Saturday, June 8, 2019

Words to Live By. . . Or, You Know, Not. . .

Stuff I've come across on the way to someplace else. . .

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."
          -- Mark Twain

"It's funny how falling feels like flying. . . for a little while. . ."
          -- Jeff Bridges

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

DNA

My son (4M) gave me a DNA test for my last birthday.  I've been meaning to do that for a while, just waiting for life (and my budget) to settle down a bit, what with three weddings and all.  I've subscribed to Ancestry.com for a couple years now, and I've been looking forward to what I might learn.  So I spit in the little tube, and sent it off.

About a month ago, I got the results.  I don't know exactly what I was expecting to find; I've been doing genealogy, at varying levels of activity, for over 30 years, on both my adoptive and birth families.  I have a pretty good idea of what ethnicities are intermingled in me.  I suppose I hoped to make some connections with parts of the various and sundry families that I didn't know very well, and maybe fill in the picture in greater detail.

Ethnicity-wise, there were no surprises - 45% England and Wales, 30% Norway/Sweden, 15% Ireland/Scotland, and 10% 'Germanic Europe'.  I guess I'd have expected a bit more German, but none of it took me by surprise.  My birth-father's mother was full-blooded Norwegian (both her parents were off-the-boat), so the large Scandinavian component wasn't surprising.

The thing I was most interested in was the connections with other people - cousins, etc, who could connect me with families I didn't yet know very much about.  And boy, was that interesting!

They gave me a list of people in their database whose DNA matches mine, along with an estimate of how closely we're related.  At the top of the list was my birth-mother (I had been at her house in California when she sent her test in last year), who was duly identified as "QQQ is your mother".  Which was no surprise, but still, it was a small measure of validation that all the detective work I did 30 years ago had been correct.

The second name on the list was one of my birth-father's daughters, my half-sister.  Again, nothing I didn't already know, but a small validation that Mom had told me the truth about who my birth-father was.  Not, you know, that I doubted her. . .

The third name on the list was a man I'd never heard of, who was called out as a 'likely first cousin'.  In checking his other connections, he was also closely connected to my half-sister, so I surmised that he was from Birth-Father's side of my DNA.  I asked my sister if she knew who he was, and she said, "Never heard of him."

Well, that was a surprising response, to say the least.  'Likely first cousin' is a pretty close connection to have 'never heard of him'.  Even if his family was somehow estranged from hers, you might suppose that she at least had some inkling of who he was.  So I did a little poking around on-line, and found his mother's obituary, and his step-mother's obituary.  Connecting a few dots, he was about the same age as 1F.  He'd been born in Utah, and now lived in Virginia, where his mother had moved after divorcing his dad when he was in high school.

Long story short, the father of DNA-Match-Guy was also born in Utah, about a year before I was.  I called my sister again, and asked if her dad had ever been in Utah.  Why, yes, she said, he'd been stationed in Utah while he was in the Air Force.  In fact, she went on, he'd told her a story about having to get a quick transfer out of Utah - something about 'woman trouble'.

Holy shit.

Of all the possibilities of things I thought I might encounter from a DNA test, it never occurred to me that I might find another unknown half-sibling (DNA-Match-Guy turns out to be a half-nephew to me, which falls into the same range as 1st cousin).  It shouldn't have been all that strange an idea to me - I mean, my own existence was evidence of certain, uh, self-control deficiencies on Birth-Father's part.  But somehow, I'd framed this story in my head that I was the only one - a few years after I was born, he'd gotten married, and had his two daughters with his wife, and la-la, how the life went on.

But I wasn't the only one; I wasn't even the first.  Turns out, he had, uh, cast his seed farther and wider than I'd suspected.

Birth-Father died a year-and-a-half ago.  For nearly 30 years, we had a good (though not particularly close) relationship.  I still appreciate having known who he was, and gotten some sense of what his life was about, even if it was quite a different life than mine (I mean, he went to the University of Michigan, for heaven's sake).

On one level, this 'new information' shouldn't matter, and it really doesn't.  I already knew of, and made my peace with, his rakishness as a young man; heck, that's why I'm here.  But somehow, knowing that it happened twice (at least; who knows if there are others?) causes me to lose a little respect, which is sad.  One thing to have a fling with my birth-mother when they were in college; another to just be a serial user of women.  But, it is what it is, and it doesn't materially change my life. . .

Yeesh.

I'd love to actually meet my erstwhile half-brother; I've had a lot of fun with my two half-sisters, even having only met them when we were all adults.  But honestly, I have no idea what his life is like, or what sort of person he is. I'm not sure what kind of rude surprise I might be for him, or why he'd ever want to meet me.

La-la, how the life goes on.  4M is sending Jenn a DNA test (he was going to send it for her birthday later this summer, but we talked him into giving it as a Mother's Day gift).  We already know of a few rather significant 'unknowns' in her genealogy, that we're (I think) looking forward to learning more about.  We will see what we will see. . .

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On a more unambiguously happy note (and not unrelated to DNA), 7M got married a week-and-a-half ago, so our cycle of three weddings in a year is complete (1F and her husband celebrated their anniversary the day after 7M's wedding; we're looking forward next year to Mother's Day weekend without a wedding in it).

There is something really happy about our kids (three of them, at least) getting married.  In my mind, it is something like a marker of a degree of strength and stability in their lives, a kind of 'well-done' to us as parents, but even more, to the lives they've made for themselves, so far.  Not that I suppose there are any guarantees - I've been around WAY too many blocks by now to think that - but it is a very good thing.  Between 7M, and 4M and 1F, I am enjoying the dynamic of bringing in-laws into our family.

1F also told us recently that she and her husband are expecting their first child together this fall.  Hmmmmm. . .  A grandchild born to married parents - how does that work?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Victory!

"Lo, I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. . . When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your sting?
O death, where is your victory?'

. . . But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

          - The First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Love Hurts

Lent is upon us once more, so in its honor, I've decided to re-post something in a 'penitential' mood. . .

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“If I never loved, I never would have cried.”
Simon & Garfunkel, I am a Rock

“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.”
Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“[Jesus], having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
The Gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 1

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Mother Theresa was fond of saying that our main task in this life is learning what it really means to love. She was also fond of saying that there is no spiritual growth without suffering. And I’ve come to understand that the two – love and suffering – are not so very separate from each other.

I think we’re sort of conditioned by our culture to think of love in terms of mellow warm feelings toward another person – taking pleasure in their presence in our lives, wanting to do things together with them, or give our time and energy for their sake. But if warm-fuzzies is all that we mean by love, it winds up being pretty shallow and lame.

In a fallen world, it comes to seem that any love worthy of the name inevitably has a tragic aspect about it. We are all fallen, broken persons, and our fallen-ness and broken-ness redound to the pain of those who love us. And hobble our ability to love others as we ought. We inevitably hurt and disappoint those who love us, and in many ways, the measure of love is the manner in which it deals with those hurts and disappointments.

Our kids have taught some of this to Jenn and me.  Some of our kids have been pretty amazing at various points in their lives, and it was pretty easy to soak up the accolades we received for being 'such wonderful parents'.  But those same kids have also hurt us more deeply than we could ever have imagined.  In my worst dreams, I never imagined one of my daughters being pregnant out-of-wedlock, and now all three of them have.  Others of our kids just defied us in every possible way, and left us wondering why God had entrusted us with the task of raising children, since clearly, we knew nothing at all about how to do it.  Still others just got lost in the chaos swirling around their siblings, when we simply lacked the resources to keep all our 'balls in the air' at once (how many of you are old enough to remember the plate-spinning guy on The Ed Sullivan Show?  Raising kids can be a lot like that).

All of our kids, in one way or another, have suffered from my (and, I suppose, Jenn's, although even to say so evokes thoughts of The Log and The Speck, besides which, it feels like talking behind her back) failures of love.  I could go down the list, from 1F to 8M, and give instances of how my love was conditional, or weak, or insufficient; how I've paid more attention (whether positively or negatively) to some of them than to others, and on and on.  Every one of them has suffered because I, whether out of my own sinfulness, or just my human limitations, simply didn't love them as much as they needed me  to.  But perhaps we are learning, just a little bit better, what it means to love. Perhaps we can dig a little deeper, and give our kids the love they need, where once we’d have come up short. Perhaps. At least, I hope so. . .

