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Monday, January 13, 2014

Gwennie G

She's our youngest, the one born into our family, just when it started struggling badly. We didn't know when we decided to have another child, what other issues could start to surface with Teale. We didn't know Teale’s severe brain damage could cause extreme mood disorders. None of our many doctors  warned us it could get worse, but it did...
Gwennie was born 1/13/03 via scheduled cesarean section. We didn't know her sex, but I secretly wanted a girl for Teale. A sister would look out for Teale better than two brothers would. It's more in a woman's nature to nurture and to caretake. I knew Teale would need help her whole life, I just didn't realize the risk we were taking bringing a vulnerable baby into our home.
Our home was very difficult in those early years of Gwenn’s life. We had to protect Gwenn at all times. She was often the target of Teale's discontent. Her crying, as a baby does, could set Teale off.  Teale would want Gwenn to stop instantly! Gwenn's touching a toy that Teale saw as just her's, could cause a sudden violent shove or grab from Teale. We were on our guard constantly, not just for Gwenn's safety, but for Beau's and ourselves. An object suddenly thrown could cause harm, teeth into one of us was painful. Staying on our guard was work, we all suffered post traumatic stress disorder. We would all wince when Teale was near, scared of being hit or hurt. I put locks on bedroom doors so Beau & Gwenn could go to a safe place.
Gwenn was born into our family life with Teale growing in many challenging way. Teale’s  personality was similar to that of the character Sybil. One moment she could be sweet and then she could suddenly turn nasty and out for blood. She would treat Gwenn well and then snap, sometimes for no apparent reason, making it tough to trust or build a positive relationship. Gwenn's resilience was astonishing. Similar to that of a wife who is abused, but then forgives, only to be abused again. Gwenn always forgave.
Their relationship these days is mostly one of distance. Skepticism on both their parts, keeps them at arms length. There are warm moments. Mark and I see glimmers of hope, but often it is like having two daughters, who barely interact.
Someday I hope to see the dream I envisioned. Someday I hope Teale will trust and love Gwenn.  Someday I hope Gwenn can trust and love Teale. Someday I hope they will be friends.

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dear Mark

It occurred to me after Mark's Mom died, that there are too many times in our life that we regret not telling someone we love, just how much we love them. Mark is my everything. I know as strong women we are taught not to rely on a man for our wellbeing. I was raised that way for sure. My Mom & Dad divorced when I was young. The years with just my Mom were challenging in a society just starting to accept that divorce happens. I often felt different, but in my home I was taught a girl did not need a man to lean on. Truth is, I'm still a "tough woman" who doesn't need Mark to get through life. I know if God forbid something happened to him or to us, I'd be ok, but his partnership means the world to me. He is my best friend, the one person I trust completely and respect wholly. Life would go on if I lost Mark, but it would never be as sweet...Too often it is after the person passes that you think about all they meant to you. Today I want to tell my husband some of the reasons I love him....

