A Joy and a Chore

This week was a rigorous whirlwind of activities which included, but were not limited to, ripping out and dragging away poopy old carpet, keeping little feet from stepping on exposed tack strips, and climbing over all the furniture which was moved to the kitchen.

Getting new carpet is a dream come true, even as it is a nightmare.

While we watched for the bus the other morning and I kept Jack from menacing the myriad tools which littered the floor, the carpet installer watched Jack with curiosity. He spoke to Jack respectfully and asked me where he went to school. After Jack left, the carpet man went to his truck and then handed me a laminated obituary of a lovely woman with special needs who had passed away a couple of years ago in her early fifties.

“That’s my little sister,” he said. And I began to read.

The summary of this woman’s life was clearly written by someone who knew her well, and loved everything about her. Some of my favorite points: she loved Big Red gum, Pepsi, going out to dinner, singing duets with her brother (our carpet guy), and shopping at the dollar store. She had more friends than anyone else in her family, was greeted with fondness by practically everyone, and always had to have two dollars in her purse at any given time.

This woman, her likes and her personality, gleamed from the laminated newsprint. I didn’t even know her, but I already liked her.

Later that morning, Truman and I took a walk. He enjoyed the scenery and I pondered the carpet man’s sister and her humble list of simple pleasures.

We passed Henry’s school where the sixth-graders were wrapping up recess. I tried to casually pick my kid out of the sea of navy and red polo shirts, just wanting a peek of my eldest in his element. Just before I rounded the bend in the path, half of the sixth grade spotted and recognized me, yelling, “Hi Henry’s mom!” Henry gave me a wave and a “Hi Mom!”

I decided that that moment was worthy of a laminated obituary. My simple pleasure: being known as my kid’s mom, by a happy crowd of sixth graders.

Before the walk and my celebrity moment by the school, when I finished reading that obituary I thanked the carpet man for sharing it with me and handed it back to him. He said, “You know, you understand. She was a joy…….and a chore.”

I solemnly nodded my agreement at this person who, in one brief sentence, encapsulated so perfectly the nature of life with a special family member.

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A Joy and a Chore

That September morning, piles of dirty carpet and crumbling carpet pad overwhelmed my house. The combination of exposed tack strips and little bare feet turned the dreamy event of getting new flooring into kind of a nightmare.

As we watched for the bus and I kept my intellectually disabled nine-year-old from menacing the tools which littered the floor, the carpet installer watched Jack with curiosity. He nodded and told Jack hello, then asked me where he went to school. When the bus left, the carpet man went to his truck and returned with a laminated obituary of a woman with special needs who had passed away a couple of years ago in her early fifties.

“That’s my little sister,” he said.

The high points of this woman’s life were clearly written by someone who knew her well and loved her. Some of my favorite parts: she liked Big Red gum, Pepsi, eating out, singing duets with her brother (our carpet guy), and shopping at the dollar store. She had oodles of friends, was greeted with fondness by practically everyone, and always had to have two dollars in her purse at any given time.

This woman’s personality shone from the laminated newsprint.

My toddler and I left for a walk that day and I pondered the carpet man’s sister and her list of simple pleasures.

When we passed Henry’s school where the sixth-graders were wrapping up recess, I casually tried to spot my kid in the sea of navy and red polo shirts. I wanted a peek of my eldest in his element. Just before I rounded the bend in the path, half of the sixth grade spotted and recognized me, yelling, “Hi Henry’s mom!” Henry gave me a wave and a “Hi Mom!”

I decided that moment was worthy of a laminated obituary. My simple pleasure: being known as my kid’s mom by a happy crowd of sixth graders.

Before the walk and my celebrity moment by the school, when I finished reading the obituary of a woman I didn’t know, I thanked the carpet man for sharing it with me and handed it back to him.

“You know, you understand,” he said. She was a joy…….and a chore.”

At this statement my mind fanned through myriad images of my family’s life, like the shuffling of a deck of cards.

I saw myself holding my eight-month-old redhead as a geneticist diagnosed him with a rare syndrome.

I recalled all the tantrums that happened in public places.

I imagined every time a Code Brown covered the carpet, walls, and furniture and squashed my will to live.

I remembered feeling like I lived at Primary Children’s Hospital and Kids on the Move for Early Intervention, or at least on the freeway which ran between them.

I thought of my first two little boys kneeling by the electric train set, two sets of eyes following the Lionel Polar Express around it’s oval track.

I saw myself on my back, lifting my smiling nonverbal preschool-aged son on my feet like an airplane, our hands clasped.

