I spent much of last week reflecting on the joy that all my sons bring to my life. I feel so blessed. It was a week with many meaningful affirmations, new gifts, reasons to rejoice in the privilege of having sons and gratitude for the presence of so many fine young men in my life.
The week began with a lesson in how to filet freshly caught fish with my middle son, Erik. He showed up unexpectedly after a day of ice-fishing courting a bucket full of fish. He came in the house as I walked in from work and announced, “You better get your fileting shoes on ’cause I’m gonna teach you how to filet fish tonight.” I looked at my shoes and I looked at him and said, “What??!! I need special shoes??” He said I didn’t, but suggested that I may want to change my clothes. He also suggested that I get my camera so I could document my lesson and write about it in my blog. When I returned to the pantry, Erik was washing the fish in my sink. They were beautiful – spectacular colors and patterns… God’s handiwork. I came closer to the sink to take a photo and suddenly there was a flopping movement in the sink. Holy crap! I looked again because I wasn’t sure what I had just seen. Then a few more fish flipped and flopped inside the sink and I realized THEY WERE ALIVE!!! Then I did what all fish fileters do… I screamed!! Twice!!
I tried to be brave, but every time a fish moved I twitched and cringed and finally told Erik that he would have to make sure all the fish were dead before our lesson began. He did the dirty deed, described it to me in graphic detail and called me back into the kitchen. As the lesson began he warned me that the fish would still move around because their nerves were alive. Oh jeeze!! I watched him and the bucket of jittery fish with apprehension. My heart raced. I tried to still my nerves. I couldn’t possibly walk away from such a challenge. If I could cut trees with Erik, I could certainly filet little whimpy fish with him! Oops – no offense, Erik!!
I had complained to Erik in the past that he went fishing all the time, but never shared his bounty. So I needed to be true to my word. He had brought me what I asked for. I finally got up my nerve and fileted the last half of Erik’s catch. The first few were slimy and slippery and touching them gave me the heebie-jeebies, but I quickly got the hang of it. Every mother should have a son like Erik to push their boundaries. Erik has done this successfully from the day he was born and I’m a better person for it. This new phase in our relationship is one I cherish. He has introduced me to some great music, we enjoy teasing George, working together in the woods, he taught me how to repair clogged drains and my favorite thing…. looking back and laughing together about the more challenging days of his childhood.
I read a quote recently that made me think of Erik. “Live so that when your children think of fairness and integrity, they think of you.” ~H. Jackson Brown, Jr. Erik has more integrity than most people I know. Even as a child he was an active proponent of truth and justice. We used to call him “the enforcer” – especially when he would be suspended from school for his methods of enforcement (he punched a fellow 4th grader in the face for calling me a name). He always accepts responsibility for his actions (and sometimes the actions of his friends) and conducts himself with great honor. I’m so proud of the young man he has become.
Weston, my youngest, and his girlfriend celebrated their third anniversary last week. He’s only 16 years old. All of my boys have been in long and stable relationships, which has always surprised me. I didn’t really date in high school. So it’s foreign to me. But I realize that the ability to sustain a long term relationship, especially at this age, is a good sign. Veronica “Roni” spends a lot of time at our house, so we have the benefit of seeing how she and Weston interact with each other. They have a really special relationship. They seem so comfortable and relaxed together. They’re respectful and warm and playful and mature. There’s no drama. They support each other and have a healthy amount of time apart. Weston has taught us much about commitment and loyalty. He’s thoughtful and generous and rarely complains.
While I was in my very short labor with Weston, I told George that Weston was going to be the family peacemaker. And my predictions have been true. Delivering him was so easy that the doctor nearly didn’t arrive in time. He was an easy baby and has been easy every stage of his life. Weston is calm and patient and loving. His feathers don’t ruffle easily and he has an uncanny ability to defuse tense situations, usually with his awesome sense of humor. He can sit silently in a group discussion then come up with killer one-liners when we least expect it, cracking up everybody in the room. How lucky I am to have such a wonderful third child. It’s no wonder I wanted more and more after he was born.
My week of lessons from my sons culminated with an email from my oldest son, Shawn, on Friday night. Shawn is the gentle giant in our family… the family philosopher. Within minutes after I gave birth to him, the doctor asked if I was growing marijuana in my stomach because she couldn’t believe how calm he was. For 25 years Shawn has remained calm, cool and laid back. The subject line of Shawn’s email message was, “A heads up” – no exclamation points or bold letters. Short and simple. This is the full text of the email:
Hey mom, ill call you tonight but I just wanted to let you know our apartment caught fire today, everybody is ok, we’re just trying to figure things out right now. Love you! http://www.burlingtonfreepress.com/article/20120309/NEWS02/120309015/Home-heavily-damaged-Winooski-s-2nd-fire-2-days
I opened the link above to see this image (at right) of Shawn’s apartment. The image was shocking, but I wasn’t worried. He said, “everybody is ok.” He didn’t mention his beloved cat, so I knew the cat was okay too. Why stress? It wasn’t like I could do anything. And I knew that I didn’t need to read between the lines to search for Shawn’s emotional state. He was okay. He called later that night, like he said, and made plans to come home the following night for a short visit. It wasn’t until we were all sitting around the woodstove Saturday night that Jessa told us how odd Shawn’s method of communicating this news was. And apparently, many other people agreed. It never occurred to me. Shawn taught me the Vermont proverb, “Speak little, say much.” He and I are thinkers… not talkers. Fortunately we both have partners who can do all the talking to make up for our silence. Shout out to George and Jessa!! Love you guys!!
Shawn and Jessa were in good spirits when we all visited Saturday night. We reviewed maps of our property and talked about his dreams of starting a farm here. He wants me to get things started for him by raising chickens – said it will be good practice for me. I wouldn’t mind grandchildren one day, but chickens might be okay too! OMG!!
The outpouring of love and support from Shawn and Jessa’s friends, employers and loved ones helped them realize what great people are in their lives. They speak of their friends often… but the true value of those friendships was never more apparent than after their fire on Friday. It’s amazing that the greatest lesson after such a tragedy is that we are all so blessed. Sitting around the woodstove surrounded by my boys certainly helped prove that point to me. I am blessed. Not just with these three magnificent sons, but with many others who hold a very special place in my heart.