Happy Belated Birthday, Sharon

I didn’t mean to forget your birthday.  I know, roughly, when it is…either the 20th or the 21st.  I’m pretty certain that it’s the 20th.  Which means I’m probably wrong.

Either way, the memory of your birthday is there and I’m always embarrassed how I don’t remember your birthday because so much of me and who I am and the mother I am is because of you.

My mother taught me how to be a woman.  You taught me how to be feminine.  My mother taught me how to be a leader.  You taught me how to be a diplomat.  My mother taught me how to be a parent.  You taught me how to be a mother.

I really love my mother.  No comma but.  However, the day that my brother introduced me to you was one of those pivotal moments in my life that I don’t think about as often as I should because, again, you have been so influential in my life.

Sharon, when I “walked to Emmaus,” you helped me son take his first steps.  On the days when he was walking on his own two feet, I was reading a letter you wrote to me in which you counseled me to become comfortable in my own skin.

The day I left for my Emmaus Walk.  The day my son took his first steps.

The day I left for my Emmaus Walk. The day my son took his first steps.

That line has stayed with me over the course of thirteen years.  I have all of the letters.  I remember little bits and pieces of them.  But your letter, I treasure.  Because you helped me see that all of my little insecurities that I thought I had tucked into little crevices were apparent.  And you didn’t make me feel embarrassed or ashamed that I have these insecurities.  Instead, you expressed the hope that I would finally feel comfortable with the person God has made me to be.

I wish I could say that I have done this.  I won’t.  But I will tell you that I invoke your words in my blog every time I write about smoothing my skin over the weird angles of my life.  Because it meant a lot to me to have someone whom I love and….well….look up to express to me something that I needed to hear and to read and didn’t make me feel like a complete idiot.

One of the attributes I am most proud of having as a parent is the fact that I let my children express their opinions and give their perspectives on situations impacting the family.  I learned this from you.  You would take the time to listen to Dan and Deb; you gave the ability to have a voice and I could see how much it meant to them that their opinions mattered.  Time and again, I saw how you focused your attention on your children, but not in such a way as they were suffocated.  Dan and Deb have their own personalities, their own loves and interests and are completely different from one another and are obviously loved and valued for their uniqueness.

Sharon dancing with Dan, her son, at his wedding.

Sharon dancing with Dan, her son, at his wedding.

You were never the cookie-cutter mother.  You didn’t force people into molds and expect them to hold their shapes.  As your children grew and developed, you adapted with them.  I watched organic motherhood, but this has guaranteed your children’s successes, at least as much as I have seen.

I know that when I was a teenager, I wan’t nice to my family.  Teenage depression coupled with pubescent hormones were destructive and I spent so much of my time feeling isolated from the world.  However, you reached out to me, constantly.  You bought me my first journal which is filled with my thoughts, my silly dreams of being in love, poetry that will never be seen as something good because…well…it wasn’t.  My father might have started me dreaming about being a writer.

But you gave me my first real tools towards becoming a writer.

You and Peter gave me my first boom-box/radio.  You gave me access to the world beyond my bedroom and the limitations set by my parents.  You gave me the cross-stitched Pegasus which I carried across the Atlantic multiple times.  It now hangs in the Girl’s room.  And she loves you, Sharon, because you are so much of the woman my daughter can easily become.

You are a leader, a diplomat.  You are able to guide people without them feeling stupid or unvalued.  You do this with strength and dignity and integrity.  When I have had to make decisions that may or may not be beneficial, you were the person I called because I knew you would give me an honest opinion without forcing me to do what you thought was the right choice.  You educated me but never forced me to adopt your ideology.  Again, this is something I am trying to do when I raise my own children.

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The Girl, Sharon, and Deb (Sharon’s daughter…my wonderful niece)

My daughter has so many attributes of a future businesswoman.  She is savvy in terms of saving money (most of the time).  She is clinical in her decision making and is patient with achieving her goals.  She doesn’t always look for the immediate satisfaction but is aware the waiting and working towards her intended outcome is better.  I don’t know that she got this attribute from me.  I doubt she got this from Pat.  However, Sharon, I would love to attribute this to you which is impossible as we are not blood-related.

