Wednesday, June 26, 2013


This morning, a tiny curve at the the corner of Silas's mouth when he smiled -- he's coming back!!

Sunday, June 23, 2013

Words for Uncle Peter

Dear Peter,

You are one of my teachers.  Growing up you taught me what a golden birthday is and celebrated my 10th with me on the blue sun room couch; you taught me about thinly sliced agate held to the light, about tiger's eye and moon stone, and made me long to crack rocks and find treasure.  You taught me it was possible to make chicken stock crystal clear, and to grow tolerance for hot sauce that would burn your fingers. You taught me it is important to kill frogs when you catch them for frog legs and not just knock them out, and that it's possible to take down a bee hive with a rifle. You taught me first about mustaches and how you could curl the ends, and about the crispness if Peking duck skin. You taught me about my mom as a little sister, how you hit her with a bee bee, told me about cousins who kept squirrels, and your father who performed his own surgery. At Nana's kitchen table beside silver wallpaper, you told stories because you, of course, were the story keeper.

This last week, I have learned more from you. I have discovered your gentleness and how you loved faithfully even when little love came back.  I have realized small ways - all of which were enormous efforts for you -- that you lived richly: Standing on your balcony the night you died, I was struck by your 9th story garden, dozens of seedlings watered and waiting.  You'd insisted on buying and hauling all those insanely heavy bags of dirt, which to me seemed impractical, because -- I now see -- instead of ease you were choosing beauty - flowers and purple radishes in your hand.  Planting your boxes was one of the many things you could have refused to do because it was too hard, too complicated to maneuver in your wheelchair, too cumbersome to maintain.  But instead you did it, seemingly undaunted, just like you whipped up miso soup from scratch for my children, baked me brownies on my birthday, and scootered off to whole foods when Taylor Bay scallops were on sale.  I will think of you and hope I to be like you in that way.

The most important thing i learned from you this week is humility.  That is never an easy lesson but is one which God is always in. There was much of you I missed these last 8 months and for both of us, I am sorry.  I've had to learn a difficult way that there are some things we can't do over.  But we do get to be forgiven, and now you know that more than any of us here.

You, my uncle Peter, have finally  been released.  I picture you saturated in the Love we crave to our bones, for which you waited so long, filled and overflowing.  You may not have gone by direct ascension, the way you always said you would, but your leaving seems to have been so soft that maybe you just did.

You always told us when we left the house to "make everyone glad you're there" -- and now, to you, I say the same, knowing you already have.

Saturday, June 22, 2013

Silas's Face

Today is the ninth day Silas's face has been frozen with Bell's Palsy.  It's hard, now, to imagine he'll wake up one day without it.  The past few weeks, I've been discovering Silas anew, surprised and impressed by his chutzpah, and his response to this new face has added to it.  

The other day, on the way to tennis with a new coach:
Silas, do you want me to tell the tennis coach you have Lyme Disease?
Is it ok if he thinks your face is like that all the time?
Yeah. (laughing his sideways laugh), I wish it were like this all the time!
You do?Yeah. (laughing)  I like it. 
I hope your movement comes back...  
Well, I like your face.  But if it doesn't, it's ok because we love this face, too.
Yeah, we do.

I listened to our conversation again in my head as we drove. 
We do love this face,-- it is Silas's face.  
But it is changed, and I can see, already, ways he would change, or be changed by having this face permanently.  He has to reach up and close his left eye from time to time because he can't blink fully.  This would be a new way of being, little paw to the eye throughout his days.  He wasn't much for eye contact with new people anyway, but now when he stares at the ground, he looks more expressionless, dejected.  I see how people make quick assumptions -- something mental connected with the nerve damage.  I watch people step away from him, or at least not draw near, turn to Eden more readily for a face they can mirror.  I see how people miss his happiness -- his twinkle and smiling backdrop -- when his whole smile is packed into the right corner of his mouth.  His speech has changed, words loose and less formed in his mouth, and his eating is messier and louder.  Looking at him, I can't picture what he looks like with his full face in motion.

And at the same time, there he is: across the pool, he tugs on his 13 year old swim team "buddy" (whom he met a week ago) and hangs around talking to him, older boy larger than life.  I watch the buddy smile and stay with him.  I see Silas pull goggles over his eyes to protect the one that won't close, and dive into the pool and swim hard.  I see him try to press his lip against his spoon and eat more quietly, already improved.  I hear him in his room singing, making up rhymes, busily building circuits, a doorbell that sings "happy birthday."  And here he is, little Silas Rock, as always.  I just want the rest of the world to see him, too.  

Saturday, June 15, 2013

Feta Watermelon Salad

I love this salad!

Watermelon, Arugula, Feta and Balsamic Salad
1 bag of arugula
1/2 watermelon, de-seeded and cut into chunks (can use any amount -- more of an arugula salad with watermelon, picture above, or watermelon salad with arugula, my preference)
2-3 T feta cheese, crumbled (again, or as much as you'd like)
1/4 c balsamic vinegar, reduced
Combine arugula, watermelon and feta in a large salad bowl.
Cook vinegar in a small saucepan on medium heat, for 7-10 minutes to reduce.  
{If you don't have time to reduce the vinegar or need to maximize what you have, add honey instead.}
Remove vinegar from heat, let cool a bit and toss to coat.

*photo from -- thanks, Lindsay!

A Week

Tonight is Friday.

This week, I have felt like a cloth that a needle's driven into again and again.

Peter died.

A few days later, Silas started having body aches -- head and hip, sharp and tearful.  Then fevers began.  He missed school, and again, and again, then the whole final week.

We planned the service.

