Saturday, August 22, 2020

Love, More

I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 20th birthday.  I'm still marveling that these 6'1" young men started off on August 22, 2000 as 30-week preemies each weighing less than four pounds.


Dear son,

You were ready for college when you were 12 so finally getting to move into the dorm in a different part of the country was just a natural continuation of who you are.  You quickly made friends, settled into the rugby team and found the freedom of college life just what you hoped it would be.  Your rugby team even made national championship to be played in April and life was good.

Then a global pandemic hit.

You had to finish your freshman year in your childhood bedroom.  You couldn't return to your grocery store job because of concerns for my health.  You are facing a future that feels stunted and limited.

Yet you still have hope.  Still have purpose.  Still have your insane energy that makes you bounce around like a 6'1" Muppet.  You've been working on a U.S. Senate campaign and getting excited about how elections can make a difference.

We are navigating how to live together after you tasted the freedom of college.  You have generally been a joy to be around except for the late night kitchen raids (do the dishes).

Happy birthday.

I love you so very much.

Mama


Dear son,

College wasn't your thing and you were scared to tell me.  I am sorry you were ever worried to talk about what was important to you.  Since then you found a job with a paving company and then, mere months later, took a job with another company that quickly trained you to hook up gas lines.  You come home with stories from the field, random baked goods from grateful residents and a strong sense of purpose.  You are valued at the job and have colleagues who are mentoring you.

You are managing to thrive during a pandemic.  It is exciting to watch you make your own decisions and deal with the consequences.  You agonized about telling your boss you were giving your two weeks notice.  While the easy way out was to text, you thought through what to say in a phone call. In the end he was gracious and you are still in touch.

Thank you for being true to yourself.

Happy birthday.

I love you for being you.

Mama


Thursday, April 23, 2020

Happy Sweet 16, Happiness

I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my daughter's 16th birthday.  

Dear Darling Daughter,

This is not how you wanted your 16th birthday to be.

You had it all planned since January.  Well actually you started planning on the day you turn 15 because that is how you roll but we'll leave that part out.  You were going to have a dinner with friends this past Saturday, have cake and dinner of your choice this evening with me and Dad then head to your surrogate auntie's house to sleep over.  The day after your birthday you were going to Saratoga Springs, NY to spend the weekend at your first regatta as a varsity rower while your dad and I were going to fly super early in the morning to California to watch both your brothers in the National College Rugby Championships.  It was all planned.

Then a pandemic struck.  All those plans were cancelled and our lives were upended.

My worst birthday as a kid was around age 7 or 8 years old when I got a stomach bug and my parents had to postpone the party, stick the Ohlin's cake in the freezer and have the party a few weeks later.  But I still got to have my party pretty close to my actual birthday and Ohlin's cakes still tasted really good after being frozen.

Your 16th birthday, in fact this particular teenage year, can't easily be rescheduled or postponed.  You aren't getting to row with the varsity girls - a goal you've worked towards for over a year - and every regatta has been cancelled not to be rescheduled.  You were going to attend a dance with your boyfriend who you haven't seen in nearly six weeks.  That dance cannot happen and we don't know when you'll be able to see him.

That is what is so hard to watch for you, your friends and all other teens and young adults.  This is the age when you have big moments that can't be done over because they celebrate a distinct achievement, a particular point of time and age or a rite of passage.  There is nothing in our society that is particularly momentous about being 27 or 32 or 51 though ask someone about their teen years and there are stories, events, moments that could only happen during that age.

Yet, and yet, you have been the strongest, most reliable one in the house of five humans and one dog.  You have been diligent about your school work, take very seriously being engaged and present during Zoom class time and have stayed connected with friends via all those things you use (maybe that last one you were actually in-training for just this situation).  You have rowed every day on the erg your team loaned out.  You have, mostly, kept it together (hey, no one is perfect) and tried to stay positive through this.

Your happiness, the happiness you've had since you were born, keeps shining through.

That's what I hope you remember from this.  What your stories will be when you recount this time 40, 50, 60 years from now.

That you got through this with focus, determination, grit and happiness.

Happy Sweet 16.

