A letter came in the mail today. I was reminded about a generation so much greater than ours. While we are sending emails, incapable of being bothered by the post-office, my Great Aunt Marcy sent my son a card for his 4th birthday. It’s not just a card this time, it’s a reminder. When she lost her husband of 50 years I couldn’t be bothered to send a single thing while she, in return, never once forgets a birthday of her great, great grandnephew. I couldn’t bear to open the card and see only, “Love Aunt Marcy” instead of adding “and Uncle Charles” to the second row.
I stood at the back door and cried.
Earlier today I was reminded that while I have “friends” on facebook I don’t know what they’re up to. People are having babies, graduating, changing jobs. All while I sit and stare at a computer screen 8 hours a day and wrangle children in my “spare” time. There is a book deal! There is traveling! There are speaking proposals to be done! And yet, my kitchen sits neglected, my friends grow entire human beings and my children await another year of life and summer and fall.
My Uncle Charles died while I was in the middle of a travel spree earlier this year. His life was a good one, he was a strong man, although handicapped by a motor cycle accident many years before I was born (the least reason of which I refuse to let Mr. Flinger purchase one of those death traps). I knew him as 100% amazing, strong and intelligent, always a proud father and grandfather, uncle and husband. He was old forever, since I was ten perhaps, endlessly aging at an impossibly slow rate. He would live forever, I thought, because they do: Your family. They live forever and you forget how short and unforgiving life truly is. Thirty years is nothing to someone in their fifties. They’ve conquered teen-age years, early adult, middle age. They are forever etched in their families mind as equally old: always the same, un-aging until the day they suddenly die reminding you of reality.
So it was that I did not make my Uncle Charle’s funeral. Traveling from Dallas, to return to Austin for SXSW, there was little time between. San Antonio felt a decade away, a rent-a-car, two young children unable to see their own mom. My Aunt had her family, her nieces and nephews, my aunts and uncles, her daughters and sons. She was loved and my Great Uncle Charles was rejoiced and I, from afar, joined them. Until this moment I did not think twice. My family needed me home. My work needed me present. My children wanted their own mother.
Still, only two months later, a card arrived reminding me that I will never be your Aunt Marcy. I will not ever fill the shoes of my Grandmother. I will not walk in the ways of those so much more wise, those who love beyond the now, those who see beyond the years. There is reason to live close to those who age before you: to live near extended family. To understand the wisdom of years and wrinkles that we can only imagine. At mid-thirty my age feels heavy. I feel the burden of time. Speaking to those whose lives span eternal decades remind me: a card, though simple, scribbled with ink, and stuck with a “forever” stamp, is more than just a card. It is an entire mindset of love and forgiveness: One I hope to live up to one day.
Last night as you were falling asleep, you could barely keep your eyes open (much like your mother after 9pm on two glasses of wine) and you asked for your story. “You want to know about the day you were born?”
Your eyes lit up and you stuck your tongue out in that way you do when you get excited and I think you’re sort of proving evolution isn’t just a theory.
“It was a sunny day a lot like today was,” you don’t get the irony in my voice but I chuckle. “I took your sister to soccer and then to get a hair cut.” I look at your scraggly hair and feel terrible that you’ve had two real hair cuts in your life. “Grandma and Grandpa came up to visit and we all went out to dinner. While we were at dinner, it was becoming apparent you weren’t going to wait the last four weeks before coming out to play with us. That night we went to the hospital and you were born early.”
“The doctors helped you learn how to breathe and eat and you got strong and grew. We got to go home a little while later.”
Your breathing got heavier and your eyes closed. I stroked your hair as you fell asleep next to me like you do nearly every night. As I got up to leave, you turned to me to do your goodbye routine. You always wave, blow a kiss, and say I love you in sign language. You’ll remind me, loudly, if I ever forget the routine before I leave you. I wave, blow a kiss and show the I love you back as I close the door to your bedroom and your third year. Kiddo: Here’s to four.
My Grandfather was an electrician in a mill. He often explained his lack of hearing from years of being around loud machines. “GRANDPA! TURN DOWN THE TEE VEE!” He would wave a hand in our direction, mutter something completely incomprehensible and turn the volume on the TV up.
Last weekend a friend of mine spoke of reducing the noise in his life. As a single man who enjoys many activities outside the computer, I thought it was a strange, though admirable, statement. So often the level of noise in my life is beyond was I can tolerate. Children whining and needing immediate attention pulling on my arm, Co-Workers on IM, twitter, facebook, email, friends asking about this weekend. It’s not that the noise is bad, each in of itself, it’s that together there isn’t a single conversation occurring in full. The noise fractures my relationships in to compartments. Not a single person gets my full attention.
Having the opportunity to be with people in real life, to sit across a table with community members from work, to enjoy watching the children throw rocks in the water with a friend, to sit together as a family each night at dinner, helps. It helps bring the level of noise to something manageable. But during each of these interactions there is almost always a phone, a computer, a noise-producer. I’m pondering the long term effect on our relationships and if one day I’ll be waving my arm in the general direction of those I love muttering things they don’t understand.
For years I’ve been a minority in our field. In graduate school I was one of two females. The program pushed Java but I studied PHP and my co-female-student studied XML. Why is that? Why would the two women select another language than the standard object oriented fare served to the students? Is it possible there is a feminine friendly language that helps retain women in computer science?
This is the future of our field. The is the future of the web. Bringing technology, the joy of development, the art of mobile application development: these are the true places women can excel and find balance in a male dominated field.
WebVisions 2011 is about “exploring the future of the web” and I can see no better reason to join those who are passionate about the future of a field we’re growing from the ground up. After ten years of developing sites and recently joining the dev team at EllisLab, Inc., the chance to attend WebVisions is a dream come true. That and because Aaron Gufstason is begging me.
Six Mothers’ Days.
Thirty-five years of life.
Nine years of marriage.
52 throw up accidents.
4,329,784 whiny complaints.
89 wet sheets. 610 school lunches.
423 sleepless nights.
One homemade card.
“She is very bright. Intelligent and creative; loving and kind. She seems to be a natural in math and science but her artistic abilities and imagination give her a great balance. She’s very social. She is unaware of the politics of other girls in her grade. She is a tender soul who can not sit still.
She has trouble focusing and might need some work in this area. She is often tired in the afternoon. She seems young for her age.
Overall she is a joy to work with. While she is a bit bouncy and can have difficult finishing a task before starting another, making her very inefficient, she’s got a lot of potential and you should be proud of her.”
As it turns out? She really is my kid.
Even if she doesn’t look it.
The heat kicks back on and I know it won’t warm me. The walk to the car will be wet and cold. I wear a layer of my body like an extra coat of energy, just waiting, hoping to be used. I drink another cup of coffee and turn the heat as high as I can while I drive. I will struggle with children, putting coats and hoods and boots on and splashing back to the car again. The effort nearly crushes me.
It is May. The realization nearly takes my breath away.
It is May.
Seattle just finished the coldest April on record. Even after two amazingly sunny days this weekend, we return to the usual rain and high of 55 degrees.
You can watch for signs of failures, you can talk about becoming better at your job, or at parenting, or about being healthier phsyically. But one day you might notice that you can’t crawl out of bed and you don’t want to get dressed. Suddenly your bones have been cold for months and the brightest lights in the house can’t make you “snap out of it.” While this isn’t true for everyone, I know it’s harder for some of us than others.
The things we pay attention to, always asking if it is affecting our work or our kids or our families, might not be the thing that takes us down in the end. Four months of weepy, moody, lethargic days eventually pay their price.
Work, Family, Life. Right now, in this cold dreary day, the effort nearly crushes me.
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