We’re all a little dressed up for Father’s Day, in our case Fathers’ Day!
The title of this post could also have been “Learning to Like the Smell of Guacamole.”
My husband and I fell in love in a classic way. We lived in two different cities. I was visiting a friend and we stopped by a shop that offered books in every foreign language imaginable. I saw a guy working at the cash register who I knew in one second was the man of my dreams.
Ben, who speaks 10 languages fluently, was a graduate student at Harvard. I worked up the courage to speak to him. I told him I had an interest in Celtic languages even though I had never really thought of them until I met Ben that first time in the bookstore.
Now, nearly 15 years later, we have lived in two countries, four different states, crossed two major oceans, and have one glorious child. It sounds magical. It still is, but not always. We have also changed jobs, received news our child would be born with an extra chromosome, started life again in new cultures partly because of the extra chromosome, lost family members, and survived the challenges of Ben’s recovering from an out-of-nowhere stroke at age 42.
Real life, is, well, real life. Long ago I lived in a monastery. I loved the simplicity. I had one desk, one chair, one bed, very few clothes, a radio that I played only two hours on a Sunday afternoon, and maybe 20 books. I shared a bathroom with other monks. We ate our meals together. Once a month on a Friday evening we all gathered in the library, prayed, had cake and decided on which television show we would watch that one time for that month.
It’s hard to live that way having a spouse and a young child. At least once a week my husband and I have the The Merits of Accumulating versus Decluttering discussion. He loves to fly. I could live on a boat. He loves guacamole. I do not. He is a voracious reader of science fiction. I like biographies. I turn off lights whenever I can. Ben sighs when the house becomes darker.
The list could go on, but living together as a family is about compromise. And rediscovering pink and white terraces.
I recently read that the eighth natural wonder of the world may have been found again in New Zealand.
Cascading pools of water that flowed over pink and white silica terraces into Lake Rotomahana once awoke excitement, awe, and devotion before they were buried long ago by a volcanic eruption.
How many marriages where everything flows in the beginning of the relationship are lost to inexorable mudslides of the daily grind or inability to tolerate guacamole?
Is it not better to look past the mud and be open to falling in love all over again?
Of course! It may entail losing control, letting go of old dreams but maybe finding new ones, forgiving each other, and remembering gratitude for having someone to share the victories and losses.
And never giving up on finding pink and white terraces.
The beauty about a blog is that ideas swimming in your mind can become actual posts — and then they are no longer wandering around like aimless sleepwalkers!
While ironing, I thought about achievements in life that no one can ever take away. I love to iron, but that is not one of the achievements! I hope they are in the right order. I’m sure I will rethink them in the following days and I know some will change in the years ahead.
I am asking, Dear Readers, if you could share a few of yours with followers of this blog. After all, it is called Tennis, Trisomy 21 and Taking in Life Together.
Yesterday, I wrote how one hour can change your life. Sometimes less than an hour can.
When our daughter was just 15 months old, we moved from Germany, where my husband had a two-year professorship, to Iowa to live in a Quaker intentional learning community, a safe place for our family.
We crossed the Atlantic Ocean to return to the United States, a land of great promise for our child who was born with an extra chromosome. In many regards, Germany had been great for our family. Ben and I are both fluent German speakers and it is Ellen’s second language. She had a few wonderful pediatricians, including one who told us quite earnestly that were it not for Ellen’s extra chromosome, she would fly too high and be an overachiever! I’m still not quite sure what to make of that statement, but the doctor meant well.
Others in Germany did also, but a few did not. Ellen was a baby, a gorgeous, alert, healthy baby, but many acquaintances and strangers told us she would never go to a regular school let alone college. One family we visited early on said that if we enrolled Ellen in Kindergarten and took her there without disclosing she had an extra chromosome, we would be sent packing.
My most horrifying encounter was with a mother in our baby group who in front of everyone asked me when we would have Ellen sterilized. In that moment I left the baby group, never spoke to the woman again, and told my husband we needed to make plans to return to the United States. We are still in touch with good friends in Germany, but it was not the land of opportunity for our daughter.
