Wednesday, December 10, 2008

The Middle Place

I remember asking my sweet friend Melissa soon after my dad died just when I would stop feeling like the sadness was going to suffocate me. At the time her mom had been gone for 11 years. The answer to my question? Tears filled her eyes. What I didn't know then is that while the pain, and your reaction to it, changes with time, it is always there. Always. There is a hole left behind that only my dad could fill. And right now it's empty. And every now and then I feel once again like I might suffocate.

Recently Betsy handed me a book that made her think of me. It was wonderful. First of all, the author, Kelly Corrigan, is an excellent writer. Her words make you feel a part of her story. It is the story of her own fight with cancer that just happened to coincide with her father's fight with it as well. The book is called The Middle Place and I recommend it to anyone who is at once a child and a parent. That is what she calls the middle place. This is what her website says about the book: "THE MIDDLE PLACE is about being a parent and a child at the same time. It is about the special double-vision you get when you are standing with one foot in each place. It is about the family you make and the family you came from and locating, navigating, and finally celebrating the place where they meet."

It took my dad's illness and death for me to realize that I can be, and am, both mother and daughter. I thought as a grown up kind of woman that I was fully independent, self-sufficient (with my husband, of course) and yes, a daughter but more importantly, a mother. A grown up. And then Dad became sick. Wait. I'm not ready. Not yet. Not this. Not now. My boys are too little. I am too young. You are too young. What will we do? I am still your daughter. And yes, in fact I do still need you as I've come to know. What is that they say about hindsight? If I had only known, right? As it turns out, Dad and I both learned a lot about each other, about love, in his last months.

So now I relish my position as both someone's daughter and some people's mother. It can be a strange place at times, like recently when I had a double ear infection and we just happened to be staying at Mom's due to our plumbing problems. I laid in my mom's bed crying because my ears hurt so badly and I just wanted her to come home from her errands and take care of me. And she did.

I now so cling to my mother that she probably feels like I'm suffocating her. I can't help it. She's the last link to my being a daughter, a child. Along with my dad went part of my backbone, and mom makes up a big part of what's left of it. So I worry about her and like to keep tabs on where she is and how she is, because when she goes, I'll be an orphan. I know, I know, I am a daughter of the King, and how I love, love, love that place. But on earth, I'll be an orphan. Let's move on...or I'll get all upset.

As Elijah was approaching his birthday last week I realized that he has now lived half of his life without my dad in it. Now, we talk lots about Poppa. Elijah misses him and likes to remember things about him. Miles, and now even Ella, talk about him because I do. I truly believe that Dad keeps tabs on us. Knows what we're up to. Watches his grandchildren. Loves them. But I can't see him see them. This part of The Middle Place speaks to that feeling. It is about her friend's reaction after her mother's death to people saying "she's in a better place" type things:
But what about you? What about your peace? Your comfort? Who's gonna remember what you were for Halloween that year or the name of your fifth grade teacher? Who's gonna loan you money to buy your first house or cry when your baby is born? Who's gonna sit in the front row of your play?

Look, Mom! This is the scene where we get engaged! Oh! You're gonna love this part! Look at me in my white dress Dad! How about this one - Edward and Dad play golf together! And in this next scene, we get pregnant! Hey, look, Dad! Edward reads Sports Illustrated cover to cover JUSTLIKEYOU! Isn't this a good play? Don't you love it? Wait! There's more! Edward gets promoted in the third act! Don't go yet! Georgia is going to kindergarten next year! Wait 'til you see her first swim meet! Her tiger goggles! Please stay. We bought Claire tap shoes! This part is coming up-! Claire plays the harmonica! She's applying to Yale! Don't LEAVE- it gets so good!
Even though I think Dad is seeing our "play" and he's trying to get the hosts of heaven to watch with him, probably, I can't be with him as he sees. I can't see the emotion in his eyes. Or see those cheeks puff up with a smile. Or hear that strange way he would laugh/spit when something was really funny (like Elijah calling nipples "nebos").

Thanks to Betsy for sharing this wonderful book with me. I think The Middle Place is so worth reading. You may not be able to relate to all of it but, unfortunately, one day we all will send our parents home. And, hey, maybe reading it will help you learn some things about family and love and loss that I had to learn the hard way.


Katie said...

I can't wait for you to tell me more about this book when I come home for Christmas... I'm so looking forward to seeing you!

The Emersons said...

Wow, that's a powerful video/reading. Now I'm all choked up again! Thanks for sharing... being a grown up is just hard sometimes, isn't it? I want to be oblivious and self centered again! (: