Brian’s 280Z

280ZAnyone who knew my deceased husband, Brian, knew of his love of Nissan cars, especially, the 280Z.  280Z’s were fast, sleek, beautiful sports cars.  Brian collected two of these cars in 1985 when we came to Texas from Wisconsin.  He said that the beautiful weather of San Antonio made it possible to have a collector car because San Antonio never got snow or experienced the hideous salt they poured on the streets after the snow to make driving manageable in the north. Everyone who was from Wisconsin knew that the dreaded salt corroded cars.   I digress when I mention that I remember riding in my mother’s 1952 Plymouth and having water splash up through the floor boards because the bottom of the car had completely corroded due to that salt, so I did not argue when he passed on that reason for getting two sports cars.   Unlike, Jay Leno, who keeps his vintage cars in a warehouse and admires them, Brian had us use these cars as our everyday means of transportation.  His car was a white “Z”  with red leather interior and two seats.  When you road with him, the car enveloped you in the smell of leather and Brian’s Polo cologne.  Brian kept it perfect.  If a small stone happened to scratch it, he immediately retouched it.  He washed it weekly and waxed it often.  My car was a four seat 280Z.  It was a metallic brown.  As the family car, it was not in quite the condition that Brian kept his, but he tried to keep mine nice, too.  The lovely brown leather interior often smelled of groceries, candy and potato chips.  You see, our two young children were often hungry on the way home from school.  Most of our relatives knew enough to drive in to San Antonio because arriving from the airport with lugguge and subjecting their old bodies to crunching in to a 280Z was more than you should ask of an aging gramma and grampa.

Our family took only one vacation in our “family” 280Z.  That was a 1200 mile trip to Wisconsin for my only sister’s wedding, and than back to Texas.   My sister  is twelve years younger than I am and sometimes,  for a minute,  I would catch myself thinking she was my daughter.  I loved her like a daughter.  She was going to have all of us “stand-up” in her wedding.  We couldn’t afford to fly four people, so we piled into the “Z” with our  tuxedos for the guys and bridesmaid dresses for us girls and began what the children lovingly call, “Our First and Only Family Vacation.”   The “Z” did have a trunk, so our luggage could go there, but the kids, as I recall, also had some things packed between them in that tiny backseat.  These were  the glory days, the “good old days”  before handheld games, ipads and cell phones, so all the kids could do was read and write.  Arguing and fighting would have been an option, but Brian was a man of extreme self-control and discipline, both for himself and for those around him, so neither child argued, complained or mentioned that we were all burning up from the heat of the Texas desert and the hot drive shaft that went through the middle of the car and made the air conditioning seem non-existant.   We got up at 5 a.m., were on the road by 6 a.m., and drove until 6 p.m. stopping for a McDonald’s meal (he loved the filet-of-fish), at noon.   You would think Brian had been a general or something in the military, but he developed all that discipline and internal control all by himself.  Well, maybe his mother had something to do with it.  Anyway, we made it to Wisconsin and back, the wedding was lovely and my sister now has been happily married 25 years.

But why do I speak of this 280Z?  Brian kept this 280Z all of the years of our marriage.  He even kept it when he got cancer, went through chemotherapy and kidney dialysis.  He kept that car until he died.  But shortly before he died, when the chemo and the dialysis were taking its toll on him, he drove into the garage and scratched and dented the amazing white, now old, but still perfect, 280Z.  He came into the house and said,

“Why did I bother all those years to keep the car perfect?  Why didn’t I let anyone else drive it?  Why was I afraid it would get a scratch or dent?  Look now, in a minute, I have scratched and dented it.”

It was one of those Ahh-Hahhh moments that echoed through his universe.  Those of us who are clumsy and have dropped, spotted, stained or ruined many things in our life have these OH-OH  moments of ruination all the time.  Someone who has the remarkable ability to keep things spotless and perfect don’t have these moments as often.  In fact, this might have been his first.   What followed for him were a terrible series of OH-NO moments as he lost many of the abilities we all take for granted every day:   the ability to step up a step, the ability to feed yourself, the ability to get out of bed, the ability to think coherently.  One by one these abilities were taken away from a man who had done so much perfectly throughout his life.