Dear Mark,
From the moment I met you, I knew you were someone I wanted to know better. Sure, it was your looks that sucked me in, but it was your personality that kept me. I watched you and saw much kindness. Our chats were easy and I felt comfortable with you. There were opportunities in those months when we first met, to the day I finally asked YOU on a double date, that I got to observe you as a person. What I saw was a very decent man. I was intrigued by your relationships with your family, especially the friendship I saw with your Uncle Steve. I loved how you treated him, like a friend, like an equal, like a person who deserved respect. Uncle Steve was obviously developmentally delayed, but you never "explained him." THAT I LOVED! I loved how you didn't act like you had to make excuses for him being with you at every softball game and at all those times we went out with the team, Uncle Steve tagged along. That part of your personality, that kindness and goodness could not be taught, it was ingrained and that is what truly sucked me in!
Our relationship didn't start until well after our softball team had finished the season. I already had about six months of a "friendship" with you when I realized we both seemed attracted to each other. The problems were many though. You were in a longterm relationship with a girl who attended Syracuse University. I respected this and stayed away, until the night you "cried on my shoulder" that you and she had broken up. I often wonder if I smirked as you told me? I bet my joy was tough to contain. After all, I know your telling me had some meaning too. That relationship was indeed rocky in those days. You had some on again, off again times. I wasn't sure I should put myself into that "rebound girlfriend" role, but I did. Long story short, we just celebrated 25 years since our first date.
What I've learned in the 25 years with you has hardly changed from my first impressions. You are one of the kindest people I have ever known. Your intentions are always good and well meaning. I know I could not come up with a time you were quick to judge or dislike anyone. Your thoughtfulness has taught me much. I've mellowed with being your wife. I go to you for "talking off the fence" because I know you will give me a perspective I had not seen. Sometimes your Devils advocate attitude can be annoying when you act like you don't see my side of a situation, but it is something I've come to expect from you. As I'm sure there is much you have come to expect from me. I am the driving force of our relationship, the person who pushes you and us to move forward and take chances in life. I force you out of your comfort zone with spontaneity and fun. I am the date planer, the social calendar for the whole family and the organizer of our crazy life. I get you to take days off and spend time with people you love, namely me, but others too. I sing "The Cats in the Cradle" song to you when I think you need to look more closely at who or what is really important in life. God matched us well.
I love so much about you. Remember that time I dropped our air conditioner out our bedroom window by mistake and it was unfixable? You were so kind about it, it was like that quote by Maya Angelou~ “I've learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”  I don't really remember what you said, but I know how I felt. I felt safe and loved and that it was ok to make a mistake and I could trust you to care about me more than  you care about stuff. You have done this consistently in our relationship. You have made me feel cared for and loved in small ways and in big ways too. I love how you often make my coffee, even though you "hate the stuff." I love how you think to stock up on things I need when you shop, like saline for my contacts, even though your eyesight is perfect without corrective lenses. That you do 80% of our grocery shopping, because I hate grocery shopping, I find incredibly sweet. I love how no matter what size I've been in our 25 years together, from healthy & fit to pregnant or overweight, you always tell me how much you love my body. Some of my favorite compliments are stunning or when you say "you are not worthy." That one cracks me up. I have often felt like the luckiest girl in the world with you and yet you say you are "unworthy" of me. You have always loved me for who I am, you don't try to squelch me or change me and you are so incredibly patient, especially when I am not! I love how you wrap your arm around me every night and I fit perfectly with you. It is truly my favorite place, where I feel the safest and the most loved. I feel so proud when I'm out with you. Not only are you an incredibly handsome man to me, you are such a good person and I'm proud you picked me. Often I stand by your side in total awe that you are mine. The feeling can seriously overwhelm me, I swell with pride and love just watching you. I love your relationships with our "kids." We have totally different relationships with them, neither one of us is a better parent, just different. I can still see you holding each of our babies in your huge arms, kissing them over and over and soaking in their smell. Your tenderness with each infant was so incredibly sweet. I often tease you about our differences as parents but truly I respect and admire you. I love how you tip toe around me when you sense I might be sensitive or hurt by some criticism you want to offer me. I bet you think I don't notice your caution, but I do and I find the dance funny! You are careful not to hurt my feelings, yet I tease you mercifully sometimes. God matched us well. I love how you are quick to compliment, simple things like how you appreciate dinner every night or my packing your lunch or when you come home and compliment me on cleaning some mundane thing. (which is not getting done today as I type this!) I also appreciate your not criticizing when nothing gets done, like the days that are tough with kids home or I needed down time after a long school break or I just spent the day with friends. Your daily reminders that you are thinking about me when we are apart brighten my day and make me feel special. I love how you let me know where you are, what you are up to, etc. when we are not together. In our relationship there is so much respect and care for each other, we do much because of that, not because of obligation or expectation, but because we like keeping in touch, even when separated for just a few hours. Your simple texts of "XOXO" when I'm frustrated or upset about something give me much reassurance that you are there for me. Our humor and positive outlook on life is a strength I believe we have worked hard to make a part of us. We have lived some incredibly tough things, yet we laugh so much together. Our family could have fallen apart in some of the crisis times, but both of us are stubborn and strong. We took the challenges we were faced with and came out stronger, filled with more love and respect for each other. I notice the little things you do, from turning on my side of the electric blanket so it's warm when I climb into bed, to taking out the garbage or clearing the driveway of snow on a frigid winter morning. I love how you still open my car door for me, when I notice many men do not offer that kind of chivalry. I love seeing you get stuck holding a door in a crowd, like at a movie theater at the end. You patiently stand there as people pile past you, with barely a thank you being mumbled, but I want you to know, I notice, and I find it sweet. I love no matter how out cold you are in the middle of the night I can barely whisper "Markie, will you hold me?" and you roll over immediately to wrap me in your protective arm. I love your tender side, the love of our family cats and how you kiss them on top of their heads when holding them. I saw much tenderness in how you treated your Mom in old age. Your kindness was never more obvious as when we cared for her. I respect your practicing discipline on your saxophone and voice as you improve your craft. I'm not always thrilled when I've missed you all day and you disappear for another hour or so to practice, but I know it helps your soul and I do so love hearing your sweet music. You are a dear man Mark. I am sure this is only a small sample of the million plus things I love about you, but I wanted you to at least know a few... Thank you for picking me to spend your life with! I love you more!

