Tuesday, October 28, 2008

When I Turned Twenty-One

Reflecting on Ben's birthday yesterday, where he has decided the world is a mean place, and only your close friends and family make over your birthday...

And wanting to remember that in all the times I hug Ben hello or goodbye, he usually just humors me, but yesterday, seemed to actually hug back a little...

And whereas I have always wanted to use the word, whereas, in a sentence...

Hence, behold, thusly, too...

I remember my 21st birthday. I was still living at home waiting for my Prince to come. I worked for an orthodontist. And I must say, that I did a lot of growing up at his office. I was a late bloomer. Reluctant to learn to drive, as I knew I'd never drive good enough for my Dad. But, it was a good time in my life. I dated some, and mostly attended church every night. Church was more like a nightly college Bible Class where the pastor took apart a verse word by word, explaining the parts of speech, and teaching us a daily love of the Word, and the necessity of feeding spiritually even as we need to feed physically. Church was also our social life. We sat by the same people night after night. Visited, went out for coffee, and even invited folks over after for more visiting. My folks were very social, and my Dad liked to stir things up, as he was easily bored.

My birthday falls next door to the 4th of July. And as a little girl, my birthday was linked to fireworks just for me. My Grandpa would haul me to the stadium in the huge college town near his farm, and we would enjoy the fireworks. But, at 21, we were living in Houston, and my folks did a sorta coming out party for me. They printed up little invitations on their copy machines (the year of the copy machine business) and the 4th of July also meant a special conference at the church which meant Bible Study twice a day, and finger foods during the breaks, and a salute to the military. The pastor was a retired Colonel, WW2 era, and instilled in us a love of country, patriotism, and a desire to support those in uniform. I learned more about our country, its history and heritage, in Bible Class than I ever learned in high school.

My birthday party fell during that 4th of July Bible Conference, so I got to pick out my favorite foods, and picked up these two feet long subway sandwiches from Andre's, and cut them in half, and I think about thirty or forty people came over between Bible Classes and ate with us. (this may have been my 20th birthday party, as I get the 20 and 21 mixed up) There was no alcohol. My siblings were all younger, hence, we needed to set a good example. And alcohol was never plentiful or even an issue in my home ever since my Dad's conversion when I was ten years old. Dad threw out the keg of beer in the frig way back then.

Anyway, I remember a good time had by all. Good friends of all ages attended, and may have wondered at the strange sandwiches, but hey, on your birthday, you get to be selfish and pick your favorite food. I did not meet my future husband until later that same year, and on my 22nd birthday, I was happily married, and living in Savannah, Georgia as the wife of a 1LT. So, little did I know, but my 21st birthday was my last one with my parents and siblings. And once I got married and moved away, my sister flew the coup shortly after getting her own apartment, and my brothers would put my folks through a few years of hell as they experimented with alcohol causing my mom to exclaim that if they had had the boys first, they would have stopped and never had us girls. I put my parents through a few sleepless nights, being hard headed, but they just don't remember. But, I was the first to leave the nest, and my parents, being young when they had me, were only 42 and 43 years of age when I got married. They were still young and energetic when blessed with that first grandchild three years later. And a big help to me when our boys were small. And our boys were so cute and adorable that my sister got married and had a few, and then my brothers found wonderful wives and had little blonde children, too.

Sometimes, my youngest son, Ben reminds me of my youngest brother, Jay. He gets tired of hearing about it. But, sometimes it is startling to me. On the phone, his voice reminds me of my brother, and his mannerisms---quiet, intense, and occassionally wild and loud and bigger than life. And that gives me hope, that my wild child will be okay. Hopefully, he will find a life's work...but, as the "experts" warned us, Ben may flit from job to job as things interest him. And being a hard worker, it will be okay. He may not choose the path his father did, working for the same company for almost 30 years. Bob has had and held different jobs inside that same company, but I can't see Ben doing something like that.

There is still this fight, this push-pull of interpreting history with Ben. He says we sheltered him. As if that was a bad thing? Bob smacks an "S" on the word, "MOTHERING" whenever I dare play it on the Scrabble board. I was preaching, lecturing Ben last night about how we'd rather he go to college, and then be too busy studying at night to bar hop. And then get married, and be so busy enjoying married life, and all that is involved in pleasing a wife, and kids, and the challenges of that lifestyle, that he does not need to be out at 3am on an Alpine street looking for something to do. At least he was polite to the policeman. And Bob says we need to send that man a thank you note. I only received two tickets in my life. One for not walking my bike across the street in Monticello, Illinois, my freshman year of high school. (I came home crying, and my sister laughed, but she got one the next day!) And once, when Andy was a little guy, I'll never forget his big-as-saucer eyes and questions and excitement telling Dad about the policeman that stopped us and gave me a ticket.

So, I was full of questions when we got this letter from the Justice of the Peace in Alpine, Texas. I thought Justices of the Peace just married people. I did not think Ben had a new wife somewhere. How exactly does one receive a ticket for walking across the street at 3am in the morning in Alpine, Texas??? At least he was not driving?? At least he did not murder someone driving drunk?? I should be so grateful? I failed somewhere as a mother, and I let him know. And writing a letter to God, my Heavenly Father sure helped.

I am so naive. I am so slow to notice stuff. This new stage of parenting adult children means we are here when/if they need us. And we will always be their parents, and we will take care of them if something bad happens and they are disabled or sick and dying, but we are not needed today, and I hope we have raised independent gentlemen. And from a distance, I do notice some things about Ben that I had not before---for example, he gets excited about a new job, works hard, then gets frustrated when he perceives they are not doing things "right", and then falls into a cynical, don't care attitude, where nothing matters. Working with him or living with him day to day is like riding a roller coaster. And when he concentrates on something or tries to figure something out, or when his mind is busy planning---he gets that distracted, faraway look. He has these bursts of creativity. I need to keep praying for his future wife, as she will need to be a special lady that can roll with the ups and downs, and who can live with the loud, and maybe even channel the creativity, and realize Ben gets bored with a job and needs to move on. I just hope and pray he sticks with the wife, and no matter what, give any future children the stability of an intact marriage and home so that they can thrive and grow. Only that spiritual connection of putting God first would save any union. And while God designed marriage and family---we all have to look to Him for the power, energy, humility and love to not irritate the crap out of each other. Just my opinion.

Time to vacuum. Thanks for listening to an old lady rattle on.

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