Sunday, April 2, 2017

Counting by Tens

Often times, we look back at life or celebrate milestones in 10s - birthdays, wedding anniversaries, college reunions, cancer-free years, etc. My life is no different. And as I look in the rear view mirror and count by 10s, I am at a milestone year from a few angles.

I got married about 10 years after high school. I became a mother two 10s ago, this month. I left the workforce about 10 years after leaving college to be a stay-at-home mom. Those years at home added up to 10 (plus one), before re-entering the very changed workforce. I've been getting paid for some sort of work for the past 9 years.

I remember, distinctly, the first week I went back to work, to a part-time consulting job that I could shoehorn into the short hours when my youngest son was in kindergarten and had 2 days a week at an extended school program. It was the spring of 2008. I had been walking up to the neighborhood school to pick him and his brothers up (the one year they were all in the same school - ages 5, 8 and 10) in my unfamiliar work clothes, when my neighbor approached me in the school yard. She made the accurate observation that I must have returned to work. I said, yes I had and made a comment about how much had changed in 10 short years. Without skipping a beat, she agreed and we both exchanged a deeper look. Her three children were also at the school, but her 10 years included losing her husband in one of the planes that hit one of the World Trade Center towers on 9/11. She had since then, started and nurtured, first-hand, an amazing charity to help and empower women of Afghanistan, widows of the endless war in their homeland.

It is hard to contemplate her 10s. But I think she would prefer to be known by what she did to rebuild what she lost; the amazing family she rebuilt and the Afghan women she continues to save.

I have the 10th anniversary of my father's death coming up in July of this year. Today would have been the 80th birthday of my mom who died 17 months after my dad. I match my life up against the years with them and the years without them. The 10 years of learning to parent when I relied on them for support, guidance, reassurance and hugs. The 10 years of parenting without them, feeling the empty space they left but still trying to make them proud. 

We build, for the kids and each other, a safe harbor from the storms. My extended family puts great value in and effort into getting together. We preserve what traditions we can and create new ones when we have to. I try to rebuild the faith that I lost and learn from others in my family who are better at it than I. We celebrate the good stuff. We help our friends and family navigate the hard stuff. We try to do small things with great love.

I learned this phrase today: We salvage with love, what chaos destroys. Insert any word that applies. We salvage with love, what cancer destroys. We salvage with love, what addiction destroys. We salvage with love, what hate destroys.

Love is the answer.