A Blast from the Past

July 15, 2007

Dear Ryan,

Sorry it has taken me so long to get back to you. Your letter to me got lost in our house for a few weeks. Things seem to get lost easily and often around here. Anyway, I enjoyed and appreciated your note. It is always good to hear from you. Nearly every time I go to the mailbox, I hope there will be some word from you.

All is well here. Steve and I just returned from our trip to MD with the boys. Oliver and Henry are staying there for an extra week to swim on the neighborhood swim team. Oliver is doing fabulously and loveing it. He has participated in two meets and has competed in the 25 Meter freestyle and the 25 Meter backstroke both times. He is so proud of his ribbons. Henry has sprouted fins and gills, it seems. It is hard to get him out of the water. He is so independent now, using no flotation device and able to swim nearly the length of the pool- 25 meters. He is working up the courage to jump off the diving board but is sure that he’ll be able to do it at Nannie and Poppie’s when we go there in August.

While we were in MD we spent two afternoons with our family at Joe’s house. Mom, Dad, Wendy, Paul, Jared, Jessie and Mario were all there, as well as Bentley and Ellie (ugh) of course. It was very relaxing. Joe’s place is beautiful and he is a great host. He is really good with the kids, just like I remember him being with us when we were little. We also trekked into DC a few times. Steve, Oliver, Henry and I went to the National Zoo and saw the pandas, lions, tigers, elephants, orangutans, gorillas, etc. The boys really seemed to love the reptile house and the Invertibrates House. Henry is very into animals and is doing a project on habitats as part of his summer reading program. Of course we went down to the Mall for the Fourth of July fireworks. It was awesome. It is the fourth year that we have gone and was by far the best display. The music was awesome and the boys were transfixed. Miraculously, I was able to see a great deal of the display, both colors and movements. It was almost as if the past year of no vision had not occurred and I could see as well as I could last July. I am sure I’m exaggerating, but it sure did feel great. The smells of the fireworks, the sound of the music, the feeling of the fireworks vibrating in my body, and the sights I could perceive made for a magnificently magical evening. Another day, we went to the Washington Monument, had lunch at our favorite noodle house in Chinatown, saw the World War II Memorial from which we called Poppie, and experienced the Lincoln Memorial. Henry’s favorite from that day was the noodle house and Oliver’s was the Lincoln Memorial, big surprises there.

We’re looking forward to spending some time in RI and CT in August but are busy here with meetings, Braille and mobility lessons, doctor appointments, etc. Steve is pretty stressed out with work. His frustrations are valid, but unavoidable. I know he’ll hang in there, but he’s needing a little extra stroking and listening these dayhs. I wish I could make things better for him, but hope my caring ameliorates a fraction of his unrest. The boys are looking forward to attending camp at our science center at the end of the month. Oliver is going to time travel camp and Hank is doing the science of superheroes. I’m sure it will be a lot of fun.

My eyes are doing well. I still cannot see much but both the retina and the cornea are healing beautifully and are in tact. At this point I can perceive some color under the right conditions and can catch a lot with light and dark contrast. Every once in the while I can see a major headline in the paper. We just keep saying our prayers that more vision will be recovered and keep up with doctor appointments and medicine protocol. How is your diabetes doing? I imagine that the limited food selection in prison must help you maintain good bloodsugar levels. I recently attended a seminar on nutrition and the major emphasis was on the diabetes epidemic and the hidden sugars in foods. It was a real education about label reading (that there are often three or four different kinds of sugars in a food that are listed separately and sort of in code so that the item doesn’t appear as sugary). We explored alternative sweetners like agabe nectar, brown rice syrup, stevia, and pure cane sugar. Too bad I cant’t read the labels.

I am anxious to hear how things are going with you. Have you heard about your sentencing yet? Is it weird to be in our county jail? Do you see people we know? I understand your feelings about Dad and will respect them. I will not get involved between you but hope to maintain a relationship with each of yu independently.

That’s all my news for now. I love you and keep you in my prayers every day.

Surrogacy and Sisterhood

Dear Shannon,

Oh what a gift you are to me! I was so scared when Oliver left for Navy last summer. The school enforced sequester during plebe summer was terrifying. Yes, his letters indicated that he was just where he wanted to be and that all was going well for him. But I, his mother, who has spent the past eighteen years of his life dedicated to his growth and well-being , couldn’t see it, couldn’t hear it, couldn’t touch it or smell it on the daily basis to which I’d become accustomed. I am anything but a helicopter parent but it was hard. I knew his wings were strong and his roots deep, but with whom would he fly? How would he find a flock?

But as the fall nestled into our lives and the geese began their journey south, the answers began to appear. There was someone else, another mid on the team, who struggled. Who was kind and smart, Someone he hung with and talked to and went out with. Whose parents embraced him and nourished him in body and spirit. And that someone was and is your son. He was a mystery to me. A faceless name about whom I heard frequent but minimal references, as is signature of my own child’s reticence.

And then we met on the bleachers at Bucknell. And you were beautiful and generous and faithful too. This assured me of his progress and value and connection with your son. And you did it all without solicitation or reservation. You shared information, stories, advice. You called and texted and sent photos and anecdotes. You hosted and fed them at your home. You shared your company and hospitality with him when you visited. You cheered him on when I wasn’t there. You celebrated his little victories along the way, even his first birthday away from us!

You have grown an amazing young man, whom I am beginning to know for myself. But in the meantime, I have come to know you and your family and I can’t tell you how important that has been in my letting go and trusting God and believing that I have given enough. You have told me that I have done good work and sometimes I really need to hear that. Especially from someone who owes me nothing.

You are a messenger of my Higher Power. Just yesterday, you apprised me of their latest adventure to the Amish market in town. Of the magnificent feast you prepared and shared with the entire flock.

Right now, your son is the point of the vee, bearing the brunt of the wind and navigating the path. You have taught him well. He is strong and kind and genuine. And when he needs rest, my son will take over the lead for as long as he can, in love and respect to the leaders and followers before him. But truly, you have raised the very best kind of leader- the one with a faithful flock who will work in unison to nurture and support the well-being and thriving of the whole. Yes, Shannon, you have done this and I am so grateful to you.

God bless you !



The Unexpected Friend

Dear Carol,

Thank you for being vulnerable with me. I can feel how uncomfortable it is for you. The fact that you dare to share uncomfortable things with me is so inspiring. I need friends like you and so value you. It is funny now to me that when we first met, you were the one of our group I had the hardest time connecting with. You were so introverted (and still are) and seemed , as a result, so unreachable to me. When I lived in Long Beach, your loyalty to our friendship meant the world to me. You made a commitment to spending time with me and that was a critical part of the joy I experienced that year. When you proposed the idea of Irish dancing together, I really didn’t care to but knew it was a good idea so that we would spend time together. And then, when we enrolled in Mrs. Kelly’s class, I discovered something magical. That I could learn something new and fun as an adult. And I didn’t have to be good at it. It was hard and fun and joyful to dance. And to learn. And to learn something seemingly frivolous. But what I learned in addition to that was so much more and absolutely critical to my growth at that point in my life. The majic of true friendship and vulnerability and sharing and courage. Thank you!

Over the years since I moved back, you have continued to nurture those things in me. I love you so much. I love to hear you smile and laugh. I love when you sort of stutter because you are nervous to share. What you’ve shared about difficulties in marriage, with your spirituality, with going back to work, with trying something new and entirely out of your comfort zone (the Arbonne Era), your decision to go to Paris by yourself- all of it. You just don’t know what that means to me. And I think it is because you are so much more shy than I that I value it more than some of the difficult times I’ve shared with the other Cornell girls. And it is because I found in you a truly beautiful gem of a woman where I didn’t expect to find one (ashamedly) that I find you so courageous and genuine. I wonder if I’ll ever send this to you. I think I will at some point. Just to tell you one more time in one more way the thing we say to each other so often over the years. I love you, Carol. But what I haven’t said and hope you believe is that I truly appreciate you as a person and the beautiful friend you are to me. Thank you!