The doctor sent us for a Lyme disease test -- though not a terribly reliable test -- because I'd found a tick on his neck two weeks ago that had been there for days, blended into his freckles.  We all dragged to the lab, Silas in stroller, Maeve strapped to my chest, Eden walking, a perpetual good sport.

The fevers continued.  He moaned, whined, cried all day every day.  His head hurt, his eye, his hips.

In the evenings, I sat around my parents' kitchen table with my mom and dad, brothers and sisters telling stories and laughing harder than I have in a long time.

We didn't sleep, the nights punctuated over and over with crying, fevers, nursing Maeve.

Lyme came back negative.  Our basement flooded with puddles of standing water, a scrim of mud residue covering the floor, 10 gallons of water sucked out of the wool carpet and it still too wet and heavy to move.  (I fell in love with wet dry vacs).

Silas kept crying.  I got worried.

We held Peter's service in bright colors with words of hope.  Light shone in.

Ben and Silas went to the ER for blood work -- for 7 hours -- where the doctors missed his vein repeatedly and finally jammed in a huge needle so that his arm aches today.

This morning when he woke up, half of his face had limited movement: a crooked smile, an eye that won't blink all the way, lips that can't hold in all the water when he drinks.  A changed face.  God, please, no.

I researched:  Bell's Palsy.   "Most people recover spontaneously and achieve near-normal to normal functions." The doctor declared it Lyme.  Silas threw up, and started antibiotics.

Living at my parents' house, we were surrounded -- mom and dad, sister, brother and sister-in-law, cousins, brother, sister-in-law.  People started praying.

We showed Silas his face in the mirror and he laughed at his crooked face, and the harder he laughed the more crooked it was, and the harder he laughed.  Ben and I started laughing, too.

Last night, we celebrated my sister's birthday over lobsters, summer corn, and a camp fire.  For the first time in a week, Silas's fever didn't rise after the tylenol wore off, and he played.

For the first time in a week, we slept.  Silas didn't have a fever all night and is fever-free this morning.  His face sags on one side and his blinks are slow, but he ate grits and eggs for breakfast.

The week began dark and heavy, death at the table, and with each day, my need increased, but slowly, at the same time, the sentence was completed:

Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil, for You are with me. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

in the Shadow

Last Wednesday my uncle died unexpectedly.

I drove in the dark to his apartment.  How soon he left; I wasn't ready.

The week, discomfort sank in -- Silas sick, Ben away, friends experiencing other losses--but mostly death came, its heavy breathy presence.

Death alone hurts.
But death never comes alone.
It brings the weight of the deaths that have come before it and all the deaths that will follow.
It weighs heavy.

It reminds us that though we walk in our own brightly fastened lives, death will crash in, and crash in, and crash in again, waves that knock us flat and breathless, as long as we are living.

The sea never stops breaking.

How will we endure it, the waves in our faces, salt water instead of air?

                                                  yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death....

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Silas at the end of 1st Grade

Several things have stayed the same:
Silas still looks tiny under his huge backpack.  My heart still almost pulls out of my chest after him when I watch him walk off into the world, skinny-legged, beneath it.  Despite some quiet discoveries (like a-s-s, a word which he learned unbeknownst to me and so nicely spelled for his cousins over Christmas dinner), Silas still comes to me with questions, like what "hay-ull" means -- figured out that was "hell."  He loves for me to lie down with him at bedtime and make Veeny (bear) and Harold (elephant) talk and tell wild stories about their days at school.  He still loves to cuddle up next to me and listen to chapter books for hours, and is thrilled with I come into his classroom.  The other day he rode with me on the school bus during his field trip.

But 1st grade has also been a year of changes:
Silas stopped running to me, arms flung wide, face fixed on mine, beaming as he crashes full-weight into my hug.  Now he lopes along under his huge backpack, unhurried, and flings an arm or two around me when he reaches me.  He has dropped my hand a few times -- at school or on the way to the bus.  A few weeks ago, I embarrassed him for the first time at JogFest as I cheered rowdily for strangers.  He gripped my arm and slipped behind it -- "MooOoom"  "Oh, does this embarrass you??" And I let loose yelling and whooping and clapping.  His fingers clenched my arm but I could hear the laugh in his voice and kept going...

Yesterday was his first timed trials for swim team.  We are such rookies that I didn't even know what that meant.  We rolled in 20 minutes late, Silas wearing board shorts (decidedly NOT what one wears to timed trials).  We were equally nervous driving over except he was in tears and I was saying everything I didn't quite believe in a kind even voice: "you are going to be SO glad you went.... This is bonding with the team!... your time doesn't matter...  If you float on your back for most of your butterfly lap, that's OK, you just need to get to the other side (surely not quite right, but were they going to make him swim a whole lap of wiggly butterfly??  He can't do that!)... It will only be cold for a second and then you'll warm up (66 degrees and cloudy -- freezing and awful!)"  The night before I'd offered to bring pom-poms and jump and yell on the side of the pool, and that morning he asked me if I had them.  Really??  No, maybe at your first meet, I told him.  ""Awwww."  But when we got there and he dove his scraggly dive in (and thankfully his board shorts stayed up), something happened.   He became part of the team.  He walked around the pool deck in his shark robe eating a giant muffin that someone gave him, getting pep talks from his 13 year old new buddy, playing tether ball between strokes.  There was a transfer.  He hardly waved when I left.    

As I walked out of the pool looking back at his skinny boy body, his laughing with the other small boys -- especially small next to the rest of the team but feeling like they couldn't have been bigger -- I watched our separateness.

This is how it's supposed to be.  He began as my moon, but quickly -- so quickly -- he is already evolving into a planet, that will orbit the sun next to me.