It’s not just the kids, either. As much as I love Jenn (and she me), there is, even still, a tragic aspect to our love. She has not avoided disappointing me (or, to be certain, I her), even though she is still the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. Some part of the measure of our love is coming to know – really know, where it hurts to know – each other’s weaknesses and character flaws, and keep moving forward. Even to cover for each other’s weaknesses (whether or not we ever thought we should have to).

So, again - the measure of our love is not the absence of our disappointments with each other. The measure of our love is what we DO with the inevitable hurts and disappointments that we inflict on each other – can we let “love cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8), or not?

And then we have the example of God Himself, who “demonstrates His own love for us in this – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus didn’t wait for us to get our shit together in order to make a gift of Himself for our sake. He loved us, “to the end,” even in all our fallen, broken, garbage.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said that, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” And I think it’s likewise when it comes to ‘learning what it really means to love’. To love greatly is to risk being hurt greatly. To ‘pour ourselves out’ for the sake of the beloved, with little or no regard for what we have left when we’re done.

“And greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Jesus, with all trepidation, I ask of you. . . teach me how to love. . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wedding Wishes

Our son 4M got married a week-and-a-half ago (so now we have both a son-in-law AND a daughter-in-law; woo-hoo!).  As part of my toast to the newlyweds, I read this passage from St. John Chrysostom:

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“Say to [your wife], ‘Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one, both with Christ and each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.’”

To my son and his bride: Further Up and Further In!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

God With Us. . .

This is a conflation of a couple of Christmas meditations I wrote in my 'paper journal' back in the day (20 years ago and more. . .), and a partial re-post of what I posted here a few years back. . .

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"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
     and they will call his name Emmanuel - 'God With Us'."
          - The Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 1, verse 23
              (ref. The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 7:14)

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
          - The Gospel According to John, chapter 1, verse 14

"In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets
     at many times and in various ways;
But in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. . ."
          - The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 1-2

"For we do not have a High Priest who is unable
      to sympathize with us in our weakness. . ."
          - The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 15

I recall a sermon I heard once, in which the preacher made the point that, in the Incarnation God, who is greater than the Universe, willingly confined Himself in human flesh.  The One who created the Universe, who called it into being and sustains it by His merciful love, emptied Himself of his infinite Divine prerogatives and lived among us, as one of us, knowing, in His own body, our finitude, our weakness.  It's as though I, in my compassion for worm-kind, became a worm, to live as a worm among the worms, to understand in my own life and experience, what worm-hood is like.  Except that God taking on human flesh is a bigger existential 'leap' than me becoming a worm; I already know what it's like to live in a body, for one example. . .

So then - God is no longer remote from us; He has come to us - God is with us.  He's One of Us (I think of the Joan Osborne song from the 90s; she asked a better question than perhaps she knew. . .)

How differently would we understand our lives if we were more consciously aware of this foundational truth - God is with us.

How differently would we relate to our minor trials (or our major ones, for that matter) if we knew - really knew - that God is with us.

How different would our sins look to us if we really understood that God is with us?

What a privilege, what an awesome possibility is laid before us - God has become one of us, that we might become like God.  And yet how little do we - do I - take hold of it and venture so bold as to live by means of God's grace?


And then this -

"He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - 
     how will He not also graciously give us all things?"
          - The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 32

God didn't have to send His Son, the Eternal Word, to be incarnate, but he did.  And if He did that, what won't he do for us?  Can I even grasp what this - the Incarnation - means, in terms of how God wants to relate to me?  With what gracious favor, what kindliness, what gratuitous, extravagant, profligate love, He regards me/us?  The 'plans He has for [us], plans for good and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope?' (ref. Jeremiah 29:11)

It reminds me of what CS Lewis said in 'The Weight of Glory' - "We muck about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us."  We just don't get it. . .

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O God, have mercy on us; help us to see clearly, and to know, really know, the lavishness of your love for us.  Let it change us, purify us, make us holy, make us more like you created us to be in the beginning, to be your presence in the world, to shine as lights in the darkness. . .

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Gratitude

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm re-posting a pair of (I hope) pertinent posts from bygone years. I mean, I think they're not too bad. . .

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Sometime around the year 1420, a monk named Thomas a Kempis wrote a book, The Imitation of Christ (in the original Latin, Imitatio Christi), which in the fullness of time would become the most widely-read Christian book besides the Bible. And, in its turn, it also became one of my own all-time favorite books.

