Category Archives: Passing the Torch

Saying Goodbye to a Home

It turns out I’m nostalgic and sentimental about places. Today I said goodbye to my house–the house I was born into, the house I lived in until my marriage, then returned to, to raise my family for nine more years. After that we moved halfway down the block.

I have had free access to my old house all my life. The last few years I was there nearly every day.

Today I went in very early in the morning, walked through its empty rooms and took pictures. You see an old house much in need of cosmetic repair but I see many, many memories. One empty corner is where my play kitchen was in the TV room. Another is the attic closet where my boys played spaceship. And so on. There really are a million memories.

I have never lived more than a mile or two from this house. Can’t believe I’m saying goodbye to it. Now I will be able to see the new family take ownership and make their memories. That doesn’t feel good yet but I hope that it will.

DSC04327

Advertisements

The First of Several Musings about My Family Home

We have cleared out my mother’s home. She is still with us, but must live in the nursing home now. We have to sell the house.

It’s my home. It’s always been my home. I was born into that house and I’ve always had free access to it; I have never lived further than one mile from it. Even now, I live only several houses down on the other side of the street; I can look into her foyer from my foyer.

But it’s empty now. She is not there. No one is there. And all the stuff: the items that filled the home I knew, gone.

Except for what I saved, which is quite a bit. That all sits in my first floor, waiting to be gradually assimilated into my family’s life, into our home. Into our history.

There is a lot of family history. I have books from the 1870’s forward. Books with my father’s mother’s signature on the first page: this book belongs to Mary Elizabeth Holden, and her address. She would have been a teen or young adult. A postcard she wrote from Atlantic City with her photo, aged 18. It is dated 1904.

My mother’s father was presented with a book labeled to him on the inside cover while in the service in World War I: The First Battalion: The Story of the 406th Telegraph Battalion. Inside the cover is a folded page. It is a propaganda leaflet from the Germans. It begins: “The German Peoples Offers Peace.” One side is in English, the other is in French.

There are many items like this, objectively interesting as objects which preserve our past, or things which keep alive the memories of relatives long gone.

Here is one which anyone but me would have thrown in the trash. After all, we couldn’t save everything and my parents were Depression kids and hoarders. It is meaningful only to me. Some context. My father was not an overly affectionate fellow, he tended to be difficult and I must admit that, as a child, I was uneasy when he was home. He was not abusive in any way toward his children but he was an anxious person. Enough said.

It is a corner of a loose leaf sheet about 3″ x 3″. My father tore it off and kept it. In my “fancy” printing: Get me up at 6:30 to do my homework. Madelyn.

Above that, in my father’s unmistakable hand:

Madelyn

age 9

1969

note in mirror

 

 

Wife Receiver, Part 2

Wife Receiver

Men. You like football! You think about sports all the time. Maybe you should think about your wife a little. Think of her as a football. Don’t leave her laying on the Astroturf; hold her next to your ribs on one side.

Sometimes I wonder what kind of creature is making editorial decisions. If my husband uses “porcupine” and “pigskin” in one sentence in which I’m the subject, and then sends out the video for all the world to see, I’m filing for divorce.

How did we get here? You start walking down a hall to get to some place. The hall goes on and on, it turns and meanders. You lose sight of your destination. You vaguely forget where you came from. You keep adjusting your context. Eventually you’re creating a pseudo-reality almost completely disconnected from where you began, or from the reality outside the hall.

The Christian media culture is desperately irrelevant. This is cultural dementia. A piece of video like this actually speaks to almost no one. But the tropes are so deeply etched in the unexamined narrative that they take on a kitschy facsimile of reality. Something once real was conformed to the trendiest version of popular culture, stylized again and again, frozen in trope and repeated for a couple decades until it seemed like truth.

Dementia creates its own narrative, tenuously connected to reality. Hunks of memory are lost, the blanks are desperately filled in with invented content, accommodations are made to the newly invented parts. This cultural narrative is deconstructed and postmodern at its core.

