Saturday, May 25, 2013

Working for Contentment

We went to see my parents and take my Mom out for lunch for Mother's Day. 

My Mom finished her chemo about three months ago.  Every time we talk to her on the phone or see them she says, "I finished my chemo..."  Her short term and recent memory is spotty.  She asked what the Wifey was doing now, she had forgotten she's been teaching second grade for two years.  On the other hand she told us more stories about her childhood that we hadn't heard before.

She was born out of wedlock and her mother had given her to her sister to be raised by her.

She was sent to China for a year with my great grandparents and her cousin/sister when she was six. They stayed with my great-great grandparents who had decided to not immigrate to America.

So, my Mom grew up thinking her Aunt was her mother and her mother was her aunt.  Until someone at her 11th birthday party got drunk and spilled the beans. Some time in her 40's she put a lot of family innuendos, pictures and pieces together and figured out that her uncle was really her biological father. Her "father" stayed with us when I was in high school for a few months after my step-grandmother died. My mom asked her "father" if he was her "real dad" and he just said, "Just let bygones be bygones". And that was that.

After she found out her "aunt" was her mother, she went to live with her for a while. It turned out she was a fairly well known prostitute around the Navy Base in Honolulu. My Mom would cook and clean and basically play house maid for my grandmother's "guests".  Popo (grandmother in Hawaiian) eventually married a sailor, my grandpa Willy who I still remember as being very handsome and dapper. While he was gone on sea duty, his friends would "visit". My mom would walk to school and the kids would taunt her, "Hey, how was business last night?"

My Mom woke up one night with Willy fondling her. She told him if he didn't get out right then she would scream.  Popo had a wicked temper (that my Mom got a part of) and both my Mom and Willy knew she would literally kill him if she knew that he had done that. He never bothered her again, but would tell her the only reason he married my grandmother was to be close to my Mom. He eventually paid her plane ticket to move to New York to get her away from her dysfunctional family and start a new life.

When she talks about her life she doesn't have an ounce of "poor me" nor a fatalistic resignation.  It is very matter of fact that it was screwed up, but it is something that has made her who she is. She knows she overcame, and struggled to do that in her marriage and in how she raised her children.  She has fought long and hard for contentment.  The past three years in her battle with cancer and various aging issues she has changed. She has lost a raw edge, especially toward my Dad, and both of them have a lightness and kindness and gentleness toward each other that is enviable.

I was getting into bed a few nights ago and the Wifey (who stays up late and grades papers) came to say goodnight.  She said, "You know, after everything we've been through, I just have this sense of contentment with you... I am so glad to be here."  A few months ago our daughter said to me, "You two just seem comfortable together", and a friend of my wife's from work at her office party said, "It is obvious you adore your wife."  I do, and I thought of the times neither of us were very adorable and the times the peace and contentment were a fog that would dissipate in the heat of a marital struggle.  Now, the contentment is a constant, kindness rules and gentleness reigns. It is a good place to be but a hard one to imagine can exist while struggling toward it.

These are the Mother's Day faces of contentment, won after a hard upbringing, struggling through marriages to ... well, men, raising families and earning perspective. There is nothing more beautiful than a happy Mother.

We are going to be grandparents again.  Our youngest daughter is due in July. She and her fiancee are walking away from their childhood and have just stepped onto the long path to contentment with another person.

They have fun, they have fights, they love each other.  Like all of us just starting out we mistake passion for love, lack of conflict for peace, admiration for respect and comfortableness for contentment.  As parents we wonder how our work will manifest itself in them. But we can only look back and say we did what we did, whether it was best, well intended but wrong, or just plain neglect of duty.  You never stop being a parent, but it is nice to be able to talk to your children as adults (for the most part, they are always "children" even when they're 60). But in the end I suppose there is a lot to be said to want to be something for them to look forward to being like and worth struggling for.

As we left my parents house on Mother's Day I pulled out of the driveway and looked back. They were sitting on the little park bench on their front porch together and waved goodbye to us.  Yes, I thought, that is worth fighting for.

24 comments:

Fr Christian Mathis said...

Thanks for sharing this Steve. I hope all is well with you, toes and all!

