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Dream Song #70

July 22, 2015

IMG_3119Big events are in the offing. Ron and I are going off to the beach for a long weekend with another couple and we didn’t invite the kids. This is the first time we’ve gone on a pleasure trip without them. Part of it is that Walker has chess and we’re still taking turns staying home to play with and take care of the kitten, Pippin. So Eleanor will have a last bonding experience with him. I have Pippin scheduled for his last vaccination on Aug. 12, rabies. He has to weigh five pounds before he can get that one, and he can’t run around outside like our other two cats until he has it. I also don’t want him to run around outside much before he’s neutered, but we’re going to have to schedule that after I come back from Tucson, and I suspect that as soon as he reaches five pounds, he’s going to be able to push open the cat door. Eleanor and I start our road trip on Aug. 13 and I’ll be flying back sometime the next week, before Kenyon classes begin on Aug. 27.

IMG_3115Finding my balance with two adult children at home has been interesting this summer. I think we’ve done okay at trying to be spontaneous, especially with planning and fixing meals. We’ve not done as many of the summer things we usually look forward to, like cookouts and trips to the lake, because the weather has been too cool and rainy and we haven’t wanted to entertain on the deck too much in the damp, mosquito-y shade with the kitten left lonely inside the house or on his leash and halter (yes, he puts up with it to get to go out). We’ve all had fun playing with Pippin and occasionally (during those rare moments when he’s calm) petting him. I was reading (in one of the books about cats I had out from the library) that we don’t often think about the fact that we’re not breeding many of our pet cats for desirable traits like being cuddly. Instead, by neutering and spaying our pets, we’re developing new generations of cats from feral toms and stray females, cats who are fierce and clever enough to survive on their own. Pippin certainly demonstrates that. This does not mean that we’re not getting him neutered as soon as we can find a day to stay home with him while he recovers. He’ll be six months old, the recommended age, at the end of September.IMG_3121

On the eve of our long weekend at the beach, which is itself on the eve of our 33rd wedding anniversary, I am rattling around the house trying to work through some of the stacks of books and papers so I can make more organized stacks for fall, and thinking about John Berryman’s Dream Songs, particularly #70:

Disengaged, bloody, Henry rose from the shell
where in their racing start his seat got wedged
under his knifing knees,
he did it on the runners, feathering,
being bow, catching no crab. The ridges were sore
& tore chamois. It was not done with ease.

So, Henry was a hero, malgre lui,
That day, for blunder; until & after the coach
Said this & which to him.
That happy day, whenas the pregnant back
of Number Two returned, and he’d no choice
but to make for it room.

Therefore he rowed rowed rowed. They did not win.
Forever in the winning & losing since
of his own crew, or rather
in the weird regattas of this afterworld,
cheer for the foe. He set himself to time
the blue father.

The summer seems like it is racing away from me already, and planning a 3 or 4 day trip across the country seems so perilous, all that highway driving with chances of accidents or falling asleep or actually getting to our destination and having to say goodbye to my oldest child without any definite plan about the next time she’s coming home. College has breaks. Life…not so much.

Have you had a child leave home? How do you manage to “cheer for the foe” of her burgeoning independence while feeling she’s “in the weird regattas of this afterworld,” racing competently away from you?

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14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 22, 2015 9:05 am

    My kids are gone from home for most of the summer. I have no idea how to cheer for anything. I’m ready for them to be back. I’m all for independence but it’s not time for them to leave for good yet.

    • July 22, 2015 10:49 am

      No, yours are so much younger. You have a few more years with them.

  2. July 22, 2015 9:40 am

    The inherent heartbreak of parenting is that your children are supposed to race competently away from you. If we’re lucky, our children learn to feed themselves, walk, take themselves to the bathroom when they need to go, have thoughts that aren’t just fed to them by their parents (or anyone else), and feel their way through living as independent adults. I have managed mostly by cheering through tears of both grief and delight, as I race to catch up to whatever new stage they’ve reached. It’s hard to do, and you aren’t born knowing how to do it, so, as with everything else in life, you do the best you can with what you have at any given time and hope that the forgiveness you need is greater than any harm you might do in learning how to love.

    • July 22, 2015 10:50 am

      The race to catch up–that’s the hard part. They’re racing happily ahead, and I’m puffing to catch up to get to the sidelines where I can cheer!

    • July 22, 2015 2:57 pm

      Joyhowie, that is a lovely comment. I have a four year old, so I’m not there yet, but kindergarten looms next year, and that is scary enough for me right now!

  3. July 22, 2015 9:42 am

    I mean the forgiveness you receive, not need. Because it sucks when the forgiveness you need exceeds the forgiveness you receive. That might be my definition of hell.

    • July 22, 2015 10:52 am

      Yes. Which is why relationships with mothers can be so rocky–sometimes the forgiveness I am able to give my mother is less than what she needs at the moment, and I figure that goes on down the generations.

  4. Jonna permalink
    July 22, 2015 10:05 am

    Great poem, Jeanne. Thanks for sharing this one.

    • July 22, 2015 10:54 am

      I’m glad you liked it. Lines from the Dream Songs often run through my head. From this one it’s the ironic tone of “so, Henry was a hero, malgre lui, that day.”

  5. July 22, 2015 11:36 am

    Pippin is getting so big! Sounds like you have a lovely trip planned too. Have fun! Can’t help with the kids since I don’t have any, but my guess is you will figure it out and do just fine 🙂

    • July 22, 2015 12:54 pm

      Pippin is getting those long adolescent kitten legs. He slipped out of his harness today when I had it tied to a long rope in the shade and was sitting out there with him peeling potatoes, so he had to come in. He may be fierce and clever, but he’s still a bit young to contend with all the wildlife in the woods in back and the cars that go by in front.
      We always figure it out, but the oldest child is always breaking new ground. Tucson! I thought Iowa was far away!

  6. July 24, 2015 6:17 am

    I was pretty young when my children left home–39 and 41. So maybe it was different because of where I was in terms of my own life, I don’t know. Or maybe I’m the freak. But I have always loved the launching of my kids into the next stage. I’m ridiculously proud, so thrilled to see them become good and kind men and it’s just never been a time of sadness for me.

    I think the hardest part about being the parent of adult children is when things go awry for them. I’m talking about the same kinds of problems we’ve all faced as adults ourselves–job losses or underemployment, divorce, health issues, etc. To see those things happen to my children and to know that no, I can’t fix it with a kiss or a snack or a silly band-aid, that in fact, they will have to go through that pain or heartbreak or plain ol sucky time? That’s really tough.

    • July 24, 2015 7:50 am

      And later this morning it occurred to me that perhaps the reason I cheer my kids on the way I do when they are launching to whatever the next milestone is is because that’s what I wanted and needed myself.

      • July 24, 2015 8:33 am

        Interesting point–I think I always liked knowing that the people I was leaving missed me when I left. I will certainly miss her company, but it’s easier for me, as she can communicate with me in all kinds of electronic ways at all hours of the day and night.
        So far everything is going right about this move. She applied for one job, had two interviews, and got the job. She has to leave Pippin, but she’s moving in with her friend and a cat they adopted from the shelter in Iowa. She doesn’t know how to cook very many things, but she’s great at making guacamole.

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