Saturday, July 30, 2011
"Tomorrow at this time I will be halfway through the last class. I'll try you again later."
Mario's SKYPE text glowed on the page of the laptop. Alicia was working her way through pains brought on by the severe discomfort of being 9 months pregnant and days away from delivery. Our conversation (mine and Mario's) was unexpectedly cut short as I broke away to take care of Harmony (my nearly two-year-old granddaughter) while Alicia tried to breathe through it.
The urgency of helping my daughter overtook the importance of talking to my husband...for awhile.
This led me to text him :"This time tomorrow?"
His answer is above. It transported me back to him in my heart. The class he's talking about is the one we put together ourselves for singles, datings and marrieds called "Relationship Fitness". The last class he will do without me, leading the group with our beloved friends, Shepherd and Eve.
Since landing in San Francisco on Wednesday, I feel transported back to a world I had been pining for since the "shake up news" of earlier this year. The familia in the USA was so much in my heart that at times it was hard to focus on anything else in front of me. To be faithful to the work that I know, beyond a shadow of a doubt, that God has called us to, is important. Too important to be swayed by the urgent. That was our decision... and we stuck by it. While Mario jetted "home" in May, I held firm to make the journey in July to witness the birth of Alannah, Alicia's second child.
Being here is particularly fulfilling, and my day and a half with my parents was drunk in like a slow, red German wine,as much to be savored as enjoyed. The connection was instant, and tears gave way to smiles,conversation and deep sharing. It is their fifty-first year of marriage. Fifty one years... and life has delivered, this year, one of their toughest. I am in open admiration of them, and they know it.
On Thursday, Alicia turned twenty-three and I drove to Chico to celebrate with her. The sight of her in person took my breath away: so beautiful, so young, so pregnant! I couldn't believe how little and how much she had changed in a year. SKYPE is awesome, but face to face, hugging and touching... no contest.
It is here that I tell you the most amazing part: Harmony. Almost two years old now, she glows with excitement and connection and recognizes me from the computer. She asks after "Papa" (Mario) and proceeds to give me a long litany of indescribable gibberish whose pitch is the cutest thing in the whole wide world. I am undone all over again... she is a gem.
There is no such thing as reconnecting with a two year old. They live day to day and her world doesn't have me in it in a tangible way. Her confidence in our relationship has been given to her by her parents, who are happy to pass it on. It is for this reason that Harmony welcomes me into her world. She is comfortable with me around, opens her heart and her eyes to me, and invites me into her room to sleep the nights here on a twin sized mattress where Alannah's crib will eventually be.
Alicia's life as a mother has just begun. Mine is mid-way. My mothers is beyond mine. We all love our daughters and are (still) doing the best we can. I can look at my mother and love her instantly and eternally for being Jennie, the mother who is as strong as she is gentle. Beautiful and no-nonsense, she is not given to emotional decisions. She tried hard to impart this to me, but to no avail. What she did place inside of me is the desire to be an excellent wife. I heard her ONCE bad-mouth my father to me, and that was to say he was stubborn. All other times were only to praise him: strength, intelligence, etc., etc.. We all used to roll our eyes until we were old enough to understand: she was his head cheerleader.
Today Alicia and Brian were enjoying a nice Mexican lunch of beans and tacos (maybe this will bring the baby). We talked about God, love and the unpredictability of life. As we talked, I inevitably mentioned what a blessing it was to have a life-partner like Mario. As I said this, Alicia said, "Dad is my hero."
I said, "Mine, too."
Yesterday, after being here for one day, I called Mario on SKYPE to see the connection from this side to our little office in Johannesburg. His image appeared , and he was there in his "gangster hoodie" with his cute face. He said hello, and I began to cry, seeing him on the computer screen, suddenly and overwhelmingly missing him. The whole trip would be so much easier if we were together. Being separated is like being cut in half.
He watched, at first a little surprised at my emotion,then understanding, then touched. He looked at me and tried to encourage me with words, my second-place love language, simply because it was impossible to speak my first place one over the miles. Saying goodbye, he got into coach-mode, telling me how to run the game and put my best foot forward. So Mario. Almost made me snap out of missing him. :)
The course we are running at Junction, "Relationship Fitness" is based on physical fitness paralleling our fitness in relationships that we have, specifically our most intimate relationships. It has four parts: Strength, Balance, Flexibility and Endurance. Mario will be leading the last class, Endurance, without me there. It is particularly fitting, illustrating that marriage, with all we want it to be, is sometimes not what we want it to be. It is fully functional when it endures the earthquakes, floods, and droughts that come with life. It can only be tested by these events and time... and ours us halfway to where my parents is.
Yesterday, after seeing me break down, Mario asked Alicia a question: "Isn't it cool that Mom still gets teary when she sees me?"
"No," Alicia smiled. "It makes me think she'd rather be there than here."
Her remark made us all smile. We've all said it; we've all felt it. Where am I home? Where am I happy? Where do I really want to be?
Here I am, now. Waiting for her second daughter and drinking in time with her first. It is the tests of time that weather us and give us faith for more. These tests expose what is beautiful and what is ugly. The tests are not subject to plastic surgery, vitamins or duct tape.
These tests expose our desires, our values.
God help us....