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Thursday, November 3, 2011

Out of Control



The eagle had landed; her rolling talons gripped the Florida tarmac, screeching while grabbing hold of the spinning earth. I held my breath for a brief moment; tucked snuggly between my two gentlemen seatmates. I got to chat to both of them although they never acknowledged each other. I was the female partition between two alpha males, which made me wonder if they didn’t speak because there was some sort of macho competition going on (although that’s hard to imagine seeing I had been up since 2:00am and looked like a rumpled pigeon) or were they just being shy. Either way they served in taking my mind off my cold and the last dragging miles of a very long journey.

My husband and I had gone to Massachusetts to visit family. This is where we both grew up and it had been nearly seven years since our last visit. My in-laws have been migrating to Florida each winter for the last eleven years, so we’ve been enjoying our annual visits with them in the Sunshine State. This visit was different. You see my father-in-law is fighting cancer, and had recently started his chemo treatments. I don’t need to remind you of the long and complicated list of side effects that chemo can cause. My father-in-law was steadfastly engaged in fighting off these pharmacological assaults on all fronts.

It took two stays in the hospital to get these renegade side effects under control. During which time his family stayed closely by his side. I’ve been a part of this family for over thirty three years, and feel every bit a daughter, but there was a little wiggle room in there where I could observe the family and witness the culmination of a lifetime of love being devotedly ministered in a ten by ten foot hospital room. The synchronicity was natural, a step ahead of verbal cues, flowing from hearts motivated by love. It was amazing.

I was acutely aware of the loss of control involved in dealing with such a serious illness, loss of control for the one fighting the illness, and for the family at his side. There is a certain raw tension that pulls at the heart when someone you love is in distress, a fight or flight impulse, only there is nobody to fight and no place to run. One must simply deal…and trust. My father-in-law flowed within this reality; teaching his family how to be brave and vulnerable all at once.

I watched my mother-in-law wrestle with this reality as she also dealt with the ever-changing necessities of daily living. These demands seemed red-hot with urgency, as though the burner had been turned to high requiring her to keep a constant eye on the pot.

There were a few intense moments along the way but the one which sits fresh in my mind was that freak October Nor’easter! We had to drive to the airport in white-out conditions. With each gust of wind, the autumn leaves, acting like cupped hands full of snow, would pummel our windshield with snowballs. It was like being ambushed by a mob of unruly school boys.

Having finally made it to the airport we were notified that our flight had been cancelled. Okay, I called before we left and the airlines had assured us that, short of four feet of snow falling, there was no way in hell that they were going to cancel our flight. Hmpf!!! ^%$$#@$^%$!!!

So, we set off, once again, through the blinding snows, and building drifts, dodging nervous drivers, and deadly limbs, all the way back to suburbia. There was no control to be had when facing Mother Nature’s fury. I had to be brave and vulnerable…just like my father-in-law.

I couldn’t wait to get back to the warmth and safety of the family home, contently snuggled into my bed, sipping on hot tea while watching something mindlessly entertaining on television. This is where the needle scratches across the record…………….!!!!!!!!!!! There would be no TV watching, tea drinking, or warm cuddling because there was no power!

We had no car, although even if we had it would have done us no good. We had no heat or lights. We had nothing. I felt the prickly feet of fear marching through my constricted arteries like an army of spiders wearing spiky golf shoes. You can always count on fear, being of an opportunistic and maniacal nature, to be the first on the scene during any crisis.

I quietly lay beneath the covers, listening to the wind whistle through the trees, praying that none of the oversized oaks that stand sentinel around my in-law’s small ranch would fall and crush us. I also mourned the loss of morning coffee, a hot shower, and the Florida sunshine that, had we caught our flight, I would be basking in on the morrow.

I awoke to the chill of the morning with bright sunshine sneaking in through the sides of the bedroom shades; its soft lemony stripes crisscrossed my blanket, making me wonder if the snowstorm had been a bad dream. My icy nose told me otherwise, so I quickly dressed and made my way to the nearest window.



As Juliet said to Romeo, “Ah me,” having found no suitable words in the King’s English to otherwise describe the inexplicable joy and rapture of being in love. The view had stolen my breath away, transporting me to a place where I was neither cold nor afraid. I could only stare in awestruck wonder as the scene somehow compensated for the disruptive nature of the storm.