So with one of Ellen’s fathers — me — terrified of being in an airplane for more than an hour, we crossed on the Queen Mary and I was in heaven. I could live on a boat, any boat. For our family, it was cheaper than flying, a real bonus! Our journey took us by train from Bonn to Holland to board a small ship to cross the English Channel, another train to the Queen Mary to land in New York City.
Our family was very popular to my surprise. Ellen had her first haircut and the personnel could not stop gushing about her. Other passengers, including Theresa Rosen, would come up to us and say, “She’s stunning. You are so lucky.”
On the third day of the seven-day trip, we were quietly sitting in a lounge area. A woman came up to us. With slurred speech she asked what was wrong with Ellen. I calmly replied, “Nothing.” She then started to shout, “You folks seem like you may be from the country. Get her to a real city doctor.” Ben grabbed Ellen and talked to me in German. “She’s drunk,” my husband said. “Let’s get away.” But the woman would not let us. “I’m serious,” she yelled. “Don’t wait too long.”
I should not have been shaken, but I was. Later, we had our family picture taken on the ship. I was in the gallery looking at our pictures when Theresa came up to me, smiled, and said, “What a beautiful family you have. Do you remember me? I met your daughter earlier today. You know, she’s going to accomplish great things in her life.”
Of course I started to cry. I don’t cry often, but I’m in touch with my tears!
“What’s the matter?” asked Theresa. I mentioned what had happened earlier in the day with the drunken passenger.
“Don’t take one word of what she said to heart,” said Theresa. “I know that’s easy for me to say, but I’m a pediatric nurse trained at Johns Hopkins. I’ve worked with hundred of children and babies. Ellen is incredible. She will move mountains. You know that. If you’re ever in doubt, call me.” Theresa gave me her card. In that moment my world changed forever.
Faith can move mountains. In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, a person with whom I spoke for all of 10 minutes gave me the greatest gift a parent can receive: hope.
My gorgeous daughter, my Light, is seven amazing years old today! Every day, every mile has been completely worthwhile. Alles Gute zum Geburtstag mein Schatz! I am so proud to be your Papa! And so grateful to my husband for being Ellen’s Dad and teacher.
May will be here soon. It is one of my favorite months for two major reasons: my daughter’s birthday and the French Open.
The two are related. When Ellen came into this world with an extra chromosome and I was trying to figure out as rapidly as I could what that meant for her and for me as a temporary single parent, the French Open saved us.
I imagine many stay-at-home parents feel a sense of isolation. As a new parent, in spite of all my life experience, I was in a whole new universe!
But alone with my gorgeous baby, I held her for hours, fed her, talked to her in German, read to her, and watched the French Open. We were inseparable. Looking back, as unprepared as I was, it was a time in my life for which I will forever be grateful.
I feel like my goal of writing this blog for a year is rounding a beautiful curve as the last two months, May and June, approach. I never want to rush any day or hour for that matter, except when I’m in an airplane, but I’m excited about the weeks ahead.
Even with Ellen’s extra chromosome, the world seemed full of possibilities for her, and as Ellen and I watched beautifully constructed points on the clay courts of Paris on my television screen nearly seven years ago, I was pretty much exhausted and elated at the same time!
The world now seems a lot more dangerous. Thanks to my husband, Ellen’s teachers, and the wonderful community we have found in Hawaii, I more than ever believe Ellen has great potential. I’m just praying the new occupant of the White House starts to think of all the children in this world his every waking moment rather than just what flashes in his mind for a few minutes.
When I set my goal last June of writing a post for my blog every day except on weekends and holidays, I wondered if I could live up to my pledge!
So far, so good, although this journey has been filled with unexpected twists and turns. While I’ve written a great deal about tennis and Trisomy 21, especially about being a parent of a gifted child born with an extra chromosome, I’ve also introduced an angel sub-theme, and posted about Anne Boleyn and Mary Tyler Moore, royalty, the presidential election, growing up gay, living in Hawaii, and marathon training!
