a husband

The most important thing in the world is family and love.
John Wooden


(my husband during the latest trip to the beach / Julie Cook / 2017)

A while back, shortly following Dad’s death, a blogging friend inquired about
my husband.
This friend had been patiently and graciously following my sad daily
tale of Dad’s battle with cancer.
This friend had also joined in prayer and was an ardent supporter offering words
of consolation and hope during my 24/7 ordeal of driving over daily those many months
to care for Dad as well as my stepmother.
He had wondered in all of this ordeal about my husband as he was pretty certain
I had, form time to time, mentioned having one…
so he was wondering if he had been supportive.

And it did seem as if I was “alone” a good bit of the time during my time of constant
care management but that’s what happens…not everyone can drop everything, when life
comes calling, as there has to be someone who remains behind holding down the fort.

I do have a husband.

I’ve written about my husband from time to time here in cookie land,
but he prefers that I don’t.
He doesn’t quite understand this “blob” of mine and why I do it and what it’s all about.
He is why I don’t “do” Facebook as he was adamantly opposed when that thing called
social media first hit the forefront of our now virtual reality.

He doesn’t have time for virtual reality because he is really too busy in the literal reality
of the daily grind of working and living….

So if you will indulge me a few words, I will share a little about the role my husband
played and continues to play as I think father’s day is a most appropriate day to do so….

We’ve been married just shy of 35 years.
My husband was a confirmed bachelor and is actually 10 years older than I am.
He was 33 when we married and I was a fresh out of college, naive young teacher of 23.
We have one child, a son who is now 28.
We also have two cats and a grand dog.

My husband, who at 67 is tired and would very much like to retire, but likes
to be able to pay the bills…
and we do like to eat.

Five years ago when things began to take a nose dive in the health and wellbeing with
my dad and stepmother, it was my husband who told me that with 31 years in under
my belt, he had decided I needed to “retire” so I could be more available to them there
in Atlanta.
He’d pick up the economic slack so I could go and do.

I felt badly because my husband had been working since he was 14 years old, having
lied to a local manufacturing plant about his age.
His father was a long time and long suffering alcoholic and my husband actually
had lived in 8 different homes before entering 3rd grade for theirs was a life of
physical pain, mental anguish and uncertainty.
I felt if anyone deserved to retire, it was him rather than me.

He took over his family’s jewelry business in 1976 and has been running a small town
business ever since.
Anyone who has ever worked retail or owned their own business can understand the
overwhelming anxiety and uncertainly that comes with such.
It has not always been easy…as the business has ebbed and flowed.

Add to that that it took our son a while to get through school.
He has lived with, as well as learned how to cope with,
a very difficult learning disability that made school at times an
insurmountable obstacle.

My husband worked, as I worked, but I was afforded the time of summers to help our son
by ferrying him to a regime of various tutors as we spent one entire summer
driving daily to Atlanta to a school for kids with dyslexia…
We could not afford the school on a year round basis…so we paid for what we could
and took advantage of each opportunity.

My husband always made certain that our son would have the tools necessary
to succeed even if that meant he was constantly working at the store in order
to make it so.

And that success was made a reality last summer the day our son graduated college.

My husband attended college…. albeit briefly.
His saving grace growing up was football and he actually earned an athletic scholarship
when he was a walk-on with the school’s football team.
He had wanted to be a coach or a dentist but his father demanded he
quit college after just two years because the family business needed him—
he sent my reluctant yet dutiful husband to jewelry school in New York.
The last thing he wanted to be was a jeweler tied down for a lifetime
in a family business.

My husband went to New York under a sense of obligation to a man who had
caused him so much pain,
but thought being a dutiful son was more important in the bigger scheme of life.

And even years later, having spent years alienated from not only his father but
the majority of his immediate family due to the utter collapse of dysfunction
run amuck in an alcoholic family, my husband found himself caring for his
ailing 92 year old widowed father…

We’d cook his meals, and once my husband got off work, we’d drive several evenings
throughout the week to the small town his father called home….
all until his father’s death a year ago.

That story is a long mess unto itself, but a mess that my husband took on all
on his own.
Simply doing what he deemed to be the right thing for a man who never opted to
do the right thing by a once vulnerable young boy turned now grown son.
Yet I think God always has a way of honoring such selflessness…as I keep reminding
my husband when he laments doing what he did as it has now proven to be problematic
with those who chose to remain in the quagmire of dysfunction.