We could study the regression of the sitcom husband over the last 60 years from all wise father to dumb self-absorbed fratboy-in-recovery (recovery supplied by long-suffering bitchy wife). Sometime in the 90’s, translate that caricature to the Christian media culture. Plunk that boy down in “teaching” videos and  use him as a don’t-be example. Then have famous sports figures and media-culture leaders themselves assume the caricature in confession sessions meant to relate and instruct all their bros, who are assumed to have the same issues that swollen-headed celebrities do.

How many times am I to be “taught” how to be married by someone who nearly wrecked his marriage? I was an adult responsible for my actions but I chose to be a complete jerk to my wife for 25 years. But then I suddenly understood something obvious. Learn from me.

Those are your problems, buddy. My husband never fell for such stupidity. Why don’t we hear from people who’ve had good marriages all along? Might they not have some wisdom?

I think the essence of marriage is that you do not “come at” one another. My husband is the one person in all the world whom I can expect will be with me, on my side. If, in your marriage, someone is still coming at someone, you have not earned the right to instruct me on marriage.

The Christian media culture requires little any more but a very, very simple analogy to go to the presses or the cameras. When this one appeared in my Facebook newsfeed I knew I had to speak up. They’re getting worse– insultingly dumb, almost completely lacking substance, and in this case, difficult to find useful.

What can this analogy mean? How is one to apply this piece of wisdom? Should you compare your wife to a tightly stretched pigskin filled with air? Should you express your love by running up a field with her, forcefully knocking people over if they come close? Should you pass her to another receiver so he can get her over the goal?

Is there some mystical knowledge about “receiving” the ball that only your sportball brotherhood understands?

My husband suggests: Finally! Now I can be a wife receiver! I can’t wait to tuck you under my arm and cross the goal line, then watch the place kicker boot you through the uprights for the extra point! YAY!!!

Football is pretend war. It’s a game; it is not designed to reflect real life. As such, it does not seem a fitting place to find analogies for marriage.

But the worst thing about the marriage support media stuff is that it has bought into the unbelieving world’s premises. It teaches compromise and patching-up for a relationship seen as intrinsically combative. God has made married men and women one flesh, uniquely united in a way no other human relationship is.  The ideas promoted here serve to  sustain division where we ought to be promoting unity.

 

 

 

Never Give In

We were asked to move my Mother to a second nursing home because she became too difficult. She has dementia. She cannot remember that we’ve been taking care of her 24/7 for the last three years. She cannot remember that my Dad’s been gone for 30 years.

No one’s going to tell her what to do or keep her against her will. They tried calming her with a mild sedative, then a stronger one. The stronger one effected her paradoxically; it enraged her. They eliminated the drug to no avail. She made for the exits. They put an alarm band around her ankle. But she kept trying to make a run for it.

So the powers-that-were politely asked us to find her a new home.

I wanted to say:  She’s a ninety-six year old woman in a wheelchair with the strength of a kitten. Was she too much of a challenge?

I could have argued but I realized the truth: they were not willing to handle her.

She’s articulate, clever, intelligent, sarcastic. She also has almost no short-term memory and is often confused. She can get belligerent. But I thought nursing homes were where one went to get care when one became disabled, particularly when one was cognitively disabled.

Apparently not so, unless one is cognitively disabled in a compliant sort of way.

In the span of six days at her new place, she has tried to take the elevator down, pulled the fire alarm, and threatened to press charges against the staff. She doesn’t cooperate even when it’s to her benefit, hanging on to the table’s edge when they’re trying to pull her chair out from where she’s wedged herself.  Never give in. She’d make a wonderful protester.

To be fair, when we pushed the elevator button to go home, there was a bag taped to the wall next to it. Yes, they have installed the fire alarm right next to the elevator button. In a dementia unit.

