On Sunday, August 4th, I facilitated the Sunday Evening service, the theme was Gratitude, which is the theme of the month at CSLSR. Since the mass shootings had taken place that weekend, I decided to do a dialogue, which is a process that lets everyone speak, without discussion, so they can share whatever they like. It was astounding and gratifying that so many spoke of gratitude in the midst of all the feelings they had been experiencing.
I arrived home about 9:00pm and there was a car in front of my house and people talking on the sidewalk. I assumed it was kids, and they would eventually move on. I continued to do my thing, check on my kitty Veronica, change clothes, go to the bathroom, etc. then I heard a noise coming from the kitchen. As I came to the doorway, I saw my son Rob, who very rarely comes to Santa Rosa, breaking through the faux screen I had at the backdoor. I was shocked, surprised, delighted and overcome with joy. It was glorious to see him, so soon after I had visited with him in San Francisco just 2 weeks before.
He had been to a friends birthday party and decided to spend the night, reserving a room at the La Rose hotel downtown, a very nice place. He came by to see me before he bedded down for the night. I was beside myself, I was jumping up and down, inside anyway, as my days of physically jumping up and down have been subsiding for some time. I was ecstatic, the unbounded joy kept coming, filling me up. I felt like a kid at Christmas. No, it was even more than that. It wasn’t the present I was awaiting, it was the realized gift of what I have always wanted, it was happening to me, in front of me, the gift that keeps on giving, Rob came to see Mom. I kept hugging him, smiling, laughing out loud and saying “I’m so fucking happy”. I don’t know when I have felt so incredibly joyful. I loved every single second of it. I am recalling it as I write these words and a smile comes to my face as the tears roll down my cheeks.
I often use 2 phrases when I pray, “unbounded joy” and “the deep wellspring of joy”. This is an attempt to describe what I feel when the presence of God is recognized and realized within me. I have the profound privilege of experiencing this when I make myself available to it. What a blessing. Isn’t is wonderful to be conscious of such a blessing? I realize this joy is always here, always present and I really want to invite it to show itself more and more often. Rob’s presence ignited it, he didn’t implant it.
Rob was tired, as he had been up all day and night before. He often does this. I was flying high and wanted to talk, to be with him. He just wanted to get to his hotel and sleep, so I reluctantly let him go, following him out to the driveway, hugging him good bye again and again while repeating, “I’m so fucking happy”.
Before he left, we talked about the possibility of connecting the next day, possibly going to a movie in the afternoon. Rob showed up around 2:00pm on Monday. We talked about movie times, food choices, whether we wanted to walk or ride to the theatre. I was gathering my things, to walk to the theatre when he came in with a somber look on his face and 2 chicken sandwiches he had gotten for us. He asked if I was willing to do him a favor, and would I be disappointed if we didn’t go to the movies. That was fine with me, I loved having the opportunity to hang with him, for any reason.
He asked if I was willing take him to our old neighborhood. He wanted to drive around and visit Larkfield, where we first lived after he was burned and where he grew up. He wanted to see the devastation of the fires from 2 years ago. I was a bit surprised and yet honored that he would ask me to do this with him.
We drove down Old Redwood highway, commenting on what used to be when we lived there. We went to his elementary schools, walked around while he told me where his classrooms were, what had changed and what was still the same. We actually went inside a classroom and spoke with people while they were preparing the rooms for the beginning of the fall term.
Rob spoke of the way he felt when the kids would scream when they saw him, the repeated bullying, the ones who freaked out when they saw him, it was years of this. I would like to describe what I felt inside and yet, it was too big, too overwhelming, too heartbreaking, to hear it from him as he didn’t share this with me when it was happening. I knew it had taken place, and yet now it was coming from him, recalling his childhood, he was 7 years old, then 8 and 9 and 10 and on and on and on.
We went to the Larkfield Market and bought some crab and cocktail sauce. We also visited the liquor store where he purchased Reese’s pieces for himself and a Milky Way Midnight for me. I love my MWM. I’d never been in that store in all the years we lived there. He also told me, and the clerk in the store, that when we was in elementary school, he’d steal candy, take it to school and give it to different people who would like him at least for a while, then they would disappear. This was also new to me. When we picked out our candy, he told the clerk he was going to pay for it this time.
Then we went to the site of our house on Ramsgate Court, half of the houses on the street were lost during the fire, the other duplexes were saved. Ours was gone, the lot was vacant and overgrown with plant life. In the middle of our lot, there were extremely tall plants like green towers, some over 10 feet tall, standing were our living room used to be. These plants were nowhere else in the vacant lots, just in ours. We walked around noting where his room was, where mine was, the garage, the back porch. The wonderful tree in the front yard was only evident by the stump left after it had been completely cut down, we loved that tree.
We were sharing a day that I don’t think I would have ever imagined. He told me that if he had owned a car, when the fires happened, he would have been here the day after the fires. I didn’t know that. I feel bad that I didn’t ask and yet, I didn’t realize until that day how much this time and place meant to him. I was thinking that it was all so painful, evidently not all of it.
Again, I wish I had language, some way of describing what this meant and means to me, it was a revelation, it was a blessing, an anointing of some kind. You see, words continue to fail.
We were winding down our afternoon while we drove to the place where K-Mart used to be, parked in the lot, talking about nonsensical stuff, like the fact that Carls Jr. was still there, while I basked in the gratitude of sharing time with my beloved son. We drove back to town, where he was catching the train to San Rafael and then the bus home.
Sitting at the train station, we ate our crab and talked about our day. I asked him if I had expressed how wonderful it all had been and he said, “you mean how fucking happy you are”. Yes, that. As the trained arrived, we hugged each other and he rolled away.
I watched “A Beautiful Mind” this week. I love this movie. It has one of my favorite movie quotes which certainly describes my feeling as I experienced this event with Rob. It is my quote today.
“I need to believe that something extraordinary is possible.”
I invite you to consider that whatever is going on in your life, that the possibility of something extraordinary happening, something fabulous and good, something unexpected, something that brings you joy is not only possible, it is here and now going on within you. Tap into it dear ones and feel the deep wellspring, the unbounded joy that is resident in you, in all of us. I promise.
3 thoughts on ““I’ve got the joy, joy, joy, joy, down in my heart”…”
So beautiful and meaningful on many levels. Thank you for sharing. !!!!!
Reading this blog invoked much joy in me. It was exactly the message and invitation I needed this morning. Thank you, Maggie Cole, FGS!
Thank you John for your lovely response. I appreciate that in the midst of your busy weekend and all that you are responsible for, you take time to read and reply to my blog. I am truly grateful.