Has it really been 17 years? You won’t believe all the things that have happened the last decade and a half. Dad’s the biggest change. I was talking to him today and he and Wanda have taken in another baby. A little girl this time. She’s only 1 month older than my Micah; but while Micah is a great, big, bruiser of a boy, running all over the place as fast as his fat legs can carry him, she hasn’t learned/isn’t able to walk yet.
Wanda has a mother’s heart as deep as the ocean. Many of the things I didn’t have the time to learn from you I have watched in her. She is a doer, seemingly indefatigable. She and dad are re-learning parenting together. And while they adopted (Jack’s hero) Karabo a few years ago, I know she has been having dreams about a little baby girl named Thandi.
Who would have thought that in his sixties dad would be back to changing diapers and middle of the night wake up calls? God must have a quirky sense of humor. Because for all dad’s years of study, degrees and theological aspirations it’s kids, kids and more kids that God keeps putting in his path. There’s us three of course. Then Wanda has two. And they adopted Karabo together. Karabo’s three siblings are a constant part of the traffic that passes through their train station of a house and now that also includes a 21-month-old. Futhermore, while I think dad would much rather be preaching to the adults, he was first asked to teach a kid’s Sunday school class. He is constantly being inundated with these members that our society often considers snot-nosed, second-class citizens.
Surely it’s not by accident. Because, I tell you what mom, on days when I think that everything I believe might be pure hokey the one thing I can’t get around is the change in dad. And the children he is so unexpectedly surrounded by.
We underestimate children, don’t we? We see them as a means to an end rather than an end in and of themselves. We fail to learn from them about ourselves. And as part of that process, I have found that people radically mischaraterize motherhood.
Do you know that after you died and left me without a guide on my journey into womanhood several (male) elders from our church took it upon themselves to lecture me on a woman’s responsibility to bear children. I was 18 and recently abandoned by my mother. I told them I didn’t want to have kids. They told me that made me a sinner. So, naturally, I swore off marriage and children.
I was 18 after all.
But here I am, one husband and two baby boys later. Apparently God was more gracious than those who purported to speak on His behalf. Because He gently, patiently showed me time and again that He loved me for me. Not because of what I did, the kids I could have, the job I got or the country where I lived. He just loved me for me. Plain and simple.
I can’t tell you what a relief it was. It freed me to want to be a wife and ultimately to want to be a mother. Not because I was supposed to. But because I loved to.
Oh, mom, I love it so. Some days I fear my heart will burst and spill out all that delicious emotion that my family evokes in it.
How did you bear it? How did you bear the leaving? Because, I am 35 this year and for the first time realize how achingly young 42 really is.
I wish I could have known you mom to mom. There’s lots I would have liked to ask. Instead, I will simply tell you a few things. Jackson’s middle name is yours. I named him after the long line of strong women that preceded me and that I am also named for. He has our gift of the gab and flair for the dramatic. But, in looks, he is Pete’s all the way.
Micah might be Pete’s namesake but his resemblance to the cousins on your side is striking. His passionate temperement, however, is pure dad.
Like you I had one on each of the two continents we call home. Unlike you, my husband did not deliver either of them. Jackson has inherited the love for movies that I got from you. Micah might be our family’s first chance at excelling at sports. My Peter is very different from yours but loves me just as fully.
It is strange to realize that who I am now is because of your absence. But I am well, mom. More than that, it is well with my soul.
And I know that was what you wanted to hear most of all,