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Saturday, July 17, 2010

Silly me!



“Throw the pie in my face” I goaded Mr Smith, one of the nursing home residents.   

“I can’t” he replied. Mr. Smith looked at me with a caring look, through his big blue eyes which always cast an innocent sparkle. 

“It’s OK, Mr Smith. Today you’re supposed to throw a pie in my face; please!”, I commanded.  

Mr. Smith grinned, and mustering all the courage he could, he cocked his right arm and, without hesitation, threw the pie in my face. The gentle impact I expected turned out to be a powerful slap. 

I lost my sight for several seconds as my eyes were completely covered with whipped cream. I heard voices and laughter, all combined with the upbeat music playing:  “Heeeeey Macarena ...AAAhAA! Dale a tu cuerpo alegria Macarena... When I dance they call me Macarena’”   

Mr. Smith was laughing. The residents were laughing.  

How hilarious to see the social worker with her face messed up, with her nostrils plugged with thick cream! 

And I laughed too.  

Pie throwing was part of the activities for that day. “Do you want to volunteer?” the activities coordinator had asked me early that morning.  I felt awkward at first. 

“Me? It will be messy and embarrassing,” I replied.  

But my thoughts switched quickly to my residents. They would be outdoors, enjoying not just the nice weather but the fun activities scheduled as well.  

Why shouldn’t I be part of it?  Why wouldn’t I put aside my personal appearance to humor the residents and just relax and have fun as well?  

Silly me! I chided myself. 

“Sure!” I answered.   

And I was glad.  

I had the opportunity of letting Mr. Smith have a blast. I made him laugh.  

I had met Mr. Smith a few years ago. Then, he was a very ill, bed-bound and quiet man. A person who didn’t  normally smile. He was a kind gentleman, but not a man with much to look forward to, at least in his mind.  

Now, a couple of years later, he is a different man. He actively participates in social gatherings and outings. He wears a smile on his face, and openly laughs at humorous moments. 

He is a man with the strength to slap a pie in my face.  

That night at home, I reflected on the event. I was pleased with the experience, yet it bothered me that I hesitated when initially invited to be “a pie target”

I asked myself:  am I limiting fun and joyful moments in my life lately because having fun wasn’t always practical? Am I avoiding putting myself in embarrassing circumstances to the extent that I am missing amusing time with loved ones and the people I care for? 
I hoped not

I looked back in time and recalled a few times when I decided to be brave and venture into daring events. One time I remember wearing a Halloween costume in the nursing home, and then later around the neighborhood with my children.  


On another day, I ended up dancing on a stage in one of the music shows in Branson, along with other volunteers from the audience.  

Embarrassing moments? No. Not at all. 
Fun memories? Certainly. 

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Born on the Fourth of July



“Happy birthday, Ernie!” we cheerfully exclaimed. My husband, stepson and I had taken Ernie out to dinner for his birthday.  

Fourth of July. 

A double celebration: our glorious Independence Day in the United States of America. And my son’s birthday.  Ernie was celebrating his 21st birthday.  

His own independence, I mused. 

I love my son with all my heart. I have been thinking about Ernie’s life lately. I thought back to before his birth and reflected forward through his life to this date, where he now sat before me as a 21 year old. 
Ernie was a wanted child.  Bringing him into this world was well thought out.  Upon his arrival, he immediately brought happiness to me and his father, and to the rest of the family. He was always loved by everyone around him. He was a cute, charming, and smart child.  

 While Ernie traveled his path of growing up, I’ve been with him during his “green pastures” and “still waters” but I have also been with him as he walked through “the valley of shadows.” 

I could dedicate a complete blog to our memoir. Ernie might want to do it some day. Not me. At least not at this time. 

One of the saddest events in Ernie’s life was the passing of his father when Ernie was just 12. And the most critical time I recall was when Ernie was 16. At this age he became quite rebellious, angry, and hateful.   

“Give me a hug,” I asked once, as hugging was a normal event between us, at least it used to be. “Nah,” he replied. 

“But why, Ernie?” I was in shock. 

“I am not a huggy person,” he said, thoughtlessly, walking away, like a bird trying to fly out of the nest.  
What happened to my Ernie? I pondered, with tears in my eyes. I had no answer. I found no explanation. Perhaps I didn’t want an explanation.  

Anne Lamott, one of my favorite writers, published in 2006 “My son, the Stranger” an interesting magazine article about a similar experience she went through with her son. That’s how I looked at Ernie, a stranger.  

Ernie moved out at age 17. The bird had fled the nest, leaving my broken heart in the roost, alone. I didn’t anticipate the anguish I initially experienced when he left.  What a loneliness I felt when I looked into his empty room.  A feeling of desolation enveloped our home. Devastating quietness. I felt as if I were drowning.   

I don’t know how he felt, but we both survived. 

A few years later, Ernie returned home. We were happily reunited, but faced the tensions of readjusting to living with one another under one roof again, full time. Ernie struggled for freedom he had while living on his own, while I tried to enforce family rules. Plus a new challenge awaited us both:  a blended family, as I had recently remarried.  

“One day at a time” is what I always tell my nursing home residents when they lament their losses. That’s what I often remind myself during difficult times.  

In the meantime, I showed Ernie support and unconditional love. And most importantly, I lifted my prayers to our Lord every single day, asking for guidance and protection for Ernie.  

And God answered my prayers. 

In the last year, Ernie has remarkably changed. Positive changes. His heart has turned back to me as his mother, and as his friend. We have shared tears and secrets. He enjoys our conversations. I love listening to his tales, his aspirations, about his college journey, and work challenges. I enjoy learning about his fights against his evils, and how he has overcome the battles. His inner battles. 

Ernie knows how precious he is to me. He is no longer reluctant at expressing compliments, or at telling me he loves me. He listens to my stories about work. He enjoys reading my blog, and counting my followers. And he hugs me every day.   

Ernie is huggy after all, I muse, with a smile on my face.   

Just as the Parable of the Prodigal Son, I celebrate my Ernie’s return: “Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let's have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.” 

P.S. Happy birthday, Ernie. I hope you like reading this post. I love you, dear son.