Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Remembering a Very Special Summer

Northern California (pic by Agnese). So glad they had this time!
The Janaro family summer is coming to a close.

It was a time of many blessings for us. The pace definitely slowed down. We rested. We spent more time together. We didn't worry about the school week. We watched the World Cup, and some late night movies. Eileen and John Paul played tennis. I worked a little with John Paul on the guitar, and he practiced quite a bit on his own. He's getting pretty good. When everyone else is gone, John Paul and I will continue to take advantage of the opportunity to listen to some of that great Music-That-Nobody-Else-in-the-House-Likes.

We all had some good conversations, and in general there was more space for personal time, one-on-one time without the looming shadow of all-the-stuff-that-needs-to-be-done hovering over people. Eileen and I even talked about literature... a little bit. What a beautiful thing it is to linger over the morning coffee with my wife. (It's not so easy to find time during the school year, so I will have to make sure that I don't miss the opportunities when they do come.)

Then, of course, there was the California trip for John Paul, Agnese, Lucia, and Teresa. They have been back for a week now, and school is beginning for the three high school kids. It was a great vacation for them, and a lovely interlude for us as well with Josefina here at home.

Of course, there were also all the usual mistakes and tensions of daily life. In this blog, I always emphasize the good stuff, but of course we're a normal family. We get irritated with one another, negligent, stupid, stubborn, negative, and all the rest. And we have enough Italian blood to put fervor into whatever we do (good or bad). In other words, there's plenty of yelling in the house. But there's also good food!

John Paul & Agnese hiking in Yosemite
So far, our teens have been specially blessed with good companions and a human environment that permits them to grow through the challenges of adolescence in a healthy way. Still, these are challenges, and they are not easy. Eileen and I have been discovering new dimensions of motherhood and fatherhood in our relationships with the kids. The top four kids can pretty much "take care of themselves" on the physical level, but they have different kinds of needs -- more intangible and personal.

It's really hard to discern and help at this point. It demands attention, availability, and patience. These kids need guidance and space to be free; they need space to test their freedom, and to (OUCH!) make mistakes. None of my disabilities excuse me from the very real task of being a father to them, and I praise God for the grace that makes me able to give of myself to my children in the way that they need me now. Several times this summer, I was able to help one or another of the kids with their personal challenges in ways that convince me that they really need me as their father.

Teresa with one of the Big Trees
I can't go hiking or boating or fishing with them (like I dreamed when they were little). But I get up in morning and beg Jesus for the grace to love these persons, to be a father to them. I entrust myself to St. Joseph, asking him to pray that God make me the man, the husband, and the father He wills me to be.

And every day, I fail. I fall short in my attention, in my courtesy, and as an example to them. I fail them, not because I'm too tired or too sick. No, I fail them precisely in those responsibilities that are within my power, in ways that I see clearly and want to fulfill. I forget, and I give in to selfishness, laziness, and the temptation to turn my wit toward cynicism.

I struggle against this every day, in all my relationships. With trust in Jesus, I will continue to struggle. I will continue to ask the Holy Spirit to form the virtues and gifts in me that empower me to give myself to my wife, my children, and my neighbor... i.e. anyone who has been entrusted to me in God's plan.

And when I am in a dark cloud, I am still called to give myself, even if all I have to give is my difficulties, my aching cry to God, my incomprehensible solitude. Is this a gift for others? Never give up because God knows what He is doing. God knows what others really need from me.

Now I walk in the dark and Mary, my merciful mother, holds my hand.