The Imitation reads like a medieval Christian Book of Proverbs - wisdom for living the Christian life from a wise old monk. It is simply dense with rich and challenging quotes, several of which have made their way into my 'Book of Favorite Quotes' (not available in stores). One of my favorites, which I commend to the attention of all my blog-friends, is this, from chapter 6 of Book 3:

"A wise lover does not so much consider the gift of his lover as he does the love of the giver."

I first came across this many years ago, but it has become one of the favorite 'bywords' that Jenn and I will quote to each other. It bespeaks a kind of humble gratitude, which has served us really well in building our marriage over the years.

On the face of it, it's pretty simple, really - sort of like etiquette for opening presents on Christmas morning - be grateful for the gifts you get, even if they're not exactly the ones you were hoping for. But you know, Thomas doesn't present it as etiquette advice; he just says, "A wise lover. . ." More like, "this is wisdom beyond what meets the eye. . ." And it works, on multiple levels. . .

As most of you know, I'm adopted. At some point when I was in college, I connected the dots, and the realization dawned on me that I had been somebody's 'unwanted pregnancy', once upon a time. It occurred to me that my very existence was due to somebody I'd never met, taking the trouble to see me through nine months of pregnancy. Jenn and I got married and began having our own children (1F was actually the first person I ever knew who was genetically related to me), and all the while, the realization of what it had cost my birth-mother for me to be alive was growing stronger. Until finally, the sense of gratitude for my own existence became my strongest motivation to find and meet my birth-mother.

My birth-mother and I have always had a great relationship. Not so much because either of us are such wonderful people, but because at the bottom of it all, our relationship is one of mutual gratitude. I'm grateful to her for giving me life, and putting up with everything that went into that, including relinquishing me to be adopted by a family that could raise me. And she's grateful, even after all the years, to have a relationship with the son of her womb (and a fine son he is, if I may say so myself). We're both fairly quirky individuals (shocking as this may seem to you, I know), and there could be a lot to be annoyed with in each other, if we were so inclined. But from the beginning, our relationship has been founded on gratitude, so the quirks just seem really minor.

And likewise in my marriage. I'm so grateful to Jenn for throwing her life in with mine, for the love she gives me every day, and for the richness of the life we share together, that her quirks (and yes, alas, she has one or two) just aren't a very big deal by comparison. And I know it works the same way from her end. It's not just a matter of 'seeing the glass half-full' or 'looking on the bright side', although both of those are good advice. Temperamentally, I'm just not a 'glass-half-full' person. But being able to receive with joy 'the gift my lover brings' (Beatle-lyrics-reference alert!), just because I know how it's expressive of her love for me (quite a separate question from how good a gift it is) (but let me be clear - it is a most excellent gift), brings deep joy to my whole life. I'm certainly not meaning to hold myself up as a shining example of superior virtue, or anything like that. But I do believe we've learned something really good and valuable. . .

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The conviction has grown within me, over the years, that gratitude is, on a very fundamental level, the most appropriate response we can make for our lives. Gratitude to God, certainly, and most fundamentally. But even on a more mundane level, gratitude to our parents; to our teachers, coaches and mentors; to our brothers and sisters, and our friends.

Existence itself is a gratuitous gift, for which there is no appropriate response except gratitude. Loving relationships; food, clothing and shelter; all the mundane, daily circumstances that, individually and collectively, bring joy and meaning to our lives.

Every one of us has his/her own set of things to be thankful for, and people to be thankful to. Rather than riff off into my own 'list', I'll just encourage all my blog-friends, however briefly, to give some thought to what you're grateful for, and to whom. . .

Thursday, October 25, 2018

With My Body, I Thee Worship

Re-posting one more of my best. . .

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A while back, a phrase came into my mind (phrases do that to me, from time to time; it's my cross to bear), and it hasn’t left me alone ever since. It’s from an old, traditional form of the Catholic wedding service (incredibly geeky, I know, but what can I do?). Anyway, at one point during the vows, the bridegroom says to the bride: “With my body, I thee worship.”

With my body, I thee worship.

There is a real depth there, a real richness, that goes beyond merely “I love you,” or even, “I want to have a life and a family with you,” although those things are certainly included in it. It captures very well how I feel about my wife, and how I aspire to have my life be joined to hers.

