seconds, catching us up on his life while simultaneously engaging in a texting marathon with his friends. 

Suddenly he has Other Plans.  And he’s gone.  

In his absence, we, His Parents Being of Questionable Intellect, do his laundry, bake and cook his favorite foods, and anxiously await the moment the Firstborn Son’s shadow will darken the doorstep again.


The Conversation About The Ungrateful Child begins.

When the Husband and I were first married one of the Big Issues we faced was my relationship with his parents.  Elizabeth aka Betty and Fred loved their children with every fiber of their being.  Their family was structured in the stereotypical Italian manner.  My father-in-law’s father, Florindo, arrived in America directly from Italy with every homeland tradition deeply engrained.   When you married, you were part of their family, because wasn’t it great to be Italian? 

And.  While much was given, in return, much was expected.

However.  I don’t want to leave you with the impression this was always a bad thing.  Sometimes it worked in your favor.  I can recall the time when I was dating the Husband and received a speeding ticket driving home late at night.  A $100 speeding ticket in 1982 was some pretty hefty coin.  What did his mama do?  Without blinking an eye, she opened her purse, and pulled out five $20 bills she’d won at Bingo that night.  Problem solved.  The Italian family way.


My family is of English descent with no ethnic traditions.  We grew up.  We moved out.  We became adults and waved bye-bye.  No emotional expectations, we were free to move about the cabin.

When the Husband and I brought our sons into the world, we erred on the side of Italian over-indulgence. 

And much was expected in return.

Flash forward to this weekend.  Son had been in town, but out and about for about 48 hours doing His Thing.  About 3:00 am this morning I woke up, noted his car was not yet home, and began stewing in a very non-typical English way.   I picked up my cell phone from the nightstand and texted that the next time he comes home maybe he should  just stay with his friends and come to visit us when it was convenient for him to do so. 

‘I am very disappointed in the way you’re acting.’


Honestly, it was quite an epiphany to see things from her perspective.  She’s been gone since 1984, but when I say my prayers this evening, I’m going to give her a little shout out and say, ‘I FINALLY GET YOU.’

Because if she were here, she’d cuff her grandson on the back of the head and in pure ‘Moonstruck’ fashion, tell him to ‘SNAP OUTTA IT!’. 

Betty.  My new hero.


i didn’t know what i didn’t know

If you hold a cat by the tail, you learn things you could not learn any other way.
~Mark Twain~


My oldest son is nearly 21 years old.  It is with great pride that I tell you he knows everything.  Just like I did when I was 21 years old. 


The other day, whilst engaged in a deep and meaningful conversation, his father and I tried to explain to him that how he felt at this point in his life would change over time.  He wouldn’t feel the same at 30 or 40 years old as he does at 21 years old.  For purposes of our conversation, 40 was about as far as I  was willing to age to illustrate my story.


His father and I, being formed of powerful light and sage-ness, imparted the knowledge to him that his opinions would change, his life would alter course many times whether by choice or circumstance, life would beat him up a little and he’d be the same person … and yet different.  He would view life differently based on his experiences.

He laughed.  And assured me that he would be who he is now and forever more, amen.

Well. He wouldn’t say ‘amen’ because for all his Catholic upbringing, not to mention the tens of thousands of dollars spent on a Jesuit education, he’s kinda chucked that as well.


However.  I left that conversation with the realization that you can’t interpret someone’s life for them.  He will have to learn in the same manner we did. 

One day at a time, one pleasure at a time, one scar at a time.

I have learned that …

… with every year that passes, I am wiser, tougher and more thankful for the smallest of things.

… sometimes the events I considered to be the worst, most painful things in my life, were ultimately the experiences that taught me the most about who I really am.  Those circumstances brought about change that wouldn’t have happened in any other way.  And that when I was raw to the bone and felt utterly abandoned, I was also the most open to other possibilities.

… raising babies is physically demanding, but older children can be mentally and emotionally draining in equal parts.  Once you have babies, you are tethered to another human being for the rest of your life.  They are yours, for better or worse.  Your life is henceforth changed forever.

That being said, I know that …

… as a mother you love your children in the same, unfathomable measure, with no favor of one over the other. However.  As you love them for the unique beings they are, you love them differently.  Having ten years between my sons, there were many agonizing nights I laid awake while pregnant with our second son, worrying about how I could possibly love another son as much as I do our first.  But you do.  


I believe that …

… religion is not faith.  What matters most is not how I worship, but who I worship.  God wants a relationship, not a dog-and-pony show.

… no one else needs to believe what I believe in order to make it true for me.  I don’t need agreement to validate my faith. 

… if everyone allowed everyone else to follow their hearts and conscience in the manner of faith, I think God would be a whole lot happier with us.

I sometimes ponder why …

… I’m middle aged, but in my mind’s eye I rarely view myself beyond my 21-year old self.  Even when I’m coloring my gray roots.  Even when I catch a glimpse of my post-nursing breasts in the mirror.  Even when I flex my hands and note the loss of elasticity of the skin on the backs of them, which is really starting to creep me out, by the way.  My middle-aged self never shows up. I’m still kinda diggin’ on Lisa at 21.  She was always the nicest girl to me. 

I think when I’m 80 and have to face hard facts, it’s going to come as quite a shock to my geezer-ly system.


In the realm of relationships, life has taught me that …

… if a friend makes you feel small in order to make themselves feel big, they’re not a friend.

… sometimes blood is not thicker than water.

… if you are merely an audience for a friend’s non-stop drama, you need to find a better way to spend your time.

… you can’t expect one person to fulfill all your needs.  At some point, that person is going to resent the burden.

… a true friend is invaluable.  And if you’re as fortunate as I am to have a best friend who knows more about you than anyone on the planet and you trust that person implicitly to take your secrets to the grave, you are very blessed indeed.

What wisdom I would most wish to impart upon my son is that life is very, very short.  And in the blink of an eye, he’s going to be middle-age too and he’ll see how very little he really knew at 21.