Poetry for me is a succinct, sometimes subtle representation of where I am now in life. Some life-changing events rate more lengthy summaries. Here is a longer post with name changes as required by the foster-care system.
When I was 3 or 6, I remember Mom’s love. I remember her hug and soft, big breasts, which I pressed against in warm embrace. Mom was the whole of my love life—the one-and-only of experience as I knew it. Her kiss at bedtime was the blessing and symbol of all that was good. That was the first impression of love as I recall in this life.
My second perception of the concept was at age 9 or 10—pre-pubescence. And it is hard to see how this view could come from the first. But, I guess, love of self can only be an encore to the love of another. The world centered on me then, not me in tandem with Mom. Discovering there was a world outside myself and my arms-reach, my wants and needs of emotion and bodily function, brought with it the realization that there were many elements of drift in what I thought was a solid state. The layers surrounding the security of a sound source radiated and reflected, guided and tempered, controlled and shielded the blazing heart of Mom’s love. More than just the pleasure of its reality or the pain of its perceived absence, I was beginning to pickup hints and notions of some other kind of love, something that would take over when Mom’s love was no longer available fully to me. But in collecting data on this second type of love, in the environment of my childhood, in our farm family, at a parochial school in the Catholic Church, as well as within the extended family structure of Keims and Ungers, in which our family had its position in the pecking order of the clan: somehow the second type of love didn’t seem too appealing. The thought of boys and girls co-mingling and even touching had no possibility of rightness to me. Ick! Girls? Gag at the thought.
And that reality was firm till stage 3: Puberty – a few years later. Learning about the birds and the bees, and pollinating trees and why the bodies of boys and girls were different at first was repulsive, and then exciting. Sexual awakening for me started at 12 or 13. Keeping pace with the quick-change of body, mind and heart was like tagging rescue workers in a hurricane. Love was a fire then, raging with different winds and dying a thousand deaths in the rain of fickle hearts. There was constant need of stoking or quenching.
Now, that went on, for what seemed like too many years, and I will skip the details. Suffice it to say that the teenage-to-young-adult appetite for love does not evoke fond memories of peace and harmonic balance. In its happening it was more like the brilliance of fireworks falling on a straw house. And looking back from here, it seems like shelling out for the hundred-dollar, twelve-in-one power tool that isn’t worth ten.
But its ultimate semblance of control did set the stage for phase 4—monogamous marriage, thank God. Peace and harmony – pretty much – with just enough stoking and quenching to pave and repair the path of dreams. In comparison to childhood (stage 2) and teenage (stage 3) love, this was bliss. I could relax in the expression of love with Marily.
Then there came baby one, and the 5th realization of love. When Josi was born I could not believe the instant love I felt. No history, no doubts of intention, or fear of manipulation, just an open heart—she to me, I to her. I could not see how I could ever love another person as much as I loved this little one. But, then along came Sarah. And it happened again. Human love couldn’t be any better than the bond between parent and child. It made the pain of child rearing worth the effort.
I thought there could be no improvement to this type of human love. I knew that some day I would be a grandparent. But I did not relate to it like Marily did. She looked forward with great anticipation to the day she’d be holding and loving a child of a daughter. I could imagine it only as a yellowed photo in black and white. Not the picture of a virile and potent young man. Even a mere child or two ago, it didn’t seem right that I should ever be as old as it took to be a grandparent. Not a pleasant thought.
That was till Thursday, February 8th, 2007, 5:15 pm, when we arrived at the home of Josi and Kay.
In September they got a foster child. At the time we were all cautious not to be too attached, as she could be leaving any time. But time went on. Photos showed this little soul that was learning the same lessons we all learned in our growing. The blessings relayed and the challenges shared started the curing of reeds for a weaving. Our visit showed me that I still had a lot to learn of love. And there’s a new dimension in my love life. We call her Peanut. This fresh realization may be an expansion of stage 5 affection, but I feel like it is a whole new leap in a new direction. Stage 6 is grand, in deed. It’s like the debt is paid, the war is won, and the harvest is returning ten fold—a hundred fold.
How can I feel such love for a person I didn’t know was a possibility 6 months ago? To me it is a soul connection and so much more significant than bloodline. We choose our spiritual habitats from choices broader than the reach of hand and urge of instinct.
I’ve learned many lessons of love in this life. Some pleasant, some tough. The teachers of school and church, of family and friends, include our parents and children, and now a Peanut for me. I see the light of God in the twinkle of her eyes, the beauty of a heavenly bouquet in her smile, and the sound of music in her giggle, in her voice.
"Granddad! Granddad! Look at me now!"
I have a new name, a new title. And another understanding of love. What I thought was the pain of child rearing was really training for now. Even my hurting granddad-knees seemed a blessing. For the week following the visit I never soothed the pain, because I never hurt so good from playing for hours on the floor with Peanut, or romping in the snow.
Though my grandfather-hood is not biological, it is very real, for sure. And it doesn’t matter the age or form of love’s expression. Nor that I may, or may not ever, share the genes of a grandchild. Love, once planted, will always grow; and I will enjoy its blooming. Through trials and guidance, reasoning and mistakes, we are immersed in a living water. The whole of grandparenthood—last month a non-issue for me—is boiled down to a single point of focus: My feet are in the river of life right here and now. And there is one more Soul to love.
© 2007 Ardi Keim