Among Many Tasks

The fall will bring a slightly different schedule for me.  The whole thing holds together and will open me to new ways of deepening my vocation and the little works which make up my vocation.  I’ll be doing a lot, and I’m looking forward to it.

Perhaps it seems inappropriate to hold this poem on this blog, but it seems a striking reminder for me as a parent.  In the end, as I see it and believe it and imagine it, all our small works turn to one task of continued self-surrender, continued dying.

That dying sits at the bottom of my faith, though that bottom would quickly, almost too effortlessly, be named as living.  That eternal life only comes after one has regularly and daily passed through the gates of death.  Life comes from death, says the One we follow.  May this poet’s words be a reminder of these things to me:

Among Many Tasks

Among many tasks

very urgent

I’ve forgotten that

it’s also necessary

to be dying

frivolous

I have neglected this obligation

or have been fulfilling it

superficially

beginning tomorrow

everything will change

I will start dying assiduously

wisely optimistically

without wasting time

Tadeusz Rozewicz (From The Vintage Book of Contemporary World Poetry)

Keep Going

It is a powerful thing.  May it never cripple you.

It is a present visitor, even if it’s deep under your skin, deeper than your muscles, your bones.  May you always find its root.

It can be an enemy that takes you by the feet and pulls you down into the ground and below the dirt.  May your strength be better than its grip.Looking Up

I’m talking about fear, son.  May you rise above fear, each fear, and may it only be a good teacher to you.  May fear be your best inspiration.

I thought of you when I heard all the cheering for the Jackie Robinson West team today.  Named and unnamed people congratulated them for their win, for their courage, for their consistent and elegant boyishness.

And I considered your future and how you would be like those boys, triumphant after having practiced and worked and played a game for fun and for sport and for your own sake.

ReachingI remember when I couldn’t cajole you into reaching for this sliding contraption, when you only looked at it with something like confusion or wonder or fear in your eyes.  And look at you, growing beyond what once made you afraid.

Keep going.  Keep looking up.  Keep being guided by your mother and me.  Keep doing what seems out of reach.

Gratitude

You don’t have an income or a bedroom that belongs to you.  You don’t have clothes that haven’t been given to you.  So, beautiful son of ours, remember to be thankful because your entire life is still so early and so young that it’s all a gift.

Walking into your room, which I still say is my home office, you are surrounded by gifts, things given, including the words painted on your walls which were done by Auntie Sheila and Uncle Alan.  When you’re able to read those words, they too will remind you that you come from some where, that your life was given to you and given to us.

Everything around you, unearned by you and really unearned by us, is a bold or implicit sign to be grateful.

Listen. Obey.

As your mother told you–and as I’ve said to you before–when we put you into the hands of someone else, that’s the person we trust.  So that’s the person you listen to.

Be it your teachers or other relatives, if you don’t listen to the people we give you to, you’re also not listening to us.  And for now, you have to listen to us.  You don’t get to not listen.  And not just because we’re bigger than you.  We actually know more than you.

We know that when you do your own thing, that thing is still so underdeveloped that it makes no sense in the world.  One day that will change.  One day you have more choices than you do time.  One day you’ll pick the menu and the shoes and the time we leave and return.  But you don’t drive.  You don’t know the city’s grid.  You don’t understand the nuances of roasting a chicken, even if you’re a good sous chef.

So, hear me, hear your mother.  And we’ll let you stay with us.  If you don’t listen, you’re only a quick walk from the Swansons, a short drive from either of our mothers, the full house with your cousins and my brother, a spot next to Champ’s cage at your other uncle’s, or slightly longer commutes to your aunts.  I’m sure even Grammie will take you if we call her and say you’re on a flight.  But I’m also certain those lovely people will have similar expectations.  And they–though they may fight me on the point–will not love you nearly as much as me and your mother.