For that is what my husband does…the right thing when others, including myself,
would readily say forget it…that’s not your worry, your problem…
that bed has been made, let them all just lie in it…

But the thing is… my husband sees that the right thing, the selfless thing, in
the long run, is just that…the right thing…
and he’s never been one to keep a record of wrongs…
deciding long ago that life is bigger than keeping or settling a score.

And so it was, as I spent the past several years running back and forth, tending
to my own father’s life and eventual death…
my husband was working 6 days a week, 14 hours a day,
keeping things at home a float so I could focus solely on my Dad…his father-n-law.
Not a perfect man either, but a man who had had a child and having eventually
grown old and sick, needed that child.

And so today, this day of all things fathers,
I am left remembering the men in my life who have each come and gone,
leaving both this world and me behind…
yet I am forever grateful to and for the one man who remains…by my side…

For despite his having wondered, as I’m certain he has done from time to time,
as to why he has indeed remained so steadfast by my side,
he’s simply doing what he deems to be the right thing no matter what…
and I’m certainly the better for this most thoughtful and dutiful man!
so…..
Happy Father’s Day

Two are better than one, because they have a good reward for their toil.
For if they fall, one will lift up his fellow. But woe to him who is
alone when he falls and has not another to lift him up!
Again, if two lie together, they keep warm, but how can one keep warm alone?

Ecclesiastes 4:9-11

a large collective sigh…..

“Listen to the mustn’ts, child.
Listen to the don’ts.
Listen to the shouldn’ts, the impossibles, the won’ts.
Listen to the never haves, then listen close to me…
Anything can happen, child.
Anything can be.”

Shel Silverstein

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(my giddy, degree holding, son)

Did you hear that?

That sound of exhaling?

That whooshing sound Saturday morning…
the sound of a large collective, slow released, heavy sigh?

The sound of years and years of the breath held by two parents, their son…
and now a young wife…
along with a myriad number of friends and family…

A sigh that has actually been held for….
A lifetime.

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See this young boy?
This picture was taken on a balmy Friday night in May of 2007.
It’s the image of young man who had just graduated high school…
standing on the edge of a well anticipated future…

Yet what he, in his delirium of conquering the one mountain failed to realize that carefree night,
was that he was not yet finished climbing…
For looming in the distance, just beyond the horizon of his youthful exuberance,
lay a mountain range far more challenging than what he had just conquered….

That exciting evening, so long ago, indeed marked a successful passing….
The passing of a 12 year long struggle…

Yet the magnitude of the struggle to which I speak is most likely lost on those who have never
experienced or lived through a child who has had to struggle academically.

And whereas I have written about this struggle before…
That of his particular struggle and of our particular struggle as a family…
The massive weight and enormity of it all came rushing back to the forefront of my heart and soul
this past Saturday morning while sitting in a crowded gym of a southern university.

From that fateful day his first grade teacher called me, a fellow educator, telling me she had a concern…a concern that something just wasn’t right…
to finally sitting in a college gym waiting for a commencement ceremony to begin…
our road has been painfully long and arduous.

From the hard diagnosis of a crippling learning disability…(most likely inherited…)
later compounded by a diagnosis of ADD…
It was double indemnity that was sadly to be our unfortunate lot.

There were many hurdles, impossible hurdles…
And there was testing..lots and lots of testing.

There were the years of refusal to take the medications that were promised to help make things easier…
to finally relenting…
Then only to live with the ill effects of those medications on ones body…
Eventually going back to life without medical help.

There were disappointments…
and failures,
and lapses,
and anger,
and frustration…

There were tears…
lots and lots of tears…
from both child and parents.

There were tutors, reading camps, repeated courses, more tutors…
There was working, studying, studying longer and harder then others
There was the staying after, long after others were gone…
There were sacrifices…

And…
There were a few rare triumphs…
The acceptance letters…
Along with the…
changing of schools…
The changing of majors…
The sitting out…
The waiting…
The continued waiting…
The nos,
The not yets,
The not nows…
The too bads…

Yet there were hopes and dreams.
Always hopes and dreams…
Hopes and dreams that would never fade or go away…

And there was a determination to realize those very hopes and dreams…
just like anyone else who has hopes and dreams…
anyone else who was “normal”….
because wasn’t that what so much of this was all about…
just wanting to be normal like everyone else…

Knowing that you were not stupid…that you were not slow or dumb…
as they would whisper behind your back…
Knowing all the while that you were smart and that you could learn…
that you could excel…
that you could be like everyone else…by God!!!
And by God it would be….

