This morning, deep in the twilight zone of parenting frustration, I handed off trying to impart life lessons to our daughter to my husband.
I went for a brief run to regain my equilibrium and to stay in shape. To my mind, parenting and marriage are long-term commitments. As gay men, my husband and I rerouted our careers and lives to move to one of only three states in America at that time where our commitment would be legally recognized. We did this before we became parents, and soon before our daughter was born in one of the other 47 states that did not recognize our union, we held our breath that a judge would permit us both to be listed on our daughter’s birth certificate as her parents — only us.
The judge did and then we plunged into the depths of other vast seas of unknown: what it would be like to have a daughter born with an extra chromosome? How many visits to the emergency room would we have to make? Would she be able to hold her own with kids her age? For me, in my most irrational fear, would I find her beautiful?
I needed only one look at my daughter to know she was. We have had scarcely any hospital visits. She needs extra help in math, but her vocabulary in two languages is terrific and she loves to read. We are still working on her penmanship. She is a Girl Scout. She is making great progress in her hula class. She’s a good tennis player. And she has such strong opinions about what she wants every single day that I’ve had to summon all my years of marathon training to try to be a calm and composed parent.
And my marriage?
My husband pointed out when I asked him today if, after 15 years, he still felt excitement, that it’s hard when you pour all your energy into a child to have a lot left over to focus on excitement!
I had no words for once because I knew he was right. When you have a child with a disability, even if he or she is, to use a term I’m not fond of, “high functioning” — I much prefer “high achieving” — it can drain some magic out of a marriage that we believe every couple has a right to.
Sometimes I’m so focused on making sure there’s magic in my daughter’s life that I need reminders that it’s just as important to keep the light shining bright in my marriage.
Although my husband and daughter are Buddhists, I’m a Quaker who was raised a Roman Catholic. Holy Week is the time of year where I’m hoping, even searching, for those Kumbaya moments.
I should know better.
Faith is generally a topic not a lot of people want to talk about a great deal. My maternal grandfather, a very devout man, rarely spoke about his faith, but with his commitment to and love for his family, his church, his Bavarian-American community, and his work, he didn’t have to.
Over the years, I’ve learned to pick my moments, to test the waters before I talk with people about anyone walking on water.
But today, toward the end of my run, I didn’t have to.
I passed through O‘ahu Cemetery, a vast, historic, beautiful place in Honolulu I often visit to gather my thoughts.
I tread lightly behind a gentleman who worked there, not wanting to be obtrusive, especially on Holy Saturday when many families had gathered to place flowers and other tributes on the tombstones of their loved ones.
To my surprise, the gentleman told me kindly he had seen me many times, that I was always welcome to visit. He pointed out the different areas where women and men from different eras in Hawaii’s history are buried.
Then, in a Kumbaya moment that had eluded me all Holy Week, he smiled, shook my hand, and wished me a Happy Easter.
It was the second time that morning during my run I had passed through the cemetery. I was glad I took a second look, this time more closely.
I returned home grateful for the stranger who helped me get past my doubts earlier that morning, thankful to see my husband and daughter again, more appreciative of the light breaking through the clouds that had hovered for hours.