On multiple levels, sex is an act of worship – Catholics would invoke the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony. But in a simpler, earthy sense, I can simply say that I mean to worship Jenn. Not, obviously, in the same sense in which I worship God – I would mean something like ‘reverence’, or ‘venerate’, or ‘honor’ or ‘esteem’, but none of those words capture the full sense of what I mean the way that ‘worship’ does. Jenn is worthy of veneration, just like, say, Catholic theology would say the saints are worthy of veneration, but she is the saint whose life is bound up with mine.

GK Chesterton wrote that being constrained to one woman was a small price to pay for the privilege of having even one woman, and that sense of reverential gratitude resonates deeply with me. Getting to know Jenn – really know her – is like being let in on a great mystery. As a Christian, I want to go “further up and further in” (to borrow a phrase from CS Lewis) – grow deeper in my love of God, and give myself more fully to Him. In an analogous way, I want to ‘go deeper’ in our marriage, and the life we have together. I want to know Jenn better, be known better by her, give my life more fully to her, and that begins to get at the ‘worship’ I aim to give her.

I have often remarked to Jenn that reproducing ourselves together is the coolest, most amazing thing we could ever do. In a way, it is the biblical 'one flesh' in its most concrete form (or, if you will, in our case, eight fleshes). I mean - think of it - we're making another PERSON out of the substance of the two of us, and our love for each other.

In Holy Communion, Catholics believe that we receive Christ directly into our bodies (there is a very earthy aspect to Catholic theology that I find immensely appealing). In an analogous way, we give ourselves, and receive each other, directly into our bodies when we make love, under the covering of the sacrament of Matrimony. It’s all so rich, I can scarcely say what I really mean.

With my body, I thee worship.

Utterly, completely awesome. . .



Friday, September 28, 2018

It's Personal. . .

In honor of the 29th anniversary of my reunion with my birth-mother. . .



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Sometime when I was in college, the realization dawned on me that, as an adoptee, I had been somebody’s ‘unwanted pregnancy’ once upon a time. And in the fullness of time, especially once Jenn and I married and began having children together, that became one of my strongest motivations to search for my birth-mother – I wanted to thank the woman who, though I had never met her, had carried me in her womb for nine months, and seen me through to the beginnings of my life in this world. (And just as an aside, for me as an adoptee, even such a basic concept as that I'd been carried in someone's womb once-upon-a-time could be disconcertingly abstract).

Along with that realization, I came to understand that, all things considered, I was probably fortunate to have been born before 1973 and Roe v. Wade. I had never particularly staked out a firmly-held position on abortion (My younger self was probably mostly ‘pro-choice’, without having given it much thought), but once I understood that, had I been conceived in another time, I would have been a pretty likely candidate for abortion (white college women abort roughly 98% of their ‘unwanted pregnancies’), the question took on an entirely different, and personal, aspect.

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I recall a conversation I had with my birth-mother some time after our reunion. She was talking about her life as a pregnant-and-unmarried woman in the 1950s, and how difficult it had been for her, and she said something like, “I just wish I’d had the choices that women have today.”

I nodded sympathetically. . . until the penny fell all the way to the bottom.  Ummmmm. . . you understand, right, that we're talking about ME here? I mean, we’ve had a really, REALLY happy reunion, and both of us are glad for the opportunity to know each other, and our respective families. If you had exercised the ‘choice’ you’re alluding to, none of that would be even a remote possibility. You might still wonder who I’d been, but without any possibility of ever knowing. . .

She understood. Not that she was wishing that she’d aborted me; only that she’d felt so trapped when she was pregnant, and wished that she’d had anything at all she could have done about that. Now, I could understand how trapped she felt. Frederica Mathewes-Green has written and spoken insightfully about women who "want an abortion the way an animal caught in a trap wants to gnaw off its own leg" (and I would highly recommend her book which is the source of that quote; it's an utterly unique book, just for her refusal to take part in the standard shouting matches.).

And I get that. I have the utmost compassion for women who are pregnant when it is nigh unto catastrophic for them to be so. All three of my daughters have been among those women, not so very long ago. And my heart ached for each of them, wishing there was something, anything, that I could do to make it easier for them. . .