My 96 year-old Mom: kicked out of one home, making the second home create new procedures.

When we get there, she gradually calms down, she jokes, she brags of her badass-ness. We re-orient her, we reassure her. We talk about her grandchildren. We explain that she cannot take care of herself at home right now and so she needs to be there. We take her out to the gazebo. We manage to persuade her to submit to another overnight, we promise to be back next day.

And try to be nice to the staff; they’re just doing their jobs. We’ll be back tomorrow.

This must be repeated every day. Her kids are her only link to stability. She cannot remember new people so everyone else is a stranger. Sometimes our reassurance and persuasion go down fairly well, sometimes it takes hours, and sometimes she still isn’t buying it. She’s going home.

She will never not want to go home. She is nursing home-resistant. I hope the new place is ready for permanent non-compliance because she is not going to assimilate.

I am trying to plant an idea in her mind. Although it may seem cruel, I’m trying to suggest that when you are almost 100 years old, it’s no shame to lean on others. It’s no shame, and maybe even necessary, to accept some help. She could be so much more content.

So far it’s not working.

 

Simple Advice

Be honest about what you ultimately want from your life. This is tricky because we’re dishonest with ourselves about this. And when we’re young we think there’s endless time and endless opportunity to change direction.

But time passes so quickly, along with opportunity.

If you want to look back at your life from the end and see a happy home and family of your creation in partnership with a person of the opposite sex, do not pussyfoot around with politically-correct posturing through your twenties and thirties. Stop trying to impress your peers and social media contacts. Get to work looking for that partner and developing yourself into a person who can create that home.

Decide what you really want from life. Shut out all the other voices around you and think about what you would regret not having done when it’s too late. Too late comes much faster than you expect.

If that’s the career of your dreams, go for it. If it’s public significance and gravitas, go for it. If it’s purpose without recognition, go for it.

If it’s a lifetime working together, shoulder to shoulder, with the person you admire and respect most in the whole world, go for it. Get to work.

Is there a person in your life who is kind, dependable, willing to commit to you? Do you think this person will support you through life’s rocky road? What more do you need?

If it’s you standing at a sink of dishes with a toddler or two roaming around wrecking havoc, go for it. If it’s watching your kids become unique and valuable human beings who better the world by their presence, go for it.

None of the options will just happen. You have to be intentional about what you pursue. Yes, sometimes things mysteriously fall into place, and God does drop things in our laps. But we must be able to discern those things as gifts, and not devalue them and throw them away.

I’m afraid we throw away gifts like garbage all the time.

Do we imagine that God’s methods, the ways he designed us to actualize those chances, are too outmoded for our enlightened times? What pride.

We are made for relationship. There is not one thing on earth more significant than building good relationships. The question is: what kind of relationships do you want as you walk through your life? How deep, how lasting? What will you have when it’s too late to change direction?

 

The Wrong Side of History

Re-posting from awhile ago.

Let’s not be on the wrong side of history. I say this because I like to hope that some future people who descend from us will have rediscovered the moral compass, learned to honor objective justice, found the Truth. If so, they will look back at us and be appalled at our indolence, our indifference in the face of genocidal baby slaughter.

There can be no escape for us as a people.  Multiplied millions of murdered children cannot go unanswered by the conscience of any possible belief system. Only an utter nihilist could deny that the scales will ultimately be balanced and we will be found wanting. A universe which assigns no meaning and passes no judgment upon endless human carnage is an absurd nightmare.

The activities of Planned Parenthood are completely indefensible. If we cannot purge this corporate atrocity from our society, we do not deserve to call ourselves civilized, moral, or even good humans.

I do realize that all abortions are not chosen in as careless a manner as PP advocates that they should be. It may be, for many women, that all available medical advice was to terminate and try again. They may have grieved terribly over having to lose a child they wanted…Or they may have aborted for more elective reasons but felt unaccountably uncomfortable about it after. I realize that there are many women who were urged to abort for what seemed like unarguable reasons.

