Monday, September 8, 2008

Babies Don't Keep

Well, here I am "retired," 20 years too late, and now that I could do whatever I want with no time schedule, I find there is nothing to do, yet still so much to do. If this were 20 years ago, my dreams would have come true. I would be a stay-at-home mom, I would be there for my two young sons, they would be the priority of my life as it should be, I would see their first steps, hear their first words, watch their first everythings. Instead, I missed it all, left it to the hands and hearts and eyes and ears of strangers. Not because I wanted to; not because I was out there climbing some insignificant corporate ladder; not because I was trying to keep up with the Joneses, but because I had to. My circumstances forced me to.

So now, here I am, semi-retired, no schedule, no deadlines, no walls, no bosses, but it's all too little, too late. Nevertheless, I'll log my days, my hours, my unevents; maybe I'll see a pattern, maybe something good will develop, even though nothing could ever take the place of, make up for, all the time I've missed and all the time my boys have missed with me. I'll never get over it, I'll never get it back, I'll never replace it, I'll never forgive it, myself, my circumstances.

Most people look forward to retirement. Perhaps they don't have regrets. Perhaps they feel as though they've done their part, they've earned it. Perhaps retirement means more when you can move to Boca Raton, take a cruise, buy a condo, fly to Paris, I don't know. I still have too much to figure out. Too many things I wish I'd done differently, too many years I wish I could rewind and relive.

There's a timeless poem that reminds us "babies don't keep." I heard it many years ago, and it's been the lament of my soul since my children were small. The mother in this poem is not worried about the appearance of her home, her undone dishes, her unmade bed, laundry half-done; she has more important tasks at hand. She knows that in an instant her children will be gone--her boys, men; her daughters, grown. Her job is eternal, and her tenure fleeting.

Oh, how my heart ached every day I had to go out to some office somewhere and leave my children behind. At night, I cried; not from the sheer exhaustion of it all, but because I had to do it over again the next day, drop my little boys off at some daycare center at what seemed like first light, not being able to pick them up again until dusk. It didn't seem fair.

They grew so fast. Now they are men, gone their separate ways, and the days I missed and the days they missed cannot be recovered. All the jobs I've ever had sooner or later went on without me, I never got richer, or more important, or more renowned, never got a bigger house, finer things, yet it's 20 years later and I'm left wondering where all the time went and what it was all for.

Because I had to work, I had no choice. I wonder.

Mother, oh Mother, come shake out your cloth
empty the dustpan, poison the moth,
hang out the washing and butter the bread,
sew on a button and make up a bed.
Where is the mother whose house is so shocking?
She's up in the nursery, blissfully rocking.

Oh, I've grown shiftless as Little Boy Blue
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).
Dishes are waiting and bills are past due
(pat-a-cake, darling, and peek, peekaboo).
The shopping's not done and there's nothing for stew
and out in the yard there's a hullabaloo
but I'm playing Kanga and this is my Roo.
Look! Aren't her eyes the most wonderful hue?
(lullaby, rockaby, lullaby loo).

The cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow,
for children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow.
So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust go to sleep.
I'm rocking my baby and babies don't keep.

by Ruth Hulburt Hamilton

Have a blessed day.

1 comment:

Junosmom said...

Dear Cousin,
I hear your pain, and am sorry for it. But have I ever told you how much I admire you? You, under difficult circumstances, kept going, found a way, stayed faithful even when it must have seemed that life was unfair, and kept your family together. Those little moments, they're important, (and you'd be surprised at how one forgets them in the overall memories) but not as important as your sons knowing that you did everything you could to support them, to be there for them, and that you loved them more than anything but God.

Now, you've entered a new phase. I've been reading an excellent book called Three Cups of Tea. In it, a woman is described who it said wore a pendant "I want to be thoroughly used up when I die". Right now, I'm still in the midst of guiding kids and daily grind - but I hope to use this as my motto. I hope to find ways to thoroughly use myself up to help others. Right now, I don't have the "luxury" of doing that. But I look forward to the day.

I pray for you cousin that you find your purpose, peace, and use yourself up. We have a way to go, you and I, until we are finished here. Don't drive your car forward while looking in the rear view mirror. We have work yet to do. Don't regret. You have done your job well, and will be rewarded.