Elizabeth @ The Garden Window said...

I've been wondering how you have all been doing....glad to read the update :-)
Keeping you all in my prayers - may God richly bless you all.
love from all of us at The Garden Window blog.

James the Thickheaded said...

Steve:

Means a lot to read the hardships of your parents and their courage to be frank. Rare in that generation. My folks had their struggles in their day... even to the end. Perhaps its as children or as parents that we gain the role of peacemakers... and sons of God.

Seems like now I should stand, light a candle and yell, "Freebird!" or "Lovin' ya' man!" but... seriously... take your pick.

Sasha said...

Thank you, Steve. You know this is priceless. Helps me get back on track/to reality. Peace be with you all.

Margaret said...

Thank you for this. My favorite sentence: There is nothing more beautiful than a happy mother. May God grant your family many more happy mothers!

elizabeth said...

Good to hear from you again. That was a lot of huge battles to face. Beautiful. Lit a candle for you all.

Anonymous said...

My husband and I are where you and your wife are, Steve....we have lived through so much...but here we are, still standing, together.

Hugs and blessings,
Babushka Jo

Anonymous said...

Fr. Chrissy,
No missy,
Gets pissy,
Without whiskey!

Anonymous said...

America great and glorious country. I come here in 2013 with help of Tennessee drinking priest Christian. I make benefit of many freedoms, women and monies. My brother, Hazamov, is travelling to USSA by foot right now, with his two wives and his three cows." I promise take him California see Pearl Harbor and Texas. Please pray to Mighty Abu Jesus at least Hazamov be safe to arrive. He good man out of prison many years. I find him job at Krystal.

Anonymous said...

He plays the banjo and drinks whiskey at his prayer meetings. He walks them hills like a squirrely-eyed mad man with a Bible in his breeches. He's a true Hillbilly preacher man with a liver the size of Texas and a thirst that never dies!

Steve said...

Bible totin' banjo playin' drunkards who cling to the cross with one hand with a shot of bourbon in the other are probably closer to the Kingdom than the ones who make a show of their faith and sobriety.

Anonymous said...

Dollar Mamie she be comin' 'round signin'
Signin' 'bout cherry cobbler and kill the gobbler
Almost time to eat and slobber

Dollar Mamie she be comin' round singin'
Neigh on Wintertime pantry packin'
Gravy lip smackin' and no more corn shuckin'

Dollar Mamie she be comin' round naggin'
Face all a saggin' feet all a draggin'
Teeth a nashin' 'cause she pull the wagon

Dollar Mamie she be comin' 'round dyin'
Moanin' and a cryin'
Cause she old and her time's a flyin'

Anonymous said...

Is that why his bishop ordered him to take down his blog?

Anonymous said...

It's a mighty sad story. Drive a K Car? He drove one to Kansas. Then, he discovered he was no man. Sign of his poverty really. Like his father. Needed a uniform to keep from being real. Podunk and country, born low and strange. Worst part is he knew it. Tried to study his ways out. But he had the gene for the molecule. Wasn't even Irish but he loved the creature like he was. Used to read Greek then suck down a six pack while playing TMBG's on cassette. His happy land was just always out of reach at the bottom of a bottle. Still is. Always will be.

Anonymous said...

I walked around back of the center on a Tuesday at 230 after nobody answered the door and there he was. That guy was smacked. I mean like laid out to pickle. He was holding a beer can and had a crazy look in his eye. His collar was behind his ear. When he saw me he said "Bless you brother! I have come that you might have a buzz! Zzzzzzzzzz!" Then he started laughing uncontrollably. I've never seen such a wreck of a man. I can't imagine he'll be assigned here much longer. I tried reaching out to him about this when he seemed sober but he clearly did not want to talk about it. I find it hard to believe his superiors are not aware of this problem. I think they just put him here to get him out of sight. What good is that?

Anonymous said...

Let me ask you this. Are not the strange symptoms experienced by Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart leading up to his supposed death of dropsy parelleled in the modern Zombie genre? Is it not the least bit strange that there is no grave for him? Even his manner of death is filled with mystery, exuding a stench and then spewing his effluvia with his final breath.