I love you,
Mom





Thursday, August 22, 2019

Love, More

I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 19th birthday.  I'm still marveling that these 6'1" young men started off on August 22, 2000 as 30-week premies each weighing less than four pounds. In a week they head off to college.

Dear son,

The other day the boat had to be taken out of the water so it wouldn’t be buffeted about during high winds and incoming storms. It needed to be driven across the bay to a launch deep enough to accommodate the trailer. Your dad drove the truck and you were driving the boat. I hopped in with you.

That 20 minute ride was thrilling and humbling. Thrilling because it was fast and bumpy. The sun was shining and we were laughing. Humbling because driving a boat is a skill I don’t have. If we got in a predicament I’d have looked to you to figure out the next step. You were confident and knowledgeable.

This is the first of many things you’ll do on your own, skills you’ll gain without me, experiences that I will never hear about as you leave for college next week. I know you will move forward with purpose, learn and grow from your mistakes and make a difference.

I love you more than you will ever know.

Happy birthday little man.

Love,
Mom


Dear son,

Yet another article has come out about how oral health care has contributed to the overuse and abuse of opioids. Earlier this summer you had jaw surgery requiring an overnight stay at the hospital. You bleed for days. Yet you dealt with the crushing, mind-numbing pain with little more than ibuprofen and ice packs. You were begging to go back to work six days after the surgery despite not being able to chew or use a straw.

You are stronger than you give yourself credit. As you head off to college next week remember that strength. Remember how you overcame crushing pain and very bleak moments. Remember that you wanted to work while still in pain because it helped take your mind off it.

Life is going to be full of opportunities, challenges, pain and triumph. Your path isn’t going to be a straight course through a set of check boxes but you will figure it out. And it’ll be amazing to watch.

I love you more than you will understand.

Happy birthday little man.

Love,
Mom



Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Happy Birthday, Happiness

Dear Darling Daughter,

Well this got awkward.

You found my blog and have been reading your birthday letters.  So instead of being something I wrote that went out into the ether, this is now something you're going to read. In real time.

First off, happy birthday.  You start thinking about your next birthday the night of your current birthday (so tonight you will start planning for your 16th).  You truly enjoy birthdays and I hope you never lose that joy of having a day to celebrate you and all that you are.

But you should celebrate you every day (not with gifts, don't get greedy).  You personify resiliency.  You have shown great strength and perseverance since a young age and I continue to marvel at.

You started at a new school last fall.  You wanted to attend a co-ed school after three years at an all-girls school in part so you would have peers to look in the eye.  At 6'2" you were tired of being the tallest human being on campus and now have tall guys in the mix in your classes.

You also wanted to try rowing and this new school has a low-key team.  You walked into the boathouse the school uses and found other super tall people from other schools and programs.  You found a sport that celebrates your height that doesn't involve running (basketball) or jumping (volleyball) both which aggravates your knees.  Last month you tried out for a competitive club program and now row six days a week.  It's a level of intensity I didn't think you were ready for and once again you are showing strength and perseverance as you deal with really nasty blisters, throwing up after intense 2Ks on the erg, and sore muscles.

I shouldn't doubt you because you personify resiliency.

I hope you never doubt yourself.

Happy Birthday.

I love you,
Mom


Wednesday, August 22, 2018

Love, More

I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 18th birthday.  I'm still marveling that these 6'1" young men started off on August 22, 2000 as 30-week premies each weighing less than four pounds.

Dear son,

Earlier this summer you wore your new suit and brown dress shoes to a family event and afterwards you went to the grocery store where you work to finish up a training.  You got out of the car and were walking through the parking lot when a woman flagged you down.  She came up to you and said "Congressman, I need to talk to you." It took you a minute to understand what was going on.  You stopped her and explained you were in high school and were heading into your job at the grocery store.

She thought you were Congressman Joe Kennedy.

Needless to say when you called to tell me the story you were over the moon.  You are the definition of a political junkie.  You are fascinated with elections, polls and policy debates.  You read books by former White House chiefs of staff and want to discuss them. 