An unanticipated joy has been a return to poetry. When I was a teenager, I usually wrote a poem every day. They won awards, and I met wonderful people in museums or writers’ conferences when my poems were read at events. They even helped me receive college scholarships!
So to embrace writing poetry again has felt as great as picking up a tennis racket after not playing for a few years, trading baseline shots with a good friend, and rediscovering how much I love hitting forehands!
Two other unforeseen aspects of writing this blog stand out: the timing and the emotions.
I wake up not knowing when I’m going to write my post. Once in a great while it happens in the wee morning hours. Occasionally, before I fall asleep. So far, I’ve never turned into a pumpkin! Usually, though, I write during my lunch hour, so my poems are very much directly from my gut even if some have been in my head for years.
I probably ought not to be surprised by the range of emotions I’ve experienced writing this blog, but I have been. A few posts, such as a recent one about Glittering Royal Events, have felt as light and easy as skipping along the ocean. Some poems, like For Ellen While Sleeping or Hawaii Mountains, I’ve almost written in a trance.
Then there have been times where I’ve dug a little deeper, like the poem I wrote about my dad’s leaving this world, Language of the House Sparrows, or about my being bullied in college and how lucky I was to survive: Words that Hit Hard.
I rely on my mother and my husband for their honesty about my writing. When I wrote my post yesterday, Ellen’s World, and invoked Andrew Wyeth’s Christina’s World, I felt drained afterward! This morning, in between helping Ellen get ready for school and brushing my teeth, I blurted out to my husband, “Hey, what did you think about the post I wrote yesterday?” He told me he hadn’t read it yet. Thud!
But I rebounded quickly. Ben truly has far more important priorities than reading my blog every day. He helps me keep my sense of humor about my goal for keeping it going for a year, and sometimes, when I least expect it, he will put his arm around me and tell me how impressed he was by what I’ve posted.
I’m a lucky guy to have him and to share this blog with my readers. Thank you for inspiring me to keep it going!
With a note from her teacher:
Your child got 100% on her reading test today. This is a feat because she had to read each question independently as well as turn the pages and ensure that all questions were completed. Up until now I have read the story and the questions. During 4th quarter they will be preparing for 2nd grade. I am thrilled.
Please give her a big hug and congratulate her.
My cousin-in-law recently posted a picture of Donald Trump’s third (and current) wife enjoying a meal of diamonds.
The fact that the new occupant of the White House has been married three times is truly none of my business, although if Barack Obama had two former wives living and were married a third time, Republicans would be pouncing every day.
It should also be noted that my cousin-in-law is a woman who is married to my cousin who is a woman. Trump’s Vice President certainly would disapprove as he would of my second marriage to a man. (My first, not that it’s anybody’s business, was to a woman.)
Double standards abound in the era of Trump. I’ve never seen in my lifetime such an exemplary First Couple as the Obamas. I don’t even know where to begin with Trump except that the greater the distance between my family and his government, the better. Fortunately, as followers of this blog know, we live in Hawaii, although I’m sure he’ll try to punish the state because a federal judge from Honolulu recently put a hold on Trump’s revised travel ban.
As for Melania Trump, she seems like a pretty nice person who just happened to plagiarize the one major speech she’s ever made. Had Michelle Obama ever made one false step, the Republicans would have gone wild — or, following Trump’s lead — invented alternative truths.
The truth is I’m fine that Melania and her husband and son and the extended First Family enjoy breathtaking privilege as long they don’t do it at the expense of those most vulnerable. How about funding Meals on Wheels, afterschool programs for children, and those who would be without health insurance with a few of Melania’s diamonds? Or should the people who suffer most in this country just eat cake?
A man calls out in a nightmare,
imploring those who have caused pain
to face him. His pleading sounds clear,
his fear moving through grim air
like a fleeing child.
He wakens his husband,
shaken by groans that to him
are unshaped words,
guttural and scared.
In a few hours their child
will find her way through
the remaining dark. The men
will hold themselves
one more time and then her
as birds gather outside,
calling to each other as the first
shades of light break through,
and windows are opened,
and the scent of night fades.
By Rüdiger Rückmann
Written on 6 March 2017