Thursday, June 16, 2005
FOR A PARENT, THERE IS NOTHING MORE HEART RENDING....
For a parent, there is nothing more heart rending, or gut wrenching, then the sound of one of your children sobbing hysterically. Especially when you know there is nothing you can do to help. Which is how my morning started yesterday at 3:45 am, when my daughter came into my room cradling the lifeless form of her 5 day old kitten. The kitten had nursed just fine at 12am and 2am, but at 3:45 the mother cat came to Shelley, meowing frantically. When she went to check on the kitten, it was dead. We buried it in the backyard on my lunch hour.
Shelley spent pretty much the whole day sobbing uncontrollably. She was okay when I was there, but as soon as I left, it started again. She believes herself to be responsible for the kittens death. If only she had known more, studied about kittens more, thought of this, thought of that. If only. Of course, this is utter nonsense. She had no reason to anticipate this. And obviously, there was an unseen medical problem somewhere. But in her mind, it's her fault.
I thought it was a blessing when the cat only had one kitten, but it turned out to be a curse. Had she had a big litter, Shelley wouldn't have been able to become so quickly attached to just one. And the mother cat wouldn't have had time to worry about the missing kitten, it would have too many other mouths to feed. But this way, I am left with a devastated daughter, and a cat that wonders around the house calling, then listening intently for the return cry that will never come.
This whole experience has been extremely disconcerting. I keep wondering, what if she had found me instead of the kitten? It's not beyond the realm of possibility. My health isn't that great, and I am at that age when I am already starting to lose some friends and acquaintances. Would she blame herself for the rest of her life? Would she spend endless time saying "if only I had checked on him", "if only I'd insisted he eat better", "if only I'd done ....."?
I have suddenly come to realize that Shelley is far to dependent on me, not only for her physical requirements like food and shelter, but emotionally as well. And in truth, I have probably become too dependent on her as well. It's certainly understandable. For most of her life, I've been not only father to her, but mother as well. And if not always her best friend, at least her most dependable one. And for the last few years, she has been the pit bull guarding my back from any and all threats.
Suddenly, I realize how ill prepared she would be to fend for herself in the real world. She simply doesn't have the educational or life skills necessary to thrive on her own, and it scares me. I work at a job that insurance actuaries consider high risk. What would become of Shelley if something suddenly happened to me?
The problem is, Shelley has no real safety net. Her siblings are grown and building lives of their own. Her mother has proved any number of times that she is not willing to risk the perceived security of her current relationship for Shelley's sake. So, if something were to happen to me, Shelley's fate would be uncertain, at best.
So here is my dilemma. I obviously need to enroll her a crash course in Life Skills 101. But one that accomplishes it without damaging that great big heart of gold. I am open to suggestions.
Now cooking at THE CHURCH POTLUCK: BBQ BRISKET, Texas Style