I wish we were.  I never wanted a sister when I was growing up.

But I have always, always, always been thankful that you were my sister[-in-law] starting when I was…thirteen?  I can’t remember….

Much like I can never remember your birthday (I really am sorry).

But I can remember the first time I saw you.  I remember when you apologized for giving me the Pegasus late (Christmas?  Birthday? Doesn’t matter).  I remember how much I loved visiting you on your parents’ farm.  I remember talking to you and I kept on hopping up and suspending myself between the counters in my parents’ kitchen.  I remember talking with you about something during that conversation and just loving you because you were everything I wanted to be but I didn’t know how to communicate that.  It’s take me thirty years to finally say this.

I wish I called your more often.  I am always worried that I’m going to get you in the middle of some huge project.  I know that when I do visit Peter, it’s my conversations with you that I usually enjoy the most because….I don’t know….no matter how different we are, Sharon, you always make me feel validated, worthwhile…..good.

I have planted Rose-of-Sharon bushes around my yard.  Not because I love them (I do) but because they make me think of you.  They are lovely without being delicate, beautiful without being fragile.  Strong.

I remember the first time I learned the name of the Rose-of-Sharon bush.  I was walking with you, Peter, Dan, and Deb.  A rainstorm had just flowed through the valley and we were walking along the road that circles around the edge of the hill on which your house is built.  And there, at the end of the road, was a Rose-of-Sharon bush with pink (I think) blossoms.  And shimmering on it were butterflies–large, blue butterflies whose wings trembled as they shivered off the raindrops that still clutched the leaves.  And you said the name of this hedge…just as thunder echoed off the mountains, as the wind lifted the clouds off the edge of the mountain, combing them through the pine trees.

I always associate you with serenity, Sharon.  Maybe it’s because your voice is soft.  Maybe it’s because my memories of you are edged with silken joy.  Doesn’t matter.

What matters is you, Sharon.  You matter.  And I am so thankful that I have been able to spend thirty years learning from you, gleaning lessons from your example.

I just wish I could remember your birthday.

Poem for the day:

Climbing the Falls

We stood at the base of the boulders and looked upwards,

Watched as the water spilled over the rocks, against the fallen

Trees covered in soaked, slippery moss.

We stood and stared at water cascading towards the valley,

Following gravity’s tethered lines.

We meant to go to the bottom of the falls, but the

Looming threat of thunderstorms, the darkening gray clouds

Saturating the sky above us was enough of a presence

To pull us upwards, away from the beckoning pools of spring-cold water,

The perfect counterpoint to the summer heat and humidity.

We wanted to play.

We wanted to push each other into the shadowy blue, or, at least

Shovel the water at each other and laugh in the temporary rainbows

Being spun into the air.

Instead, we fought against the gravity that sealed us to the ground

And scaled the rock walls, found the steps indented into the sides of

The boulders that appeared to be a threat–

But were nothing more than whorls in the Earth’s fingerprints.

I was terrified, fearful for our children’s safety.

What if they fell?

            What if they broke something? A leg? An arm?

                        God-forbid…their heads?

They never fell.

I did…butt-first into the water so that I soaked my pants

Like I had lost control.

Bruised my butt, bruised my dignity.

But I scaled the edges of my fears, dug my fingers into the

Nooks and crannies of my insecurities and pulled myself over everything

That has stood in my way…

Even that which I had constructed myself.

At the top, we still had two miles of trails to walk before reaching the car.

Two more miles of swollen feet and hands that were ballooning

So much so that I had to walk with my hands held over my head

To encourage the blood to drain.

But we did it. We ignored the aching muscles and the oppressive

Thirst we could not slack because our water bottles were dry.

We giggled. Told jokes.

Even played tag to make the trail’s distance shrink.

The sound of our feet crunching the gravel was louder than the thunder.

Our laughter more radiant than the lightning that was soon to fall

As liquid brilliance out of the sky.

And when I rested my fingers in the hoop of your palm,

You briefly closed your hand, squeezed a couple of times.

A promise?

A coded I love you?

A moment of reassurance?

I suspended my questions, hooked them on an emotional clothing line

To let the sun bleach out my worries

And the moon cool my fears.

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