F is for Family

Aprons poolside.

That’s what it said.

Aprons poolside.

That was my last text from my mom, sent minutes before the accident that killed her.

She was an English professor, you know, and a librarian, so correct grammar was very important to her.

But so were fancy long manicured nails, which she always had ever since surviving chemo.

It’s my one thing, she would say.

So when texting came into the world, she was not ready to give up the long nails – not even for accurate English.

That meant, however, that my brother and I were expected to decode her text messages without complaint.

Aprons poolside was the last text she sent me just before she died, and I knew exactly what she meant.

She meant April’s inside.

I knew she meant that April, her cantankerous princess of a poodle, was still inside at her house while mom was out seeing grandchildren for the day.

I knew it meant mom left early, and April hadn’t wanted to go out in the cold, and so hid under mom’s bed, and mom left her with the natural consequences of having to wait till I could let her outside.

Aprons poolside.

That was the message that meant I had just inherited April.

It makes sense to me that my mom’s last words, just after catching up with her best friend Jo, were about that silly dog.

The dog is still weird since mom died, though at home in my house where she and mom lived for her last two years. I try to take care of the dog, and she is allegedly getting groomed tomorrow.

But nobody loves her the way mom did.

That’s what I was thinking about when I took a bubble bath tonight, my first long hot bath since the first kiddo arrived in July.

I know that I almost drowned when mom died.

I know that you know I almost drowned when mom died.

I know you know because of what I have written, and because of what I have not written.

This is a little embarrassing, but it had certainly been authentic.

It kept me alive, you know, the writing and the silence and the you-noticing.

Thank you.

Nathan also kept me alive, with such patient comfort and such deep love.

But I wanted to hit everyone who tried to help by saying what a miracle it was that I got Nathan in time for my mom to die.

I wanted to hit them the way I wanted to hit the lady who said it was good I got all these foster babies without any stretch marks.

I didn’t actually do any hitting, of course.

Not out loud, anyway.

But what I wanted to say was that I don’t “get” all these foster babies. They aren’t mine to keep. I don’t collect them. They are not happy meal toys.

And I did get stretch marks. Just not any babies.

And, while I love and adore Nathan with all that I am, he is a gift to me from God, and from my deceased father on the other side of the veil.

He is a gift to me as a sign, a token, as evidence of premortality and covenant keeping.

He is a miracle to me, and yes, certainly a tender blessing even in timing.

But he was not an object of some kind of cruel bait-and-switch deal one day when God was trying to pull a good one over on me.

The truth is that I married Nathan when it was exactly right for us. Heavenly Father knew I am stubborn enough I would never convert for a boy, especially not for a boy, and so needed to do that solidly on my own before finding my man. He knew that Nathan had things to learn to be prepared to care well for such a mess as myself, as well as to deal well with my strengths and pace of life that has been commanded of me. There are a million reasons why our timing was when it was.

And those people, the ones I wanted to hit, were exactly right when they said it was good I had Nathan when mom died.

That’s part of why I didn’t do any hitting.

Also because it wouldn’t be very Mormon of me.

Also because I didn’t really want to do any hitting.

Not really.

I was just hurting, and I was in shock, and my grief was heavy.

And the truth is, that when this year of grief came, so close after that other year of grief when my father died of cancer, I really am glad Nathan was here.

That’s what has made our love so real and strong, because it has been so hard from the beginning. We made it real, and we used muscles to make it strong. We nourish it and celebrate it when life is good, and protect it and shield it when life is hard.

Now we have little ones that are not ours, and we can do nothing but watch as their futures unfold one court hearing at a time. We support their “real” families, and try not to wince when that dismisses our own realness. We celebrate their return home each time, as if it doesn’t sting us with the leaving.

Because all of this, all of this, is about family.

And family is family, no matter what.

Even when it means kissing your tiny face good night without knowing how many nights you will sleep in that bunk bed.

Even when it means taking your dog to the groomer just because that’s always been how it’s done.

Because F is for family, and that’s what we do.

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Posted in Family, Healing Tagged permalink

About Emily

I am a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints since 2009. I serve as a Chaplain, and work as a counselor. I got bilateral cochlear implants in 2010, but will always love sign language. I choose books over television, and organics over processed. Nothing is as close to flying as ballroom dancing - except maybe running, when in the solo mood. I would rather be outside than anywhere else, especially at the river riding my bike or kayaking. PhD in Marriage and Family Therapy, and currently doing a post-doc in Jewish Studies and an MDiv in Pastoral Counseling. The best thing about Emily World is that it's always an adventure, even if (not so) grammatically precise. The only thing better than writing is being married to a writer. Nathan Christensen and I were married in the Oklahoma City temple on 13 October 2012, and have since fostered more than eighty-five children. We have adopted the six who stayed, and are totally and completely and helplessly in love with our family. Nathan writes musical theater, including "Broadcast" (a musical history of the radio) and an adaption of Lois Lowry's "The Giver". He served his mission in South Korea, has taught song-writing in New York City public schools, and worked as a theater critic for a Tucson newspaper. This is not an official Web site of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints.

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