Thursday, September 2, 2021

More "Remembering" My Mom and Dad (Part 2)

The old furniture was never cluttered while they lived here.
The beginning of the month of September has not been easy for me in the years since I was forced by illness to put aside the "active classroom teaching" aspect of my educating vocation. 
Right now, everyone is "moving on" to new things, It's a new school year, and there is a freshness in the air. They are going back to school - including Eileen to teach at John XXIII Montessori, Jojo to the age 12-15 Program, and Lucia and Teresa to the university (Teresa is a freshman at Christendom, wow!)...  they are all going back to school. And I am not.

It makes me a bit melancholy. 

This is not a clinical issue. It's just an "ordinary mood." This year, of course, it's mixed with other emotional complications. I have participated in "academic years" since my mother brought me to my first Kindergarten classroom in 1968. Mom left me "alone" that day... for a few hours. It was easy to adjust those new circumstances and to grow into them. Kindergarten was fun!

Now, it seems like there are so many new circumstances that I must adjust to, or simply endure.

This September is my first school year since "becoming an orphan." Yes, I feel a little like an orphan sometimes, even though I'm 58 years old. It seems silly, but the feeling is there (along with my embarrassment about it). I don't understand why; perhaps in part it's because I am in some ways emotionally greedy, self-centered, and childish. I'm not exaggerating about this; people who know me well enough have seen these problems in my broken, sinful life.

But I don't blame myself entirely or solely for these character flaws (much less do I blame my parents). I grew up in the U.S.A. in the 1970s, and our generation is a socially and culturally damaged generation. I'm sure others my age know what I mean, whether they are willing to admit it or not. 

My parents raised me as well as they could, but we were all a bit disoriented. Everything was spinning wildly in the wind - not only confusion among many people in the Church, not only moral principles, but all the simple features of life that allow people to live in common and form friendships. Customs, day-to-day values, the pace of life, even the food we ate - these things were all changing. Our lives and behavior were dictated by "experts," and stretched out among artificial products relentlessly peddled by the ubiquitous images of advertising. We were given no direction from those we admired and considered as models of success, or our more proximate early-Boomer elders (i.e. adult "examples") except to indulge our whims with whatever means available, as long as we were nice to other people and didn't break the law (in fact, we were not very nice, and we broke the law a lot).

The new "global village" sometimes felt - in the psychological realm - like a kind of prison. It was run by rival "gangs" of style-shapers and opinion makers inevitably taking turns on top. Of course there were many good things accomplished during those times, and many sincere people who worked hard to make the world better. And we couldn't complain if anyone had asked us, "Are you not entertained?" Oh boy, we were nearly "entertained" to death. 

Really, I have to say that overall the "global village" was a constraining and stressful place for a kid in the 70s, especially a oddball creative kid like me. 

But the love and discipline of my parents was a great help. Even when I got into trouble, I could always "feel" the inner boundary that our home life established - a boundary that was the "shape of love" between us: it was a love I needed, and I did not want to get "lost" outside of it. This was immensely important in growing up, and most of it came from my parents just living the way they did, and from their fidelity to each other. I have no words that can express my gratitude for what they gave us by building a loving, stable, safe, happy home, and - above all - a home that loved Christ and was faithful to the Church.

Still, there are aspects of my personality that even today remain so immature, that seem stuck in a pre-adolescent mode of interaction, an uncertain self-esteem, and a "sense of responsibility" dominated by fear. But this is not Dad's fault or Mom's fault. Sure, they made mistakes; after all, they were living in the midst of the same confusion. It was hard to be a parent in those days too (and it has not gotten any easier). 

I never doubted for a moment that my parents loved me. My Mom would lose her temper and yell at us sometimes, while my Dad could appear somewhat distant and aloof sometimes, but we knew these were just the limitations of their personalities. They were flawed human beings. But they loved each other and they persevered in that love. And they loved us and gave us a home that continued to nurture us long after we stopped living there. That home of their hearts was "big enough" to become a special, joyful place for their grandchildren as well.

I realize more poignantly now what a great gift these things were to us (and how increasingly rare it is to be so blessed).

Thank you Dad. Thank you Mom. I love you both! May God reward you forever in His eternal embrace.