May-July 2022

[A few current entries in my journaling of this voyage with children on board. These are recent June and Marvin notes… plus some comments.]

May 14, 2022

June is so happy she’s going to be in school this coming year! She asks about every day, ‘Am I going to school tomorrow?’ She does seem to be a bit ADHD at times… like the other day, when she wanted to play and I told her she had to put on a shirt first. She said, ‘Oh!’ and headed to the bedroom. A few minutes later, she came back, still no shirt, but with the red massage ball I had asked her about sometime last week! Then she want back to the bedroom but never came back shirted… likely got distracted.

She’s playing some elaborate game on her own now. Yesterday she set up a store in the living room with lots of toys and her little play cash register. I do hope the Screven Pre-K is ready for her…

Marvin has done well in kindergarten there, so it seems a good school. Marvin is really into video games these days, and interestingly, it seems to calm him down. Occupies his restless mind I guess. Certainly being in school has helped most of his issues improve, but the games seem to help too. Things are better all around, anyway.

June 3, 2022

June said that when it’s her birthday–which is in six days!–she thinks there will be an avalanche! I asked her if she knows what an avalanche is, and she said, “I know what an avalanche is. It’s when a rock falls down from a cliff, and it kills you.”

Several days ago, she grabbed my hat, tipped it back on my head, and proclaimed, “Now you look like a ‘Bro!”

June 12, 2022

We had to cancel the party ‘cuz the kids were exposed to COVID at vacation bible school. Just had us for cake and ice cream, but it was nice.

June 24, 2022

Marvin has come through his heart procedure well, we’re home, he’s fine! Such a relief! He’s remarkably the same despite this intervention and the whole two-day ordeal. We are exhausted! But happy!

July 10, 2022

All going well the past couple of weeks… hot summer is full on here! Had a great conversation with Liana yesterday! She seems to be doing well, getting some help with medical issues, doing well at work. She’s planning to come to the Gathering in October.

July 16, 2022

Disturbing news on my vision from my eye doc this week… but nice trip to St. Simons. Taylor and Marvin climbed the lighthouse again. June was not so hot on going up those steps, especially after she heard the ghost stories in the video presentation! She and I watched mom and brother walk around on the balcony and were happy on the ground.

June has just been so WILD lately! A little out of control at times, doing that old defiant thing a lot. Trying to talk to her, and we’ve given her a few spanks lately, but nothing seems to be working. We need a new approach…

July 22, 2022

Mom’s off to a workshop today so me and the kids… hanging out. June’s in her bedroom pretend reading to herself, one of her favorite things to do. She ‘reads’ off and on when I’m reading bedtime stories to her… amazing how she remembers the words to the stories, even over weeks later… And the complexity of her play with little characters and stuffed toys is narrative driven.

An amazing comment from her the other night: She hugged me and said, “I love you so much!” I responded, “I love you too!”

Then she said, “Usually, I love the whole world!”

I think she does!

June and the kids…

August 13, 2019

Last night was terrible.June got all croupy, couldn’t breathe or cry, so we took her to the ER in the middle of the night. She got steroids and a breathing treatment — so hard! Poor baby cried and fought, just couldn’t understand what all those people were doing and why we weren’t stopping them! The ER people all remarked on how strong and determined she is! It took three of them to hold her still for the blood-work and breathing treatment. Hard to watch!

She got pricked about four or five times for blood — they couldn’t get an IV in, so they did a heel stick and a finger stick! Poor baby! But there was no bad infection. She’s at the doc’s office now, doing much better, breathing fairly clearly.

Mommy and daddy had a hard time seeing her so mad and afraid, those eyes pleading with us to help! So hard! So scary!

We’ve got meds and a breathing device so if this happens again, we can treat it.

September 15, 2019

I’ve not been keeping up very well. June is growing and changing so fast! She’s quite a climber! We can’t keep her off the table, or wherever she can get. She loves standing in the chairs.

But she also loves books and drawing with markers, crayons and pens. Not sure if she’s favoring her left hand, but sometimes is seems as if she is…

A breakthrough of sorts with Liana! Sadly, my cousin Bill Stewart died, and I sent Liana an email to let her know. They all loved Bill! She responded with a nice message, which is a first since the breakup… It gave me renewed hope for eventual thawing of our relationship. I’m not sure how to proceed, but I want to try to keep things opening up with her. I do miss her so!