Using my cell, we borrowed a car and swiftly made our way through our Rockwellian neighborhood to the nearest McDonald’s. The line was incredibly long but we waited with unflinching patience enjoying the blowing warmth of the car heater.



When we returned to the house Mikes’ mom was sitting in her chair enjoying the snowy view. Handing her a mug full of coffee, she eagerly wrapped her cold hands around it, and sipped at the hot liquid. I watched her, wrapped in a blanket like an ancient seer, calmly enjoying her modern breakfast in spite of all that seemed to be falling apart around her. She could control none of it…and she was at peace with this knowledge.



I doubt my mother-in-law realizes how loudly this display of stoic acceptance spoke to me. Each time I look at her photograph I fill up with emotion.

This trip has taught me a lot. It taught me how control is but an illusion, and how love, the most powerful of forces, somehow makes up for our lack of control. It also taught me that no matter how old we are there are still lessons to learn and that some of the toughest lessons may visit us in the winter of our lives. I still have so much to learn but of one thing I’m certain; I’m incredibly honored to call my in-laws Mum and Dad.

50 comments:

Karen Wojcik Berner said...

What a story! First off, my heart goes out to your in-laws. Your picture of your mother-in-law is beautiful, her buffered from the storm like that, but all the while knowing what awaits. I'll say a prayer for them.

As a writer, I cannot help but love your winter metaphor. Inspired.

Glad you arrived home safely.

Leah Griffith said...

Thank you Karen. I am just now landing...picking up all the fragments and diamonds and putting them in their proper places. I had no idea what this trip would bring...
Peace,
Leah

Dangerous Linda said...

lovely story filled with noble characters. i'm glad everyone weathered the storm O.K. -- usually, it's us in MN that gets hit like that, although I grew up in New England and remember plenty of snow there, too!

holding you daddy-in-law, and your whole family, in my heart! blessings!!!

Leah Griffith said...

Linda, I used to be hearty and tough...now I'm thin blooded and wimpy when it comes to the cold weather. I got a good taste of it which should last me for years!
Thank you for your tender post Linda. I appreciate your sentiments.
Hugs,
Leah

Alfandi said...

Wow..the snow reminds me of my college days in NH..your blog doesn't feel like a blog..it feels like reading a book..so beautifully written..maybe you should tap the ebook market..seems the rage nowadays..anyway, keep up the good work.

Corinne Rodrigues said...

Leah very moving post...especially the part about your Mum-in-law...They don't make them like that any more, do they? Praying for your father-in-law and the whole family....♥

Leah Griffith said...

Thank you Alfandi! Actually I'm working on publishing a novel right now ebook style. That seems to be the way to go. Perhaps someday I'll gather my blogs and publish them also. Good idea!
Peace,
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

You are so right Corinne...they don't make them like they used to. I appreciate your visit and your prayers for the family. <3
Hugs,
Leah

Anonymous said...

WOW, made me cry for hours. so beautiful leah. WOW WOW WOW. your an amazing writer. love you'

Leah Griffith said...

Love you too sis! This was a sticky one...lots of tissues;)

Shreya said...

Lovely post as always :) Beautiful pictures. I always love being here. God bless :) xx

Rimly said...

I so love reading your posts Leah. You are so right about fear being the first to appear in a crisis. And yes control is an illusion. I know that when my mom falls sick I panic and feel so out of control because I love her so much and I feel so helpless.

http://rimlybezbaruah.blogspot.com/2011/11/i-am-rose.html

sparklemezen said...

Family ties like the one you share are precious.... hope your FIL gets better soon....
The weather is really changing... early snow fall for you and for the month of Nov Delhi is suppose to the cold... still in T shirts etc...

Cheryl P. said...

Leah, I am sorry to hear that your family is having to deal with such serious health issues. Your pictures are lovely. The pic of your MIL tells a story within itself. The snow storm pictures tie in so well to the subject of your post. As parents get to the winter of their lives, it is a unique period for the children as well.

I will keep your family in my thoughts and prayers.

Leah Griffith said...

Hi Shreya, so good to see you! Have a fun weekend lady!!
Hugs,
Leah

Jayne said...

Ah me! Life's a journey, all right. And your mantra, everything is as it should be (even when it seems it can't possibly be!) sings in this piece.

"But or the grace of God go I" could just as well be "but for the grace of Family, go I." Misfortunes and hard times aside, whether we deny it or not, family remains at the core. Sometimes that can be a burden, but so often it's a blessing that sustains the ups and downs.

Such love in this post. And a common thread, too, that glistens strength of character. Recognizing that control is an illusion, that sometimes we just have to surrender to what life brings takes real bravery. So happy for you, Leah, that you were able to spend time with family back in your old stomping grounds.

Thinking of you and your family...
*hugs*

Leah Griffith said...

Rimly, panic comes so natural when somebody you love is in danger. I'm so thankful that we have hope, love, and faith, to balance things out;)
Hugs,
Leah

Hamlet's Lair said...

beautiful post! may God continue to be with your family as you all deal with the situation... and may love be stronger than ever in the absence of control.

Cathy said...

There's something about this metaphor that transcends itself. How well you articulate the love that is stronger than it knows. Be well dear Leah...

Leah Griffith said...

Sparkle, they are precious and priceless! Thank you for your kind thoughts <3

Leah Griffith said...

Yes Cheryl, it is a challenging time. One day...second at a time and enjoy EVERY MOMENT!!
Wishing we weren't so damn far away. ;(
XO
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Jayne, thanks for your sweet and thoughtful words. I feel incredibly blessed to have been able to make that visit.
I'm still smiling over our luncheon...that was really nice.
Enjoy your weekend dear Jayne.
Hugs,
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Shyllzkie, I believe that is the truth...that in our weakness we are strongest. This is when our default setting click into place...that spiritual connection that is so much stronger than we are.
XO
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Sweet Cathy, your grace shines through your comment. Thank you <3

J. R. Nova said...

The snow looks gorgeous when I'm not in it :)

Leah Griffith said...

J.R., I agree. From a distance it's lovely. I didn't have a coat or boots...none of the essential winter gear required to actually engage in the snowfall. LOL!!

Ravenmyth said...

Leah this is a perfect title for this very difficult post...my healing thoughts are with you, your father-in-law and your family.

That feeling of helplessness...knowing that you are on a journey that will have a life of it's own...and all you can do is " Have Faith"...I always say, it is easy to have "Faith" when things are going well...the true test of " Faith" is when we no longer have control of a situation. It is interesting even your journey to get to the airport and to your family was full of road blocks, stops and starts...not unlike the disease itself.

Yet in the face of all this adversity, life goes on..snow falls, the morning routine of breakfast...your mother in law...captured in a routine.

The beauty within all the challenges is that " Unconditional Love" can rise to the surface..and therin lies your "Faith" and "Strengh"..wrapping you all in it's Loving Arms...wishing you strength in these difficult times...Always...

Andy said...

Hello.
I had a lump in my throat reading this.
Sickness, pain, old age & even death are the wages of sin for the human race.

I lost my dad when I was in my early teens & although my mom was both mom & dad to me, there was a lot of father-son stuff I missed out on. Since meeting & marrying my wife, I feel as if her parents have "adopted" me. I love my in-laws dearly as I know they love me just the same. I feel a special kind of love for dad-in-law, because he's as close to a second dad as I could ever ask for.

Love know no bounds, no distance, no time, no color, no race. Love is never-ending.
Your photos speak volumes. I shall hold your family in my thoughts & prayers.

Thanks for sharing.

Mari Sterling Wilbur said...

Leah, your words caught me, wrapped me up and pulled at my heart. I can picture each scene and feel every nuance of family interaction. I hope all goes well for your family. Your photography is lovely.

Jan said...

What a wonderfully beautiful post of love and strength. Your writing is fantastic, put me right there with you, feeling the emotions. Prayers to you and your family.

Jodi Chapman - Soul Speak said...

Leah,
My eyes are teary after reading this - truly. They are teary because my heart goes out to your entire family-especially your father-in-law. They are teary because I can completely relate to the loss of control and having no other choice than to surrender. They are teary because your writing is so heartfelt and beautiful and inspiring. Your words encourage me to get back to my book and my blog and write - even if I'm tired and feel like I have nothing more to say. You're that good, my dear friend. Thank you for moving me to tears. Really. Thank you.