Where is the God of Surprises in all this?  Well, after Brian died, I thought I would drive his 280Z just once before I sold it.  I really didn’t need two cars.  So one day I was driving it to school.   The car was driving well when all of a sudden all of the dials and lights in the car went on at once including the windshield wipers.   I was really afraid.  I didn’t know if it was going to stop in the middle of Bandera highway and I would be a stranded widow, or if I should drive it immediately to the Nissan dealer.  It did this for about a block, and then all the lights and dials went back to normal and I drove on to school.  I smiled than because I knew that it was my Brian driving with me in the 280Z for one last ride in a beautiful car.

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Was it a Dream or Goodbye?

I hope you read the post by my mom about my dad’s passing and how her God of Surprises gave her the opportunity to have a new family after becoming an empty nester and a widow in the span of a month.

In some ways, I was spared the agony of not only that final, awful summer of his life, but also much of the time he was sick. I was away in Dallas at college and my parents were adamant that I stay there and finish school. So, every time I was home, the reality and horror of his illness would hit that much harder.

Do you believe in following your instincts or intuition?  That August, about a month before my dad died, my instincts told me to go home for a weekend visit. It was the last time I saw my dad before he died. And that was one of the hardest weekends of my life.

Two months before, dad was in good spirits and preparing for a round of chemo in advance of a bone marrow transplant. Now, he was a shell of the person we knew. Stress fractures in his back, barely able to walk, and only about 120 lbs, he spent his days at dialysis or on the couch under blankets to stay warm from the air conditioning.

At home, nights were the worst. I would jolt awake because dad would suddenly cry out in pain from the stress fractures. Or he would just howl. Like an animal in pain, howl. It still haunts my dreams. Days were barely easier. At times, he didn’t recognize us and could barely walk. But the toughest was “the talk.” He was 47, knew he was dying, and had accepted it. Me? I was 21 and in denial.

I cannot tell you everything we discussed that afternoon on the couch. I cried, he cried, and he said goodbye. All I really remember is the last thing he said. “I don’t worry about you – you’ll be fine. Now your brother on the other hand….” I still chuckle. For the record, he meant that I have common sense. Dr. Brad, the neurosurgeon, and I are both fine!

Fast forward a few weeks to early September. That fateful Tuesday, my cell phone rang. I answered it with trepidation since back in those days, they tended to be used more for emergencies than casual conversation. My mom held back tears as she told me that my father was going to refuse dialysis and there was nothing more the doctors could do for him. He, as she said, “was going home to Jesus” and it was likely he would live up to two weeks. Hastily, we made plans for me to have one last visit that Friday.

He passed away on Thursday. In talking to my mom, she believed that he wouldn’t have wanted me to see him in hospice. He wanted to be remembered differently. God’s surprise blessing was to be spared the agony of that final in-person goodbye.

About two weeks after he passed away, the memorial service behind us, I had a dream. I dreamt my father was there. He was the person I remembered before he got sick. Stylish brown hair, Tom Selleck mustache, and his smile. He enveloped me in a hug, looked me in the eyes, and said simply, “I love you. Goodbye.”

Was it only a dream? I don’t know and I’ve never had another dream like it. But it was comforting and gave me peace. That’s really all that matters.

A Surprise for the Teacher

“Oh man, I have to teach Kindergarten this year,” I mumbled to my husband after the first day of teacher in-service training.

Yes, it was true.  In order for one of my friends to stay on our campus, I would have to give up my first grade room and class, a week before school started, move to a new classroom, decorate it, and prepare to teach a grade level I hadn’t taught for several years.  I really liked Kindergarten.  I liked the finger plays, the songs, the puppets, teaching beginning reading and  the 5 year old child.  What I didn’t like was finding out one week before the children came that I would be their teacher.   You see, teachers do a lot of their preparation during the summer to make the school year go more smoothly.  Without this preparation, you may not have the games made that go with each math unit, or the flash cards made for the reading words and skills.  Things like that.  I was experienced enough to know that this meant a very busy week before school started and a very busy year playing catch-up once the year did start.

With the help of my amazing family, I got ready in the week.  My class was the overflow class.  This is deadly.   It meant that I got all the new enrollees whose parents had not thought about sending their children to school until the first or second day of school.  These children usually were not academically, emotionally or socially prepared for school because their parents weren’t prepared for life, marriage or children, not to mention  buying school supplies. It also happened that this year there had been a “bumper” crop of boys born to parents who weren’t prepared for life, marriage or children.  By the end of the first week of school I had 16 boys and 4 girls enrolled in my class.  Now anyone that has observed boys and girls playing, has played with boys and girls on a playground, or who has spent several minutes teaching Kindergarten Sunday School, knows that boys talk less than girls in class and also that they solve many of their problems physically.   It doesn’t always have to be a big punch.   It can be a kick, a shove or a jab.  Boys are swift and to the point when things don’t go their way.   They do not spend endless minutes negotiating about the problem, like girls.  They don’t always come and tell the teacher because that takes time out from their game or activity.   They are quick, quiet, but efficient.

Anyway, by the third day of school we were all down to business.  The good behavior reserved for the first day of school was gone. Now, most boys, once they understand that recess is tied to following the rules in class, decide that hitting, kicking and punching in school are a bad idea and doing your work quietly is a good idea.   So I had 15 boys and 4 girls who were following the rules.

It was than that I started to notice that one little boy still did not seem to be following most of my rules, and when reprimanded would argue with me.  When asked to pull his clip (short for you have broken a rule, now you have a consequence at your recess),   he would scream at me and try to kick me.   He often would charge at me like a young lion attacking his prey.    I had to resort to the “lion-tamer” technique of holding up a little Kindergarten chair between me and the child.  As everyone knows, teachers really are in danger in the classroom because the legislature and lawyers have given all the control to the parents and children.  You can not restrain a child unless you have had current “child-restraint” training.  Special education teachers are usually trained in these restraining techniques yearly.  Regular education teachers are only trained if they have a child with severe behavior problems.  Because many children are entering Kindergarten without any school history, severe behavior problems are always a surprise.  So here I was, a teacher getting a surprise from my God of Surprises.

To say that this year was not difficult, bordering on impossible,  would be a lie.  It was one of the most difficult years I have ever had.  I would have daily episodes of “lion taming” with my little charging lion.  After awhile charging me was not enough, he began to escalate the behavior to worse and worse things.  He would shriek horrific obscenities during nap time recordings of Dr. Jean sings  nursery rhymes.  When we ignored that, he would get up and start throwing desks and chairs.  Several weeks into the semester, we all knew the routine, we would line up at the door, the neighbor teacher would call the principal to come and tame him, and the rest of us would go out for an extra recess until my “little lion” was in the custody of an administrator.

Mercifully, June came as quickly as it could.  I prayed for the rest of the class that they had learned at least Kindergarten basics from their parents because I certainly did not have enough time to teach them while I struggled to maintain order and a safe classroom.  My little lion moved away by the next year and I never heard from him again UNTIL…

One day about 15 or 16 years later there was a knock on my first grade classroom door.  I went to the door and there was a handsome young man.    He said,”Do you remember me?”

Of course I had no idea  who he was, so I said, “Give me a clue.”

He said, “I am….and he said his name.”

It was my “little lion”  from years ago.  My first thought was, “He has come to shoot me.”

I couldn’t have been further from the truth.  He told me that he was getting married in a week and that he came to invite me to his wedding.  He showed me a picture of his beautiful bride and said that he was being deployed in a month and really wanted me to come.  With tears in my eyes, I said of course I would come.

