Mile Marker 30


A few months before my daughter turned 16 we went on a trip that taught me a lot about Miranda and what she was capable of on her own. I will add that I learned a few things about myself as well. I was looking for a different kind of experience for us, one that might challenge us in new ways and decided on an Outward Bound family experience in Colorado. Truth told, I can’t remember if she really wanted to go, but off the two of us went anyway to scale mountains and do a bit of river rafting.

Parts of it were challenging at times (rock climbing) even for a mom with military training, but Miranda sailed through it all with a confidence that seemed strong and steady with each new activity.

After backpacking to a remote site where we camped together as part of a larger group, the final exercise in our week together was designed to be a solo overnight camping experience away from the rest of the group and the instructors. As we were packing up to go, one by one the teens were given a choice to camp with their parent or go solo. One instructor went round the circle checking with each teen and all said they wished to overnight with their parent except my daughter who chose to camp solo.

I have to admit I felt a twinge of parental sadness at first and then a surge of pride remembering that this was not just about me as I tried to balance the knowledge that she was growing up and developing a separate identity, along side with my fears about our changing relationship. Intellectually I understood why differentiation was important, but it was still a difficult time and I’m sure my fear made it harder for Miranda.

The instructors dropped us off individually walking us into places to camp where we would not encounter anyone else. We were told not to go beyond certain areas using natural markers such as ” that rock or this tree “ and told that if we were to come upon another camper to turn around and walk quietly away so as not to disturb someone else’s experience. We would be left alone until the instructor came by on foot to get us the next morning and we were encouraged to write while we were in the woods and set up a place to sleep. We were given an opportunity to take easy to eat food with us or fast with only water until the next day so fires and food prep would not be an issue.

I set up a tarp to sleep under and rolled out my sleeping bag. I was thinking about the week we’d had together and writing before it grew too dark to see when I heard some rustling on the perimeter of the space I’d been “ assigned. “ After a bit more movement, I saw Miranda walking out of the woods towards me. They had dropped us off in a way designed to keep us from knowing where the others were and while I knew they were all out there somewhere, I was not sure where anyone actually was.

Miranda walked over quite casually and said something I remember as, “ Hey, I’m going to sleep soon and I wanted to say goodnight. “

I was surprised that she’d found me without not knowing where I’d been left and it touched me she’d stopped by to connect for a minute and say goodnight. Doing so let me know she was fine and that she knew how to find me if she needed me. It might have been a small thing, but afterwards I felt more peaceful about our changing relationship than I had before the trip.

People often say that life in general and parenting in particular should come with directions or a road map of some kind, but the truth is most of us just muddle through doing the best we can. If we’re lucky, we can recognize if we take a wrong run or get lost, and most of us can right ourselves fairly quickly after a well placed word from someone who knows the way forward.

As Miranda turns 30 today I want to say how grateful and impressed I am to have been both a guide, and the guided in the life we’ve shared, and how proud I am of all she’s accomplished. Here’s to new adventures and future road trips!

Happy Birthday, Miranda!

Unexpectedly Sad

 Flowers From Our Garden & Empty Chairs

Flowers From Our Garden & Empty Chairs

This weekend has ended much differently than it began and I don’t quite know what to say except I may be away for a few days. John and I are safe, but someone very near to him is not. Yesterday, after staying behind to make sure everything would be ready for a family gathering and a barbecue at home, I received a call from John letting me know what little he knew and that he was on his way to the emergency room at a local hospital. He had so little information initially that it seemed as if everything might be all right so I stayed calm and continued on with the preparations holding on to the idea that it would all turn out to be just an exciting story told around the dinner table later that evening.

Once he saw the doctor it became clear that everything had changed. As the family gathered at the hospital and later the bedside, I lit the charcoal fire and carried on. The rain that had been threatening our garden party and outdoor supper seemed suddenly unimportant as it rolled in soaking the area I’d worked on earlier to make functional and welcoming.

At home alone with no car, I did what I’ve seen women in my family do in these situations, I cooked. I had piles of food waiting to be grilled for our supper so I rummaged in the garage looking everywhere for the charcoal briquettes John had mentioned were there only to find them sitting in plain sight and right in front of me overlooked by my distracted mind.

Moving the grill to the outside edge of the garage, I cooked under the overhang of the garage door so the rain wouldn’t wet the fire that I struggled to create. My little fire flamed and gave off a good bit of smoke as I stood moving the sausages and burgers around the grill… alone in the rain. I thought of John at the hospital waiting and when bits of smoke hit me full in the face, I teared up until I couldn’t tell if it was from smoke or sadness. All I could think of was love and loss and how the lyrics to “Smoke Gets In Your Eyes” would forever have a new meaning for me.

Our dinner party guests arrived with John late in the evening… minus one.  As they sat down to the food I’d kept warming in the oven, they ate and talked carefully around some things such as next steps and “how long” while openly laughing at some of stories they shared …stories that connect them through their common history and blood ties.  New to this family… I could only listen and serve…glad to have an activity to take my mind off how differently the day had begun and the “what ifs”  that I’d been trying to push away all afternoon as I struggled to make sense of the events of the day.

There is little now we can do but wait.  The doctors have given no hope of recovery and have said it’s just a matter of time. While the staff at the hospital focus on a painless transition for this much loved family member, I’ll focus on the care and comfort of those who are now a part my family.

I may be away for a few days, but I’ll be back.