This I Believe

Joyce - Syracuse, New York
Entered on September 23, 2006
Age Group: 50 - 65
Themes: children, hope

I was talking with a neighbor about general life stuffs when she shook her head, put her arm around me and said: “I don’t know how you do it. I’d have given up a long time ago.” While I’ve had some adversity in my life, I’ve always believed in the power of hope. With hope the world is full of possibilities.

I was telling my neighbor about my youngest, who at 19 had just returned from a student exchange in Mexico to announce her pregnancy. Not uncommon in today’s world. But this event was just another “add on” in my life.

When I was 19 and a full time college student, I was raped. I quit college to work things out on my own, hopeful that I would be able to trust and love again. I did. Hopeful that someday I would obtain my college degree. I’m still working on that.

Then there was the oldest son who ran off at 18, joined the Marine Corps and secretly married his high school sweetheart. Through my anger I was hopeful we would one day pick up where we left off. We have. He sends me Billy Collins poems and we laugh over their content: fire-starter mice and barking dogs.

I suppose the biggest test of hope was the summer I won the argument for buying a too-large camper to spend quality time with our family. Two weeks after that purchase, my husband was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer. I was terrified that hope would grow tired of my company.

Our youngest was 11, then, and hope was the only gift I could give her. I fed her hope and she angrily threw it back at me. I repackaged and left it where I knew she’d find it. Still, she returned it. There is no room for hope among the metastic grief a daughter carries watching her father die.

At first I felt hypocritical, engaged in a terrible lie. “You’re lucky you have a chance to say goodbye to your father,” I’d tell her. I would point to examples where other children lost a parent suddenly. Then came the day my husband looked at her somewhat pensively, somewhat confused, and asked: “What do they call you?” That day, hope took a vacation.

But vacations are temporary and I held tight because I was terrified, alone and responsible. Hope was my lifeline whose alternative was unimaginable. It still is.

Life I have learned is in a constant state of flux. Soon after my husband’s death, the oldest daughter returned home, pregnant. Having raised four children, I’m doing it all over again. But it was hope that freed me from disappointment, enough to enjoy my granddaughter. She’s three now and I write her wacky poetry, which she’s memorized and recites back to me. We tap dance across the hardwood floors and when we’re done, she lines up our tap shoes, side by side, the same way every night. I see hope in their reflection.

The youngest child who came back from Mexico gave birth to my second granddaughter, Ilani, which means sunshine, and they too live with me. How appropriate, I think. In darkness, there is always hope for sun. I do so believe in hope.