dance family story

I love waking up early in our dark, quiet home knowing my children are sleeping peacefully. So much of my daytime is devoted to keeping all the wheels on our clown car rolling the same direction, making sure everyone is fed and moving forward in their lives. Truly is usually camped out on her own rollout in my room, my goodnight hug from Tadg in his room is the last sentence in my day. I revel in the chance to soak in the currents we’ve all been weaving together in these early days of fall. Every bit of their growth is a sweet song.

I just love being a dad.

Maybe it’s more accurate to say I love being their Dad. Most parents must feel this way, we love seeing the people they are becoming. I crave their dear-ness along with their sourness and struggles. They are each so sacred to me. As Terry used to say, “we won the lottery… twice!”

 After writing so much about our lives since Terry’s passing, I stopped writing about anything personal. I just needed to stop looking at us with intense scrutiny. Also, all of the tasks related to “bookness” occupied a big space. Unsurprisingly the bigness of bookness pushes a lot of things out of the way.  It’s a lot to deal with, especially for a single parent. I’m happy to get back to writing about simple things that are never as simple as they first seem.

Just the night before I lay awake with worry and grief. I’d heard rough news about a close friend becoming ill. It brought back all the feelings that come with hearing that a loved one will be facing a long, hard journey. The cousins to those feelings, all of the worries that accompany parenting and the future, crowded in on me. Awakening to the stillness of the house is not always peaceful.

I received a rare gift then, Owl spirit came to me, hovering silently above me. Its presence was familiar and unmistakable. I didn’t so much see it as feel its spirit. I didn’t call out to it, though my worry and frustration must have been a clear sign of needing help. At first I was taken aback, but I was able to slowly receive its presence into my body. It brought with it a sense of wholeness and clarity I desperately needed. Eventually, after some intense processing and raising power, I was able to fall back asleep. The next morning I called it into my daily practice to root its presence even more.

Part of my stress had to do with Truly having a tough time adjusting to fourth grade. She has some serious challenges in the reading department, pretty much on par with her bio siblings. The leap into a new class, a new teacher and leaving many friends behind in third grade has made her even more distracted. I’m working with staff to provide her with an adjusted educational plan. It’s heartbreaking to watch her struggle, though I know she’ll be fine. It’s not so much reading that’s the struggle as the expectations that come with education in our culture. It reminds me of my own, endless struggles with early education. It’s so important for me to remember that her personhood is her greatest strength. She’ll catch up in reading, if slowly. Making sure her spirit is loved and nourished is much more important to me.

She continues to glow in a way few people I know can glow. Every. Day.

This morning I took a big step – changing my computer screensaver to photos taken only after we moved here to Sisters. It’s not that I didn’t want to see Terry’s face, it’s more about not wanting to see the kids baby faces all the time. That is an elixir of nostalgia I could easily lose myself in. I need to focus on making new memories, not lingering in the past so much. I want to celebrate the years after their lethal cuteness has passed. There is a lot to savour there. When you spend so much time looking at your computer a big piece of every day involves family photos floating by. I’ve been haunting their early childhoods. Now if I could only get my teenager to let me take his picture, I’d be set with new material.

Good luck with that.

He is coming out of his teenage shell more though. High school has more freedom, which he loves. We talk more easily as he has more interest in adult topics like culture and history and science. His pre-college success has already eclipsed anything I achieved. His senior year will be filled with nothing but college level coursework. Today we took over a dozen of his childhood Lego’s into a shop to sell them to make room on his shelves. The owner offtered him store credit instead of cash. He thought for a moment and then, “no thanks.” That phase has ended. His wings are already showing some adult feathers. If Terry were here she would be doing everything she could to delay his eventual flight departure date. I don’t think she ever wanted him far from her side.

He and I were enjoying a Kendo (Japanese sword fighting) class together when I tore part of my achilles tendon away from muscle. The kids didn’t seem to mind me hobbling around too much. I think they just expect me to keep doing dad things no matter what. Really, thats what happens. I just keep being a dad regardless of what’s going on. I suppose their expectation is the best I could hope for. They need security, especially with just one parent.

I’m about 1/2 way through what looks like a six month healing process. Given the initial pain that sounds about right. It happened in Kendo, during a high speed lunging exercise. I turned around to find out who hit my leg with the sledgehammer. Nothing there but a rapidly swelling ankle. It literally brought me to my knees. Sensei assured me that this injury affects young people as well. I’m not really just a hobbled old man well past his prime. ‘Natch.

The spiritual guidance I’ve been given is that sword fighting is just not what I need to be investing my energy in now. Keep slowing down, keep moving with spirit. Keep your morning circle practice going. I was very sad to leave behind one of the few athletic things Tadg and I could share. Being a single parent leaves me so little time for just father son time. I seem to mourn that more than him. Our days together are not over though. There’s still time.

Funny, just like the kids I don’t mind the injury that much either.

Does everything seem small when you’ve watched your children lose their mother? Probably everything except another death of someone close. That will always be a sledgehammer. For now though, I hobble a little less every day, that’s good enough. My circle dance was limited to right-leg movements for a time, now old lefty is coming back into play. This healing has made me appreciate my morning practice all the more. I’m starting to go outside for my ritual again as winter nears. I love dancing with the spirits in the snow. Last year I added a double layer of socks to feel the frozen Earth directly, without shoes. I hope Owl will join me there.

It is so glorious to feel the merciless cold pulling at you as you reach deeper into spirit.

When I wake in the middle of the night because of stress, grief or fear I head into my circle. I breathe deeply, calling forth an animal spirit if that feels right to call on. It sometimes takes time but I can clear the thicket of stress in my heart and fill my center with light. I know I need to work from the inside out now. Whether its healing my ankle, growing to be a better Dad, or just be filled more with spirit. It has to start within me.

Once I’ve filled myself I can return to bed again, crawling in between cats and the occasional kid visitor, falling back asleep before another day begins. I never thought heaven would look like this, but it’s pretty close. Now all we need is more in our family. I hope we keep growing. Maybe a puppy will be next.

Blessings to you and yours during this time of great change.

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