Sunday, February 27, 2011

Great Expectations

This past week, Brian's grandmother, Lydia Marie Boltz Hatcher, the beloved matriarch of her family, passed away after an incredibly long and full life. She had five children, lived on three continents, and left behind dozens of grandchildren and great-grandchildren. There was great sadness at her physical departure, but also, a lot of gratitude and admiration for how she lived her life.

Brian and I traveled south to be with his family for the funeral. It was a lovely service, and great to be with family. However, as is the case with any large gathering of diverse people, you sometimes hear things you wish you hadn't. For example, the comment that Simon may never "live up to our expectations," specifically in relation to the possibility that he may not go to college.

To be honest, I've been a little emotionally fragile this past week, due to all the new "stuff" we've been hit with regarding Simon. Therefore, despite my New Year's resolution not to let "poorly-conceived-but-well-intentioned" comments bother me, I was upset by this. I had to make a fairly heroic effort (emotionally speaking) to talk myself down off my ledge:   
"Really," I said to myself "how many parents of perfectly normal kids can be sure they'll go to college?! I've known many children, from many backgrounds, at all levels on the scale of income and intellect who didn't go to college, or dropped out, or went late -- for all different reasons...."

Despite my best efforts to "let it go" (or at least compartmentalize it), those thoughts were playing upon the periphery of my consciousness during the toasts to Brian's grandmother at the funeral luncheon. As I listened to her family recollect the things that they most loved, appreciated, and remembered about their Mother, Grandmother, Great-Grandmother and friend, I was struck that not once did anyone mention education, career, or any of the other stereotypical "accomplishments" our society seems to expect of a person in order to consider them fulfilled in this life.

Instead, they talked about the food she cooked, the times she took care of them, the food she cooked, her funny and endearing quirks, the food she cooked, and her strong, determined personality. They remembered the time she gave up her own bed and cared for a visiting family member that had become ill. They remembered the way she drove too fast, and loved too fiercely (well, they called it being "stubborn"). They remembered the way she balked at being called a senior citizen until she realized it meant getting a discount. They remembered her faithfulness to her church. They remembered the way she welcomed everyone to her well-laden table and treated them all like family. I will always remember the way she called me "honey" with her beautiful French accent, and that she always had something nice to say about each of her great-grandchildren as she watched them play around her at family gatherings.

Not only had this formidable woman fulfilled her potential, she had set a high standard for the expectations of everyone who knew her, defining what it means to be a family. Most especially through the quintessential act of sitting at table, enjoying simple food expertly prepared, and making everyone feel welcome.

And I realized that Simon already knows how to make everyone feel welcome. His hugs and kisses and exuberant greeting are a gift to everyone he meets. His determination and strength are at the core of his personality and are an inspiration to me, to Brian, and to so many others that know and love him. For Simon, it is true that I don't have average expectations. I have great expectations for a long life well lived, full of love, some endearing quirks, and lots of good food eaten at a big family table surrounded by people that love him back.

Now, I just need to teach him to cook -- which should be easy, because he loves food. Just like his Great-Grandmother did.

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