You don't quite appreciate your parents until you become a parent yourself. Maybe I should rephrase this ... you appreciate your parents enough before having children, but you don't fully understand them until after you've had children of your own. I have been thinking about this a lot today for several reasons:
1) I sat all day listening to Relationship-Based Care (RBC) presentations at work today. RBC is new phenomenon our health system is implementing in order to "reignite" our spirit of caring as healthcare providers. I kind of moaned and groaned about all the work we've had to do for this presentation and its implementation on our unit (not very "RBC" of me, I know). But, after listening to everything that our employees are doing to take better care of themselves, their patients, and their coworkers on their individual units today really made me appreciate my job and my life a lot more. I feel lucky to have the people I have in my life, not only my coworkers, but also my supportive family and friends. Listening to today's presentations made me all that more thankful for these amazing people, which leads to my next statement about parenthood.
2) My mom ("Ci Ci" to those of you under the age of 10) watched Jack again today for me, and although I missed my baby dearly, I know that she has so much fun keeping him for me. And, I know that he is very happy with her too (evident by the way she makes him "talk" to me everytime I call to check on him!). Since my father passed, my mom has often stated that she still often feels lost or lonely, which is completely expected of any widow/er. But then she tells me nearly every day that she watches Jack that he has given her a new purpose in life ... that he makes her days so much brighter. She has no idea how much hearing this means to me. Seeing my mom with Jack makes me feel so much closer to her through our mutual bond of parenthood. People often say that "Grandchildren fill the space in your heart you never knew was empty." I love knowing that this is true of my mother, and I am so grateful that my sisters and I have been able to give her the wonderful gift of grandmotherhood.
3) Lastly, I have been thinking a lot about the bond of parenthood today simply because today is my late father's birthday. He would have been 61 years old today. As many of you know, my father passed away 6 and a half years ago on my 23rd birthday (March 13, 2004). Although my father was able to see my two older sisters get married, his early passing did not allow him the gift of ever meeting any of his grandchildren. This reality often strikes my heart, as I'm sure it does my sisters' as well. Even though they never met him in person, my sisters have taught their children to recognize my dad in photographs, and he has taken on the name "Big Daddy" to all of them. I find it very sweet and endearing that these young children have an understanding about the ability to love someone who is no longer here and whom they have never met.
I have found myself thinking of my father so much more since my Jack was born ... wondering if he sees Jack growing, sees us playing with him, sees him laughing and smiling at us, sees the joy that he brings my widowed mother. Often, I even wonder if he knew Jack before he was born, knew his little "secret" before we all did, and sometimes I wonder is maybe my dad even had something to do with bringing Jack into our lives. I wonder what my dad would say to Jack, how he would play with him, and how Jack's smiles would make him feel. I wonder these things, and then I smile quietly, knowing in my heart that my Dad certainly knows Jack and that he will be with him and us throughout the rest of our lives.
During our break from our presentations today at Wesley Long, my fellow coworkers decided to enjoy some fresh air. Being my father's birthday, I suggested that we check out the labyrinth garden just outside of the Regional Cancer Center, which was where my father received his chemotherapy infusions years ago. The labyrinth was created using donations from a wealthy donor as a place for cancer patients and their caretakers to rest, meditate, and pray, and so I took the opportunity to do so today for my dad. Although you're not here in person, Dad, I'd like to say from your whole family (including it's newest and littlest "chromosomally enhanced" member), "Happy Birthday, Big Daddy! We love you and miss you more than you know."