That’s the problem. If the default of our society  is to err on the side of death in order to solve our problems, and women are confronted with life-and-death decisions when they are at their most vulnerable…death becomes the predetermined result.

Then all those women, as well as their children, become victims of opportunistic corporate interests, and the aggrandizement of relentless political interests. The best and most well-meaning solution that such a society can offer is death as panacea.

Such a value system is inadequate to meet the needs of real life. In real life, unexpected stuff happens, lives are in danger, less than perfect decisions have to be made. If the overarching goal in the face of the unexpected is to get back to our comfort and our plans, no matter what the damage, those decisions will be brutal.

We need cultural change. We need to be honest enough to admit what is clearly before us.  We need to value Truth. We need to be willing to call evil, evil; and good, good.  We need to be a culture which values all human life and devalues none.

When difficult situations come, as they will, our impulse ought to be an honest search for a solution which protects and honors all involved. Our default should not be death for the defenseless ones.

Some Disorganized Parenting Advice, For What It’s Worth

I agree with J. Budziszewski when he says that love is the commitment of the will to the true good of another person. We are called to love our children, so that means we’re to be committed to what’s truly good for them.

Principle #1: When you are responsible for someone’s well-being, your efforts may not be understood or appreciated by the object of your efforts. Or: your kids are still childish, so they might not get what you’re doing for them. Or: if your kids think you’re great and nice all the time, you probably aren’t doing the parent thing right.

When you are a mom or a dad, the overarching long term goal is to cultivate and maintain healthy relationship with your kids–for life. Love, love, love them. And the reason you do this is to guide the young people toward the development of their own loving relationships–in healthy, purposeful, functional adulthood–because you’re committed to their long-term good.

Your best efforts, on your side of the relationship, should promote harmony, health and happiness. But a lot of your time as a parent is spent doing things for your kids which they don’t like and don’t understand.

Like discipline. Human beings start out helpless, self-oriented and without any self-control whatsoever. As we develop, we gradually acquire more and more other-awareness, impulse control and independence. But we need help. Does anyone deny this (she asks, remembering blog conversations in which a consensus even on this was not reached)?

One of the first things to make understood, after your child reaches an age of accountability, is that there is a line. The line is what your child must not cross without expecting to receive unpleasant consequences. Your message: these items are not tolerated and are not negotiable. If you cross that line, I will enact consequences which are designed to be just unpleasant enough to deter you from doing that item again.

Let us not substitute virtue-signaling for realistic discernment concerning what form those consequences should take. Know your child, know your own limits, and with humility do what is really best for your children. I don’t ascribe to a rigid formula here. People are all the same, but also people are very different.

When your child has truly repented of that thing and wants forgiveness (which is how you know the discipline actually worked),  he will receive it immediately , along with happy and healthy restoration of your relationship and a warm hug. Thing will be completely forgiven and he will never be reminded of it again.

Principle #2: If your kid doesn’t repent, your correction didn’t correct. He hasn’t learned anything yet.

Non-toleration should be reserved for acts of true intentional disobedience or rebellion, or acts of malicious intent, and other items which you will designate yourself. In our house, striking or physically hurting a sibling was one act which was under the no tolerance rule.

Non-tolerated items must include acts which would be dangerous to the child, such as running into the street before the age of learning to cross safely, or playing with the stove or the electrical sockets.

Childish mistakes and impulsive foolishness should be teaching opportunities.

Principle #3: All consequences must only be performed while you, the parent, are calm and cool, and always with the goal of quick restoration and the long-term goal of teaching the child to have self-discipline.

One of the embedded premises in your correction is that you are the authority. It makes a lot of us uncomfortable to assume that role but it is one of the difficult things which we do for our child’s benefit. You do your child no favors to teach him that there isn’t anyone to whom he is accountable, or that there is no one whose moral standing can be trusted. If the person who is teaching him the difference between right and wrong isn’t a moral authority to be trusted, then it’s not too difficult for him to decide that right and wrong are subjective opinions.