October 30, 2019

Making a (partial) list of the words June knows or says… hard to keep up! She says chicken, hot, Da-da; she knows and sometimes complies with bath, diaper, Marvin, Mommy, ‘give it to me’, eat, highchair, ‘come see Daddy.’

December 5, 2019

June is continuing her language acquisition! She really understands most everything we say to her, and is mostly very cooperative, too!

Thanksgiving was hard. The other kids all came to the old house, but I didn’t even get to see Lucy and Li. I had a nice lunch with John and Manna and the kids and hope to see them this weekend. All this is being so hard.

And things continue to be difficult here. Marvin in out of control often, frequently unresponsive to anything. He is really pushing my buttons. That’s the basics. The emo is beyond capture here.

January 13, 2020

I often wonder at the delightful ways of this little one! At 19 months plus a week, Duney is a constant joy to me, and the closeness I feel with her is so sweet! She seems to really understand me and to enjoy being with me most of the time. Of course, I am second to Mommy, but I’m okay with that!

She is truly amazing in so many ways! Her play is very advanced, and her coordination is also. She stacked four little odd-shaped blocks one night, and she is very adept at towers with the big Lego blocks. She understands nearly everything we say to her and picks up on what’s about to happen from our conversation. She’s also very sensitive to non-verbal communication — subtle facial cues and such.

She loves playing with Marvin! They play with the trains and other toys together, and they run around the house and rough-house on the floor!

Still struggling to get moved to our new house — so stressful!

Things are also stressful on the Liana front. It seems hopeless at times! Gene is doing our sibling reunion in February, but she said she won’t be attending. It’s really so hard and painful to think she’s just never going to forgive me. I don’t think I deserve forgiveness, but I do think she will regret hating me. I have been slipping into depression lately… am trying to deal with it, but not much is working.

Lucy’s not coming to the reunion either, but at least she explained that she has a very busy weekend, working gigs, so it’s a little easier to take. It may be a difficult day.

January 19, 2020

June’s new words and expressions are so endearing and cute! She says “Love you!” so sweetly, usually in response to us. And if we ask her if she wants to do something, she says, “Yeah!” so enthusiastically and raises her eyebrows up so cutely! She only shakes her head to say ‘no.’ A lot of her communication is with expressions.

Getting closer to our move-in. Giving up on a new tub for now.

Feb 16, 2020

June is 20+ months now, so delightful but such a little stinker sometimes! She’s very active, very talkative, and says so many things — plus a lot of unintelligible sentences! (Which she seems to think we should understand!) She loves playing in our new yard and runs all around the house full speed, rough-housing with Marvin, playing with the trains and being pretty wild.

She won’t stop climbing on things that scare Daddy! And standing up in her highchair. But she’s still so sweet to me and just loves to play with me! A little problem with hitting us and throwing things at us, which we’re trying to deal with constructively.

We had the sibling reunion yesterday, so the family met Taylor, Marvin and June! Was fun and good connections! Marvin and Orion played a lot, and June and Sophia hit it off well! Everybody loved Taylor and the kids! Taylor says it was a little uncomfortable at times, but generally okay and easier than she expected.

February 21, 2020

I hope the ice is broken and we can see some of them in more intimate settings, develop family relations… I really want the kids to all be family! Speaking of, I talked to Lucy today. She’s very busy but loving it and feeling fulfilled. Nothing developing with communication with Liana… from her IG posts it seems things are okay with her… I hope so. It is hard on me, never getting to talk to her. I had really thought from the beginning that it would work out.. I just don’t really understand. And I don’t have any better ideas of what might help. I fear alienating her further if I try too hard…

Oh yes, I forgot to mention June’s lovely little songs that she sings to us now. So sweet and really tuneful. She loves it when I play guitar and sing, and she has been singing along for a while now. Just recently though, she started just singing her own little songs whenever it strikes her. Very calm, sweet little songs usually. So adorable!

I sent Liana a text and IG message on her birthday. Haven’t heard back. I do keep up with her on IG, and Lucy fills me in on her occasionally. I keep trying.

June got her bangs trimmed today — her first haircut! Taylor saved the hair in her book. Marvin is getting so big, and getting better at listening, though he still has his moments! He’s enjoying our new yard and his trike! He loved playing in the little trees I had cut today, said he was looking for Totoro in there! We’re getting the yard cleaned up and hope to get the big pecan trees trimmed soon. I worry about the limbs falling… Things gradually coming together with the house.