I went to his wedding and had a wonderful time.  Than I went home and thanked my God of Surprises for my  “little lion”  who had grown into a handsome Marine ready to protect our country.  God really is a God of Surprises.

 

Despite His Passing, My Dad Gave Me Away at My Wedding

Planning a wedding is pretty much 24/7 craziness. Imagine doing that, working full time, going to school full time, graduating from college, AND getting married. Yes, certifiably nuts.

In the midst of those chaotic events, our family was in mourning. Dad died in September and my wedding was the following May. Looking back, my wedding  was perhaps the one sliver of happiness in an otherwise miserable year.

But I digress. This is about how my father managed to give me away at my wedding, 9 months after his passing.

In September of the prior year, dad was cremated. During the urn selection, the funeral home offered miniature urns with a few ashes to keep while interring the main urn. So, despite dad’s burial in Wisconsin, I could have some of his ashes with me in Texas.

On my wedding day, I was honored to have a hand-embroidered handkerchief made by my great-grandmother (something both old and borrowed). I carefully knotted the mini urn in the handkerchief and carried it with my bouquet. In my mind, that allowed my Father to walk me down the aisle, at least in spirit.

Following the ceremony, as my Mother got up from her pew near the front of the church, she noticed something on the ground. Bending down, she discovered that the urn had fallen out of my knotted handkerchief and it was resting on the ground right next to her pew.  So she picked it up and walked out of church with my Dad.

So my precious Daddy had walked me down the aisle as he had been longing to do from the day I was born,  and now he was going to escort my mother out of church, as other proud parents do at a wedding.

Now whether or not this was just a coincidence,  it was still a special surprise to be able to feel like my Dad’s spirit was with me at this most important day in my life.

God’s Wonderful Surprise During My Time of Despair

Our son, Brad, was graduating from high school.    Brad was the valedictorian of his class and was to give the commencement address.  The school was so kind, giving us a seat on the floor rather than make Brian climb into the bleachers.  They even had their nurse nearby so if Brian was feeling ill, he could have some assistance.  The guidance counselor had offered to drive Brad to college if Brian was too sick to go.  Everything went well and Brian did not even have to use a walker to get in to the auditorium.

After Brad’s graduation from the  health magnet high school, we spent our summer getting him ready to go to college.  We shopped for things he needed to take,  like black sheets and towels in case he never connected with a washing machine at college, some clothes and rugby gear because he was going to play rugby at college.  Brian got back to his routine of kidney dialysis on Monday, Wednesday and Friday for about a week.  Then we started a new routine.  Kidney dialysis on Monday.   Brian got so sick at dialysis he had to be taken to the hospital to be stabilized.  Brad and I would have to drive over to the dialysis unit to pick up his car.  Then we would wait in admitting for hours.  He would be admitted by about 11 p.m.  We would go home, visit him for days in the hospital, he would be discharged on Saturday and we would start the whole routine over again on Monday.

Gradually, though,  Brian got so sick he was constantly confused.  One day while he was watching television there was a commercial for a funeral home and mortuary and he asked me, “When did I die?”

And so began a time when he was gradually moving toward heaven and away from us on earth.  We bought a new bed and mattress so that he was more comfortable because by now most of his ribs had fractures from the bone marrow cancer.  Shortly after we got the new bed, we were laying there trying to go to sleep when Brian sat up and started making the motions of celebrating mass.  He was raising the cup and giving hosts to people.  (He had been in the Catholic Seminary for some of his education during high school and had planned on becoming a Catholic priest.)

I asked him,  “What are you doing?”

He answered me, “Don’t you know I have to do my job!”

I cried myself to sleep that night because the cancer, the kidney dialysis and the chemo drugs  had taken away most of the man I had married.

