Thursday, March 6, 2014

Now I Get It

Lately I've realized there's nothing like parenthood to make you more forgiving -- of not only yourself, but your own parents as well. You could say I've been chewing on some pretty big bites of the proverbial humble pie.

In my mind's eye, I can see it: circa 1987. At the time our family attended New England's version of a mega church. I was about 13. My parents both served on the church's worship team -- my dad on drums; my mom played flute and sang. Every Tuesday night they went out for band rehearsal and left me in charge of my brothers. Every single Tuesday night I seethed with resentment. Aside from getting to watch a trifecta of my favorite shows (Who's the Boss/Growing Pains/Moonlighting) in peace, Tuesday nights stunk. I felt like I was drafted and forced "on duty" while my brother Nate could do whatever he wanted. I didn't WANT to be stuck trying to keep an eye on Andy's antics. I wanted to be free to do whatever I wanted. Of course. I was 13.

For years this went on, until the church collapsed in a spectacularly horrific fashion worthy of a Lifetime original movie. Many of us who were teens at the time grew quite jaded and cynical with "religion" and the mess the older generation had made. Around that time it seemed to be all the rage to talk about how Baby Boomers were self-centered and shallow, had fallen prey to greed and were all about appearances -- to me that applied to church as well, and even the worship team.

They just wanted to be recognized and put on a show, I remember thinking. That's why I was always left babysitting. I was tired of phonies and wished I could say how I really felt. In retrospect some of my feelings were very legitimate. I should have been able to speak my mind, and share my feelings about watching Andy in particular so much. My parents know that now. It was a different time and they were different people.

But there was so much I didn't know. There was so much I didn't think of then.

I didn't think about the way my parents had both had a passion for music in high school. My dad had made it to the "All state" then "All New England" competitions and was one of the best drummers in the region. He was a member of several bands (one released a few records even); they traveled to Holland to play at one point. My mom dreamed of going to music school until a bad audition and a sadistically insulting band teacher led her to cave in to fear. My mom is incredibly smart; certainly smarter than I am. She dropped out of college to have me.

I didn't think about the way at one point music had been such a big part of their lives...yet there they were, 15 years removed from high school, living in a small apartment trying to scrape together money to pay the bills, my dad working various odd jobs and my mom mostly at home trying to handle Andy and his various challenging behaviors.

I didn't think about what my mom might have been thinking while hauling endless basket after basket of laundry to the laundromat and scrubbing up the neverending messes we all (but especially Andy) made -- or what was going through her head when she'd pull out her flute and start playing in the midst of an especially challenging day.

These days as I sit with a baby who likes to fuss a good amount of the time, I see just a little. On those moments when I don't feel like being needed, when I feel like using another part of my brain, when I'd love to be up there and singing, I think I finally know. I know that Christians like to throw around clich├ęs like "It's not what I do, it's who I am" or "I find my identity in Christ," but there is still something special about doing that thing you know you were meant to do.

I know that those nights my parents left the house to practice, they were, in those moments, no longer The Parents of an Autistic Child. They weren't just "working class people making ends meet." They were worshippers. They were in their element. They were doing what they were called to do; they were getting a little taste again of those days when they were young before time and insecurities and children and life led them to the more responsible and yes, sometimes less "fulfilling" choices.

In those moments I see my parents, younger than I am now, and want to whisper "go." Take a break from these sometimes confining walls. Go. Get lost in worship. Be who you were called to be. Even if it's just for a little while. Even if it's just to get the strength to come back home and hold your head up until you have a chance to do it again.

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