“I talked to him about many things…”
“My Heart Is Afraid that it will have to suffer,” the boy told the alchemist one night as they looked up at the moonless sky. “Tell your heart that the fear of suffering is worse than the suffering itself. And that no heart has ever suffered when it goes in search of its dreams.”
The Alchemist, by Paulo Coelho
Last night I had a dream about my foster father – we called him “Grandpa”. He and my foster mother adopted us five children when I was aged 12.
He was definitely the more gentle of the two of them, and I did love him very much.
He died when I was 18 years old, after we had all been farmed out to new foster homes. We thought this aspect of our lives was blessedly over, as we were legally their children. We were wrong. My sister was the only one who escaped this fate, being 18 already and having moved in with her boyfriend.
Once we were all settled into our respective homes, they told me I was not allowed to see my sister or my brothers for 2 months. Some stupid rule or other, designed to make the caseworker’s job easier, I imagine.
I was heartbroken, and had never been separated from my siblings before. I’ll never forget that lump in my throat.
Anyway, getting back to Grandpa. I was doing my candy striper volunteer work at the hospital, when one day I saw him. He was painfully thin, and looked as if he were about to die. He was in a hospital gown, and I immediately went up to him and asked him why he was there. He told me gently that he was in there for treatment for cancer. I was there with my cosmetology class, and if I did not perform my duties for the people on my list I would get a zero for the day. I was way too upset to finish my ladies’ hair, so I went up to my teacher and requested a pass from the rest of the day. She saw I was upset, and since I had never before asked to get out of my volunteer duties, she granted me a pass. I spent the remainder of the time in Grandpa’s room, talking with him.
Each day after that, I rode my bike to the hospital, and sat with him after school. It was an eight mile trip from my new foster home to the hospital, (four each way) but I went every day. I needed this. I had so much healing to do, and despite all the trauma we kids went through at the hands of an often cruel adoptive/foster mother, I loved the gentler Grandpa. I sat with him each day after school, and rode my bike home each night. My new foster mother was very understanding about this, and never complained that I was late to dinner. She was truly a wonderful woman and the exception to the foster parent rule.
Grandpa and I healed many deep wounds during the times I sat with him. I talked to him about many things, my first broken heart, my feelings about being put in the foster home even though I begged not to be placed there. I told him that if I could come home, I would do whatever they needed me to, to make their lives easier. He told me that he would be there for me no matter what. I think he said that because he didn’t know what else to say.
I came to realize that he was dying. I had never had anyone close to me die before, and I did not want to face it.
He was ready. I was not. I had only just healed our wounds, and mended our fences, and wanted more time. I did not get that time. He died shortly after my 18th birthday, and I still had a month left of high school.
It was a cruel time for a young adult. The only father I had ever really known was taken from this earth and I was to face my life alone from then on. We had not mended our fences well enough to stop me making horrendous choices when it came to choosing a mate. My self esteem was still in tatters. My confidence was non existent.
I have been strong, however. I survived a violent, abusive marriage, and dodged many bullets in the eight years since my divorce. I have done this without hurting anyone, without selling out, without using anyone to get by. I have done it all on my own, and if I didn’t have the means to get something I wanted or thought I needed, I did without. I am no stranger to deprivation. I am a stranger to using people for my own gain.
Would it be easier to just take a man, use him to make my life easier, and get by? Maybe, on the surface. But would I be able to live with myself? I don’t think so. I would be trapped into a situation I did not really want. I don’t think I could live that way. Jail is jail, even with more comfortable pillows.
I could have made thousands of better choices for myself, in my life. But if I regretted them all, I would have to regret all of the good things in my life right now, and I could never do that. I am happy with my life as it is, mistakes and all. I am free to love who I want, I am free. I can have a man in my life, or I do not have to. The choice is mine, and I like it like that. I can raise my kids with no interference from anyone. The girls’ father knows I have always put them above all else in my life. He is confident that I have done a good job, and will continue to do so. I am confident finally that he does the same, when they are with him.
Life is not easy. But I am still happy.
So a thank you to Gramps for visiting me in my dreams last night. He showed me lots of things last night. Compassion was at the top of the list.
Karen is a hair stylist “extraordinaire!” in Florida, USA
Read her blog: Five Little Kids
Reproduced on Zen Moments with kind permission from the Author
by Robin Skynner and John Cleese
Average customer review:
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In short, this is a book which will keep you from seeing yourself as a victim and teach you to accept the inevitable unfairness in life – and to help your children develop similar strengths…”
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