Bloganuary Daily Prompt for January 11, 2023: How do you define success?
One winter evening, Sophie York dropped by. She hadn’t been over for awhile, since she’d been feeling poorly. Though she seemed thin and a little frail, she was in good spirits. She danced. They joked.
“It’s so great you’re feeling better!” Kiana said. “I missed you.”
“I know,” said Sophie. “I just wasn’t up for having anyone over. But thanks for looking out for Scott and Earl when I was taking it easy.”
“Any time,” said Kiana.
“Really?” Sophie asked. “I mean, if something happens to me, if my time is up, will you look after them?”
“I mean, they’ll have the apartment. I’ve seen to that. And Scott’s old enough to take care of Earl now. It’s just that I think they might need a little something more. Some guidance. Someone to be there for them, if things just get too much.”
“Of course, Sophie. Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that point for a long, long time, but you can rest assured. If there’s a time when you’re not around, and I still am, I will look out for your boys.”
“Whew,” said Sophie. “Now I can rest easy! You know, I think they’re my greatest success. Our greatest success, that is, Brett and mine. I mean, we had a lot of fun! Lord knows we had fun! You know we had fun! But fun isn’t really success. Bringing those two boys into this world, now that’s success.”
Kiana knew what Sophie meant. In her own life, Kiana had won sports awards and graphic arts awards. Her career had been, and still was, successful, full of accolades and praise and the satisfaction of creating useful and beautiful work. But somehow, those didn’t feel like successes. Those accomplishments had just come easily and naturally, by doing whatever had been set out for her to do to the best of her ability.
What felt like a success for her were the hard, monotonous things: Keeping a house clean and repaired with a kitchen stocked with groceries and nutritious meals and leftovers. She’d loved doing those things, but they were hard. Paying bills was hard, too, organizing all those little minutia for daily living. That was her success: providing a home for Jonah. That, and ensuring he’d had what he needed to grow up as a healthy, strong individual.
“We’re just two old moms!” Kiana laughed. “Feeling the joy of having taken care of our sons!”
A few days later, Jonah found Earl coming out of his apartment into the foyer. He was distraught.
“I just need to get out of here,” he said.
Sophie had died during the night.
Jonah ran in to tell Kiana, who put aside her own grief for the time being to head after Earl.
She found him hiding behind one of the vendor stalls in the plaza.
“Oh, Earl, I’m so sorry,” she said.
“It’s just that I’m all alone now,” he said.
“It feels that way, doesn’t it?” she replied. “I felt all alone when my mom and dad died, too. Then Case took me in and I had him and Ira. After they died, I felt alone again. I had friends and then Jonah. And I still miss them.”
“Will I always miss my mom?” Earl asked.
“Yes, I imagine so. But it won’t always hurt like it does now.”
She stayed present with him in his grief.
“Will I always be alone?” he asked.
“Well, you might feel alone sometimes, but the truth is, even now, you’re not actually alone, even though it feels that way.”
“What do you mean?”
“You have Scott to take care of you. He will always be there for you. Even though he teases you sometimes, he’s your big brother, and he’s here to look after you.”
“He will make time for you. And not only that, you have me and Jonah, too. We’re right next door. You can think of our place as yours, too. Like you have a double-apartment home!”
“Really!” she replied. “In fact, here. Here’s a key to our apartment. Now you can come over anytime you want!”
“Really?” he said again.
“And can I call you Auntie Kiana?” he asked with a cheeky grin.
“Thank you, Auntie Kiana!”
Earl wanted to spend some time in the plaza, so Kiana left him there, inviting him to drop by for a snack when he was ready to come back inside.
In the foyer, she met Scott.
“Oh, Scott,” she said, realizing that it wasn’t yet time for her to process her own grief. “I am so sorry.”
“I’m not ready for this, Kiana,” he said. “There was so much paperwork to fill out! And, we have money to cover the costs, but it’s just too much. I still feel like a kid. I’m not ready for all this responsibility.”
“I know it feels like so much,” said Kiana. “That’s understandable. There’s the grief, too. It’s so hard. Just know that I’m here to help anyway I can, with you and Earl, both, OK?”
“All right,” he said. “I just don’t know if I can be strong.”
“You don’t have to be,” Kiana said. “You can be exactly what you are. A boy who’s lost his mom.”
When he went back inside, it hit Kiana, exactly who she was: an old woman who’d lost her oldest, dearest friend and sometimes lover.
She considered herself an expert in grief, with her long list of everyone she’d ever lost, those closest to mere acquaintances. It always hurt. But this was raw, piercing pain. She gave herself to it, since, for the moment, there was no one she had to be strong for.
Later that evening, all the tears cried out for now, Scott and Earl came over for supper. They ate around the TV, watching silly old movies. Nobody wanted to talk or to face each other, so looking at the screen helped them feel close, without feeling raw.
Earl was going to stay over, so she tucked him into the spare bed upstairs. Then, when she was cleaning up the supper dishes, she felt a smile spread across her face. It didn’t reach her eyes, which were still a little swollen from all the crying, but at least it was a real genuine smile. It was because of Jonah.
He was comforting Scott. They’d had a tense relationship all through childhood and their teen years. For some reason, Scott just didn’t like Jonah. Maybe he was jealous. But the boys put all that behind them now that they were young men, young men in grief.
“It’s OK to feel that way,” Jonah said. “You don’t always have to be strong. Earl will understand, and it will even bring the two of you together more, to share your grief.”
“You think so?” Scott asked.
“Of course!” said Jonah. “That’s how it works!”
In her evening yoga practice, Kiana felt grief meld to gratitude. Wasn’t that always the way? Her greatest success, what had it been? Providing a home for Jonah? Perhaps. But maybe her greatest success was living, moving through emotions, letting them move through her, engaging with presence, with life, with loss, with others, with whatever was there in the present moment. Surely, that was success.
Downstairs, Jonah opened up the browser. He was completing the adoption application and getting ready to hit Submit. He wanted whatever kid he adopted to get to know Kiana. He wasn’t waiting any longer.
<< Previous | Next >>