The next day Brad was to go to college.  Brian and I had thought that we would drive Brad to Houston, but Brian’s back pain was too great to sit in a car for 6 hours, so it was decided that Brad would pack up the 280Z and drive himself to Houston.  I couldn’t hold back the tears when I watched Brad drive away.  Weren’t parents supposed to be able to take their children to college?

After that the doctors told us there was nothing else they could do for Brian, so the hospice people brought in a hospital bed for our living room.  Brian’s mother came to stay with him while I went to teach school.  That first night when Brian was in the living room in a hospital bed, I decided to sleep there with him in case he needed something or tried to get up during the night.  Around 2 a.m. Brian spoke in a voice that sounded like his Dad’s voice.  He said, “Brian, Brian.”  Brian answered, “Not yet, Dad, not yet.”

I went over to him and I said, “Brian, go home to Jesus.  I will be alright!”

Brian said to me, “Tom will give you a family.”

I dismissed all of that as just the confusion that he had been having because of all the drugs and diseases.

Brian died the next evening at the very same moment that his brother, Dale, called.  We arranged for his funeral back in his home state of Wisconsin.

Now why am I writing this as one of God’s surprises?  Well, because about a month after Brian’s funeral I was back at church singing in the choir, when one of the guitar players in the choir asked me to go square dancing with him.  His name was Tom,  and even though we were both almost 50 years old, he had a young family with a  5 year old daughter and a 9 year old son.  He had been a Catholic priest who had gotten married later in life.  Ironically, his wife had just divorced him around this time that Brian had died.  As we dated and began to fall in love, the words Brian had spoken to me as he had hovered between heaven and earth, came back to me.  Was it possible that this was really happening?  What did Brian’s words mean, “Tom will give you a family?”   Well,  I listened to those words, and against the advice of most of my family, I married Tom and raised those two children.   I also thanked my God of Surprises for giving me a most wonderful, unexpected gift at truly the lowest point in my life.  My God of Surprises had a more wonderful plan for my life that included loving and raising some more children as my own and using my gifts as a mother to help two precious children.  To all of you reading this, please believe that God can take what seems like the most awful circumstances and turn them into the most wonderful life…much better than you could have ever imagined yourself.

Shouldn’t Surprises be Good?

Yesterday I had the most terrible surprise!  Mary, my dearest friend for 30 years, was in a head-on car accident about a mile from her home.  A 22 year old male had fallen asleep at the wheel and driven into their lane.  Her husband, Mark, was killed instantly.  She has broken legs, a collarbone and we don’t even know yet how many other injuries.  Just that morning, something made me take  the new  James Avery blue “art globe” charm that Mary  had given me for my retirement from teaching in May out of my drawer.  I went to my gigantic floor-standing  jewelry box and searched for my James Avery charm bracelet.  Having found the bracelet, I put it together with the charm to take to the store and have it attached.  I was planning to go to James Avery in the afternoon.

Wow, those plans were interrupted by the call from Mary’s brother, Joe.  I listened with unbelieving ears to the story of  this tragic accident.  I heard how Mary was being sedated and had not even been told of her husband’s death, yet.  As I sobbed I remembered how she had been there for me during those thirty years.  She had not been married when we first started teaching together and had an apartment close to my house where I lived with my two young children and husband.  Besides helping me in the classroom, she had been a sponsor for my children in church activities, always remembered my birthday and anniversary with special presents, had suffered with me when my first husband died of multiple myeloma,  had hand-crafted a quilt for each of my two “grandbabies” when they were born and was always ready to go out of her way to deliver you to the airport or help with a shower.  Not only had she been this kind of friend to me, she treated all her friends and family  this very same way.

She had not met her husband, Mark, until later in life-around 38.  She, and we, had thought maybe she would never find anyone to marry.  All her friends were so delighted when they found each other and got married and moved to his ranch.  She was a good “ranch” wife.  She had been raised on a ranch and could help with many of the chores of ranching.  Although Mary  never had any children of her own, she loved Mark’s two children, and adored Mark’s  new grand daughter. Ironically, Mark had just retired from his job as an engineer and Mary was going to retire in December to spend time together.

