A Heart Bared

421152_10150518298024422_958316185_nThrough the blur, I wondered if I was alone or if other parents felt the same way I did – that everything involving our children was painful in some way. The emotions, whether they were joy, sorrow, love or pride, were so deep and sharp that in the end they left you raw, exposed and yes, in pain. The human heart was not designed to beat outside the human body and yet, each child represented just that – a parent’s heart bared, beating forever outside its chest.
~ Debra Ginsberg

The best way to keep children at home is to make the home atmosphere pleasant, and let the air out of the tires.
~Dorothy Parker

I would expect to be used to this by now; saying goodbye to adult children who come home for a visit, and then return to do what they have been called upon to do, living far away from us.

I may be used to it, but it gets no easier.  Each parting serves as a reminder of how deep and wide is the love for family yet how necessary is the letting go.

My tear ducts are due for a good washing out any way.  I consider it necessary maintenance along with checking to make sure the tires are well inflated.

Our three in the middle,  leading outdoor church worship last night, photo by Brian Vander Haak

When we asunder part,
It gives us inward pain;
But we shall still be joined in heart,
And hope to meet again.
~John Fawcett, last verse, Blest Be The Tie That Binds

One Mind Between Them

They sit together on the porch, the dark
Almost fallen, the house behind them dark.
Their supper done with, they have washed and dried
The dishes–only two plates now, two glasses,
Two knives, two forks, two spoons–small work for two.
She sits with her hands folded in her lap,
At rest. He smokes his pipe. They do not speak,
And when they speak at last it is to say
What each one knows the other knows. They have
One mind between them, now, that finally
For all its knowing will not exactly know
Which one goes first through the dark doorway, bidding
Goodnight, and which sits on a while alone.
~Wendell Berry “They Sit Together on the Porch”
And this is how it is.  Minus the pipe…


photo by Josh Scholten
photo by Josh Scholten
What is there beyond knowing that keeps
calling to me?  I can’t
turn in any direction
but it’s there.  I don’t mean
the leaves’ grip and shine or even the thrush’s
silk song, but the far-off
fires, for example,
of the stars, heaven’s slowly turning
theater of light, or the wind
playful with its breath;
or time that’s always rushing forward,
or standing still
in the same — what shall I say —
What I know
I could put into a pack
as if it were bread and cheese, and carry it
on one shoulder,
important and honorable, but so small!
While everything else continues, unexplained
and unexplainable.
….mostly I just stand in the dark field,
in the middle of the world, breathing in and out…
 ~Mary Oliver from “What is there beyond knowing”

Yesterday, we packed up the remnants of our sons’ childhood, boxing up their bedrooms to put away their school notebooks and artwork in garage storage next to the boxes containing their departed grandparents’ lives.  The bedrooms are now pristine and less chaotic, ready for overnight visitors from faraway lands, but I lay awake troubled and tossing in the winds of my life’s changing.  

What I know will be packed up in a box someday by my children, a simple portable box to be tucked away and reopened by some future generation who will puzzle over why this or that was saved.  While time rushes forward, it is disorienting as everything else is unexplainable.

I can only stand and wait, breathless yet breathing, to know what is there beyond knowing.  

It will come, I know.  It is calling.

Dwindled Dawn

photo by Josh Scholten

“Morning without you is a dwindled dawn.”
Emily Dickinson

My adjustment to our children being grown and away from home has been slow: I instinctively grab too many plates and utensils when setting the table, the laundry and dishwasher loads seem skimpy but I wash anyway, the tidiness of their bedrooms is frankly disturbing as I pass by. I need a little mess and noise around to feel that living is actually happening under this roof and that all is well.

Now it has been three days since my husband went out of town for a work-related conference and I’m knocking around an empty unbearably oversized house, wondering what to do with myself.

I have a serious case of the dwindles. The cure will be arriving back home tonight, and another fix arrives on an airplane a week from tomorrow, followed by two other remedies arriving for shorter summer visits in a month or so. I realize, like the fading of the dwindled dawn, these are cycles to which I must adapt, appreciate for what they restore in me, and then be willing to let them go.

But now I know: time without you diminishes me.