Michele Minehart

words & yoga

Category: memories (page 1 of 2)

Love in absence

September 11, 2001: Chances are, you remember where you were, who you were with and the feelings that arose that morning. If you’re from Upper Sandusky, there’s a good chance you can also zero in on October 11, 2001 and where you were that evening. Whose house you visited, the person you called, and how you processed. You recall the first time you spoke to Carol in the following weeks, lacking words but with a heart yearning to express the grief. If you’re from Upper Sandusky, you can probably recall your thoughts on the lack of Homecoming that year or the wait at the funeral home.

A group of students from the church gathered in the chapel and when Colleen locked the doors the floor was covered in tissues. Friends of the family arrived the next evening and found Carol washing dishes, the only thing that made sense at the time. At the funeral service, JJ stood stoically in support of Sarah as she spoke.

I know these stories so closely because they’ve become a part of me. They’re a part of my genome so much that you might surmise I was actually there.  Maybe in your mind, you replace the girl who rode in the limo with JJ from the funeral to the cemetery with my face. I often do. I wish it was my hand he held. I pretend I gave Jim and Carol hugs or coffee or Lambrusco in those awful days.

But I didn’t.

Truth be told, I was a junior at OU. I was likely getting ready for the annual Fall Retreat, my biggest challenge of the day being who I would ride with on Friday. I was probably at a Bible study that night, talking about “real” things like the inerrency of scripture. Honestly, I have no clue what I was doing on the day that would change my all my future Octobers.

Is it fair to say you miss someone you never met? To hear these precious stories and long to know the the person behind the pictures? It’s complete bull that I have never heard that laugh or the way she would shriek when JJ would pick on her.

If I’m honest – and perhaps a tad selfish- I’ll tell you: I feel completely cheated. Jipped. Shortchanged. I’ve never had the joy of Christina in my life, only the sorrow of her absence.

So today I’m missing something I never knew I had. After 14 years, the latter 12 of which I have been present, I grieve the hole in my family life, the place where she belongs but does not sit.

Love is like that. Perhaps this is when we know our love has reached a depth indescribable by words alone. You take on the story of those you love and make it your own. You allow your love to grow in the absence when the presence isn’t available.


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Close Proximity Grand-parenting

