Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Unconditional: Defined.

I will return to this space, fully and weekly, in time.  

Until then--

I thought I knew unconditional love.  I've always known God's unconditional love for me, the way God shows up for me, speaks to me, shines light on me.  God shows up in sunrises that catch me by surprise, in moonlight that bursts through clouds, in light that fights through the darkness.   Admittedly, my relationship with God right now is complicated, and my time with God is awfully quiet these days.  But never do I doubt God's presence, God's love for me.  Wholly and completely, unconditional.  But unconditional goes far beyond God's love...

Unconditional, defined:  It begins with two important men in my life.

The relationship I have with my father is different - and better - now than it has ever been in my life. That is to say, I have never felt closer or more loved or more supported by him than I do today.  It is in the little ways he cares for me:  delivering fresh flowers to me every week; getting my car inspected; fixing broken sinks and scouring my bathroom tubs and installing new appliances.  Sharing breakfast with each of my sons, individually, on a three week rotation.  Washing dinner dishes after putting my kids to bed, while I am tutoring.  Buying me beer, pouring me a drink. The list goes on and on... and yet the simplest thing he said to me, recently, is the moment I keep coming back to, again and again.  In a moment of angst and stress over my financial mess, my father shared with me, "When we moved to Virginia, we were really 240 hours from being bankrupt.  My dad said 'Paul, it is only paper.'  The next day we got a cash sale on the house and closed with 48 hours to spare.  But my dad was right either way - it was only paper."  

For years, my father has counseled me with those same words - "Money is just paper."  But I used to scoff and blow him off, because let's face it - he always has more paper than I do.  Everything changed with that text from him to me.  I understood, in new light, what was being shared.  The wisdom of his words were being passed down through generations.  Knowing that his father had counseled him in the same way made me understand the value of the words.  Suddenly, I was connected not only to my father, but to my grandfather as well - a man I loved dearly, and admired deeply.  He was well-read, an accomplished organist, a fine chef, and a good, good man who demonstrated unconditional love in real and significant ways, particularly for the time period in which he lived.  He raised up an even better son, who reads occasionally, is tone-deaf, and whose culinary skills (outside of the grill) are decent at best.  But the values my grand/father instilled, the man (men) he helped/is helping to shape, the wisdom each imparted, the actions that support the words spoken define unconditional love.

My brother Adam spent the better part of a week here this summer, and among many other chores he did, he mowed and weed whacked the lawn.  It has never looked better - and I know that I'm not the only one with this opinion, because my neighbor admired the lawn, then asked, "Is he your hired help?"  I guffawed (hired help?  Really?) before responding, "No.  He's my brother."  Unconditional.

Adam is among the most emotionally literate men I know, and I dream of raising sons who are as emotionally connected, affirming, and tender as Adam is to me.  Adam's ability to connect to what I am feeling and validate me, again and again is breathtaking.  He takes what I say to him without judgement, contextualizes it, normalizes it, then reflects it back to me.  Each phone call ends the same way: first a pause, then "I love, you, Annie."  Unconditional.

Yet there is nothing that defines unconditional more completely than the love of my mother.  Mine has demonstrated her love to me, timelessly and tirelessly.  My mother is my cheerleader, my coach, my rally-er, my sympathetic ear.  For many months now, she does the kids' laundry, cleans out closets, organizes massive heaps of stuff, tidies rooms, loves on my kids, takes me out for dinner and treats me to new clothes, invites us over for dinner, plants my garden, runs my errands.  That's a small handful of what she does for me. Recently, a song popped into my head that was a choir anthem many years ago.  Aidan was about 4 years old, and was captivated by it; he requested it many nights in a row after he heard it for the first time that Sunday morning.  "When I fall down you pick me up, when I am dry you fill my cup..."  That was the part that Aidan liked best.  Finally, I asked him what made that song so special to him.  "Because, Mommy, when I fall down, you always pick me up."  And when that song popped into my head again for the first time in many years, I instantly knew why.  Because I have been falling down.  Again and again and again.  And my mom, she's been picking me up.  Again and again and again.... 

Unconditional: defined.

No comments: