Sunday, October 25, 2009

When the day ends

[I'm sitting in a brilliantly sunny parking lot - Loblaws grocery. And, no, I'm not sure why that matters - and am waiting for my lovely wife to e-mail me the grocery list so I can pretend to hunt and forage in this most convoluted interpretation of the urban ideal. I've got a BlackBerry, some lovely tunes - Thirteen Senses...again not sure why that matters - an open sunroof and a riotously red maple tree swaying in the warm afternoon wind overhead. So I thought I'd write a bit with my thumbs and see what develops.]

Bedtime has always held a certain significance for me. As a child, it was an important moment of transition from busy day to quiet night, when I got to spend some much welcome alone time with my parents.

Of course, by the time I was able to dress and brush myself, they didn't actually need to tuck me in. But they did, anyway, because this represented the kind of parents they were. And it never got old for me. Knowing they were there was plenty enough for me, and it's one of those indelible memories of childhood that I carry with me to this day.

And so it is with my own kids. Our eldest, Zach, turns 15 tomorrow, yet I still need to kiss his head and hear his voice before he tucks in for the night. I can't miss watching my daughter perform her carefully planned rituals - books, stuffies, blankets, reading light, blindfolds... - and listen to her talk to the dog one last time before he follows me out. I have to watch our youngest son arrange one layer after another on his bed before he burrows himself inside, reaches his arms out from his cocoon and squeezes me around my neck for all I'm worth.

His tuck-ins are different in a subtle way, as he is our baby, just like I was to my parents. And I know that he'll likely be the last tuck-in I ever get to do. I hold onto this ritual because a part of me wants to believe that our kids will always need their omniscient, inviolable, all-powerful parents there for them. Even after the real world strips them - indeed, us - of their overt superhero persona.

Once upon a time, I had thought that my parents lost their superhero persona right around the time I hit my mid-teens and began to brashly take my first steps toward an independent life. it didn't take long for me to start questioning and challenging them. When my father first got sick 12 years ago, I remember looking at him in his hospital bed and wondering what had happened to my superhero, the man who blocked the light coming in from the hallway as he made his way into my room for tuck-in, who always held on to me just a little bit longer because, well, because he knew I needed that.

Illness made him seem smaller, no longer able to fill the doorway, to cast a shadow over me. But hindsight has taught me that the shadows he and my mother cast - then as now - were and are not only literal. Even though he's no longer with us, he's still defining that transition from day to night, helping me make those moments as memorable for my kids as he and my mother made them for me.

I never lost my superhero, after all.

I hope I learned these lessons well, and I hope I'm handing them off to the next generation as well as my parents transitioned them to me.

Your turn: Please share a lesson your parents taught you.


awareness said...

Carmi.... What a beautiful picture you have woven with your chosen words. Safety, love, faith, reliability, family, belonging, providing, unconditional love .... values you have learned from your parents .... values you and your life partner share and show openly to your children. I also see clearly the passage of time, and how our ancestral journey is an eternal sharing of light and shadows.
The gift of deeper enlightenment is upon you, I believe as you continue to mourn your beautiful loving father. It is a gift of awareness and time to process it all....even in the parking lot of the grocery store.

What I learned from my parents.... the same wonderful lessons and values as you did. My 16 year old daughter seeks out that kiss on the forehead and the "I love you..." every single night.... as I do from her. My 12 year old son calls out as soon as he settles under the covers for that long held hug. It is a torch I pass to them....

ps. I just posted a photo I took from the driver's seat of my van. :)

MorahMommy said...

What a beautiful post Carmi. It brought tears to my eyes.

Even as our first baby turns 15 tomorrow (Totally unimaginable to me as we are definitely not old enough to have a child that old!) I know that there will be many more tuck ins to go.

It's what we learned as children, from our heroes that shaped us to hopefully become the "heroes" to our own children. On those days when we can't see beyond the fog, it's those hugs and I love yous that get us through.

I am proud and privileged to be going through this journey with you.

invisible said...

Carmi, wanna brighten your day? Go to my blog. Todays entry should give you a chuckle.

Cloudia said...

Today's is the talented post of a man who is alive & healing, Carmi.
Just beautiful.
Glad to read it, even through my tears.

My parents' lesson to me? To value love like you feel for your kids, because they were very different. Unfortunately.

Aloha, Friend!

Comfort Spiral

Christine Gram said...

Beautifully written, even with thumbs.

Anonymous said...

haven't been by in a while, have been pretty crap with the whole blog thing, getting back now though... loved this post

the one thing i will always remember from my parents is that they always said never let the sun go down whilst arguing... not always managed it, but it's a pretty good idea to not let words fester...

Mojo said...

I would have been mortified to be "tucked in" after the age of 10 or so. Seriously. Horrified. And my parents realized this I think, and managed to let me know that their room was just next door regardless. And I know the feeling of watching the larger-than-life superhero fall become a mere mortal before your very eyes. It's at once illuminating and depressing. Until you realize that the hero is still there at least. Even if you can't see him.

Anonymous said...

Hello Carmi,
My Father died when I was 4 years old, so I never really knew the comfort, security and love of both parents (just my mother's).
My Grandfather (my Mother's Father) became my Father figure and I loved it when we stayed overnight at my Grandparents' home because I would get tucked in a have a bedtime story read to me by my Grandpa!
I had a hard time dealing with it when he died 5 years ago. My husband was very strong and supportive which helped alleviate some of the pain and grief I was going through at the time.
I have been following your Blog for a while now and I can tell that you have a strong supportive wife and family to help you through this as well.
My thoughts and prayers are with you and your family.

theMuddledMarketPlace said...

my parents opened up their lives, their family, their home, their garden, their holidays... to so many people
i thought that was normal

Pamela said...

what blessed kids you have... hope they know it.