Principle #4: You must own the role of unqualified authority to your child. This role is not a thing that you lead with; it is to be a premise underlying your pleasant and affectionate parenting. But it must be real when the rubber meets the road. For the sake of your child, you cannot be inconsistent here.

The line is important. All kinds of kids from all kinds of raising  might rebel one day. But the kids who grew up with a line and an authority understand the context better. They know who and what they’re dissing and do it with some understanding. It’s possible that they will think through their choices, with the critical thinking skills you have taught them, and that they will find their way back, as thinking persons with an understood moral paradigm.

Kids who grew up without a moral authority in their lives, who found it hard to understand what was expected of them, with an amorphous moral context, will rebel mindlessly, emotionally driven by they know not what, with no purpose. They are truly blind and lost in their rebellion, and that makes it so much harder for them to find their own way back to responsible maturity.

What else would I tell parental-advice-seekers, if I were to be asked?

Thicken your skin and cultivate peace in your spirit. When you are holding the line against some unwise course your kid wants to take, do not expect back-up from other adults. Expect to stand alone. The world is chock-full of bad advice for you and your kid.

Principle #5: Being a conscientious parent is not for the faint of heart.

Everything you have in you will be stretched and challenged. I’m not referring to obvious items like patience and physical stamina but your integrity, your self-esteem, your emotional stamina and your convictions or lack thereof.

When you have toddlers or several children under, say, eight, you think life’s as challenging as it can get. Oh you poor fool.

Sometimes I wish I had a house FULL of toddlers. It would be easier.

Those little people grow up and become self-directed young adults whom you can no longer contain in your home, who don’t have bedtimes, who drive automobiles, who can go here and there and do whatever they choose for goodness sakes. Whom you can no longer control. And you become a mere advisor–that is, if you’re blessed and fortunate enough to have young adults who choose to listen to you at all.

And no, you can’t guarantee that by how well you parent them. That’s just the point. They become people with free will. Hopefully the seeds of your good teaching fell on fertile ground and your mistakes were forgotten; but even if so, we can never guarantee clear critical thinking and mature forgiveness.

Anything can happen with human beings! They can decide to cut you out of their lives even though you loved them, provided for them, watched over them every minute of their lives and cared about their future more than anyone, including their current drinking buddies.

Principle #6: Expect your older teens and young adults to hurt you more than anyone else will ever be able to.

Even when you and your young people are on the same side, they can hit you right where it hurts just exactly when you were expecting reciprocal consideration. When thought you were doing all the right stuff. That’s why intimate relationships are so risky–we can love powerfully, we can hate powerfully, and we feel both most from those we love and trust.

When your toddler hates you, you can laugh it off. But when your 20 year old only speaks to you to ridicule you, that hurts a lot. You’ve cultivated a vulnerable relationship with this thinking person who is making a decision to dismiss you. So it’s helpful to remember he still has a lot of growing up to do, i.e. think of him as a toddler. That frontal lobe isn’t complete til about 25.

Those teens and twenties don’t have a lock on their self-control yet. Especially since the young in our culture never stop hearing that it’s suspect to control themselves, and that their emotions are Absolute Truth.

Principle #7: Watching quietly while your children make their own decisions is a lifelong commitment to worry and impotence, or it is a lifelong commitment to hope and fervent prayer. Your choice.

Hopefully your young will make wise decisions. Sometimes they won’t. Sometimes it’s a good time for you to say something. Sometimes it is a good time to be quiet even though you have the answer. Sometimes you don’t know how there can even be an answer. I have it on good authority that knowing the difference is an art I have not mastered.

Principle #8:  As a parent, you never arrive at a place where you can look back and say, “There–I did it and I’m satisfied with the job I did.” It’s a task for life, and you have to keep ahead of the learning curve for life.