March 1, 2020

A sweet day with the family, though I’m so blue I can barely breathe. But I want to put down the latest June thing. She’s been the “what’s that?” girl for the several days now! Started with the picture books and expanded to virtually everything she sees. At first it was “what’s that?” about everything, but yesterday, it began to be “what’s this!” for things she’s holding or close to — and repeated over and over and over endlessly for the same things — but so endearingly that we never even get cross.

I am on the verge much of the time, barely holding it together… not sure what’s happening. Going thru changes… June was going back and forth between me and Taylor a bit ago, kissing us, so sweet and happy. I do hope she will remember, or Taylor will tell her, all the sweet days we had together. Whatever happens, I will do what I must to keep her happy, to keep all of them happy. Ah, this life!

March 20, 2020

Amidst all the craziness of this Coronavirus pandemic, I am switching to a new journal… June notes here. She’s got new words all the time, understands almost everything we say to her. “Mommie, mommie, mommie!” is her favorite! And she’s still really into the “what’s that?”!

Am really worried about Lucy and Liana, in Atlanta, all this pandemic! Talked to Lucy, no gigs for a while… hope she’s okay thru all this.

From May 18, 2019

The politics of control

[I posted this on my War Journal blog on May 18, 2019… and now its come to pass. The Supreme Court has fallen into the fascist grip, and, like India, we are beginning to crash into an authoritarian government ruled by the court. If the Dems don’t do something strong and fast and solid, it’s going to get worse and worse.]

As it seems everyone must know other than those who are willfully ignorant, these reactionary Republicans around the country who are passing Draconian abortion laws are not doing it out of any love for children, unborn or otherwise.

They are doing it for the love of control. They want to control the behavior of women, especially poor women, by intimidation and threat. They want to make them afraid to have sex and punish them if they do.

And ultimately, they just want to drive the issue before the Supreme Court, which they have now gotten suitably packed with like-minded reactionaries who may–unless their humanity somehow reasserts itself under the pressure of realizing what insanity it would be–reverse Roe V. Wade. Thus affirming their need for control. It’s really pathetic.

Life with the kids

[This is the eighth entry in my series on The Children. This is excerpts and  connecting comments from several journal entries during the 1990s when John, Lucy and Liana were all together in the Hickory Street house in Jesup. Some of the entries are from a “writing journal” that I was keeping as part of a class I was taking on using journaling with students.]

September 17, 1994

John Nelson went off to college today.

It didn’t quite feel like he was gone until I turned out the light and closed the front door before heading for the bedroom for the night. As I closed the door, I realized I wouldn’t be leaving it unlocked for him to come in late anymore. Locking it had a strange sense of of unpleasantness to it, as if I were locking him out. Realizing… he’s not just spending the night with a friend, not just visiting his mother, he’s now living on his own.

Certainly, he’ll be back to visit lots, I’m sure, but — he’s gone.

If I haven’t spent enough time going in and sitting on the edge of his bed and talking, saying goodnight, I love you son — if I haven’t said it by now, it’s likely too late.

I think I have tried, I hope I have tried enough… Now I hope I can turn him loose and not drive him away by trying to do what I may come to feel I should have done and didn’t. I love him too much to do that.

It’s really incredible that this moment is actually here now. It doesn’t seem so long ago that he slept all night on my chest night after night, that I walked up and down the floor of that apartment in Independence to keep him sleeping, that I ran around playing football with him in Granmommie’s back yard, the he walked down the sidewalk with us, that he came here, a serious but smiling eighth-grader.

How could all those moments have become this moment?

September 18, 1994

We had dinner with John in the ‘Boro tonight… took him out for pizza with all the kids… it was pretty normal. The whole process has been pretty normal, actually. Except things were a little strained at his dorm room… his roomie a little stressed maybe… but we sat and watched a movie and it was normalizing, I suppose. Stacy popped in and out, pretty normal for her…

But it all sorta served as a formal break, a little goodbye, although not so dramatic as when I “went off to college.” John has been so self-contained and confident in all this, not seeming dependent on us for much. It’s been a good transition…

September 20, 1994

Ugh! Tough soccer game for my little guys last night! Lost 5-0 and looked pretty foolish doing it. The opponent was a new coach, but he had three strong, very fast boys. I love my kids! They had a grand time losing and are ready to play again and score a goal!