You wanted to prove that you were normal…
Normal like those who didn’t have to struggle, didn’t have to work so very hard…
You wanted to be like those who made the good grades, who didn’t have to expend the energies…
You wanted to be like those who just made school seem… easy…

However today is not that day…
It is not to be that day for the retelling of the very long and hard fought journey of ours…
It is not the day for rehashing and re-living the difficulties nor for the recounting of all the struggles…
And it is not a day to expound upon our seemingly misfortunate poor dumb luck…

No…

Today is not that day…

Rather…

Today is THE day to rejoice…
It is a day to soak it all in.
It is a day to exhale.
It is a day to smile.
It is a day for tears.
It is a day of HOPE.
It is a day of DREAMS.
And it is a day of Thanksgiving and Gratitude….

DSCN3836

The Lord has heard my plea;
the Lord accepts my prayer.

Psalm 6:9

The Journey

“Sometimes it’s the journey that is more important than the end result—“
quote by Julie Cook and countless others who have voiced a similar observation

“Be of good cheer. Do not think of today’s failures, but of the success that may come tomorrow. You have set yourselves a difficult task, but you will succeed if you persevere; and you will find a joy in overcoming obstacles. Remember, no effort that we make to attain something beautiful is ever lost.”
― Helen Keller

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(McKenzie Pass Lava flow Oregon / Julie Cook / 2012)

(I’ve written about our son before and of his struggles in school.
Today my thoughts are of him as well as with him on this particular Saturday and of a potentially life changing test.
Today I am transported back to a life, many years ago, and to what it has taken to get us all to this particular day. . .)

I have had, in the back of my mind, the intention of writing a certain post one day. . .a post in the not so distant future. . .a post that is to come most likely, hopefully, in a couple of months, a little later down the road. . .
. . .and yet. . .
It is today in which these thoughts seem to be percolating up to the surface and laying claim to both my thoughts and my heart.

One thing I’ve learned during the course of my life is that if you’re thinking and or feeling things–those internal nudgings, pushing’s and tiny alarms which sound deep in the recesses of heart and soul, it’s best not to put them off, not to push them aside until there seems to be sufficient “time” in which to address them—it is important, perhaps even dire, to address, examine, act and embrace such thoughts now, today. . .

Come December, our son will turn 26.
That in itself is difficult for my aging mind to comprehend.

He arrived in this world a week earlier than predicted—thankfully.
“They” had given me a due date of Christmas day. At the time the thought of having a baby born on Christmas was overwhelming for all sorts of reasons. I certainly didn’t want to be in a hospital on Christmas, I wanted to be home. My mom had passed away three years prior so I was a bit afraid of entering motherhood all on my own with little to no advice or direction. My husband owned a retail business. Christmas was his busiest time of the year. Would he even be able to enjoy the birth of his first born (and unbeknownst to us at the time, our only born). I certainly didn’t want our child’s birth to be overshadowed by business, nor by the madness known as the marketing of, by our consumer driven Society, of Christmas.

Our son was born with a slight case of jaundice which later was oddly attributed to being breast fed.
He also had a difficult time keeping any nourishment down without vomiting.
By 3 months he was admitted to Eggleston Children’s Hospital for extensive tests.
From the onslaught of constantly vomiting, he had developed internal bleeding and an ulcerated esophagus.
He was prescribed medication along with a specialized formula that was thickened with oatmeal in order to help “keep it all down”

His eating habits, to this day, are picky at best.
Other than those early struggles with nourishment and being on the low end of the growth chart, he appeared happy and relatively healthy.

By the time he was a year old, he had developed those growing life skills parents thankfully tick off on the long list of growing accomplishments.
He smiled.
He cooed.
He laughed.
He rolled over.
He sat up.
He cut teeth.
He uttered little words (“da da” was the first word—why that is, after all the work done by the mother, the first word is “da da” is beyond my soul, but I digress)
He crawled, fist on his belly, then up on all fours–
However those precarious teetering first steps to walking were yet to be seen.

We fretted when he didn’t walk until he was 15 months old.
Naturally we were concerned because all the other babies his age had been walking, many, for several months. Yet thankfully that skill eventually came to fruition much to our relief.

