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These Things I Remember

Parents' Love

By John CoxPublished 2 months ago Updated 2 months ago 5 min read
Second Place in Love Unraveled Challenge
32
Our children - Sarah and John

"These things I remember and I pour out soul within me...." So laments the psalmist in exile, yearning for the return of God's presence after a long, painful absence.

I too, look back with longing when our children were small and we were the constellation around which their young lives revolved. We were a family, even if young and inexperienced, braving the adventure and uncertainty of raising children, trying to inculcate in them our values while still separated by time from the day that they would leave us to find their own way in the world. Then they too would begin their own adventures and start their own families.

I remember with terrifying vividness the day that we two became three. My wife's first pregnancy was long and difficult, an omen of what her birth experience portended. It would be the most trying and physically painful event of her life. After thirty-nine hours of excruciating back-labor the doctor and nurses began to rush about frantically preparing her for an emergency caesarian section, my thoughts overcome by fear that I might lose both wife and our daughter still in her womb.

What is love, you ask? Love is the terror of losing your best friend and a child sight unseen when save for a tearful prayer their fate is wholly outside of your control.

Nearly unconscious from exhaustion and pain, the nurses rushed my wife out of the room when our unborn daughter's heartrate reached a terrifying two hundred and twenty beats per minute. For the next twenty minutes I wept and pleaded with God in the waiting room while the doctor and nurses worked to save two lives by the immediate delivery of one. At the end of that small eternity, a nurse entered the room with our daughter, her bright, brown eyes staring intently at the world surrounding her.

Thirteen months and a second difficult caesarian later, our son was born. His brown eyes, much like our daughters, engaged his world with an intensity that terrified us both. We three became four and would remain so until our children reached adulthood and independence.

And yet these things I remember: my wife holding our newborn daughter, love glowing gently in her features. What is love you ask? A mother treasuring the baby held softly in her arms.

My wife and sleeping daughter are so beautiful in this photo that it still moves me to tears.

I did not have enough time with either child when they were young. No, that is not true. I did not spend the time that I had with those who should have been the most important in my life. How many opportunities did I sacrifice to the gods of career and self? I always exhausted my best at work or with friends or on myself. My wife and children received the leftovers - a man too tired to give quality attention or time to any of them.

How quickly the years passed; how quickly our children marched into adulthood, and we marched into middle age. Now that decades have past since they left our home for lives of their own, our once resilient youth and their childhood exists only in photographs and in our memories, some good and many bad.

Is regret a form of love you ask? Only in the sense that it was once the opportunity for love lost.

These things I remember.... A little girl enraptured by the little things that others never noticed. As a baby she stooped before motes of dust to gently pinch them between thumb and forefinger - demonstrating a dexterity for the miniature - a kinship for the small.

"I am small," she wrote us as a senior in college, "I have a small soul." She expressed her amazement at how hard many of her fellow students were living, "drinking to escape, to forget." Covering their pain and cloaking their fears with jokes and being crazy. "The air is heavy," she wrote, "the people are heavy, and I am strangely light. My life is about my little soul. How are things today with my little soul?"

How refreshing it felt when I reread her words and remember rising from our bed late at night to see her diminutive silhouette standing frightened in our bedroom door, asking "Will I be alright?" How did that little slip of a girl grow to be so wise, and where was I when it happened?

What is love you ask? Love is standing before friends and family to share in the ritual of our daughter's marriage to the love of her life. Love is my wife in the birthing room with our daughter and witnessing our grandson emerging from her womb, to experience vicariously what she missed in each of her own caesarian deliveries.

These things I remember.... I remember a small boy who wanted to be big, who wanted to be free. At eleven months he climbed our eight foot fence so he could play with our neighbor's puppies; at three he could climb anything, even doorways, his arms and legs spread-eagled between the doorjambs. By twelve he could outsprint adults and trounce me in any of the sports we played together.

He was absolutely fearless and inured to all forms of physical pain. Because he feared nothing and no one he abandoned himself to the freedom that only the fearless ever know. But we knew no such freedom. How do you set boundaries on the boundless? How do you say, like the Almighty to the sea, "Thus far you shall come, but no farther; and here shall your proud waves stop?"

What is love you ask? It is a son grown to manhood with limitless potential and a compassionate heart. I remember each time I see his kindness to the homeless his tears as a little boy witnessing a gypsy mother begging with a weeping infant.

What is love you ask? Love is a mother who poured herself out to fill the lives of her children with a love and acceptance that gave one the wisdom to be small and the other the freedom to be larger than life.