Leah Griffith said...

Raven, you totally got what this post was all about. It’s funny how we wrestle with life’s challenges, struggling and panting, only to finally surrender to love in the end. It is easy to have faith when things are all in place but once things begin to fall apart…so do we.

Thank you for you loving words for my family. We need every one of them Raven.
Peace & hugs my friend.
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Andy, I’m sorry that you lost your dad at such an impressionable age. The teen years are a battlefield under the best of conditions.
I grew up without a dad so I can relate to your close relationship with your father-in-law. Love is so very special, knowing only the bounds that we place on it.
Thank you for your thoughts and prayers for my family. They mean so much to all of us.
Hugs,
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Mari, thank you for your sweet words and support. Life is such a mixed bag...we reach in, crossing our fingers that we pull something special, and then we realize that it's all special.

Mari, I intend to pay close attention to your tips on photography. I consider my snapshots purely amateur. You, my lady, are a photographer!
Hugs,
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Thank you sweet Jan. With all the love flowing in these posts I feel confident that love will answer in the end.
Hugs to you.
Leah

Leah Griffith said...

Miss Jodi, I'm honored to have been used to move you in a deep and meaningful way...as you do for so many on a very regular basis.
You have so much inside of you that is still untapped. Never believe that you have nothing more to say. Your life is your words. All the lessons that you learn and the unique ways that you find to answer life's questions are food for the hungry souls.
We each do our meager parts, often underestimating our impacts, and sometimes holding back. But in the end we speak. This is what we have.
Love & Hugs,
Leah

Jodi Chapman - Soul Speak said...

♥ ♥ ♥

Bongo said...

you dragged me right in with your words..what a horrific and beautiful experience...horror and ending in love....Thank you for sharing this...As always...XOXOXOXOXOXO

Leah Griffith said...

<3 Jodi <3

Leah Griffith said...

Thank you for visiting Bongo, and for your generous words.
Hugs,
XO

Jessica M said...

Leah, I'm so sorry to hear about your father-in-law...it's never easy seeing those we love suffer from illness. My prayers will be with you and your family.

Leah Griffith said...

Thank you sweet Jessica. This means so much to us all <3

Chris said...

"Yes, you who must leave everything
That you cannot control;
It begins with your family
But soon it comes round to your soul..."

In moments like these, somehow I often find myself running to Leonard Cohen for comfort. He knows life, love, and loss so well, and his poetry is like the gentlest snow cover, protective until we gather enough strength for the the next fight.

You stay proud of your family, dear friend, and we will keep sending serene thoughts and prayers your way. Hugs.

Leah Griffith said...

Chris, is this one of Leonard Cohen's poems? It's beautiful. I love his music...I must listen more and dig a little deeper.
Thank you for your visit...I always love our encounters. You're a friend, a kindred spirit, and a hell of a writer;)
Hugs.

Chris said...

Perhaps I ought to have been more specific, forgive me. The lines were from the "Sisters of Mercy," which is a song, but all his songs are poetry anyways... ;) If he were, like, half a century younger, I'd totally be after him :P

Thank you for your kind words. XOXO

Leah Griffith said...

Chris, I adore that poem, and yes Leonard is a heart throb. His essence is like honey lit on fire. He'll never get old...never. Sigh.

XOXO

Brooke said...

Wow, Leah, this post was so beautiful. I loved this! 'With each gust of wind, the autumn leaves, acting like cupped hands full of snow, would pummel our windshield with snowballs. It was like being ambushed by a mob of unruly school boys.'

You are such an amazing writer, and with such heart and courage. Thank you for transporting me.

Leah Griffith said...

Miss Brooke, thank you for the lovely compliment. I believe that we take turns transporting each other. This morning I read your "coming out" post and it transported me right out of my chair. I'm gonna go get back in line for another ride...call me a thrill seeker;)

melissa said...

You have shared more than one incident of being 'out of control' and it does deviate us from our daily scheds and living.

I pray for your dad-in-law and would like you to feel that I am near spiritually.

Leah Griffith said...

Actually we are always out of control because control is an illusion LOL!!
Thank you for your prayers Melissa, he certainly needs them.

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