All seemed well.
He attended preschool seemingly happy to be with other children, as he was an only child.
He was sweet with a gentle spirit accented by a vivid imagination. I think children who have no siblings and do not live in a neighborhood alongside constant playmates tend to develop a wonderful sense of creativity and keen imagination.

It was’t until he entered kindergarten that a red flag was hoisted up the pole of a parent’s fear.
His teacher called us in for a meeting as she wanted to let us know that she had some concerns—
She had decided that there was one or two things going on. . .either our child was “gifted” as his vocabulary and verbal skills were off the charts— yet, he wasn’t reading, his writing was not on par with his peers nor was his ability to spell simple words— she therefore sensed something was a rye.
She recommended we have him tested.

We took our son to a child psychologist for a battery of tests. Time will not permit me to elaborate on the worries which clouded our world during this time. The short of this long story is that he was diagnosed with a learning disability in written expression, a slight case of dyslexia coupled by ADD with the area of contention being an inability to stay “focused”. Plus his fine motor skills were slightly impaired.

As the psychologist explained, she did not think our son would ever be able to participate successfully in team sports due to the trouble with his fine motor skills, my husband had tears streaming down his cheeks–not because he was disappointed that his only son would most likely not ever follow in the steps of his own athletic prowess, but rather that he felt his son would perhaps miss out on so much of what it means to be a part of something bigger than himself, that of a team working toward a unified and single goal.

Yet it was for our own small team, our small family of three, to work toward the goal of getting him reading plus finding a place of success in school.

I racked my brain over what I had or had not done when I was pregnant. What had I perhaps done inadvertently to our child? Lots of unfounded guilt coupled with lots of worry for an unknown future engulfed us for many years.

The struggle and climb were both long and arduous.
There was the summer spent driving back and forth daily to a special school in Atlanta that worked specially with kids who had dyslexia and learning disabilities.
There were the countless tutors, the endless meetings with teachers, the tears, the frustrations, the long nights working for tiny and minuscule gains, the isolation of working day after day, night after night, alone all under the worried and weary eyes of a mom and dad.

Our son had to pour all energies into his studies, there was little time for anything but school. No fun after school with friends, no time for sports, no time for leisure. . .there wasn’t much time for the building of close bonds and friendships.
He grew tired, overwhelmed, frustrated and burned out.
We too grew weary and frustrated, yet we continued working and pushing–often moving 2 steps forward and 5 steps back.
This all before entering high school.
Exhausting.

Yet he continued to have goals.
He had dreams.
He had aspirations.
Those things, thankfully, never waned.

Even though I was an educator who was realistic, I was also a parent who was determined that he should be given every opportunity, just like everyone else who dreams of a successful future, of being afforded the things necessary to make him successful.
Success to us was simply to pass.
We rejoiced over C’s.
We cried.
We often felt defeated.
We got angry.
We worried.
We made ourselves sick.
We grew tired.

In 2007 our son graduated high school.
That was a wonderful day.
He didn’t wear cords or medals around his neck.
He didn’t have stoles draped over his shoulders.
He wasn’t highly ranked nor did his name bear any honors.
Yet he was standing on a stage, receiving a piece of paper many thought he’d never hold.

College, which was indeed in his plans, would not be easy.
Nor has it been.
He is in his final semester–we hope.
Others his age have long since graduated, some with multiple degrees.
They are working, making their way in their careers and life.
Our son is weary.
He has felt discouraged.
He has suffered multiple setbacks.
At times he’s been his own worst enemy.
He is stubborn.
He is hard headed.
Sometimes I think unrealistic.

However I am not the one who has been told time and time again that I couldn’t do something I’ve always dreamed of doing. There is a certain determination in constantly being told “no” or “never”. . .
Our son, thankfully, has always possessed certain inner strengths which have worked to compensate and offset the heavy deficiencies.

Today, after several miscues, he finally took a long anticipated test.
He took the LSAT.
That in-depth lengthy test those aspiring to attend Law School must first successfully pass before moving forward.
There’s a lot riding on the results of this test.
He’s been in school for the majority of his life.
It has taken a grave toll on him physically.
We want / need for him to work toward financial independence.
His well being wants him to be finally independent.
His new wife worries.
The future is still uncertain.

