My son received his PhD posthumously. He studied Philosophy. More than one adult rolled their eyes and looked at us with sympathy when he was an undergraduate. “What will he do with that degree?” they asked as politely as possible. They brought themselves up short just before adding “that and $2.50 will buy you a cup of coffee.” (in our son’s case – tea).
Our daughter received two degrees, one in English and the other in Travel and Tourism. Her brother used to pick on her for the latter. “How can you have a degree in Travel and Tourism? What is THAT?” Well the fact is that that and $2.50 will get you a cup of coffee and a donut because you get an employee’s discount at the resort for which she worked for a couple of years. Now she is an administrative assistant in a hospital.
My children are individuals with a focus as individual as they are, yet there are shared traits. One of the happiest is our sense of humor. We as a family find, for the most part, the same things to be funny. We are a family who likes puzzles, from actual jig-saw puzzles, to word puzzles to taking apart an intricate machine and putting it back together again in working order better than the original. We are a family that will learn to do whatever interests them, by whatever means, and do so by reading every possible book and bit of information and ferreting out the minute details. We are masters of minutia.
We are loyal to our friends, and make deep commitments in our relationships. We are fiercely loyal to each other and somewhat selfish about each others time when we are together. We can be outspoken when we feel that we are correct and there is a wrong that should be righted.
Perhaps we are obnoxious.
Growing up with my husband and children was, I assume, like it was for most other families. There were potholes in the road, trees came down and obstructed the path, arguments and disagreements broke out like wild fire and somehow we worked through it, thus far. We did not repeat our parents mistakes, we came up new mistakes of our own. Hindsight has revealed many of our most blatantly bad decisions and foresight is skewed by the mistaken perception that we have the wisdom of age. Which for the most part is just the fact we are set in our ways.
We are normal folks with a certain subset of attributes similar in many ways to other families who want to be a family.
We are adding a new member this coming weekend. He was born in Zimbabwe and is now an American Citizen. He has lived in the States for 12 years. I think him very smart and very enterprising. He has his degree in Engineering and has procured a good job, that requires a lot of his time. He is well educated and precise in his thinking. He loves our daughter and has embraced us as his family. I wonder at times how we really appear to him.
As a couple I think he and my daughter will go through all the joy and pain that marriage brings. For both my daughter and her soon-to-be husband we will be the main family they have here in the states, as grandparents to future children. My son-in-law‘s mother is in Zimbabwe and as much as I hope that one day their children will meet her, the chances of having a close relationship is physically hindered by distance.
There are cultural differences, and personality differences obviously, and we are trying to figure out each other’s sense of humor. Time alone, if granted will permit us what we need to come to know each other better.
He has lost family members too. His father died this year and he returned home to see his mother and remaining family members. My heart broke for his mother. She has lost two sons to death besides my son-in-law moving to the states and now her husband. I keep meaning to write her, and incredible as it seems, I don’t know what to say. Sorry does not seem adequate when I have here her only other son here. She has a daughter and some nephews that live nearby. Her grief added to my own is overwhelming.
Philosophy is defined in a number of ways. As a study of the nature of knowledge and existence, as the pursuit of wisdom by study and moral self-discipline. We then in some ways are all philosophers of sorts, though most of us tend to give up on the self-discipline part too quickly.
I assume, maybe incorrectly, that everyone struggles with the big WHY. Why are we here, why is life the way it is? Why do we live, only to die eventually? Why do men think the way they do? Has thought itself changed over the course of human history; are we unique or are we just more of the same? Shampoo, rinse and repeat?
For better for worse, richer or poorer, in sickness and in health I am accepting a new family member into my life. The son who is now gone was wonderful, albeit financially poor but in great health, moral fiber and ideals. His footprints are all over my life. I am a emotionally shy of letting this new person son-in-law in completely. The pain of the recent loss has made me tender and hesitant, though I feel protective towards him already in ways that surprise me.
I cling tightly to my daughter, feeling overly protective and am easily outraged by any perceived injustice towards her. Hyper-emotional at times, I know that we have been scraped raw and perception is skewed. And by the way, don’t pick on my husband either – just to let you know.
The days I spend in tears frighten me sometimes. I worry that I will stay there and not be able to come back up for air. I feel the need to be here for my family and be present in the world to live out who I am. Sometimes I feel so physically heavy, weighed down and immobile. It is a challenge to get things done and focus sometimes. Then there are the other days, when I see myself behaving in ways that seem more normal for how I have been in the past. I try not to punish myself for those days, when I my heart is not so heavy.
There are files downstairs with papers that my son has read and papers that he has written. They are academic papers, but they cannot escape having parts of his personality punctuating them. I have glanced through them, but I do not want to stain them with tears right now, besides it makes it difficult to read.
Our daughter has been published in “Chicken Soup for the Teenage Soul.” She also composes music. I have enjoyed watching my children grow up and become the adults they are. They are amazing and talented in surprising ways.
I was looking forward to seeing what my son would do with his education. He made a fine teacher.
With all this being said, I must conclude that both of my children have taught me things I never thought I would want to learn. What is at my core in terms of my thinking has been shaped and molded by them as we interacted and exchanged ideas, formulated goals and wrestled with our disagreements. I long for my son’s voice. I ache to have that time with him. There is no one to replace that in my life, and I would not have it replaced if it could be.
I feel diminished by his passing. I think that I am less that I used to be. Sometimes I feel as thin as a shadow, and it makes me angry because I used to advocate that people be cautious about those things and people with which they identified so closely.
Yet I do identify with my children. My daughter is like a physical part of me as was my son. He is so close in my mind at times that I sometimes feel he is really with me. My daughter is always just a phone call away, as my son used to be and now left unchecked I could keep my daughter on the phone all day if she would let me, just to hear her breath. While they are here in the world with us, we take them for granted, we cannot imagine it otherwise. It is impossible to think otherwise.
I am sure there are Philosophers out there who have read and published papers explaining all this with formulae and figures. Those answers do not address the issues of the heart. Not his mother’s heart. But thanks anyway for trying. I know my son enjoyed all the academic argument and puzzles – one thing about which there was no question however,( albeit as confusing as any other thought of man) my son loved and is loved. That and $2.50 will buy you peace and a cup of coffee.