A Stitch in Time

Dear Morning Menders,

How can you know how happy I am when I call to check in with Mom and can’t find her anywhere?! It’s not every child who can trust that she is safe and engaged in some wild or mild excursion with the handful of women who were strangers to her just a few years ago. Day after day, month after month, year after year, you share your lives, errands, troubles, and celebrations so that Mom has to reluctantly carve out time for herself. She’s always off galavanting with you and it pleases me to no end! Thank you! You embraced her from the moment she showed up in town, swaddling her into your fabric folds.

When my mother-in-law moved here ten years ago, she knew not a soul but Steven, the boys, and me. Within a matter of weeks, she followed her passion for quilting to the monthly meeting of the Webster Quilt Guild, where she met you. Each month she would call me after returning from your meetings to tell me about having connected with each of you and how wonderful and welcome you made her feel in this new state, new town, and new organization. You took her out to lunch, went exploring at fabric boutiques, adventured to plant sales and garden stores, and attended numerous quilt shows. You were on call for machine maintenance, technique advice, and quality control appraisals.

In less than a year, monthly meetings no longer sufficed. There were too many projects, consultation sessions, stories to tell, and delicious treats to serve to limit them to a couple of hours on the last Friday of the month. And so, the Monday Menders were born. Ever evolving, you have opened your homes, ears, minds, and arms to each other for a decade now. It has become a holy time for Mom, one where she will not schedule appointments, not work in the yard or clean the house,not even chauffeur her beloved family around. It is her time with her tribe, the likes of which I’ve never seen anyone develop so genuine a relationship in so short a time as she has with each of you. The kind of friendship you share usually takes a lifetime to solidify. What you have is sacred.

I was concerned when Mom and Dad decided to relocate here after their retirements. They knew no one and weren’t exactly social butterflies. What would they do? How would Mom stay occupied with Dad living in Maryland half of the time? She had become so nervous and insecure and codependent. How could I keep her entertained when I was so busy raising the kids and working in our community? What would she find to do? How could she make new friends?How foolish those thoughts now seem to me!

Rotating homes, you keep it simple and fun. There are always goodies and needles, thread and fabric littering the table, but the real work you do is creating trust and crafting an authentic and unbreakable support network. Oh sure, you talk shop- how thick the batting, which material for the border, this stitch or that one? But what you are really mending our your hearts and lives.

Plain and simple, each of you has lived through a multitude of challenges and loss. Cancer, death, divorce, joint replacement, kitchen remodeling, even suicide. It is no coincidence that the day my father-in-law decided to take his life, at the very moment in fact, Phyllis was with you. He knew the strength of your bond and the power of your friendship to sustain her through the chaos of emotion and to heal her broken heart. It wasn’t just the meals, impromptu visits, prayer chains, cards and books that allowed her to accept and release; it was the way she could tell you about her anger, regret, and despair without apprehension or discrimination. You just held her hands, hugged her close, and wiped away her tears.

Without hesitation or judgement, you have loved Mom. You are her sisters and now I have all of your numbers so I can track her down when I get worried. But she’s always more than alright; she’s happy and feels valuable in her community, and strong and capable. So keep on calling for field trips or prayer requests or to have her come rescue you from getting stuck in the bathtub at 8AM on a Thursday morning. Keep loving and sharing and stitching and quilting; what you are creating is more beautiful than the most exquisite quilt you’ve ever seen. And know, please, that I am deeply grateful to each of you.

Love,
Kirstyn

 


Perseverance + Patience= Progress

Dear Dr. Caito and the ABVI Low Vision Clinic,

OnMay 12, 2010, I sort of saw my children’s faces for the first time in several years. We went to the local library for the summer reading program and I helped my seven year old draw a picture of a fish. As I prepared dinner, I located a can of corn in my cupboard by spotting the yellow on the label. As I was tucking my boys into bed for the night, I spotted the glint of a stray piece of silverware on the floor of their bedroom. (“Why was there a fork in your kids’ room?” you ask. It is because they were normal little boys who sometimes tried to get away with little naughties because their mom couldn’t see! 🙂 They learned that it was harder to do with my regained vision!)

Earlier that day, I visited you, Dr. Caito at the ABVI-Goodwill Low Vision Clinic. After three months of consultation, you gave me a new pair of high powered glasses that gained me more vision than I had had in four years. I cannot begin to thank you for the faith, dedication, and patience that it took to
see me through that process.

That summer was full of details and revelations that made our whole family flourish with gratitude and joy. Each morning when I set the “insect specs” on the bridge of my nose, I prayed in thanksgiving for the day before and asked God to continue to bless your life.

Although my remaining vision has vanished, the gift you gave me remains shiny and new in my heart. I have not forgotten, nor will I, the hope and joy you shared with me that summer. Thank you, wherever you are!

Love,
Kirstyn

 


You’ve Got Mail!