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But, back in 1955-56, that was ME in my birth-mother’s belly. Not merely a clump of cells, or a faceless ‘fetus’ (honestly, as we sit here, you and I and every other human being are living, breathing clumps of cells; but of course, we're much more than that, and so we were in our mothers' wombs, as well) – it was me, with my own genetic code, distinct from my birth-mother's (or my birth-father's). And if my birth-mother had had an abortion, it was me who would’ve died.

And the ripples go out from there. My adoptive parents might’ve adopted someone else; who can say? But they wouldn’t have adopted me. My classmates and friends and Little-League teammates could scarcely be said to have missed me – how do you miss someone who, as far as you know, never even existed? – but something of the life we shared together would never have happened. Jenn would most likely have married someone else (I mean, she’s an amazing woman; she'd have had guys standing in line for her); but she wouldn’t have married me (and who can say how that might have gone for her?). And our children would never have come to be – her children, if she had any, would be someone else entirely (I've occasionally gotten a chuckle from the thought that I'm the personification of the 'population-control' movement's worst nightmare - an 'unwanted pregnancy that turned into eight more mouths to feed). . .

And so it goes. In fact, those of you who were born after 1973, have you ever wondered how many children who might have been your friends or classmates or Little-League teammates, or heck, husbands or wives, were never allowed to be born? Cold statistics tell us that, in the US alone, the number would be on the order of 60 million or so by now - a fifth again of the population of our country (worldwide, the number would be many times that).  Do you ever wonder who those people might have been?

But just to cite a number misses the point. What music was never made, what literature was never written, what cures for which diseases never came about, for want of the men and women who might have done those things, but were never born?

And even still - to talk in terms of 'who might have done what' misses the point, too. It's not so much that, eg, the late Steve Jobs (an adoptee like me) was so worthwhile for what he did, but that every human life is intrinsically valuable in-and-of-itself. And 'humanity-at-large' benefits from every one of its members, whether they 'accomplish anything' or not. Certainly, we've all benefitted from the fact that Steve Jobs, or Beethoven, or anyone else, were born and not aborted. But we'll never know, in terms other than bloodless, colorless statistics, what 'humanity-at-large' has lost for those tens of millions who were never born. . .

My point here is not to guilt-trip any woman who has ever had an abortion; my heart absolutely goes out to those women, for they, too, have had violence done to them; they've been sold a bill of goods, given a false promise. I only hope to put a more ‘human’ face on the question, and challenge anyone to think of ‘unwanted pregnancy’ not as a ‘problem’ with an easy technological solution, but as something real, and human, and flesh-and-blood. And life-and-death.

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I don’t think my birth-mother is terrible for wishing she’d had more choices available to her (honestly, on one level, it’s easy for her to say; she’ll never bear the cost of having chosen otherwise) (but, to be utterly clear - the very last thing I mean is to trivialize what it cost her for me to be here).

No, I actually think she’s pretty cool; as birth-mothers go, she’s definitely one of the best, and I am as happy as I can be that we’ve known each other for all these years. I understand how trapped she felt 60-odd years ago, and I absolutely appreciate, and am utterly grateful for, the sacrifice it was for her, for me to be here today. It’s personal for her in an entirely different, but analogous, way to how it’s personal for me. And I understand that.

Existence itself is a gratuitous gift, the only fitting response to which is gratitude.  I am as grateful as I can be for my life, my family, my wife and children, and all of my friends, including those of you who are reading this; for existence in this rich and fascinating Universe, and for the Hope of the World to Come.  And none of that could ever have come to pass for me, if I'd been snuffed out before I could be born.

So you see, it's personal - it involves persons, created in God's image and likeness, with inherent worth and dignity not conferred on them by any other human being. Mothers and fathers and children - persons, one-and-all. And my birth-mother is one of them. And so am I. . .

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It's occurring to me that the 20s of September are becoming a pretty event-rich time of year for me/us; besides my reunion with my birth-mother. . .

One of my sisters has her birthday on the 26th; the other has her wedding anniversary on the 25th.

A year ago, on the 23rd, I had the stroke which, while fairly minor, all things considered, has permanently altered the boundary conditions of life around here.

19 years ago on the 24th, 7M (17 months old at the time) was run over in our neighbor's driveway.  That he has lived to robust good health (including honorable-mention all-state as a high-school football linebacker) (to say nothing of the fact that he'll be getting married to his high-school sweetheart 8 months from now) is the most amazing miracle I think I've ever seen. . .