I pictured the after-bath miracle when Jack, wrapped in a hooded towel, imitated my husband opening and closing his mouth, saying “ah” to his reflection in the mirror.

I tasted the sweetness of the night two Christmases ago when my family sat together on the couch through an entire viewing of Fantastic Mr. Foxwithout a single person freaking out about anything.

I recalled the recent day when my boys and I walked the long brown windowless hallway leading to the university behavioral health clinic, and I realized that place held no power over me anymore. Victory and acceptance replaced anxiety and despair.

My hands clasped the stair rail as my mind skipped over the images of what it means to parent a joy and a chore.I nodded at this knowing man stapling carpet to our stairs, who in five words summarized the essence of my life.

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Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

A Joy and a Chore

That September morning, piles of dirty carpet and crumbling carpet pad overwhelmed my house. The combination of exposed tack strips and little bare feet turned the dreamy event of getting new flooring into kind of a nightmare.

As we watched for the bus and I kept my intellectually disabled nine-year-old from menacing the tools which littered the floor, the carpet installer watched Jack with curiosity. He nodded and told Jack hello, then asked where he went to school. When the bus left, the carpet man went to his truck and returned with a laminated obituary of a woman with special needs who had passed away a couple of years ago in her early fifties.

“That’s my little sister,” he said.

The high points of this woman’s life were written by someone who knew her well. Some of my favorite parts: she liked Big Red gum, Pepsi, eating out, singing duets with her brother (our carpet guy), and shopping at the dollar store. She had more friends than anyone else in her family and always had to have two dollars in her purse at any given time.

Her personality shone from the laminated newsprint.

My toddler and I left for a walk that day and I considered the carpet man’s sister and her list of simple pleasures.

When we passed the school where the sixth-graders were wrapping up recess, I casually tried to spot my kid in the sea of navy and red polo shirts. I wanted a peek of my eldest in his element. Just before I rounded the bend in the path, half of the sixth grade spotted and recognized me, yelling, “Hi Henry’s mom!” Henry gave me a wave and a “Hi Mom!”

I decided that moment was worthy of a laminated obituary. My simple pleasure: being known as my kid’s mom by a happy crowd of sixth graders.

Before the walk and my celebrity moment by the school, when I finished reading the obituary of a woman I didn’t know, I thanked the carpet man for sharing it with me and handed it back to him.

“You know, you understand,” he said. “She was a joy…….and a chore.”

At this statement my mind raced through myriad images of my family’s life, like the shuffling of a deck of cards.

I saw myself holding my redheaded baby as a geneticist diagnosed him with a rare syndrome.

I recalled the tantrums that happened in so many public places.

I imagined every time a “Code Brown” had covered the carpet, walls, and furniture and squashed my will to live.

I remembered feeling like I lived at the children’s hospital and at Early Intervention, or at least on the freeway which ran between them.

I grimaced at the memory of ten years of difficult Sundays with Jack kicking me in the church foyer, screaming during the sacrament, and having no place to fit in during the two long remaining hours.

I recalled kneeling helplessly beside Jack’s toddler bed as he cried, listening when the Spirit whispered “Jack is a child of God.”

I thought of my first two little boys kneeling by the electric train set, two pleased sets of eyes following the Lionel Polar Express around it’s oval track.

I saw myself on my back, lifting my smiling nonverbal three-year-old son on my feet like an airplane, our hands clasped.

I pictured the after-bath miracle when Jack, wrapped in a hooded towel, imitated my husband opening and closing his mouth, saying “ah” to his reflection in the mirror.

I tasted the sweetness of the evening two Christmases ago when my family sat together on the couch through an entire viewing of Fantastic Mr. Foxwithout a single person freaking out about anything.

I swelled with emotion remembering when the bishop asked me at Jack’s eight-year-old interview if I believed Jack has a testimony of the Savior, and weeping because I know he does, even though he can’t say it.

I recalled the recent day when my boys and I walked the long gray windowless hallway leading to the university behavioral health clinic, and I realized that place no longer holds any power over me. Victory and acceptance have replaced anxiety and despair.

I felt the lightness that accompanied a dream I had where a neighbor leaned over and whispered to me at church, “You don’t need to worry what people think about the challenges you have raising your children. You’re doing a good job,” and knowing it was actually God saying it to me.

On that September morning, my mind fanned through the everyday images of parenting a joy and a chore.I solemnly nodded at this knowing man stapling carpet to our stairs, who in five words summarized the essence of my life.

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