the key to my success

5 08 2008

I think that’s it. The key to my success is in kitty’s face. Don’t ask me how – but I have been able to nab some of the most prized family possessions. It’s only right that the youngest pass down the family lore.

My dad worked for NIPSCO from 1948-1983 or there abouts and it is said that he never took a sick day. This little kitty pic hung over his work bench and was something he lived by. Things didn’t seem to rattle him much. He just pushed up his sleeves and got the job done. Blistering days, below zero days, days he probably should have stayed home – he’d whistle his way in and out of our house. Just getting the job done. He was forced into an early retirement and if I had to say what I really think…it was the beginning of the end. If they let 80 year old men fix high pressure meters so that banks, schools, factories and hospitals wouldn’t blow up from gas leaks…he’d be happier today than he is.

For most of us we really do find our deepest joy when we are doing what it is we are best at. We all can’t do the same things and some are just gifted in ways that others aren’t. Within the context of my husband’s family (5 siblings, 5 spouses, 18 nieces and nephews) that gathers for bi- weekly Sunday dinners at the Yaya’s house for about 9 months of the year – we take summers off – thank God, I am NOT known for my mercy. That ribbon goes to the one who has a heart as big and as soft as the clouds in the summer sky. But there is something deep within me that responds to a different kind of nurturing.

I won’t buy you birthday presents or even remember with a card. I won’t sponsor the sleep overs or even get excited if the “girls” are going out of coffee. But let someone in my smallest circle of family be in trouble-that’s my space.

I had a therapist once tell me that the reason things were going wrong in our family for a season was because I cared too much. He was so full of it (I can’t say what because I got kicked out of school for telling my Spanish teacher what he was full of…poor, sensitive Cuban man cried and I got in a –I can’t say what– load of trouble). But driving home from the therapist’s appointment that day I realized the guy didn’t know jack. Afterall, he had a ponytail.

He hadn’t moved almost 20 times with a family-overseas no less (would he even know how to pack a sea worthy 20 foot container with all his belongings). He hadn’t lived in a culture other than his own. He hadn’t made that family his universe because his extended family was 4000 miles away. He didn’t have kids old enough to go to school more than half a day. He hadn’t yanked his kids from the culture they’d grown up in and plopped them down in an American high school just to yank them out again after 3 years and make them move to another hell hole to finish off a senior year. He didn’t know jack (and I repeat myself for emphasis). And he’d never slept in a hospital room for a month straight listening to his 22 year old struggle for life. He has male anatomy – he is not and never will be a mother. But we still had to pay the guy for the “wisdom” bestowed on my troubled psyche. He still doesn’t know jack.

So where do I find joy? – in caring. But not caring in that superficial sense…in that deep place. It’s hard to be away from here when their lives are so complex and its hard to be away from there when their lives are slipping away. This will not last forever…I’ll be able to have that single focus far too soon for my liking. But these ones can manage for now. My phone will ring when I’m there and I’ll hear about the ups and downs of each day I’m away. But don’t get me wrong when I’m here – I really like being with them.

And the same exact thing is true of my parents. I like being with them and I feel a rightness in the universe when I’m there because they won’t be here for long. I just called to make sure they’d weathered a whopper of a storm last night – the kind that shuts down O’Hare. She said they didn’t sleep much, paced alot, it was rather “troubling” to Dad but this morning they were still in the jammies safe and sound. “Good,” – I said – “you can just nap till I get there.”

It’s taken me longer to get away this morning than I’d hoped. I had a different kind of storm to weather. But ain’t it just like life – we can’t be everywhere at once…and one storm keeps us grounded longer than we’d hoped. So I will gather my computer chords, phone charger and other essentials of my job – and head to the open highway with kitty’s face reminding me to smile. It’s just another day and there is a job to do. And I like my job – no thanks to pony-tailed psychiatrist – and I’m damn good at it. Thank you very much.