P.S. and I love how you argue with me about loving me more, saying I must not know the meaning of infinity....I do, because I love you infinity.

Dear Mom

This is the letter my sweet husband, Mark wrote for his Mom's Memorial service. I wanted to share it:

Dear Mom,

I will never have to look very far to see or realize the lasting effects of your life on mine. From the car I now drive, to the saxophone I play, to the Christmas music I enjoy, and even to my wife’s name. And though the Toyota will someday be traded in and I might move on, the good lord willing, to a Selmer Mark VI tenor, I will always have the music you put in my heart.

So many Saturday afternoons of my youth were spent listening to Will Moyle’s Essence of Jazz show on WXXI, during which you would inevitably hear a tune that inspired you to walk over to the piano, pick out the right key, sit right down and launch into the song, singing and playing, filling the entire home with a joyful noise.

Sunday mornings meant off to this very church, good old Mt. Rise, to worship God, and to sing with the choir. Again, your beautiful voice would fill the sanctuary, and though shy, little Markie was often embarrassed by the fact that his mom was up there, seemingly singing above all the rest, I secretly was so very proud that you had such a beautiful, sweet, yet powerful and commanding set of pipes.

One might think that a young boy who had lost his father at such a young age, as I did, might have unpleasant memories of his youth. And yet, I have none of that. Our days on Red Fox Run were, in my memory, filled with happiness. And while I was well aware that the makeup of our family was different from almost everybody else’s in the neighborhood, I did not long for anything more than what we had; what you worked so hard to establish.

And perhaps the most meaningful lessons you taught me were in your last years. When you first came to live with us, I thought to myself, “this will be cool; Mom can hang out downstairs, do what she wants, we can visit with her and we’ll have a built in babysitter!”
I soon came to realize that that wasn’t the case. Taking care of you was often difficult and time consuming. But the experience was also rewarding and consequential to myself, Ellie jr., Beau, Teale and Gwenn. We learned that families ought to stick together, we learned to give back and we saw the grace of God moving in countless others who would out of the kindness of their hearts pick you up and take you to choir, out for lunch or to a concert.

Mom, I owe you so much. And yet if you were here I know you would say, “don’t be silly.” I will be eternally thankful for so many life lessons you passed on. Until my dying days I will remember the good times: Our yearly camping trips, waking up Christmas morning with the sliding door shut, calling out to Scott downstairs through the heating vents to coordinate our joint convergence on the presents under the tree, seeing you in the hallways at Jeff Road, tap dancing to “Put on a Happy Face”. God is good. Thank you, Mom. I love you.