Could it be that the Old Master, himself, still lurks through the Austrian night subsisting upon the flesh of the living? Antonio Salieri certainly thought so. In fact, it drove him mad and he stayed locked in his room until his death, fearful that Mozart would come for him. In his last days, he was quoted as saying "This creature, Mozart, is truly immortal. Though I destroyed the man, he has risen. What designs of God and Hell have made such an abomination possible? He hungers for revenge."

Anonymous said...

We are his body
We drink his blood
We nail him to the holy wood
We love to claim it makes us one
We raise toward heaven one golden cup
We bow our heads to sip each sup
We love to choose who we will shun
We dine on never ending strife
We drain his very flowing life
We adore his closing eyes
We are his black veiled widowed bride
We are the virgins left outside
We know our lanterns will not burn
We are the nine yet to return
We are the darkness
We are the night
We are the fading of the light
We adore his ceasing breath
We dine upon his empty death
We mock like those in Nazareth
We toast a toast to his dark grave
We claim to all that it does save
We gaze upon his graven face
We gather in one shadow place
We claim it fills us with his grace
We whisper gossip before our prayers
We lead our neighbors to our snares
We behold his heavy head
We claim hangs there in our stead
We are the risen from the dead
We are the ones for which he bled
We sing of glories of his life
We sing of glories of his strive
We watch him fall then raise him high
We say the truths our lives deny
We uphold laws our acts defy
We lift him up for all to see
We call it sacred liturgy
We celebrate his holy pain
We are so happy he was slain
We pay to expiate our sins
We want the priest to see again
We offer one another peace
We only think of our increase
We do good deeds just to be seen
We wash our reputations clean
We want to prove we are the best
We want to prove that we are blessed
We overlook one small detail
We walk a path that's sure to fail
We are so sure our rituals free us
We have become a Cold, Dead Jesus

Anonymous said...

So it's back to Boone
For some whiskey and poon
Under the bright of the moon
Shining on that still
Filling up his jug full of swill
So he can take a swig
And exercise his pig
Like a hillbilly hiker
Like a lesbian biker
As he takes off his collar
And starts to holler
Until a dry spell
When he starts to fear Hell
And grabs a Bible
'Cause he knows he's liable
To end up in the far
That's burnin' down thar
And tries to repent
Though his grace is all spent
Though he has yet to learn
He just took his last turn
To drink and discern
'Cause the man with the hat
Won't take him back
'Cause he's had enough
Of this drunken stuff
And playing the game
Of recovery and shame
'Cause it's much too late
For this reprobate
Who looks like a muppet
And plays with his puppet
And prays his breviary
While gulping JD
Then falls on his ass
Like trailer park trash

Anonymous said...

Of course, the zombie is perhaps most dangerous when just turned. The horrid creature does not yet, in most cases, exhibit the undeniable signs of corpsidy, especially the fouls odor and the decrepit late state of decomposition. And, if it be the case that the recently turned is a loved one, then all the more perilous is the beast as the emotion of affection prodigiously overpowers sound reason or keen perception. So, it be not surprising that many fall prey to the gnawing teeth of a loved one or friend or even a brief acquaintance. For the change comes quickly and often without notice, as if waking from sleep. Know this, however, that it is wise to gird one's loins against the wiles of the night. For at these hours the senses are even less lipid. Do not answer to any rapping upon your chamber door even if you spy a familiar face. For that face may very well be one of a risen, lived corps too fresh for you yet to make wise judgement. And, upon opening to let in, you may too late discover that the fiend is upon you with all hunger of ghastly unnature and the rueful vengeance of all of Hell.

Anonymous said...

