Being loved 

I thought it was going to be a much rougher day for Emmett than it was.

I guess it proves that you can’t really predict how people are going to react and the importance of quality time together.

More than that, this story reminds me of a quote by Rumi – “Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.”

Let me explain.

* * *

It is a few years ago. We are in western Florida visiting my in-loves, the kids’ Gammie and Grandpa. Annie is eight and about to go on a shopping spree with her grandmother. Jane will hangout with her dad. That leaves Emmett and I to spend the day together.

We start with a trip to the bowling alley where we goof around and laugh a lot. The buzzer triggered by his foot going over the line triggers us to do impressions of Walter Sobchak and Smokey from The Big Lebowski — each of us repeatedly telling the automated scoring machine to “mark it zero” and “mark it eight.”

Later, while we shoot a round of pool, I hear my own dad’s voice coming out of my mouth, “It’s about control, not speed. Not force.” 

It’s true, of course, but he is 11 and he cannot summons fine motor skills he doesn’t have on demand. 

On the drive to a video arcade, we sing along to the original cast recording of Rent. As he requests, I explain words, the relationship between the characters, who has AIDS, which gender pronouns to use for the character Angel, and how the number 525,600 came to be.

The arcade is horrible. We don’t even buy tokens. We go next door for pizza. He dinks around, playing games on my phone as I scratch out on a napkin the math about pie per dollar — comparing the cost per area of the $12.95 10” pie to two $6.95 6” pies. He asks me what I am doing. I answer in broad strokes, hoping he would want further details. He doesn’t.

A text from Jane arrives. He sees it. “They’ve bought 21 things,” he tells me.

He doesn’t care about clothes so much, but I worry about him feeling like he’s second fiddle.

The pizza arrives and I announce, ”we’re going to the greyhound track.”

The Naples-Fort Myers Greyhound track was built in the 70s, and it looks that way. It is currently scheduled to be shut down.

We get to the track to hear “here comes Sparky” on the P.A. system; a motorized rabbit on a rail races by followed by eight dogs faster than thoroughbreds.

I stake him to $5. He bets $1 on George Bush to win, but he places leading Emmett to say the funny but non-sensical, “That’s the second time George Bush has disappointed me.” 

At closing time, Em has $4.50 of the original $5. I hold firm that he doesn’t get any of it. Parenting is not for the weak.

He is holding the phone streaming Elton John to the car’s stereo as another text comes in. The clothing count is up to 32 items.

We pull off the road at a giant cone-shaped stand for ice cream. I tell him I’ll buy him anything up to $4.50.

While he licks his vanilla-chocolate-swirl topped with sour gummy worms, I excuse myself, supposedly to talk to Jane about a friend of hers in crisis. But, really, out of earshot, we try to figure out how to parent him, because he is certain to be crestfallen when he sees the shopping bags of clothes. The total of clothing items is approaching 40. 

I return to him and attempt this newfangled strategy.

“Emmett, you know how we’ve talked about how we are going to handle it if Sam gets into the magnet school and you don’t, or if you get in and he doesn’t?”

“Uh huh” is the response as he licks and tries to shape melting down mess.

“Well, I thought we should, talk about the same thing, about today – because Annie, and Gammie, and, well, disappointment.”

“You mean because we had a better day than she did?”

I am floored. He is not bullshitting. As he returns to the battle of reshaping his cone, I catch his eye for a moment. I love that kid. Hard.

* * * 

“Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself you have built against it.” – Rumi

What if we realize we are so loved?

Even if we don’t get a suitcase full of new clothes.

With love,
Rabbi Brian

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What we are really saying

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My classroom. North Portland. September 2016. This week, I will meet five new sets of students. It’s my seventh year as a full-time high school math teacher. Today is our second day and the second day that I’m not doing any mathematics in the classroom. I’m hoping to...

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Yesterday I was moved by the wise words from CNN commentator and former Obama advisor Van Jones: Some things you have to see believe – like what we saw today at the Capitol. But there are also things you gotta BELIEVE in order to SEE. I believe breakdowns can lead to...

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