September 16, 2022

So much more than a Coat by Bailey

 

My sweet daughter Bailey sent me a copy of a paper she wrote for a college English class at her high school: 





So Much More Than a Coat

            It was a power struggle. Mother against son. All morning long, from seven AM until the bus arrived. They went round after round; the unwavering will of a protective mother against the stubborn determination of an “independent” little boy. Today, this particular argument was about a coat.

            How many mornings are started this way? The boy has his stance, while his mother has another. Pointed jabs, fussing, arguing, maybe a little yelling, and ending with rushing out the door. This mom and kid might not see each other until after school, or later that night. Maybe the quarrel is brought up again, but usually it is quickly forgotten minutes after the door slams.

            Back to the coat. This mother didn’t want to send her little boy to school on a cold winter day in shorts and a T-shirt. Not only would that leave him cold and shivering, but it would make her look like a bad mother in the eyes of the teachers and other parents. Think of how they would talk behind her back, appalled as to how she could send her little boy out in the cold like that. The little boy refused to wear his coat because he, “looks cooler without it”. He couldn’t have all of his little buddies at school making fun of him for showing up in a big, puffy winter coat. However, by the time the bus was coming around the corner, the coat was nowhere to be found. This woman was livid. She knew he had hidden the coat to get his way and arrive without one.

 


The bus pulled up and the little boy slammed the door behind him. About a half an hour later… the phone rang.  This mom was informed that a little boy had been hit by a car before school while he was waiting for the bus.

            On the table, sat a bowl of unfinished cheerios and on the chair behind it, hung a little blue coat.

            What if that was the last time this mother had seen her little boy? No kiss goodbye. No, “I love you”, before he left. Just the slam of a door and the screech of a car break.

I believe that relationships should not be taken for granted. Too often are priorities confused, times forgotten, the little moments ignored, and bonds damaged by selfishness.

            When I was about eight years old, my grandpa, “Papi” is what me and my siblings called him, was diagnosed with esophageal cancer. He lived for many years this way, but it wasn’t until a year or two before he died that he was deemed terminal. His only child, my father, died a year or two before he was diagnosed with cancer, so it was hard for him to see me and my siblings much. We reminded him too much of his deceased son. However, I was obsessed with astronomy, and so was he. It was one of the few things we had in common. When I was in fourth grade, the only thing I wanted for my birthday was a telescope. When I got home from school the day of my birthday, he was there waiting for me with a telescope in hand.

When I heard he had passed, I was heartbroken. However, I didn’t really know my Papi, even though he lived not even thirty minutes away. I didn’t even cry at the start of the funeral. It wasn’t until I heard his stories at the service that I really got to know him. This man lived an extremely full life. Papi was a partier. He was one to go skiing in a speedo and he had a story for anything. He’s been everywhere, done everything. He lived every moment to the fullest. Not 


only did I learn more about him, but I learned how much he loved me and my siblings. He would brag to his friends all the time about us. He especially loved to share, “My grandkids call me Papi… Big Papi”. One of his good friends shared a time when he was especially sick at the hospital, close to death. He said that he knew the end was near and the good moments were becoming fewer and fewer. He said, “The other day was a good day.” When asked why, he replied, “My grandkids came and saw me”.

I burst into tears. I meant everything to my grandpa, and I only assumed he didn’t want to see me. I had been asked to sing to close his funeral, but by the end of the song, I could barely sing a note. I was heavy with so much regret. Why hadn’t I taken advantage of the time I had with him when he was alive? I felt like I was getting to know who my grandpa was after he was gone.

            Late at night, when I can’t sleep, I am sometimes suffocated by the thought of just how fragile life is. It’s a scary idea, but it’s known that this world is filled with deadly perils that could leave someone lifeless in an instant. The last time I saw my dad, he left the house screaming, threatening my mom and my family. Nobody could have known that would have been the last we saw of our dad. He sure as heck didn’t know it was his last goodbye. I am willing to bet he wished he had left things differently when he never came home. Growing up in a world of violence and death in my family allowed me to see all the horrors life has to offer from a very early age. In the back of my mind, I held onto this knowledge like it was what was going to save me from all of this hardship and grief. For a long time, this left me bitter and closed off. I didn’t cry. I didn’t keep my friends. It felt like I was constantly running from

 


something; I was protecting myself. Being alone left me to dwell even more in the cynical concepts about life I had solidified in my mind. However, my ideas soon expanded years later…

            My mother remarried a few years ago. Soon after, she had another child in addition to me and my four other siblings. I was not sure what to feel about this at first, but when the baby was born, I instantly felt a connection. I loved this baby. However, I kept myself closed off from her. This fragile little girl left me with more sleepless nights, worrying about her. I stressed about suffocation, SIDS, other correlating phenomenons; anything that might take my little sister away from me. One more person to worry about losing. One night, when my new little sister was nearly a year old, I was jolted awake by a dream that made my blood run cold. In my dream, I watched my baby sister get horrifically shot. I truly believed, when I awoke, that my she had been killed. Quickly, I realized I had been dreaming and ran into her room. I held her close and cried. From that moment forward, I vowed to never take my family for granted. I would take advantage of every moment I had. In moments of irritation or anger, I would remember to put the relationship first, over my own frustrations. I would set aside time to connect with my family members, no matter how busy my life might become. Every time I walk out the door, I turn around to say one last goodbye to my family, no matter how we may be feeling about each other at that moment.

I’m not always going to be reminded, when I am too prideful to see, that the final moment will come. The final morning with a loved one. It is times like this that remind me to slow down just a little and see all the good in my life. Those final words, and last goodbyes, are not always on the foregrounds of my mind, but maybe if they were, I would make every moment count a little more.


            It is not the battles won that determine if I am capable enough person. It is not the coat the little boy wears to school that determines if his mom is a good enough mom. It’s the moments taken to truly see someone, to fully enjoy life right now, to appreciate something witnessed every day that made my life worthwhile.

Not every goodbye will be the last one… but I don’t think I want to take a chance. I do not want to waste my life just trying to get through the day, attempting to barely make it to school on time, trying to win every fight, dying to be perfect. It’s too much. The next time a moment of stress or anger leaves me feeling like I have lost a fight, I hope I can remember that there is so much more to lose than an insignificant battle.

So, I’ll lose a few battles if it means gaining a little bit of love. One day when it is gone, I might have wished I had let it win. I’ve learned that my life is not about winning the battle. It’s about remembering what I’m fighting for.

 

4 comments:

Anonymous said...

Wow! ❤️

Anonymous said...

That. Is. Amazing! Beautifully written.

Anonymous said...

Love this!

Anonymous said...

Crying! So much feeling with heart and soul! My daughters father recently passed August.1 2022 and the pain is so deep. Thanks be 2 God who makes a way where there seems to be no way.

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