Take heed. Once having halted the aggression of a zombie, bury at once the dead, abominable corps in the tomb, carefully closing it and mortarizing it after. But have no surprise if on the following morning the body is discovered bruised and banged in the market square as though it had been violently thrown out of its resting place. For such creature as these tortured damned cannot easily attain rest. Be expectant as well that upon your return to the sepulchre you will find only the cerements in which the corpse had been erstwhile wound, and so you must used them to bury it once again. Yet, you may discover that on the following morning the body is discovered to have been thrown forth with even more contumely than before. Nevertheless repose it third time with great care and many holy prayers. Repeat this no less than five times in all, until at last you huddled the poor rotting carrion as best you might into a deep hole dug in some lonely spot far from the consecrated ground of all His Holy Church. In the most dire incidences you may wish to obtain ecclesiastical authority to place within the mouth a freshly consecrated Holy Wafer. For this remedy binds the worst of Hell's creatures. No doubt, these terrible circumstances will surely fill your heart with such amaze that you may indeed make such holy efforts as to repose the undead your only cause in life. For in doing so, you minister peace to many. Does not the Lord Himself say "Come to me and I will give you rest."?

Anonymous said...

Best I can recollect, he was drinking a six-pack of Rolling Rock alone and chasing a fly around his room. He said "Tomorrow I'll be weak because beer makes you weak." No truer words did he ever utter. Then he killed that fly, said "bye dad," and then laughed a maniacal laugh. It was chilling to watch. I knew right then he was in the wrong institution. I quickly left the room.

Anonymous said...

Wild-eyed Willy? Well, he is a rascal. He grew up in a religious but alcohol heavy home which was really a gift considering the constant fighting. In fact, his gift at graduation was a bottle of whiskey from his dad which brought him much piece once the yelling started that evening. He quickly became a two-fisted drinker. He often spoke of a memory of finding it strange meeting classmates in seminary who had never binged and did not know the basic tenets of the drink. But he helped a few of them discover their thirst and finally leave.

When he looks back upon his short time in the priesthood, he speaks of several things that laid the groundwork for his current personal failings. First was the fact that seminary life taught him never to discuss his drinking. It was never to be mentioned. Seconds, he was always around plenty of alcohol and had a private place to consume it. Third, there were many times when he knew for certain that no one cared about him there. He was just a source of tuition and was being groomed to be a church drone. So, he became the very negative. He became what he had seen in his parents, especially his father. He let the bottle take hold until nothing meant anything anymore, until he became his father, a true drone. Then, like him, he sank into that self pity which is the sanctuary of the alcohol, that place where he worships to this day at the altar of victimhood and regret. Yes, ole Willy is a piece of work.

Anonymous said...

Yes sir! I hears Ole Willy met him a gal or somethinot like that named Rayann. He had no trouble comin off them vows right quick like when he saw him/her walkin down Gay Street with a 40 in one hand a full sack o taters in the tother. Hell far! He's a rascal with the ladiesish and likes them taters. I once saw him stuff his tater wrapped in cheese inside a onion and microwave long and hard it until it's cheesy goo came out the top all squirty and it made him drool like mad hillbilly. I figured he'd been secretly stuffing potaters in onions in the back woods for years before he came out bout it. So I wish him well! Let him stuff his tater all he wants. Don't need nobody to tell him it's wrong. He knows it and just don't care one bit. He's a rest stop legend on I-75! Whoo Wee!

Anonymous said...

Ole Willie. Yes sir! He is a rachal. He has got him a real Hum-Zinger! A book totin'gal who kin bring home the bacon and fry it in a pan! That's what he's got. Yes sir! All he has to do is juss sit back up yonder in his double wide and pretend he's Ole Jeff Davis while drinkin' coffee in a bath robe and sneakin' a smoke out on the concrete slab. Heck! Ain't nobody kin blame him. He's just tard as a mountain goat and them raschals in black done gave him the what for and the eternal boot. But that don't matter now. Now he can sleep late and ain't no big man gonna make him keep the holy hours no more, or work, shave, bathe, shampoo, powder, or toilet water or brush those teeth ifen he don't want to. Naw! For he has succumbed to the perils of love, lies and leasure. But them darn youngins o hers ain't too keen on Ole Willie though. No. Not one bit. He aint the first daddy they seen. Heck no! They seen his kind before and he's just a tother worn out scraggly faced ole mountain man with nothin' particular in mind he wants to do in life. Won't be long before he's pickin' the banjo and heads out in the Virginia moonlight to build himself a still. Cause life is hard and hard life means hard playin', hard prayin', and hard drinkin' to sooth the sad, sorry and savage woes of life. Yes sir! Ole Willie is set!