Friday, August 19, 2005

Anticipatory Grief and Intended Purpose

I notice in my near-daily walks how regularly nature changes. Not that long ago -- in mid-May -- the neighboring corn and soybean crops were slim green fronds poking through the earth's surface, yearning for sunlight and moisture to promote their quest toward fulfillment. Just last night, with the soft orange of a full-orbed moon rising, I realized I could no longer see above or beyond the strong stalks with burgeoning ears of corn. The soybeans, lush in their emerald green hues, await the sunlight of late August and September to tease them into a brilliant yellow fury crying, "Harvest." It will not be long now before the corn and beans are harvested and their intended purpose will be fulfilled. There is a graceful beauty in these processes of nature, yet I still bear some anticipatory grief, for I know that all too soon the field will appear barren once again on the surface. To my prying eyes there will be little happening during the restful seasons of autumn and winter. Yet, beneath the surface, as the ground rests and prepares itself for a new season of preparation, planting and eventual harvest, there is hope.

It's not only the changes of nature that provoke my anticipatory grief. I know that within days "summer" as we have known it will be over. Our children will be back in school, the house will be blessedly, achingly quiet from 8:00 AM until 3:00 PM, and a new season brimming with activity and challenge will be upon us. I've always enjoyed summers because the children are more accessible and time is more flexible. I enjoy knowing that when I come home from the office at lunchtime there will be eager voices clamoring, "What's for lunch, dad?" Even if there is nothing special planned, simply knowing that my entrance is welcomed and anticipated warms my heart. But like the crops growing in the field, awaiting their intended purpose, my children are ready for the next season, ready to embrace what comes next.

It seems that in families with two parents one is typically the nurturer (the one who gives children "roots" ) and one is the freer (the one who gives children "wings"). As crops need to be planted, nurtured and harvested, so children need welcome, guidance and ever-growing autonomy. In our family I am the nurturer, the one who roots children in our lives. I find such fulfillment in the dance of attachment and deepening connections. I am not the harvester, the one who sees the "crop" to be harvested and frees it for its intended purpose. While I know its necessary and even healthy, I find myself grieving the loss of what has been, for what has been is easier to see than that which is to come.

There are several waves of change ahead for our family. Today, for the first time in nearly a year, our fifteen-year-old son will be coming home for a four-day visit before he returns back to his residential treatment program. We have been awaiting this transition with both optimism and anxiety. In two days our sixteen-year-old son, also in treatment, will have his first two-hour visit away from his facility (it's been more than six months since he's physically left the building). Next week our college-age son will leave the nest once again to begin his second year of college. The summer with him has had its share of up's and down's, but generally it's been a time of deepend connections and enhanced trust. In two weeks our remaining children will return to school. Our youngest son will be a third grader. To think that when we arrived in Luverne six years ago he was still at-home with Mom during the day.

Summer is nearly gone, autumn is nearly here. The humdrum growing days of summer will soon burst into the harvesting flurry of fall. And like the crops around us, we will each find our intended purpose.

1 comment:

michele said...

Bart...I am really enjoying your blog. I find myself wanting to read each word carefully and thoughtfully lest I miss something, perhaps, of your intended purpose. You are an artist with words. I can see your painting as I read. Thanks for making me sit and pay attention, as you know I don't sit still much.