I have specific memories of summertime afternoons, when I suddenly and randomly decided I wanted to go stay with my Grandma Mary. I would use the FM radio in our office, connected to our farm equipment and my grandparents’ house (so to save on long distance phone calls, such is the Wingfield Way) to ask Grandma if she had bridge club the next day and, if not, could I come stay the night? The response rate to which she said, “yes! come! We’ll go to the store and buy breakfast food!” was over 90%.
So I, and usually my sister (my folks WON), would climb in the the dark blue Oldsmobile with my grandpa Bill, arguing over who would “ride on the hump” and listen to The Oldsmobile Song and Time After Time on repeat, tape-deck style, all the way to the lake. Grandma would make Angie’s favorite dinner – mac ‘n cheese out of the box, but only the IGA brand, not Kraft – and we’d play a few rounds of Skip Bo or Hands & Feet before bed. She would tuck us in, telling us stories of her own childhood, treasures I’ve tucked into my heart.
After a day or so spent swimming, painting toenails, and creating plays with the dress up clothes she kept on hand, we would stuff our bags full of dirty clothes and ride back home with Grandpa when he put in another day at our home office.
Rinse and repeat, several times over the course of a summer.
All 4 of my grandparents were a consistent presence in my childhood. They picked me up from school when I was sick; they came to our softball games and rode along for back-to-school shopping and attended kindergarten “graduation.”
For a bulk of my own children’s time on earth – specifically the last 4 years – grandparenting looked different. Thanks to distance, grandparenting became much more of an event for our parents. We would schedule weekends. We would meet for dinner halfway, at a restaurant where children would climb all over our parents while we attempted conversation, and everyone leaving exhausted. Because their time together was limited, my children sought grandparental attention in the ways they knew most effective: annoyance and physical brutality. They were like addicts, not knowing when their next hit of grandparent spoiling would be available and let nothing – the least of these, listening to mom and dad – stand in the way.
Long-distance family-ing was tough for everyone in our situation. The small doses of time we craved help were not possible and nonsensical for our parents to pitch in. And the small doses of time they craved with their grandchildren for a project or a swim weren’t possible without grand overtures of car rides.
While we’ve only been in our new home for a few weeks (and one of those we weren’t even here), one of the biggest gifts has been the change of grandparenting we see in our own parents. No longer does it require maneuverability in order to get kid/grandparent time. Plans can change without ruining itineraries. Individual children have spent time at grandma and grandpa’s, each enjoying the coveted Center of Attention space for which they’ve yearned for years.
Much like the rest of life, these relationships thrive in small doses. Those last minute ride-alongs, the “I’m not cooking tonight, want to join?” evenings. I’ve mentioned our memories aren’t of grandiosity, but in the small details.
So, of course, JJ and I are thrilled with the extra hands around us now. Of course we appreciate dinners together. Of course I’ve already asked my MIL about 17 thousand times if she could keep the kids “just for an hour.” If you think I’m going to try to be a hero about this, you’re crazy. I’ve had 4 years of solos and duets – I’m ready for a choral performance.
But more than the ease of going to get my haircut, my joy comes in knowing my kids now get the kind of grandparenting I grew up loving. When Carol asks if Henry can stay the night, he jumps in his jammies, I say, “see you in the morning!” and my heart leaps. When Jim says, “I’ll just drop him off on my way to…” I take in a deep breath of gratitude.
Many of my people live the long-distance grandparenting experience, and it is what it is. They have found ways to do it well and with meaning. I’m not saying that our current method of grandparenting is the Ultimate in All Things. It’s not even a reason to move home. But it was the way in which I was raised, and I love being able to give that to my children as well. The fact that I’m sitting in that very lake house, writing and remembering the best place to Hide the Thimble makes my heart warm.
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Arm Wrestling Fear & Making Memories (A Re-Do)

Much love and conversation gathered around yesterday’s post on making memories, not money. Thanks. And while I believe my words to be true, I’m also wrestling with another feeling. I would compare it to a doctor who diagnosed you with pneumonia and even said it might be life threatening and sent you home with instructions but withheld the fact that the pneumonia would be much easier to beat if your body wasn’t dealing with AIDS.*

You see, pointing to consumerism was my easy way out. When I sat down to write, to shake out those thoughts and feelings, I held up the first shiny thing for all to see. I didn’t dig deep enough. When I finally did, the gem required a bit of polishing. My goal in this space is primarily to give honest writing. Yesterday wasn’t untruthful; it simply wasn’t the whole story.

So what is sitting wrong with me when it comes to contemporary memory making? If you’re a modern parent, it has to do with our hands. Take a look at them. Notice the knuckles. For most of us, they’re a tad white. On the other side, we might even find metaphorical blisters from hanging on too tight.

Did you catch that in Inside Out? When we dip into the mind of the adult characters, who was in charge? Who shined most brightly? Which feeling did the others turn to when things got crazy? Anger. Fear. Even Disgust was as large as Joy. I don’t think Pixar was being mean, I think they were being honest.

Being a parent is a hard gig. We love so much. When it comes to raising little humans, so there is so much room for fear. Sometimes, rightful fear. We should fear toddlers alone by the water. And by the road. And in the car. (Clearly, toddlers anywhere is a justifiable cause for fear.) Yet I say, it’s not fear itself that is the problem – it’s what we do with the fear.

When Pixar invites me to write the sequel – in which Riley goes into puberty and a new emotion, Humiliation, shows up – I would portray the parents trying to entertain Fear by having him arm wrestle with Sense of Control. Sense of Control cannot actually touch the motherboard. She just occupies time and energy with all the other emotions by challenging them to arm wrestling competitions.

It happens from the moment we find out that a little peanut is growing inside of us – we arm wrestle with fear by avoiding a turkey sandwich. When the little one arrives and we have to drive him home from the hospital and we want to put a laser force field around the car to warn everyone on I-270 to stay the F*&^ away, my brand new baby is in here! so we pacify ourselves with the fact that we did our research on the safest car seats possible and we bought the one with the highest ratings, the most expensive model, but our “baby’s safety is worth it.”

Or we get stuck in the Food Vortex. We simply want our children to grow up healthy and give them long lives without fibromyalgia. This is a good and noble cause. I will support you in avoiding the HFCS and GMOs and anything else we cannot pronounce. But can we call a spade a spade? We’re not just “giving our children a healthy start” – we’re arm wrestling fear.

So now that I’ve told you about the life-altering disease, let’s get back to the current state of pneumonia and how our generation sets out to Make Memories. We venture out and pay the $74.95 because we fear we’re not living a good enough life. We want to Make All the Memories because we want to send our children away with something – anything! – that will bring happiness later on. That same sense of happiness we were given. But our mothers forgot to write down how they did it and because there were no blogs in 1982 we’re stuck reading all the car seat reviews on our own. (This, and the fact that they didn’t use car seats.)

I’m going to hypothesize here and reserve the right to edit it later. Our parents were clueless about the dangers of the world and parenting in general. Thus, the lack of car seats. And setting us up for an addiction to Kraft Macaroni & Cheese. But in their obliviousness, they were free from the fear of doing it wrong. They were free to worry less about giving their children All of the Memories and instead focused on things like having a good life, being a good friend and staying in love. At least, it seems that’s what happened with my parents. And grandparents. And for that matter, most of the adults in my life while I was growing up.

When I scan through my list of memories from yesterday – and the ones pointed out by others later – my grandparents didn’t sit down and play endless rounds of Skip-Bo because they wanted to give me a happy childhood. They loved playing the game. They did things they loved and invited us along with them.

In the end, we cannot manufacture happy memories for our children. We simply can’t. We could wake up every day with the intention of Going and Making a Memory (instead of buying one) but ultimately it’s up to some unknown brain cell god if the magical moment we’ve tried to conjure will actually lock down into long term.

The one thing we can do is give our children joy-driven parents. We are the only ones who can do that for my kids. I will never be able to create a Magical Childhood. But with fear silenced, I can be free to realize I don’t have to. This world is magical enough without me at the helm. There’s a Creator who’s much better at that job.

My job is to live a good life and invite my children to sit beside me. My job is to love JJ so much and so obviously that my kids want to someday get married. My job is to be a devoted sister and sister-in-law so that my kids will want to have those kinds of siblings (and, hopefully when full cognition is a go, be those kinds of siblings). My job is to be the kind of daughter that will inspire my kids to live in close relationship with their parents. My job is to be the kind of employee and employer that will make my kids believe that work is a privilege and a joy, not a punishment. My job is to be the kind of student of life that will encourage my kids to follow the curiosity and ask the questions that spurs creativity. My job is to live in awe of God so my children want to live lives that include Him.

In short, I don’t need to create a magical world, one that shields my children from the horrors of this world. I don’t need to Make Memories to block out the bad stuff.  I simply need to point out the beauty of the things right beside them, the things we all believe make living this life so worth it.

We don’t need to make memories and we don’t need to fear a life that isn’t good enough because life is beautiful and memorable on its own if you see it for what it is.

So, may you – may we – silence fear. May we stop “making” memories and instead enjoy the beauty that life already has to offer.



*In the world of bad simile, cancer gets the headlines. But too many people I love already hate cancer. I’m an equal-opportunity writer when it comes to using shitty diseases. If anyone out there keeps a running list of ailments that slowly destroys your body, feel free to share and I’ll add to my list.

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