My love is a little stronger
by GLENETTA SHUEY
As an old English teacher, I have many favorite stories, books, and poems and, of course, some favorite lines. One of the lines that I love is from Walt Whitman’s poem, “I Sing the Body Electric.” It is quite simple: “I have learned that to be with those I like is enough.” I would like to use poetic privilege here and change Whitman’s “like” to “love.”
Did I always know this to be true? Probably, on some level, yes. Why? My personal belief is that it is because I came from a very large family of eight children which meant close quarters at times and a great deal of time to get to know one’s siblings and learn to cherish them. There were no iPhones, iPads, or any such distractions or amusements back in the 1950s and 60s when I was growing up! After a discussion with my grandkids about this not long ago, my grandson, Chase, spouted, “How boring!” as he patted me on the head as though I were to be pitied. He walked away before I could think of a clever reply!
When my girls were growing up, I was a strict mom – or so my daughters claim. They had to do spelling and vocabulary tests during the summer and read books! Also, to further emphasize my harsh image, they were never allowed video games in our home. How dare I? As was my nature, I made it quite clear that I hoped they would be intelligent and friendly, but I mostly wanted them to be happy! I said it so often, obviously, after a time, they would finish the sentence for me (generally, with a roll of eyes to exhibit their annoyance).
Today, as moms themselves, they see the wisdom of my thinking. They hurt when their children’s feelings are bruised by some bully at school. I see the “mother lion” awaken when they speak of these incidences. I smile to myself, certainly not because I am uncaring about my grandkids’ feelings, but because my girls “get it” now. I have no doubt that they are teaching my grandkids to be kind and compassionate. The difficult part is letting them know that goodness will not always be reciprocated. It is a difficult life lesson.
I am fortunate that I live near my grandkids, and we often have very serious conversations. We laugh a lot too! A few weeks ago, we were discussing the idea of popularity at school. My 10-year-old, Audrey, stated bluntly: “Puh! I don’t care if people like me. I like me!” Abby admitted that she wished she could feel that way, and I told her that I knew what she meant. My grandson, Chase – who is eight years old and has mild/moderate Cerebral Palsy – is a special one, to say the least. His wit often gets him into trouble. And on this occasion, he spoke with such conviction when he said that everybody loved him! I had to laugh! My youngest grandson, Slade, only five, doesn’t really care. He is easy-going like his dad, and he considers the world his playground … literally!
Are they happy kids? I believe so. They have their issues but they manage well. For instance, Chase doesn’t see himself as disabled and would be offended if you even suggested he couldn’t do something. Abigail, my other 10-year-old granddaughter, has a juvenile form of Ankylosing Spondylitis. Pain comes and goes in her life, but, for the most part, she smiles in spite of it. Like Audrey, she is smart and happy and outspoken. I can’t imagine where she got that last trait!
I believe Walt Whitman was right, and the older I get the more I realize that being with my loved ones is truly what it is all about indeed. So, when my girls, my grandkids, and my loved ones are not with me, I say a passage to myself that I memorized years ago in college. This is one my girls are not familiar with – until now! I came upon it not long after my brother was killed in Viet Nam. I was reading an article about Marilyn Monroe and found out it was one of her favorite sayings; I have loved it to this day. I say it often to myself. It is from Genesis 31:49: “The Lord watch between me and thee when we are absent one from another.” Learning early on about loss prompted me to appreciate people more and love a little stronger.
Inevitably, I breathe a sigh of relief when my kids and grandkids return to me storming the house, raiding the fridge, and regaling me with stories of their day. They tell me about their favorite friends, best bands, new activities, and I just smile and take it all in, relishing every moment!
I like to think that my little prayer was heard. It is my naïve way of keeping things right in my world.
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