It may seem I am in a rut writing about disparaging details of my life without optimism. I am actually a glass half full kind of gal and will usually be laughing when I should be crying. I know there will be a turning point from my recent compositions when you will see that I am an optimist. I’ve written so much in my mind and wish I could take a week hiatus to write it all out to get to the happy ending. As with much I’m experiencing in this season of life, I need to exercise patience as I build my credentials as a writer and unpack the baggage of 40-some years. Thanks for sticking with the story and for all of the words of encouragement.
At the end of this week, we will celebrate a milestone birthday for my husband, David. I’ve told you much about him, good traits but quite a few challenging issues. In due time will be sharing more about his unique traits that make me happy to be his wife. I am both thankful and happy he has extended grace and patience to be my husband.
At the end of this week we will celebrate his birthday.
His father’s birthday was the day before his.
His grandfather’s birthday was the day after his.
Imagine how special it was to celebrate three generations together!
For the last 18 years, David’s birthday also marks the passing of his mother. She slipped into a coma after suffering a cerebral aneurism and passed away a few days later, in the early hours of September 25, 1997. His father was broken-hearted. As much as it pains David to have lost his mom on his birthday, we were all grateful his father didn’t have to say his final goodbye to his wife on his own birthday. What a difference a day makes.
Saturday morning I was watching David move about the house, preparing for his day. He looks so much like his mum. I am sure they shared a special bond as most mothers do with their oldest. In fact, I recently came across some letters he saved from his mother. As his parents would travel about the country for business, Irene always took time to write David at home to share what they were doing. The letters gave me a sneak peek into their relationship that I never got to see in our five years together. She also was an introvert. The letters shared heartfelt emotions you often did not hear spoken in person. Perhaps if she and I had more years together, we could have had many meaningful conversations in the corner of a crowded room where the wallflowers often congregate.
Irene had a living will. When it was determined her life could only be sustained by artificial means, she expressed beforehand she wanted to pass on naturally. Claude also had a living will and I recall the struggle he felt as he watched her lifeless body sleeping in the hospital. I’m sure they discussed their final wishes as many of us do and he knew she didn’t want to be seen in that helpless state. The wait was necessary though as both of David’s siblings lived out of state at the time. The wait gave the doctors time to evaluate her condition and for the kids to arrive to say goodbye.
The wait also enabled my father-in-law and I time to sit side-by-side to share meaningful conversation. I was holding her hand and remarked that when she was alive I didn’t have the chance to hold her hand like I often did with my own mother. I hoped it didn’t bother her as she seemed to be reserved– not one to show deep emotion or be overly affectionate. Claude told me how much she loved me but that she thought I worked too hard. Oh my, those were sweet words to my soul! A wife never feels that she can measure up to her mother-in-laws standards.
Why was she so guarded? So private. So introverted.
When she was just two years old, her father was killed by the Chicago mafia. He was an innocent bystander to a drive by shooting. Imagine the roaring twenties– he was a tailor, sitting in the window of his storefront doing his work when a spray of gunfire shattered the glass and ended his life. How very sad…
David’s grandmother returned to Milwaukee with her two young children. Irene had an older brother. Myra took a job with an affluent family as their cook. From what we are told, the children had to take up residence for a short time at a Catholic orphanage. She never spoke of those years, even to her husband.
When Irene passed away suddenly, David and I were expecting our first (and only) child. If I believed a soul could pass from one being to another, Sienna certainly carries many of her grandmothers passions– chocolate, dancing, chocolate, sweets, fashion, food, chocolate. Irene carried on her father’s legacy and was a marvelous seamstress. We can only imagine the beautiful, smocked dresses she would have sewn for her first granddaughter. And with every dance performance, we like to believe she is with us in spirit, applauding every step Sienna makes. I see this void in my husbands eyes, even though he has peace knowing both of his parents lived healthy, active lives into their 80’s.