DearDonna,

It’s me again, the random chick who met your mom and wanted to reach out to you if for no other purpose than to give you something to read.. I think I mentioned that I am blind. I use a talking computer to write and it died in early August. But I’m up and at ’em again now with a new one and am saying hello. I know it probably sounds stupid, but because I can’t use paper, I store absolutely everything on the computer and just about wanted to die when I lost everything. Even now, I find myself going to look for information I need that was stored on the old one and feel like crying when I realize it is gone. Nope. I had no back up. I could get into a long story about why and the resentment I have toward a particular person I live with who could have prevented that but why bother? Again, this must sound ridiculous and frivolous to you, but it really was huge to me. Huge enough to make me want to drink after several years of sobriety. It is absolutely freaking amazing that I haven’t.

So, here I go again, sharing with you the hope of recovery. I must sound like I’m getting paid. I am not. It is just that incredible to me that I am so much better because of my participation in a recovery program and feel a deep desire to offer that rescue rope into your well. It is here anytime you want- today and forever- and it is 24/7. We may (mostly) look and sound normal, but we recovered alcoholics are everywhere in your life. We were your teachers and doctors. We serve your Starbucks and cut your hair. We teach your son and pave your roads. We are even your lawyers. Call me Polly Anna, but I bought into it in spite of myself. I didn’t think I needed it, had time for it, could be honest enough to actually do it. And it took quite some time for me to get the honest part but here I am.

And here I will be. Your mom shared that you were recently up for parole and I haven’t heard the result but, I am not entirely Polly Anna and suspect that it would be too good to be true that you were paroled. So I’m writing again to offer entertainment, information, and I hope a bit of hope for you.
Please feel free to write back.

I’m not sure if I shared this, but I play on a blind baseball team. We recently had a game against the inmates at Groveland Prison. Truthfully, I was pretty nervous going in, not knowing what to expect and basing most of my fears on stories my brother told me about his time in federal prison. But by the end of the second inning, it felt like any other game. Just 16 of us battling out who was faster, stronger, better. We really had fun and enjoyed talking to our opponents for a while after the game. It was a good reminder that, in spite of how the media portrays things, people are just people. By the way, we barely won, 3-2!

Anyway, I hope this finds you feeling fairly positive and settled. I hope you have been able to get to recovery meetings inside. I hear that they are tough to get access to. Just keep reading that “big book” and believe that some random blind chick in upstate New York cares about you. Hope to see you on the outside!

Love,
Kirstyn


Strangers in the Night

DearMary,

It’s been more than a week since we spoke last. I want you to know how often you have been in my thoughts. I’m so grateful that you had the courage to reach out to me. What you are living with is so difficult to witness. It must feel like your dreams for your child, all shiny and possible, are dimming like his very vision. All his charm, intelligence, curiosity just ebbing into the mist, hidden from all the opportunities of life. From time to time, the fog lifts and there he is again, all able and focused and content. But then the weather shifts and you are left wondering, waiting, is he all still there and for how long? When will it change again and what will be left? And what, am I, his mother and friend, to do in the meantime?

Faith is elusive. It waxes and wanes. But possessing a sense that there is something beneficent and beautiful orchestrating it all with perfection and mystery has been the anchor I’ve needed to get me through my own struggles. I’ve clung to the belief, if not the chain itself, that I will not be destroyed, blown away or sunken in the depths of my despair. And that , while not in my own control, depends on my willingness to hold fast. IT is what insures that the person I will be after the storm will be stronger, more beautiful, and more capable than I was before the weather changed.

For you,, as witness and vehicle of life, this is harder. You cannot check your child’s chain for safety nor teach him how to use his anchor. But you can white knuckle your own. Squeeze it tight and remember that there are others like you, and he, on the ship and that we can keep each other safe and sane. I am here for you with open ears and soft shoulders and I always keep tissues in my purse! Thank you for being brave enough to share with me and to believe that I may have enough experience to teach you how to hang on.

Love, Kirstyn

 


Sweet 16

Dear Henry,

Sixteen years ago today you turned from the extraordinarily active fetus Flip into our son! It seems like forever and yesterday. This morning Dad and I took you to the DMV to get your learner’s permit. It was a snap, just like about everything else you do. We’ve always called you our “golden boy”; everything seems to come so easily to you and you have incredibly good luck. You are just a natural at nearly everything, from school to sports to socializing. It is awesome to behold and makes me grateful to God every day for the many gifts He has bestowed on you.

Other than the colic you had for the first three months of your life, you have made mothering easy. You are so expressive and kind and thoughtful. You are generous with your time and talent and love. My biggest challenge in raising you has been keeping up with your social schedule, always having friends here or being invited there. I almost feel guilty; you have made it that easy.