Liana loved her first soccer game, though she was a little nervous about it…. but I need to work on my attitude! I didn’t like losing… work to do. Mainly in my little mini-Zendo on the screen porch.

But Lucy’s team won tonight, so now I feel better!

September 22, 1994

A busy week! Tonight, Liana had her second soccer game. My little team did great, though we lost again — one or two very fast players on the other team. But we’re getting into it! Amazing!

And tonight, Liana sat in the middle of her bed holding up her two bright orange soccer socks, holding them together, carefully evening them out, running her fingers down the full fuzzy length of them. The look of loving wonder on her face as she experienced the joy of her first pair of soccer socks was the pure expression of a child encountering life, finding unexpected joy in its little things,  a selfless moment of experience, a wordless wave of life…

September 26, 1994

Tonight, tho we lost ignominiously, Lucy had the half of her five-year soccer career! We were down three or four goals and striving mightily to score. Lucy was at forward, striker position. Over and over she dribbled the ball in to the goal box, going around much larger defenders with almost no help, to bring the ball within scoring range. She almost scored once and turned the ball around at mid-field numerous times! She took the ball from the opponents two or three times, as well.

She was darting around, in and out of traffic, running down players from behind, and once she even knocked down another player who tried to steal the ball! It was great! She played so hard, but we just couldn’t get our other forwards down the field. Sarah was doing great, too, but the two of them were not enough. Lucy did make a great pass to Sarah to start an attack, but the defense was too strong. Lucy felt, quite rightly, proud and good after the match!

Anna June’s second year

July 2019

Ann June is progressing so rapidly in every aspect of growth that we seem to be remarking g on some new amazement daily! She walks, and runs and spins, with great dexterity, maneuvering through doorways and up and down steps well. She’s also beginning to say words as well as make long non-word sentences.

Her first word was definitely “chicken.” I had thought for awhile that she was saying that whenever we looked out the window at the chickens, but I wasn’t sure. Now, when I take her out to look at the new chicks in the chicken tractor, she says it as she’s pointing at them – says it over and over, so it’s clear she knows what she’s saying! She also said, I think, “out there” as she was pointing out the window. I always ask, do you want to go out there? Which she loves to do!

Other words will be coming soon! She does very well at letting us know what she wants or what she does and doesn’t like! She really LOVES ice cream!

And of course, she loves books! She will often come to me or Taylor, book in hand, and plop down in our lap to read. She’s quite adept at flipping pages with her little thumb and sometimes kisses pages with pictures of sweet bunnies (Beatrix Potter is a fave!) or other animals. She does really respond to the animals, especially our chickens.

Ah, yes, another couple of words that she clearly knows, though she doesn’t say, are ‘bath,’ ‘ high chair’ and ‘Marvin’. She does say ‘Granny’ or something close! She and Marvin play so well together now!

August 3

June continues to amaze us with her antics! Her newest little thing is a big smile with her nose all wrinkled up, laughing and being coy. I think I’ve mentioned her eyebrow antics. She’s always had very expressive eyebrows – flashing them up and down — but she also does that little right eyebrow raised expression just like my dad used to do! I always tried to do that – lifting one without lowering the other – but never could. She just does it naturally, and uses it so appropriately, too!

She does look a lot like my dad in his childhood pictures, Taylor has pointed out.

She’s also doing this little thing with her tongue while wrinkling up her nose and grinning – hamming it up for sure! She loves to write on my journal pages, as well as drawing and coloring.

John Nelson Eden…

[I probably should have begun with this one! My first child, so the beginning of this whole saga… but, like my war journal, it’s an exploded timeline here, developing perspective as it unfolds. This is the sixth post in the series on The Children.]

October 7, 1976

John Nelson Eden was born this morning! I can’t begin to capture the torrent of emotions and thoughts. The love, the joy, the awe and wonder of it all is perhaps best, and surely forever, emblazoned in my memory in that moment when I first looked into his red, screaming, screwed-up little face as the doctor held him up and said, “Hey boy, say hello to your mommy and daddy!”

That contorted little face was so beautiful, and that cry has to be the sweetest sound I ever heard!

It was an experience of ultimate magnitude, transcending anything else in my experience. Now I need some sleep real bad! Just a few more thoughts and I must go to bed…

Connie, his mom, was just beautiful through it all! Even as nothing prepared us for the experience as a whole, so not even the suggestions of veterans about how it brought them closer prepared me for just how meaningful it really is for the bond between us.

