Don’t call us, we’ll call you

September 28, 2014

Our last day in the sunshine

Filed under: Personal — Tags: , , , , , , — llcall @ 3:31 pm

Naturally, when one looks back to such instances today, they may indeed take the appearance of being crucial, precious moments in one’s life; but of course, at the time, this was not the impression one had. Rather, it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years in which to sort out the vagaries of one’s relationship with Miss Kenton; an infinite number of further opportunities in which to remedy the effect of this or that misunderstanding. There was surely nothing to indicate at the time that such evidently small incidents would render whole dreams forever irredeemable.

There are so few quotes that really stick with you forever. That sort of follow you, haunt you. This one from The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro is one of mine. It comes to me in word and mood whenever I have the vague feeling that I may have left something undone.

Several days ago I found out that my dear, dear friend is no longer with us. It was not a complete surprise to me, and yet, I’m still in shock. Because it was as though one had available a never-ending number of days, months, years right up until the moment that . . . whole dreams were forever irredeemable. It was pointless, of course, but I could’t help searching our emails and chats to see what more I could have done. There’s the exchange just a few weeks ago when she cancelled our scheduled Skype session because a deadline came up. Should I have called anyway? Kept calling? Did she ever reach out and fail to find me at the other end?

But what started out as pointless email searching slowly turned into smiles, almost laughs. A thousand inside jokes flooding back. We were so fun and funny together; I’m sure if everyone knew, they would have turned our relationship into a TV show a long time ago.

***

Those smiles and almost-laughs didn’t last long. If there’s one thing I’ve learned irrefutably in the last few days, it’s this: survivor guilt is a real thing. The pain of loss mingled with guilt has been physically crippling at times. I’m trying out all the coping strategies I had planned on using to deal with the inevitable pain of the foster/adopt process: reminding myself, There is no closure; seeking for it will be fruitless. Watching Psych obsessively for distraction. I’ve been reading, also obsessively, all the online memorials to her that I can find. Her Facebook page has become an impromptu repository for others’ first and last memories of her, all capturing some wonderful dimension of her life and personality.

I also need to create a place to remember (it was one of my cardinal rules). It’s not about the first moments or the last moments, but it’s what I want to remember most: May 29, 2013. Duke Gardens. We walked on bridges and fed ducks. We brought fruit and nuts and sandwiches to enjoy in the shade of a beautiful tree. We sent Addison on “secret missions,” to interrupt young love and ask awkward questions of people on first dates — all in pursuit of a few minutes of adult conversation. We booked it across quiet Asiatic gardens for bathroom emergencies. We laughed. SO MUCH laughing, a stark contrast to the tears and pain that would follow later that day, and in the months to come.

It was our last day in the sunshine.

DSCN9111_resized[1]DSCN9114_resized[1]DSCN9123_resized[1]DSCN9124_resized[1]DSCN9127_resized[1]kaila and addison cropped

Love you forever, Kaila.

September 8, 2014

War and peace

“Did they make a good decision?” Addison asked the other night after we’d been talking about Helaman’s “2000 stripling warriors.” If you don’t know the Book of Mormon, this particular story is of a people who turned away from their bloodthirsty ways and as a symbol of their total change of heart buried their weapons and vowed never to take them up again. Several years later, when their safety is threatened, their adolescent sons who had been too young to make the same covenant go to war to protect them.

“That’s an interesting question,” I began. “I think most people would tell you, yes, they made a good decision. They sacrificed and fought to protect their families and homes. Me, I’m a little more ambivalent about it. Even though I think there are some times that we have to defend ourselves, perhaps even violently, I believe in violence as a last resort. As a parent, I’m not sure if I had made such a serious covenant to never take up arms in order to save my soul, that I would want my child doing what I was unwilling to do. I have often wondered if there would have been other non-violent methods to pursue.”

I paused there for a minute, remembering the teach-in I participated in (I was a bit of an anti-Iraq war activist at BYU in the months surrounding the invasion in 2003) and the comments of my pacifist Dostoevsky professor who personally interpreted the story of the stripling warriors as more cautionary rather than victory tale. He was always most struck by the fact that every single young man had received “many wounds” even if they survived, a lesson that no one comes out of violent action and war unscathed no matter how right their cause. I thought about explaining all that, but decided maybe that’s not the best bedtime story for an imaginative 4-year-old. (See, I’m totally learning. Parenting: I got this!)

Finally I said, “I wouldn’t say that they made a bad decision, but I will always wonder if a better decision was possible. I believe that we should pursue peace and non-violence in every possible way.” Then, almost as an afterthought, “What do you think?”

“Well, I believe that they made a good decision. Sometimes we have to fight for our families. And protect them.”

In that moment, my heart swelled and it almost felt like I loved her more than I ever had before. This crazy, energetic, on-the-run girl sat on my lap for several minutes, talking about nothing less than war and peace. She pondered. She listened. She disagreed with me. If only all our future disagreements (of which there will be many, I’m sure, with our strong wills and temper flares) could be so principled, so mellow. She’s really something, this girl. I felt, as I have before, too privileged that I get to be her mother.

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