Due to a DCFS paperwork error, in 2012 I was separated from my four-month-old son for two months. He was not fully adopted yet and we had sold our house to move to the pacific northwest. Ryan had already been there for six weeks and was just waiting on us, the proper channels got screwed up, and my baby who had only known me since he was placed in my arms at two days old was handed over to a caseworker. I did not know if I would ever see him again and I can tell you with absolute assuredness that it was by far the hardest thing I have ever done at that point. All I had to grasp at was hope. The date that we got him back still makes my breath catch every year.
He was placed and thoroughly loved for that time with a woman I am still in contact with today. She has since adopted her own sweet boy. My Gratton is now ten and rarely utilizes the concept of personal space. He is usually in my eyeball ping ponging though life the ultimate boy wild child, sometimes it’s Lord of the Flies, and the calmer times it’s Animal Farm. I wouldn’t want it any other way.
When he was seven, he proudly gave me a bracelet made of pony beads and blue yarn. It had no rhyme or reason to the pattern, just multiple colors on a string tied to my wrist. It never came off my arm, the plastic got scratched and worn, some beads fell off, the fuzz on the yarn balled up, and the blue faded. It held up through a couple charity galas where it didn’t exactly go with the fancy attire, but I had no way of removing it without messing it up so there it stayed, its sentiment a compliment to my Elsa looking velvet dress and sparkly jewelry.
It finally broke off a year ago. I had just started Jiu Jitsu, the weathered frail threads could not hold on any longer, and the remaining four beads went flying across the mat. I cried a little and was pretty bummed, though it was during a time of change for our family so looking back now I see it as more of a symbolic catalyst. For Christmas this year Gratton gave me a more durable bracelet that he and his dad spent an hour poring over pictures to find just the right one with just the right saying. Given the history with this boy it could not have been more perfect.
Wake up, kick a$$, repeat was muttered under my breath a few times during this particularly hard week. It seemed Ryan and I were hitting all of life’s stages at once and the waves kept coming. I had just got back in town, was playing catch up, and found myself dwelling on certain things that I just couldn’t muster seeing the silver lining. This of course happens when the kids decide to all at once have an off week and I am sure my house sounded like a war zone with figurative explosions happening behind all the corners.
To get Gratton to chill out most days is pretty much a no go. He is a constant ball of Tasmanian energy, but while he is bit much to handle sometimes he is also the quickest to overcome frustrations. He moves on with a speed that baffles me and quickly bounces back with a smile of all is forgotten and a genuine love for life. I know I have to be careful when disciplining him as a parent to make sure that I am curbing and not snuffing out. He is always grinning and creating and is never down for long. I find myself striving to emulate his enthusiasm and hopeful outlook for the everyday.
I recently saw a brass coin necklace that I ended up buying Wednesday night because of its saying of, “while I breathe, I hope.” That phrase settled in the pit of my stomach because of a conversation I had with my two older girls this week as we hashed over the things life throws at us. My second oldest had made a joking comment that my personal mantra was, “Oh okay, so this is what we are doing now…” in reference to our ability to roll with life’s punches on a grand scale. Gratton is the reason for that. I was talking with my oldest about how not much compares in the major scheme of things when it comes to losing your baby and not knowing the outcome. You tend to mellow out and hone in on the bits that matter, the other stuff becomes meaningless. The moment my hope dissipates is the moment I lose.
Now this doesn’t mean I don’t need a gentle reminder every now and then. That’s the way with us humans, the need for the lesson over and over with a two by four upside the cheekbone or in my case a rough week that ended with a much needed conversation and glass of wine sitting on a friends unfinished patio. It was a hashing of just everything and a realizing that even though I am sad, while I breathe, I hope. A recent comment on one of my blogs said that my articles/reviews are always positive. This person literally could not have given me a better compliment and it was a very much needed mid-week perk up.
I was driving home and looked at my left wrist and realized that all three phrases, my joking mantra of, “oh okay, this is what we are doing now,” the necklace of, “while I breathe, I hope,” and Gratton’s replacement bracelet of, “wake up, kick ass, repeat,” were all parts of the same story, but just like everything else in life you have to hear it several different ways sometimes for the message to be loud and clear.
Today we are cleaning out our shop. The loud groans of my kids as we mentioned the days plans were incredibly audible. We will play music, my husband and I will argue a bit over where things will go and what we need to get rid of, it will be hot, there will be spiders, and it will be mundane work, but mundane work done together. It took a massive amount of heartbreak to knit my family together from the tragic pieces of several others. It was a desperate fight sometimes from outside and sometimes within us, and it will continue to be a desperate fight to keep guard of this thing so precious. So during the mundane work of a dusty shop, I will be grateful I get to work alongside these sweet babies in aspiration that I teach them the value of just being next to each other accomplishing a good days work. Because the small things matter and build up into larger things, things like hope. Likely they will just remember cleaning the shop like I remember my moms, “yard parties,” that weren’t very partyish when I was a kid, but hey they can wake up tomorrow, a new day to kick a$$ and repeat. Because we are weeding the garden then……
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Author- Christun Erwin
"Thank you for your words. They make an impact and its important that, human to human, woman to woman, mother to mother... you know that you make a difference, even to those you never knew your words" -Krystal