SUNDAY, MAY 8, 2011 3:34 PM, CDT
The saying that “If Mama ain’t happy, ain’t no one happy” misses the circular nature of a Mom’s happiness. I think, “If the kids aren’t happy, then Mom isn’t happy.” And so around and around we go, Mom working to keep the kids happy. When the kids are happy, then Mom becomes happy. And on Mother’s Day, 2011, I am indeed happy – as are the kids. The circle is complete.
The path that brought me to this state of happiness was messy. Of course I’m learning that life is messy, so this should come as no surprise. One year ago today my plane from South Africa touched down at the Salt Lake City airport.
Gingerly the kids greeted me at the airport. Thoughtfully they stopped at an outhouse along the road home as my body continued to fight to mend from the medical mis-adventure disguised as a work-trip to South Africa. Ahead lay a staph infection, removal of surgical materials left in my incision, counseling for PTSD and painful entrapped nerves. Today I happily report that I am back to Pilates, Hip Hop Dancing and looking forward to getting back on my bike once the weather allows. Messy, indeed. Yet the path led to a deeper appreciation for my health.
The path for Phillip was an absolute messy wreck. But for this strong, dedicated man of character, the messier the path became, the more ferociously he rose to the challenge. Calmly, Phil made life-critical medical decisions and offered life saving care for me when I checked out of the abysmal South African ICU into the relative safety of a hotel room. Phil graduated from high school, delivered a knock-out performance at his Muay Thai match, then he promptly broke my heart when he shipped out for Basic Military Training (BMT). Ten horrid weeks of struggle ensued – and I think BMT was hard for Phil as well, ha. BMT was followed up by Indoc, the Air Force’s testing grounds to prove you are worthy of earning a coveted spot for the two year Trauma Medic “Superman” training. Stomach viruses, shin splints resulting in bone fractures, blown knees, blacking out under water – none of the maladies resulting from the physical and mental demands were worthy of a day off, nor did they stop Phil from enduring the grueling demands of the Indoctrination…two times.
Jeff and I flew down to celebrate a low key graduation ceremony where these young super studs were told they had now earned the opportunity to begin training. Having succeeded in accomplishing a feat that less than 10% of those approved to try accomplish, Phil took off for Combat Diver School…passed and is now stationed in Albuquerque to learn trauma medicine. Seven of the 150 men with whom Phil started his second Indoctrination attempt are with him in Albuquerque where Phil has his own dorm room, weekend’s free to hunt turkeys and camp in the nearby mountains, and a car affording a measure of freedom he has not had for nearly a year. Phil is happy, outrageously happy.
Kevin misses Phil. This was evident as I watched them hang out together, wrestle with one another, and tease each other during our visit last weekend in Albuquerque. And Kevin struggles to get going in the early morning hours demanded of high school students. Weekly Kevin visits an orthopedic surgeon specializing in pain. He gets trigger point injections in his incision points in an attempt to break up the clusters of muscles that spasm painfully. We’re working to get him into a neurological specialist working on cutting edge use of Botox to address this type of visceral pain. There are times of sadness and frustrations, understandably. Yet through the on-going challenges, Kevin’s spirit is indominable. He laughs with his friends. He maintains a demanding social life. He keeps his eyes singularly locked on a pain-free future without letting the bothers of today bring him down. When I look past his daily irritation of continued pain, when Kevin and I chat, when I hug him; I sense his profound happiness. Deep in his soul, Kevin is a happy person with a sunny disposition.
Our book is soon to be published. Galley proofs are being reviewed, pictures and illustrations selected, quotes for the cover gathered. Kevin and I both are hopeful that our message of the power of listening, the ways to be a healthcare advocate, the importance of remaining hopeful will resonate with our readers and offer them strength to face their own messy life paths.
Katie’s essay will be included in the book, and she is proud of her contribution. Mostly, though, she is caught up in her music and athletic endeavors, with school curriculum as an added distraction. Ninth-grade insecurities seem inevitable – not only hers, but the entire environment of a school full of insecure teenagers acting out their insecurities in a myriad of ways, be it harassing words, bullying behaviors, sulking, withdrawal or tears. Jeff and I ride the wave of emotions that attend this tender life stage, reminding ourselves that this rite of passage can bring strength of character and a stronger sense of self for Katie once she moves past the transition. In the midst of the turmoil we do what we can to bring sunlight, hope and happiness into Katie’s life. We cheer for her waterpolo prowess (she’s the team’s top scorer), and we dance to her nationally recognized jazz band’s swing tunes. We share laughs and hold her through the tears. Kate spends more time at the happy end of the emotional curve than she does in the valley of teenaged angst, which is a blessing.
Though this is a Mother’s Day missive, I would be neglectful if I failed to mention the critical role that Jeff plays in bringing happiness to the kids, which in turn brings happiness to me. Jeff is an awesome Dad. The example he sets of discipline, humility, dedication and humor is a cornerstone for the kids. His gusto for life is contagious – skiing, biking (aggressively enough to break two ribs – boo hoo), leading 55 employees, his ever-present energy and optimism affords happiness to all of us.
And so, through this messy adventure that is life, since the kids are all happy, “Mama is happy.” I hope you are all happy as well. Watch for our upcoming announcement that our book is published. Once our book is published we’ll be transferring our Caringbridge blogposts to our book’s website, and it will be easier for you to get in touch with us. We’ll also provide details on how you can order a copy – and we’ll be glad to talk to your book club, or to sign a copy for you.
To each of you, we offer our thanks for the role that you have played in bringing us to this place of happiness. Happy Mother’s Day!