And yet, the mere fact that my child has actually arrived at this very day, the day of simply taking a test, is monumental.
I know he will be most anxious over the results.
I, on the other hand, have no angst over results.
It is quite to the contrary— I have an odd sense of peaceful satisfaction.
There was a time when colleagues and friends thought we were unrealistic in our aspirations for our son. There was a time when we all wondered if we had not bitten off more than we or he could chew.
I’m sure we will still have those days.
But for today, I may exhale.
I think he may actually exhale.

So whether or not he does or does not eventually attend Law School. . .
Whether or not he clears this latest hurdle or stumbles. . .
Whether or not he puts this goal aside and works toward a different goal, a Plan B goal. . .
It is, to this one mom, the mere fact that her child has actually made it to this day—this actual day which has witnessed his carrying a single admittance ticket through a door, to finding his place once again at yet one more classroom desk, to the taking of one more test in the long list of tests, all taken during the course of a long hard fought career spent in school–it is to this day, a day of an amazing accomplishment, that I can finally see a glimmer of peace.

It is therefore my heartfelt belief that it is not so much the end of a journey which matters in this thing we call life but rather it is the path along the long and arduous journey which matters most. There will always be the bumps and curves, the mountains and cliffs which we will happen upon during the course of the journey which will work in tandem for and against us, all helping to form the “real” person which resides within each of us–as we are all tried by the fires and furnace of life.
My son is testament to such a journey.

“Success is not to be measured by the position someone has reached in life, but the obstacles he has overcome while trying to succeed.”
― Booker T. Washington

Climbing the mountains of our lives

“Climb if you will, but remember that courage and strength are nought without prudence, and that a momentary negligence may destroy the happiness of a lifetime. Do nothing in haste; look well to each step; and from the beginning think what may be the end.”
― Edward Whymper

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(view of cascade mountains as seen from the rim trail of Crater Lake, Oregon / Julie Cook / 2013)

I had a different post already for today. However last night around midnight it dawned on me that I needed to do something a bit differently. Today our son was to be taking the LSAT. It is the test those students take who wish to pursue a career in Law. It is the admittance requirement to any Law School— a more grown up version of the SAT, just more specific to Law.

It is with a prayerful heart that my thoughts are directed to my son this morning. There is a post waiting to be written about our son, but it simply is not quite the right time. There are, however, many a teacher and or friend who never would or could have imagined that he would ever be here, this day, poised to take this test.

The sad matter here is that he was ready.
And then there was the glitch.

He was diagnosed with a rather profound learning disability in the 1st grade. He did not learn to read until the 3rd grade, after attending a specific school an hour and a half drive from home each day during one long summer when other little boys were out playing ball and swimming. He has battled learning to live with the learning disability, as well as dyslexia and ADD. There are those who never thought he’d finish high school, which he did successfully. Nor those who thought he would get into a college, let alone that he should even try to attend college. But he did.

It has not been easy—on any of us. There was a time in his youthful arrogance that he did not “get” how much he really would need to spend of himself to reach his goals and dreams. Eventually it became quite clear. He rolled up his sleeves, and proceeded to climb the mountain. He is an avid backpacker so the analogy of climbing a mountain is most appropriate for him and this journey.

Upon entering the testing facility this morning to take the test, he was told that his drivers license was considered a passport which would not suffice as a photo ID, that he was to have had an additional photo taped the a piece of paper. ARE YOU KIDDING?! The young lady ahead of him in line had the additional photo but it was not tapped to a piece of paper, they also refused her admittance.

To have spent over a year studying and preparing, only to be refused admittance because he had what he read to be the required photo ID, as we all read the requirements— the language of the instruction stated that if a passport ID was used, an additional photo was required. When did a drivers license become a passport? I am incensed. . .

He is not at the summit obviously just yet, there is a semester and a mini-mester yet to conquer until the long fraught climb of school is partially over. Then there will be another looming mountain beyond the first, more arduous than before. And who is to say that through all of this God may simply have a different plan. But for now, for this day, the climb of the important test of a dream as come to a halt.

I ask for prayers for him, his fiancee, as well as mom and dad. . . I ask for prayers of peace, calm, knowledge–those things that are needed in order to conquer the obstacle of this particular mountain. The ability to accept the current outcome with peace, yet the continued perseverance. Whatever the journey is to be. . .be it the continued pursuit of this mountain or that of a new and different mountain, to make a home on a different peak or not. Either way your prayerful support is most gratefully and humbly welcomed.

Know that wisdom is such to your soul; if you find it, there will be a future, and your hope will not be cut off.
Proverbs 24:14