I know,  God is fair and just and that He knows things we don’t know,  but when you see someone like Mary,  who has lived a life helping others and giving to others,  you wonder what  good will come out of  this car accident?   We could use a good surprise right now–Mary healing very quickly, with little or no pain would be a start!

I have lived long enough and had enough good surprises from God to realize the hidden surprise in this is that we are now given the opportunity to take care of Mary the way she has taken care of us.   Maybe we can surprise ourselves and find the best, the greatest and most loving parts of ourselves as we step forward to help our amazing friend heal.

Carol and Jerry and the Lamp

“Hurry over, Diane, I think Dad has had a stroke,” said Carol.

Diane hurried over to her mother’s house several blocks away while feverishly calling 911 at the same time.  It was true.  Jerry had experienced a stroke.  Big, tall, powerful, “larger than life,” Jerry was now in a hospital bed struggling to speak.  He had been a wonderful husband and father of their five children for 55 years.  It was heartbreaking to see him like this.  His children, grandchildren, friends and relatives poured in to say good-bye.  The nurses said he may live a week.  The family kept a constant watch over him in those days, one tired family member relieving another member as they kept up a round-the-clock prayer vigil.  Finally, almost a week later, Jerry died and the family went about the business of preparing for a funeral.

After the funeral, Carol, Jerry’s wife, was trying to get back to normal.  Many of the friends and relatives were back home, except for one son, daughter-in-law and their daughter, Meghan.  They had decided to stay a little longer just to be sure that Carol was OK.  Meghan was upstairs sleeping with her Gramma Carol.  Meghan fell asleep quickly, while Carol read for awhile to settle down before bed.  When she felt tired, she reached over to turn off the bedside lamp.  It was one of those “touch-control” lamps that could be turned on or off with just a touch.

Carol turned off the light.  It went out.  Carol settled down to sleep.  The light when on.  Carol touched the light again to turn it off.  It went right back on.  Carol tried a third time.  The light popped back on a third time.  Exasperated Carol said, “Alright, Jerry, stop turning on the light!  I need some sleep!”  By then she didn’t know what else to do, so she called her son to come upstairs and move her desk so that she could unplug that light.

It has been about a month since the funeral, and Carol has still left that light unplugged–but, everyone who knew Jerry knew that he was a big tease…and turning that light on would be a perfect example of his loving spirit reaching out to his beloved wife.

A Blast From the Past – Reconnecting to Childhood Friends

One of the best times of my life was the late 1980’s, and not just because of the bad fashion and the band Def Leppard.  We were enjoying the endless summer in San Antonio (at least compared to Wisconsin winters) and my parents went out to celebrate their January anniversary.  While celebrating, they struck up a conversation with another couple celebrating their anniversary.  As I recall, D and J invited my parents to their table and the rest is history.  D became my father’s closest friend.  For the next several years, pretty much every two weeks, my parents would have a date night with D and J, which meant that we got to hang out at D and J’s house.  This place was a paradise for a kid – trampoline and pool outside, cabana and pool table, family room, etc.  

Part of the bargain was that J’s youngest son, JJ, would babysit us.  I’m sure that was no treat for a teenage boy to have to watch two kids (I think I was about 10 or 11 when that first began), but he always made the best of it.  To this day, I loved the fun of our hide-and-seek games, epic Monopoly and Dungeons and Dragons battles, and just hanging out.  I really built a good friendship with JJ.  

Unfortunately, as often happens, life changes.  D and J divorced and we largely lost touch with them and J’s sons.  I always regretted that we lost touch with the family as my memories of them were some of the fondest in my young life.  Off and on through the years, I’ve wondered what became of each family member.  I knew D passed away several years ago, but knew nothing about J or her sons.  Then, after a recent vacation, I turned my phone back on and was surfing Facebook.  Imagine my surprise when I see a familiar name tagged in an elementary school classmate’s photo!  J’s son, S, was apparently friends with this person!  To say I was shocked would not do justice to the amazement I experienced.