Just today, I prepared a dish of fresh garden vegetables for a potluck and browned the butter with breadcrumbs, as Irene taught me and I’m sure her mother taught her. We had just five years together but she did pass along many special traditions that I can pass along to Sienna. Irene, in her own unique way, took the place of my mother who entered long-term healthcare when I was in my early-adult years. I missed “going home to moms” for home cooked meals. David and I were blessed to have shared special memories in an abbreviated time. I’m grateful we lived nearby.
As I shared widowhood with my mother, after Irene passed away, we shared widowhood with David’s father. He had emphysema and they were both mentally and financially prepared for him to precede Irene to the other side of life. Right after her passing, we made frequent visits to the house, enjoyed Sunday morning breakfast after church, or a Friday night fish fry. The Hirsch men are quite fond of this Wisconsin tradition as you might recall from the story of our first date. We continued as best we could after our baby arrived mid-February the following year.
I recall a dinner conversation one particular Friday evening. I had just a few weeks of maternity leave and was searching for a daycare. I mentioned to David and Claude that Sienna was unusually fussy that day which was totally not her nature. We could take her anywhere and she was content. That day I had visited a new childcare facility on the recommendation of my friend, Sister Mary Rose. I told David and Claude about the facility but that I didn’t get to spend much time there because she cried unconsolably. I cut our visit short.
Claude said, “Where did you say it was?”
I replied, “In the old St. Joseph building near 16th and Oklahoma.”
He said, “Oh, that’s the orphanage where mother lived as a child.” He paused and said, “She never would speak of those years.”, then continued enjoying his cod. That was always the end of the subject– even when it comes up today with David’s siblings. No one knows because she never wanted to talk about those years. While she was quite young, I am certain she had memories as I myself have recollections at that age and I know my mother recalls the auction of her parent’s farm in the Great Depression. She was also just two years old.
In recent years, I’ve been blessed to work with an organization that works with children ‘in the system’. During training for summer camp a couple years ago, I had a revelation that shed light on this dark gap I sensed in my husband’s heritage. Much like the children we minister to who are in foster care, my mother-in-law may have built the same emotional walls to protect her wounded heart. It’s necessary for emotional survival.
I won’t overdo my thoughts on this topic. I have peace knowing my mother-in-law had faith in Jesus and passed into a life of both physical and emotional healing. Even though her story had a happy ending as you can see in the photo below and even though she lived a long life on earth, she has an indescribable peace in the safe harbor of a loving savior. Eternity is a really long time. Our life on this planet is just a blink of an eye.
Why did I title this entry, Apples Don’t Fall Far From The Tree?
The frustration I have been writing about– the desire to go deeper with life and love in marriage– it stems from this tree. The revelation I had just over a year ago was the connection to the emotional walls and the fruit that has passed from one generation to the next. One might think this is an over-thought hypothesis, but I feel it is tangibly evident in our lives.
I had to trade in the frustration I felt for contentment with this revelation. If ones body is conditioned to run a mile, you cannot expect to simply run a 5k without reconditioning, training, and extending your endurance. I have to be content to realize and appreciate the affection that I am given by my husband because he has maxed his endurance, his capacity, to love as it was conditioned. I can pray for the walls to be torn down to rubble but need to be prayerful and patient. Furthermore, I have to have faith to accept the result I desire may not come in this life.
I believe it was Lucy Van Pelt from the Peanuts comic strip who said, “Accepting the fact you have a problem is the first step toward recovery.” I write, not just as an expose´of my own life– I hope to give a voice to emotions that are not expressed but are felt in someone else’s heart so they can begin the journey of recovery. It’s better late than never. Even though this life is just a blink of an eye compared to eternity, our Creator wants us to experience all that we can here as a foretaste of what is to come.
May you experience the depth of His love.
May you be a vessel of His love.
Chip away at down the walls that guard your heart.
Pray for me and I will pray for you too. ❤