Tag Archives: Grandparent

National Novel Writing Month: My Personal Day 1 Challenge

In September 2006 my eldest daughter, Ruth, challenged me to utilize National Novel Writing Month to fulfill my life long dream of writing science fiction. Each year since I have participated in the daunting challenge of writing a 50,000-word novel during the month of November. What an exhilarating experience seeing my stories come alive and discover where my characters would lead me.

I take time off early in the month to concentrate on writing and get a jump start toward the goal. Even though the fewest words I have written is 75,000, I still feel insecure each November 1 and worry about reaching my goal. Something might happen to thwart my goal.

That “something” happened November 1, 2010. My heart was not in my writing. The prior Wednesday my mother entered the hospital with what was determined to be a rapid onset leukemia. On Saturday the Doctor told my brother that Mom had 24-48 hours left. So, Monday I dreaded the call, which came at 1:30 PM. When my brother couldn’t finish “Hi Dave…” I knew the end had come. My mother now slept in the hope of the resurrection.

Unlike the year prior when I wrote over 5,200 words on November 1st, in 2010 I wrote just over 2,700. More than that my heart was not in the writing, so distracted was I waiting for the news. Amid the travel to Florida for the funeral, participating in the arrangements, grieving with family, and the funeral service, I wrote some each day. I wanted to retain some connection with my writing even as I was connecting with and grieving with my family.

By the time I returned home on November 6 I had reached just over 6,100 words. That is a lot of words but when compared to the year before I was way behind my output of 36242. Even in grief life goes on and I found the habit of writing in November assisted my ability to focus on something other than my grief and I did exceed the 50,000-word goal. I also knew my mother had been pleased with my writing so I also wrote in part to honor her memory.

But November 1st remains difficult. The year after Mom’s death I told a friend my concern about writing on November first. She suggested I incorporate some of my mother’s characteristics into a character and so honor both my mother and my writing. That I did and exceeded my output from the prior year. Since then the malaise of grief hung over my first day of writing. I found myself procrastinating, checking email, Facebook, and games on my phone fascinated me. My reaction to this was self-recrimination. How could I waste this much time when I really want to write?

How? Because I am still grieving over the loss of my mother and five years later the loss of my father. After the excellent advice from my friend the first Nano after Mom’s death, I went into denial. As if by not thinking about or acknowledging the reality of November 1, 2010 I could somehow participate in the writing month as I had the years prior.

But grief does not work that way. No matter what I do to suppress my grief, it will rise to the surface one way or another. My procrastination in subsequent years was my subconscious grief telling me things were not the same as before—that things will never be the same. That’s what the transitions of life, especially death of a parent, do. They tell us of the inexorable progress, as a popular film expressed it: the circle of life.

Mom was the family matriarch as Dad was the patriarch. They lived to see the first of their great-grandchildren. Now in my family I am the patriarch and my wife the matriarch. We recently learned that grandchild number six is due next May around Mother’s Day. How better to honor my parent’s legacy than to provide a similar legacy to my children and grandchildren. I relish the time with my family and long to see them all grow, not just physically but also mentally, emotionally, socially, and spiritually.

To that end I will spend time with them, share my life with them, model life and living (including grieving), and shower them with love.

By facing my personal November 1 challenge, by acknowledging my grief and loss, by writing about it as I have here, my challenge becomes an opportunity to grow into the person I desire to be.

But –

I still miss you Mom.

I still miss you Dad.

I’ll see you both in the morning!

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The Lesser of Two Evils

Until recently I considered the phrase “lesser of two evils” in a negative light. Faced with two options neither of which was good, the advice goes, take the option causing the least amount of negative consequences. But is that the only way to view this phrase? I think not.

Last year for Father’s Day my daughter and her family made the almost 1,700 mile trek to Illinois for the first time since her wedding. Although I love my daughter and like my son-in-law, I looked forward most to seeing my two grandchildren. Eight months earlier my wife and I visited them and I enjoyed the walks with my active grandson and holding my four month old granddaughter. I anticipated having fun with both of them.

That was not to be. My grandson came to me readily; even at times when I needed a break. Not so the little one. She took to her grandmother and to her auntie, but if I looked at her, she grabbed the closest leg and clung to it peeking occasionally to see if I still showed interest in her. Initially I thought her reluctance would wear off as she observed how friendly her brother was with me. Then I resigned myself to accept her reserve and wait for her to warm up to me.

The heat of June did nothing to thaw her winter. I stayed close and even though she, while securely held by her mother looked at me and let me approach, remained aloof. The activities of the visit didn’t help. Trips to Medieval Times, Great America (I did push the buggy, but she slept most of the time), Lincoln Park Zoo, and a White Sox game all proved diversions from any strategy I could concoct to entice her.

For me the highlight of the visit was Father’s Day. For the first time in seven years my entire family, including two in-laws and four grandchildren, came to church with me. What a privilege to preach to my family and share my spiritual journey with them. Following the service we went to my son’s house for a cookout. Steaks and Father’s Day do seem to go together.

When things settled down, the four children wanted to play outside. They’d been good all day but needed to work out their wiggles. I don’t recall how it was than just my son and I were in the yard supervising the children and my out-of-state granddaughter practiced climbing the miniature slide. It was a peaceful time. And then –

My son reached to pick my granddaughter up. In a panic she turned from him and lifted her hands to me. Finally I held her. Reassured her. Hugged her. How delightful those few moments until she, reassured my son wouldn’t approach, squirmed and I set her down. I laughed with my son over the incident and told him I was “the lesser of two evils” and glad of it.

It won’t be too long before a year will have passed. I’ve had time to reflect. I see parallels between my granddaughter’s behavior and my own. I am on a spiritual journey the goal of which is to know God more deeply. Yet time after time I try to navigate my way through this journey solo. Only after I have baffled myself and can’t figure what is next do I turn to God.

Why do I wait? In part it is because somewhere I adopted a view of God as the stern demanding disciplinarian. Why go to someone who will tell me I messed up? I already know that. But is that how God interacts with me?

Is he not more like me as a grandfather? I didn’t push myself on my granddaughter. I stayed close to be ready and available. When the little one turned to me my thought wasn’t about how long she’d stayed aloof. Rather it was pure delight that she’d finally come to me. I longed to show her the depth of my love and that I would protect her (she didn’t know her uncle intended no harm). Isn’t that what God is like? He stays close to us, longing for us to turn to him, available when we do, ready to pick us up and love on us.

Ultimately, I think, God accepts us even when we come to him as the lesser of two evils. I believe that God more than merely accepting us, longs for the day when we turn to him willingly, first and not as the lesser but as the Good.

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