I think one of God’s surprises was that, after 25 years since I last saw them, I had the opportunity to reconnect with this family, thanks to a random Facebook picture.  This has meant a lot to me as it was nice to find out how each of them is doing and to begin rebuilding friendships.  Given that last week, I lost a dear high school classmate, this opportunity took on a bigger meaning.  Life is too short to live with regrets and I’m grateful to no longer have the regret of losing touch with this dear family.

It’s a Small World…

The other day, I was supposed to get my haircut and, due to a mix-up at the salon, they couldn’t fit me in until the next day.  So, I decided to make the best of it and, besides running errands, volunteered for a bit at a cat adoption event.  During the event, we ran out of paper towels and hand sanitizer (those kitties get messy!), so I ran to the store next door.  

Imagine my surprise when the manager at the store looked awfully familiar.  It turned out to be a high school classmate I hadn’t seen in 20 years!  The crazy part is the similarities in our stories: we went to high school in a completely different city, had both moved to Dallas for college (at completely different schools), both had worked on projects over the past 10+ years that took us away from Dallas, and both found ways to be back here for our families.  It was a wonderful surprise to randomly run into this person and catch up on the last 20 years and never would have happened if my hair appointment did occur on time.  

Love those little happy life moments!

Christina’s Airport Surprise

Sitting on a bench in the Bryan/College Station airport, I anxiously waited for the shuttle bus to show up to take me to the Houston airport.  As I sat there, a woman, named Beth, approached me asking if I was waiting for the bus to go to Houston.  That simple question led us to the realization that we were both going to the same airport (the shuttle went to both Houston and Hobby airports).  We were also going on the same airline and our flight times were exactly the same.  Normally, that would not have been a very surprising revelation, except for the fact that we were taking the 12:00 noon shuttle and our flights weren’t until 8:30 p.m.  I had originally tried to get on a later shuttle, but all of the other times were taken.  If I had been on a later bus, I would never have met Beth.

Finally, the shuttle bus arrived, so we piled into our seats and continued our conversation.  I was on my way to visit my boyfriend in Florida and she was headed to Alabama to visit her son.  Beth was headed to Alabama to visit her son.  Sadly, she mentioned that her son’s ex-wife has a disorder called Borderline Personality Disorder.  I was in shock.  I immediately stopped her and informed her that my mother suffers from Borderline Personality Disorder.  Until that moment, I had never met anyone else, aside from my own family members, that had a personal relationship with someone who has Borderline Personality Disorder.  I couldn’t believe that this complete stranger, who I had only met 30 minutes before, had so much in common with me and because of our similar experiences with a Borderline personality disorder family member, she intuitively had a level of understanding of my life that not many other people have.

From that moment on, I knew that she was going to become a dear friend for me.  Despite our significant age difference (I’m in college and she is a grandmother), our friendship provided us both with a truly healing gift–the gift of Hope.  For me, it was a reminder of what I went through as a child and a realization of how much my life has improved.  I still have some residual struggles  from my traumatic childhood living with my mother, but it was so healing for me to give the gift of understanding to this older woman who was struggling to understand the upheaval and constant turmoil this borderline disorder can impose on a family of loved ones.  We could share stories of chaos that the  borderline can make out of any gathering or interaction that started out innocently and normally.  I felt healed and energized to realize how far I had come from that frightened little 5 year old girl that stood at the door crying because my mother was angry.  I felt hopeful for my life ahead.   And for Beth, what hope did it give her?   She told me that it gave her hope that if I had overcome this adversity, so could her three grandsons overcome their adversity of being raised by a similar mother.

Even though our friendship is a slightly unexpected one, we have continued to meet regularly.  Beth has become an important part of my life.  We will continue to see each other and share stories, struggles and hope.  But most of all we will share surprise and delight for the gift of each other that has been one of God’s delightful surprises.