And yesterday, Jenn and I had lunch with my blog-friend Skip, and his bride, as they passed through our neighborhood on their lap of the US (in the process passing, in Jenn's nomenclature, from 'fake friends' to 'real' ones; Pinocchio never had it so good. . .)


Thursday, August 9, 2018

My Love

I started this blog a dozen years ago to talk about marriage and family life, as I've known them.  And to tell the world about the wonderful-ness of my wife.  So, I give you a two-for-one re-post in honor of Jenn's-and-my 38th anniversary. . .

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The Love of My Life

A few years back, a blogger wrote me an e-mail, in which she said, among other things, “You entered into marriage with the love of your life.” And I know what she was talking about. Jenn is indeed The Love of My Life, and blessed am I because of it.

A few years ago, Jenn had a little daily tradition - when I would come home at the end of the day and she heard the back door open just before dinner-time, she'd call out, “Is that The Love of My Life?” Which was wonderfully heart-warming for me. I'd usually respond by saying, “I sure hope so!” And as time went on, the younger kids joined in the fun. So that, when I opened the back door, 8M would often come running; when he saw that it was me, he’d run to Jenn, calling out as he went, “Mom! It’s The Love of Your Life! The Love of Your Life is home!” It doesn’t get any better than that, let me tell you.

But, truth to tell, I didn’t marry the Love of My Life; I’m married to the Love of My Life, but she wasn’t that when we got married. Some of you actually did marry the Love of Your Life – your high-school sweetheart, maybe, or someone whom you just knew, within minutes of your first meeting, would end up sharing your life with you. That wasn’t the case for Jenn and me. When we got married, I was marrying a very good friend, someone with whom I shared several important life goals and aims, with whom I got along very well, and whose company I enjoyed enough to think that we could actually have a life together. She agreed with me enough to accept my proposal (heck, the two of us getting married was probably her idea, before it was mine); we got married, and la, la, how the life went on.

It’s almost funny to look back on it now, but Jenn still tells people that our first year of marriage was the worst year of her life. Her adjustment to the new ‘life-together’ was a bit harder than mine, I guess. . . But, somewhere along the line, over the ensuing years (38 of 'em, now), she became the Love of My Life. We put in the necessary work, we shared our lives, we suffered together, and in the process of all that, our two lives became one, to the point that I can’t imagine my life without her. This woman, whom I liked and admired way back when, has proven to be even more solid, more admirable, and more amazingly wonderful than I thought she was. . .

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Only My Love Does It Good to Me

There are times when I’m simply overwhelmed by the wonderful-ness of my wife. Times when I just look at her and ask myself, “How is it that the most amazing woman in the universe threw her life in with me?” And I’m just in awe of my good fortune.

There might be a few women in the world (stress on ‘might’ and ‘few’) who are physically more beautiful than Jenn, but when I consider the strength of her character, the beauty of her soul and spirit, she blows them all away. I’ll say it again – she is the most amazing woman in the universe. I almost feel bad for the rest of you guys that she’s my wife. Almost.

And the thing is, I’m well aware that I did nothing in particular to deserve her. I’m still not real sure why, all those years ago, she brought that rubber ball to me, when it seems like there must have been lots of more desirable guys than me available to her. But I’m glad she did. I’ve often described how we knew each other pretty well before we ever got to the point of courtship. And that’s what’s most amazing of all to me – she’s told me many times how God told her, before I even proposed to her, “What you see is what you get with him.” She had a pretty good, sober assessment of my character. AND SHE STILL MARRIED ME! That blows me away, and I’m grateful for it every single day I’m married to her.

And even now, after 38 years, I’m still blown away. She knows me way better now than she did back then, and she still throws her life in with mine. For all the clear-eyed, sober appraisal of my character she had when we were courting, there are lots of things, not all of them good, that she’s only learned from living with me for 38 years. And she still stays married to me. Amazing!

“Somewhere in my wicked, miserable past, I must have done something good.”

Simply flat-out amazing. . .


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So, thank you, My Beloved, My Life-Mate, My Partner, My Closest Friend, The Mother of My Children, My Wife.  If the last 38 years have brought us to a place we never imagined, what will the coming years bring us?  As they say in Narnia, "Further Up and Further In!"