Changes and Chains

by gillis

The weather here in the Berkshire hills has changed abruptly. Last  week I had to shave my legs ahead of schedule just to be able to wear clothing appropriate for 80 degree heat. This morning I was scrambling to find clean jackets that would keep the 23 degree winds from biting my children too hard. It has been a strange early spring with unexpected weather and transitions all around that, to me, feel tentative.

As my son settles into preschool routines and I learn to watch him try-fail-try to do things just beyond his present skill level (hey, Vygotsky may have had something after all), I see a future where he will be entirely independent of me. Sometimes I’d like to see that process move in hyper speed, on those days when I have no patience left for him and my daily allotment of “nice” has been used up by my students. Other times the idea of a day when I cannot hold him on my lap and place my hands on his springroll of a belly is too sad to contemplate.

My daughter, too, is transitioning into adolescence. With one foot firmly planted in childhood, the other one is poised to squish down into the mud of early adulthood soon. She questions so many things and often dislikes the answers she gets about what is real and what is not, what the world says about who she can and cannot be, and how to navigate through a world that may not always value what she has to say. I hope she’ll be able to channel her righteous anger and disappointment into action on behalf of the things that she feels most strongly about.

On the other side of things are my parents who are now fighting a losing battle to maintain their independence. It is difficult to watch them struggle with the loss of freedom in their lives these days. The ability to drive, to care for themselves and one another, and  to engage with the outside world in meaningful ways are now all conditional and as changeable as the weather. How strange it must be to need help grocery shopping or keeping your home clean after you raised seven daughters and held down demanding jobs for many decades. How unrecognizable the landscape of your life when your greatest goal becomes showing hospital staff that you have the strength to take care of your basic daily needs at home without their support. Bearing witness to these transitions is not easy but there is richness in the symmetry of being there to help those who helped us for so long.

I see how I am firmly linked into the middle of this family chain. I know that, if I’m lucky to be there for it, my link will someday slide over to take the place of my parents’. In turn, my children will move up to take the spot I’m sitting in now.  I hope that these transitions will have some grace to them, and lots of laughter to go along with the inevitable tears.