I remember too a wife who grieved at her husband's inability or unwillingness to fully engage in the lives of our children. I remember missing so many things, failing to do so many things, and doing so many others badly.

What is love you ask? Trying to do better with the time still remaining.

"These things I remember and I pour out my soul within me...."

parentsimmediate familygriefchildren
32

About the Creator

John Cox

Family man, grandfather, retired soldier and story teller with an edge.

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Comments (37)

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  • einsnull7 days ago

    beautifully written! will read more from you in future.

  • Well-wrought! All too familiar with the way that time passes, and I only just dropped my own children back to their mother. This was a precious gift to come home to. Thank you.

  • Tammy Castleman21 days ago

    Just beautiful. Thank you for sharing this.

  • Only just read this John. So moving. I am not sure what else I can add. Congratulations on your win

  • Andrea Corwin about a month ago

    Wow, how wonderful is this story! I had back labor for 36 hrs with my son 😳🙃 horrible. You write beautifully of your children and that photo is heavenly, perfect, beautiful!! All is well, John. You did it the best way you knew. No regrets.

  • Lacy Loar-Gruenlerabout a month ago

    John, I don't know how I missed your impressive placing in the Love Unraveled Challenge, but I am one of your biggest fans and am not surprised. This, and all your pieces, are beautifully rendered and a joy to your readers.

  • D.K. Shepardabout a month ago

    This brought me to tears. It is so beautiful! The repeated evocation of such a powerful Psalm interwoven with your precious and vulnerable reflections is astoundingly impactful. Congrats, it is very well deserved.

  • Salomé Saffiriabout a month ago

    John! Big congratulations!

  • Catherine Dorianabout a month ago

    John, I am enamored to see that this piece was awarded second place in the Love Unraveled Challenge. This teaches me many things about love, most notably that to truly love another means to try our hardest to read them, to understand them, to create the circumstances and experiences that will serve them. We can feel like we're failing, but as long as we're doing that to the best of our ability, we know that we are loving them. There's a humility to that. I believe I wrote a similar comment on this story when you first posted it. I can already see that your second-place win will earn you more readers, which you surely deserve. Your writing is reflective and poignant. It resonates. As you said to me one time: keep writing, and I'll surely keep reading.

  • Gabriel Huizengaabout a month ago

    Really, really powerful John. Thank you for sharing this piece of your soul and journey of familial love ❤️

  • Paul Stewartabout a month ago

    Damn...this is beautiful, John, I am so so so glad this placed. I mean, it really does have winner written all over it, but second place is just as great. To have written a piece like this and to have done all the self-reflection and had the humility to understand mistakes past made and learn from them. Just beautiful. I resonated with this quite a lot, because I have too made similar mistakes in the past and I am still working through the fall-out from that. Anyway, I shall stop mumbling and say sorry it took me so long to get round to this one and congrats, sir, on a wonderful piece.

  • emaabout a month ago

    Congratulations John, you deserve this placement ❤

  • JBazabout a month ago

    John I am so happy for you this is so good Congratulations

  • Dharrsheena Raja Segarranabout a month ago

    Wooohooooo congratulations on your challenge win! 🎉💖🎊🎉💖🎊

  • Christy Munsonabout a month ago

    Congratulations, John! I’ll comment later when I have the time this one deserves

  • Bonnie Bowermanabout a month ago

    Congratulations John! Well done!

  • Kendall Defoe about a month ago

    Very painful...and I would have given you the top prize for this one, sir!

  • Lamar Wigginsabout a month ago

    Back for the best of reasons! Congrats on your second place win! So happy for you, John! So well-deserved!!! 🍻🍻🍻

  • Anna about a month ago

    Congrats on the win my friend!😊

  • Cathy holmesabout a month ago

    This is absolutely beautiful. Congrats on the well-deserved win.

  • Shirley Belkabout a month ago

    Congratulations!!!!

  • Shirley Belk2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing your deepest loves with us. You captured so much and weighed out a lifetime of love and lessons. Profoundly perfect!

  • Lamar Wiggins2 months ago

    Thank you for sharing some of your most precious memories. There are valuable lessons and insight within these words. Well done, indeed.

  • Phil Flannery2 months ago

    This is a wonderful, sincere bit of writing, which could only come from the heart. I am at that age where I question my impact as a father on my children but looking back at what-ifs helps no one. You can't change what was, only appreciate what is. This sounds true for you.

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