When you were younger I would tell you to use your powers for good.  You have always had a presence that people noticed and apparently you carry yourself like a Congressman.  As you move into adulthood please use your powers for good in whatever you do.

I know you will.

I love you.

Happy Birthday to my Big Man,
Mom


*******

Dear Son,

Your rugby coaches say you are one of the few guys on the team who thinks several plays ahead.  You describe it as if you are over the pitch and can see the plays from up above.  Your ability to think about systems or next steps amazes me because I don't often think that way.  

You are still thinking through next steps as you go into your final year of high school.  You're young, strong and have years of experience from working in the grocery store and for landscapers.  You talk about owning your own business, being the one responsible for everything, and I have no doubt you will do it well.

Often you talk at the dinner table about people's lives.  Your co-workers feel comfortable telling you what is happening to them (one former manager texted you after you stopped working with him to tell you his wife is pregnant) and even giving you nicknames (such as a Salvadorian pop singer because of you wear headphones and sing while you work).  Ever since you were little you noticed people and their concerns.  I hope you will care for and support the people who work for you.

I know you will.

I love you.

Happy Birthday to my Big Man,
Mom





Monday, April 23, 2018

Happy Birthday, Happiness

April 23, 2018

Dear Darling Daughter,

You are 14 years old today.  Some days it seems you are in your 20's, talking rationally about plans, interpersonal relationships and current events - so much so it makes me do a double take.  Then there are other days when you are an emotional, blubbering teenager and I think "where did THAT come from?!?" because I forget you are an emotional, blubbering teenager.

Yet you always bounce back from the blubbering.  Rarely do you let things fester and you move beyond the hurt or stumbling.  I try to be more like you because even though you are 35 years younger than I, you have a wise and sturdy soul.  It is not something a person can acquire but something a person is born with.

The Kahil Gibran poem On Children describes you and your effect on me:

"You may strive to be like them,                                                                                             but seek not to make them like you.                                                                                 For life goes not backwards nor tarries with yesterday." 
 You are solidly a teenager now.  You are finishing 8th grade and entering high school.  You are gearing up for a new challenge and are excited for all that it will bring.

I am excited too.  Because you are going to do great.  And I am going to keep learning from you.

Happy Birthday.

I love you,
Mom





Tuesday, August 22, 2017

Love, more

I return to this completely ignored space to acknowledge my twin boys' 17h birthday.  This is a long post but they each deserve their own letter. 

August 22, 2017

Dear son,

One day you came home from your job at a local supermarket a bit bummed out.  It took a while to get out of you that someone paid you back.

It seems you always keep coins and a couple of dollars in your pocket in case someone doesn't have enough to pay for their groceries.  One day a costumer was short $6.  You managed to pull $6 out of your pocket (mind you I'm always being asked to pay for the Dunkin' Donuts run but we'll let that slide) and help her.  She promised to return and pay you back and you told her not to worry.

You both meant what you said.

She returned a week or so later and slipped $6 while you were standing at the manager's desk and you couldn't stop her. You meant it when you said that she shouldn't worry.

I love that you came home a bit sad that she felt she needed to pay you back because you didn't think it was a debt or an obligation but simply helping out.

Because that is what kind people do.

I'm lucky that such a kind person is my son.

Happy birthday not-so-little man. 
I love you,
Mom






****

Dear son,

You have had more injuries in the last few months then I care to count.  So I won't.

However, watching you during your latest x-ray and follow-up orthopedist's appointment gave me pause.  You were called into the x-ray and I sat in the waiting area as you disappeared down the hall since I assumed you would conduct yourself in an appropriate manner.

What I didn't expect was five people following after you once the x-ray was finished, laughing at your comments, wishing you luck because you had told them stories and marveling as you left them.

You strutted into the next office and both men and women smiled as you charmed them, told stories and convinced them you had done your PT exercises (cough, cough you hadn't done a single one).

Son, you have a charisma that is intoxicating, that makes people want to follow you.  Please use that for good.  Please use that to make the world better, to make people safe, to make everyone you meet know that there is goodness.

Because I know that is what is in you.

Happy birthday not-so-little man.

I love you,
Mom