And you are so fiercely independent. From the eve of your birth, you have demonstrated that you are going to do things your way. The matchup: Sinatra v. Smith. since the day before you were born, you’ve been the shoe-in. Eight days overdue, we went to Strong Hospital for your induction on Nannie’s birthday. But no, you wanted your own birthday and nestled into my uterus until you were good and ready to arrive. After a full protocol of Pitocin, absolutely nothing had changed with my cervix. We waited and wondered and prayed until finally, in the wee hours of March 28th, you decided it was time. The contractions set in fast and furious. Although you were born in the very same room, your labor would be entirely different than your brother’s. It would be a sunny-side up back labor with you but this time I was smart enough to ask for the epidural early enough for it to prove useful. By 7:30Am, in just under five hours, I had dilated to 10cm and was ready to push. But you were not and the doctor’s agreed that I needed to hold off for just a little longer. My water hadn’t broken, again, so the knitting needle came out and you began to crown. Just after 8AM, in seven beautifully powerful pushes, you came bursting onto the scene, all healthy and beautiful and perfect. There was no meconium, no NICU team. Your dad cut the umbilical cord and , after getting washed up, you were lain on my belly to nurse. At 8 pounds, 10 ounces, 21 inches, you were small, warm, and wonderful from your very first breaths.

After an hour or so, we began to spread the news and waited anxiously for the arrival of your big brother, Nonnie, and Grandad (who had driven up from Maryland to be with Oliver while we were at the hospital. And so they did that afternoon. Marching through the lobby of Strong Hospital in full fireman’s regalia and his Rescue hero suitcase packed with Peter Rabbits, plastic hosing, and a “pick axe”, he declared he was there to protect you. And as soon as he touched your tiny hand and settled you into his lap, you transformed from Flip into Henry, the best little brother a boy could have.

We had worried about your in-utero nickname sticking after your birth. We could feel you moving early and often during my pregnancy; seemingly doing gymnastics and prone to hiccups. I loved the way my belly felt like a bag of microwave popcorn multiple times a day; perhaps it was an omen that you’d grow into the popcorn fiend you are today! Hence, you earned the name Flip. But all that faded away in an instant and you became your very own person, despite looking nearly identical to your brother.

Sixteen years later, it is obvious that you are still your own person, unique and gifted. You continue to develop your independence, balking at my tendency to volunteer you for things and bristling against your dad’s sarcasm and “you should” advice. While your interests have been similar and you have embraced him as a teacher and role model, you have worked hard to differentiate yourself from your brother with great respect and success.

You are beloved wherever you go.

You have a strong backbone and moral compass, yet you are gentle and flexible. You open your hands and heart to all you meet. I love how you casually drop names of your friends and acquaintances and when I inquire about who they are, you simply say, “You don’t know (insert name here)? (He’s a great guy.” You believe in the best of everyone you meet and encourage them to believe in themselves. You lead not by words but by example. I’ll never forget how proud I was when I learned that you were the only kid in the neighborhood to decline going to the “Great Solar Eclipse Party” a couple of years ago. That must have been a difficult choice to make but you did and you were right and honest and humble all at the same time. I love how health conscious you have become, making excellent food choices and working out every day- hard. You are disciplined and organized, always on top of your school work and managing to juggle your many commitments. You are serious but fun.

There is still a little sparkle of magic in you. I remember the hours you spent in your “wizard’s workshop”, cape draped over your shoulders and hat atop your head, mixing potions and perfumes and conjuring spells with intense imagination and faith in the invisible. Perhaps that is what makes you such a powerful instrument of God’s love. You don’t see it but certainly act as though you believe that it is not only yours, but available to anyone who is looking for a plug to the hole in his soul.

Every mother should have a child as expressive of gratitude as you are. If I had a quarter for every time you have unsolicitedly thanked me, told me how great you think I am, squeezed me in your arms, or smiled in appreciation for the smallest gift or act of kindness, I would be rich. I can hear you smile. It is wide and deep, but it never shows teeth. Not on purpose, anyway!I’m not sure what you will end up pursuing as a career, but it will undoubtedly involve healing and giving. You are balm and spirit sustenance. You are fresh country air and the first daffodil of spring. You are the first sip of morning coffee and a warm bath with Epsom salt at the end of the day. You are Henry and you are mine. At least for a little longer.

Keep reaching for the stars, my Henry Twinkler. That one star is yours. But leave your feet gripping the fertile soil of your family and faith. Inhale all the goodness around you and shutter your eyes to the anger and violence that will try to seep through your windows. Listen to the music but hear God’s whispers through the back beat. Feel your way through the patches of fog to the safety of friendship and faith; don’t be afraid to extend your arms and reach through the mist for the unseen.

As you begin this new year with the map on your lap and your hands on the wheel, drive cautiously. Watch the world in all its mystery and glory as you pass along and explore the major highways and les-travelled streets. Go off road sometimes but beware of mud and leave blazes on your trail for those who will be brave enough to follow you. Always obey the laws and be patient with passengers, pedestrians, and other drivers. Wherever you go, wherever God takes you, you will always have a home in my heart. Leave me a loose itinerary, stay in touch, and visit often.

I love you, Golden Boy. Keep shining bright.

Love,
Mom

 


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.
Love,
Kirstyn