I love our small town. Tonight I rode my red bike with the huge handlebars and the big wheels and the comfy seat to the Y. As I rode home after working out and eating out, dark was settling in and I felt the wind hit my face. It beckoned fall but whispered, "not yet."
I love that here in small town Illinois we have a Homecoming Parade, a Christmas Parade, a FireTruck Parade and any other kind of parade when a celebration is in order. I love that we have town wide rummage sales and that the girl who makes your subway sandwiches is also your friend. I love that we have family restaurants and that I am not the only one riding a bike through town at dusk.
This is the place that I call home and I am so grateful. In this small town we have received so much love and an incredible amount of support.
There has also been some hurt thrown into the mix. But such is life I suppose and why would a childhood disease take that away? Why would something so devastating stop the cruelty of people-even good people? I will never understand it but what I do know is that I am thankful for the people who daily surround and love us. The rest of it is for the birds.
Speaking of the people around us, they are pretty amazing.
Friends that were woven into our lives long ago are so valiant for us.
I see that they know the kind of hurt that is coming and even still, they don't withhold themselves from our lives. They step up, step in and love us deeply. They seem determined to show us that they are in it for the long haul. They love my girl and they love me so much that it physically hurts them. They don't have to say it; I see it. And I know. And I feel sad for that sometimes...but please don't stop coming because of the hurt. Please wrap yourselves around us tightly and do not run away, afraid. I'm afraid too. Just let's ride this out together...
We so need your love and smiles. We so need your laughter and sarcasm. Each of you is a vital part to our daily survival and NONE of you goes unnoticed or unappreciated.
I can see the circle of friends that God has built up around me. Like a strong wall that is unbreakable, they try to shield me from pain and heartache. They see that they probably can't and yet the bind together and stand tall and strong anyway. They each manifest in a different way and fill a different need in me. Each of them is essential to my healing, sanity and life. This circle of friends is remarkable. It's a gift that I was given without knowing why...
...and yet I finally feel like I know.
I see them step in and take care of these redheads when I can't. They wipe boo-boo's, snotty noses and sometimes poopy butts. They get library cards, take them to movies, and jump in mucky lake water with them. I used to do all of those things and withhold something great from the people in my life. I was robbing them of precious time with these sweet children. And now, because of Mabel and all of her care, I have learned to let go and accept their help and ultimately their love. I see now that my children are going to walk away with a piece of each of them which excites me.
I have learned to let them love these kids like I do. And you may think that no one can love your children like you can...because I used to think that way. But now, now I disagree with that completely.
Because these women and men, these amazing aunties and uncles that do not share the blood of my kids-they love them. Oh how do they love them.
I see the people around us sacrificing their own chores and their own duties to help us fulfill ours. They sweep in, sometimes secretly checking on me and sometimes because they know this is the place to be. But either way, they show up...usually with Dr. Pepper in hand.
They show up and they rescue me from my thoughts and my reality.
Some days it feels like they came just in the nick of time.
You don't know what it does to me when I walk in the room and one of them is holding my girl without being asked or prompted to do so. They have learned to disregard her g-tube and her twitches. They have learned to listen for the sound of possible vomit and ignore the grinding of her teeth. They flip her and flop her over their shoulders and forearms until they can't anymore and they do so because they deeply love her and they deeply love me.
Have you ever been humbled in such a way?
They speak to her with high tones and give just the right inflection of their voice at the right time in order to spark her smile. They know her head shake does not mean, "no," and they giggle when she swings her leg up onto her own shoulder.
They answer me with certainty when I ask them a direct and difficult question. They hug me spontaneously and let me say things that are highly inappropriate. They haven't left and they keep coming back. They feed me when I can't feed myself and they offer to sleep with me when I'm alone. They are here. They are here. They are always here.
I was always told that friendship was unique and that I would only have a handful of true friends in my life. I believed that for a long time and to an extent I still agree. However, I must say that this team of people around me that I consider my friends is expanding each day.
It's a circle full of quirky, unique, strong, brave, independent, aggressive, passionate and very individual personalities. But what is so beautiful about it all is that none of them dislikes another. They meet in my living room and come together out of love for me. They find things to talk about or bond over in the comfort of a home where differences are accepted and enhanced. They each support me and one another and I have never been more in awe of the beautiful links that are made stronger every day because of each of us.
Nobody wants anything in return. Nobody asks for anything to be different.
We all just chip in when we can, surround ourselves with things that make us happy and people that care about us and do what we know to be right...which is love one another.
I think there is something to be said for a group of people who can rally around a family who is enduring so much and still allow them to feel normal. I think there is something to be said for people who give of themselves day in and day out to make us feel accepted and capable and encouraged. There is something to be said for the people who really do genuinely love your children the way that they should be loved, in such a way that they are not lacking but rather thriving.
I truly feel like we have done something right in this life. We must have because how else did we get so lucky? I pray every day that if nothing else I will at least be able to teach these children to love people well. If they just do that, they will be loved well in return...
...and there is no greater feeling.
I hope you ALL know who you are. I hope you ALL know the role that you play in our lives.
You are picking up the pieces where I am falling short and although I can never repay you-I pray this simple, "thank you" is enough.
I am humbled and yet sincerely honored to say that I now KNOW it takes a village to get this job done and I have come to the place where I wouldn't want it any other way.
Although there are moments when the loneliness is overwhelming, they are quickly replaced with the reality that I will never truly be alone in this.
To my village--
I love you.