A reply to: A letter from Kaitlin
LOL, Kaitlin! And OMG! Hahaha!
Oh, I’m so relieved that you don’t think it’s your husband that my brother is writing to!
I’m really sorry for causing any worry. I guess I really over-reacted, didn’t I?
After all, there’s bound to be more than one Newt in this wide world, and my brother seems to think that his pen pal is a really nice guy.
My brother is a nerd, just like you say! He’s what he refers to as “nerd-cool.” By that he means that he’s so much of a nerd that he doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him, and that makes him cool!
He actually is pretty cool. He’s made the list of “Windenburg’s Most Eligible Bachelors” for the past five years. It’s funny. I think he’s cute because he’s my brother.
He has this crazy style: like he wears this dapper suit with Oxford shoes, but then no socks.
And he’s always carrying in his pocket this little llama toy he’s got, and he pulls it out and talks to it when he thinks nobody is looking. His front is that he’s a collector, and these antique toys are highly collectible. But the truth is, he’s a kid at heart. Always will be.
So I’m sure you’re right: even though he’s a CEO, he’s really not the kind of guy that a truly cool, athletic guy like your husband would associate with.
One good thing that’s come out of my brother being so happy to be true to his own self is that he’s now with a woman who loves and appreciates him for who he is!
My friend, for it’s a good friend of mine who’s hooked up with him, already knows he’s childish, nerdy, and ironically pretentious, and she likes him anyway!
In fact, she and her daughter just moved in with him.
I met up with them at a karaoke bar in San Myshuno the other night, and they both looked so happy.
While we were talking, I told my friend that I was surprised that she and Norm got together so quickly. They’d only met a month ago.
“Well, I’m not sure we’re together together,” she confessed. “We’re best friends. And I trust your brother. I know he’ll always be good to me.”
It turns out that she and her daughter moved in with him because they could use a more permanent place to stay. They’d been living in a transitional shelter for women and children escaping domestic abuse.
I hadn’t known that! All the time that she’d been friends with me, she’d never shared that bit about her life.
“I’ll tell you about it sometime,” she said, and we made a date for her to drop by in a few days.
Before she came, I had a visit from someone else.
One of the employees of the refugee services center that helped bring Jena over here stopped by for a regular check-in. You asked when Jena’s birthday is–it’s in four months. She’s two years and eight months, which is one of the milestones when the social worker is scheduled to come.
I put Jena down for her nap, and then Marissa, the social worker, arrived.
She wanted to look in on Jena first.
“She’s gotten so big!” she said. “And she looks so healthy. So peaceful.”
She liked the way we’d set up Jena’s room. “Lots of art!” she said. “Lots of books!”
We had a long talk.
Kaitlin, you’d asked about my concern that Jena might have PTSD and what trauma she might have experienced. I’ll tell you. It’s harsh, so cover your heart.
Jena was born in a refugee camp. I think I mentioned this in my profile. I met one of the men who was in the same camp with her. He knew her mom. Not long after Jena came to live with me, I invited him over. I’d hoped that he would speak Urdu with Jena.
His attitude was strange. He told me that Urdu wasn’t the native language of Jena’s mom, nor of anyone who’d lived at the camp. I guess it was sort of seen as the neutral language, or the language of bureaucracy. He said hardly anyone has it as their birth language and that, culturally, it meant nothing.
That saddened me, but that’s not the sad part.
The tragic part is that Jena was conceived–here’s where to cover your heart–as the result of a gang rape. Her mom died from complications of the birth, but before that, she was shunned by everyone else at the camp because of the shame of the rape.
I get so mad thinking about it–it’s one of those “blame-the-victims” things that just burns me up!
Anyway, I’ve always wondered how much of a burden from that Jena carried.
So when Marissa and I were talking, I found an opening to ask her insights into this.
Marissa got real quiet and thoughtful for a long time. Then she closed her eyes and smiled.
“I don’t think she carries any burden,” she told me, “not even a psychic or karmic one.”
I couldn’t believe her!
“It’s like this,” she said. “From birth, Jena was removed to the nursery. She wasn’t with those who would feel her birth was shameful. She was surrounded with the other infants and toddlers, and she was cared for by loving physicians and care-givers. I even hear that each baby has their own wet-nurse, so they’re able to gain the nutrients and other benefits of nursing.”
“Do you think she bonded with her nurse and the people who cared for her?” I asked.
“She may have,” replied Marissa. “I’m sure she did. But that’s a good thing. That developed the potential for secure attachments.”
Marissa explained that the first months here with me were probably hard for Jena–and they were! She was so sad and had those awful nightmares.
“But look at her now,” Marissa said. “She’s obviously a thriving, well-adjusted, happy and healthy little girl.”
I was so relieved, so grateful! Immediately, I started asking all these questions about Windenburg Rescue and the work they do, and if they needed volunteers, and if there was any way I could help out.
Marissa said that I’d already helped in more ways than I could ever know, but if I was serious about volunteering, they could use someone who could commit to twelve hours a week.
I gave it some serious thought.
Then, my friend stopped by, the one who’s living with my brother.
And what happened next has changed my plans.
My friend began to tell me about her past, about all the emotional abuse she experienced with her husband.
As she talked, her usual smile faded, and her face looked worn down from the bad memories.
She told me about the other women who came there, too.
“We’ve all been beaten down,” she said. “You don’t just pick up and move with your kid for nothing. It’s when you can’t take it anymore. When it’s worse staying, and when you feel that, no matter what, you can’t let this happen to your kid. Do you know that poem by Warsan Shire, ‘no one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark‘?”
I did know that poem.
“It’s like that,” she said.
And then I realized that women and children like my friend and her daughter are also refugees, for Warsan Shire wrote that poem to describe the refugee experience. It’s a poem about Jena’s mom, but it’s also a poem for every woman who’s ever had to leave an abusive situation and choose danger and the unknown in order to escape the worse danger of the known.
My friend spied one of my unused easels then.
“Enough talk,” she said. “Think I could paint?”
So I set her up with a canvas and paints, and let her got at it.
While I watched her work, I saw a change come over her. That weight she was carrying left her shoulders. She began to move freely. She hummed. And she painted the most beautiful, expressive painting I’ve ever seen, full of hurt, pain, doubt, but also full of joy, inspiration, hope. It looked like life.
“This is what you should do,” she told me.
“What’s that?” I asked.
“You should teach art. To the women and kids of House for Hope.”
So, Kaitlin, I think that’s what I’m going to do!
Two afternoons a week, while my uncle babysits Jena or she goes to daycare, I’ll go to House for Hope and paint with women and children who need the confidence of feeling their own expression of their own beautiful spirits.
I wanted to let you know that I was so touched by your story of Leroy’s thoughtfulness in setting out a new toothbrush for you the night you had to stay over. That type of gesture: that’s the thing that builds up spirit! I am so happy you have Leroy in your life.
Oh, my. This letter is tome! I only meant to write a little bit, and I’ve nearly shared everyone’s life story with you except my own!
Do take care of yourself, Kaitlin! I hope you have lots of moments of happiness with your family and with yourself. 🙂
Peace, my friend.