There’s nothing like winter to make you want to hold tight to the people you love. And there’s nothing like winter to force you to recognize that as tight as you hold on, your grip is very loose… like you don’t even have a hold on them at all.
I had Madeline home sick for 2.5 days this week. She missed a big science project. So since she had a long sleep in yesterday morning, and was feelng a lot better, I drove her into school yesterday afternoon just in time for science. When we came up stairs to get ready we noticed the big huge snowflakes coming down. Quite beautiful. (Have you ever noticed how beautiful snow storms can be when you are safe at home and don’t have to go anywhere?)
Besides the snow, the sky was clear. So off we went. Halfway to town (why is it always at the halfway mark!) the falling snow turned into an almost white out where the only thing I could see on the road was a faint line of grass along the ditch on my side of the road and a bit of a tire track in front of me. I had the most frightening experience of a complete white out last winter with just Olivia and I in the car. It was truly terrible and frightening and I could not see a thing in front of me. Yesterday had those moments, but usually I could see just a little bit and I stayd on the road.
We made it to town safely. I dropped Madeline off at school and just felt sick. The kids and I are now 20 minutes (of good road) away from home and there’s a snow storm. I went to pick Olivia at my friend’s house and told her how I wish the white out had started right when I left because then I would never have come into town. I should never have come into town. But that wouldn’t have solved the fact that two of my kids would’ve still been stuck on the other side of a snowstorm and needed to get home from school.
As it turned out, the snow stopped about half an hour later. After a little rest, visit, and lunch with my friend, Olivia and I headed out to get our groceries and Sinterklaas treats and drove home not in a white out. The roads were covered in snow, but we got stuck behind the snow plough for the last leg which meant the road was clear ahead. And the school bus (carrying Madeline and Luke) came up behind us and we gave them a ride home up our long driveway. Safe and sound and together again. (You can hear my sigh of relief, can’t you?)
This morning, however, Marc and I sent them out into the darkness and fog. Normally we can see their shadows getting onto the bus. Today there was no way to tell anything, though Madeline is smart enough to do a head count. But it’s almost sickening thinking of sending them out onto roads I would not drive on. Mama Bear in me rises up when I think about bad roads and bad weather and bad drivers. It can drive me to such fear and madness sometimes as my heart lunges out and wants to keep them safe at all costs.
But I know I can’t. In many ways I have control over their safety, but in even more ways I don’t. And it is quite heartbreaking to think of letting your loved ones go, even if at this point that just means putting them on the bus each morning.
We don’t know the future. We don’t see the many things that have the potential for harm each day. We can love and care for the ones we love. And that sometimes feels like we have to hold onto them with a vice grip. But even that vice grip won’t keep them from knowing the hurts and harms of life — in fact, that vice grip would probably be the worst harm of all!
How many times do people not risk knowing and loving others because they don’t want to get hurt?
There are these two extremes in us — the refusal to care and the refusal to let go. Neither are healthy. Instead, the “best” place to live is in that horrible tension of loving and letting go. Yes. I used the word “horrible” to describe the “best” way to live. Because it does.
Real love will often drop a horrible weight into the pit of your stomach, that stops your breath, and makes your eyes bulge out at the world in disbelief. You feel that stuff because you care. And then you have a choice — to retreat from it, to revolt against it, or to accept the fact that you’d like to do those other two, but instead you keep loving well and live in the tension that love and life will always be something that we can just barely grasp.