The effect on my perspective clear. There is a great difference between planning and thinking of “a child” in the abstract and planning and thinking of John Nelson, this actual precious bundle of potential!

November 17, 1976 (A Wednesday night)

To John Nelson:

As I sit here in the loofa with you, son, I can hardly contain my feelings! You’ve been having colic almost all afternoon, and mommy is all worn out, so I’ve rocked you to sleep, and now, you’re sleeping, fitfully, here beside me while I study.

Every now and then, you have a gas pain or something, and I just reach over and pat you on the tummy and murmur a few comforting words, and you settle back down, sometimes with with a little sigh that is sweet in that gentle, innocent way that I suppose only babies have. Sometimes, when you have these bad nights and mommy is so tired, you sleep on my chest while I read, and so I feel very much in tune with all your little pains, your cries and whimpers, and your little sighs as you try to sleep. You’ve always been a noisy little guy! High level of spontaneous vocalizations, in technical terms. But all of this is just a preface.

Tomorrow, you’ll be six weeks old by the calendar. In the last six weeks, you have made a profound and lasting impact on me as a person, and I just want to record a little of my feelings now for you to maybe read one day when you understand and appreciate my feelings. Joy and wonder and love have been the main things I’ve been feeling. This love for you is so strong there’s just no way to really express it! I feel so close, so in tune with you and your needs and responses, and so committed to you in the way that only this love can inspire, and so proud of you! Yet all of this fails to really describe the feeling!

This tremendous love that I have for you, John Nelson, is more than just an emotion. In it I find the key to the understanding of existence, for it is in response to this internal feeling — part of the relationship between you and me — that I will be to you all the things that will become my contribution to your humanity, to your personhood and thus to all humanity.

The degree of my awareness of this feeling and my response to it is the measure of my own humanity. The degree to which I allow the external and internal problems and pressures of life — and there are pressures: work, school, church, home life — to interfere with my response to you is the measure of my failure of you.

But if I, and your mother, and your grandparents, your relatives, and all of the people with whom you live in relationship are half-way able to be real persons to you, you will know all this. And you will know what I mean when I say, “Son, your daddy loves you!”

January 9, 1977

It’s almost hard to believe that it’s 1977. Somehow, I always thought things would be different by 1977, if we managed to make it that far! But here it is and here I am — I’ll be 31, thirty-one, this year, a settled family man by all appearances, yet not knowing what the coming year will bring.

I begin student teaching next week, should be certified after summer session, with 20 hours of graduate credit… had thought I’d teach her in Independence, get that master’s degree, but now I don’t know. Maybe I’ll try to get a job in a tribal school in Arizona, go to school there. We just kinda need to leave Missouri… lots of reasons.

John Nelson’s birthdays:

[In the journal I began in 1979, is this list of where JN lived for each of his first 13 birthdays. It is a pretty clear picture of how our lives were a bit nomadic for those years.]

1976 – born in Independence, Missouri.

1977 – Crownpoint, New Mexico (Eastern Navajo)

1978 – Jesup, Georgia

1979 – Jesup, Georgia

1980 – Koinonia Farms, Georgia (near Plains)

1981 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.)

1982 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.)

1983 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.) / Dad in Florence

1984 – Eugene, Oregon (West Broadway St.) / Dad in Florence

1985 – El Cajon, California

1986 – Ramona, California (spend 2nd half of 5th grade in Florence)

1987 – Ramona, California

1988 – Ramona, California

1989 – Jesup, Georgia (with Dad)

August 7, 1979

(In Winter Spring, Florida visiting Uncle Stewart.)

John-John got his second set of stitches today. Fell or something while we were in a health food store, split his forehead open, blood all over his face again, took ten years off my life and three stitches to close it up. It was all about two inches from the three stitches he got last summer.

After it was all over, I had to go into the restroom and cry. I still could cry just thinking about it. He doesn’t much like hospitals or doctors now for sure! But it didn’t even slow him down. Half an hour after the stitches, he was laughing, running, jumping — and kept it up all afternoon!

[The stitches last summer came after he ran into a metal band in a health food store in Machias, Maine on a summer trip there. Someone in the store took us to the local hospital, and I’ll never forget holding him along the way and realizing I could see his bone through the split in his skin. A very sweet doctor there wrapped him in a cloth and sewed it up and he was calm and not crying before the sewing was done.]