Dear Uncle Bob

I felt lucky to be with you as the breath left your body today. I felt honored to have a closeness with you and Candy that allowed that to happen.

You are the only family member that genuinely understands two of my loves: mountains and opera. The only one who really “got” it when I didn’t want to make my home in Dallas – without the mountains – because I craved that connection to nature.

More than my own connection, the unforgettable love you gave to my aunt (your “Annie”), or any of the many hats you wore, I will remember one of your other roles.

I will remember that you were Henry’s first male role model.

You were present. When we came back, you showed up for Henry every week. You made silly faces and did silly voices. Heck, you talked to him, even though he wasn’t speaking yet. You wanted to hold him any time he was around you. In fact, I remember one time, Henry was crying and you told me, “Give him to me.” I reluctantly did so, I never gave Henry to anyone when he was upset. Of course, Henry quite abruptly stopped crying.

He asked for “Bob” all the time. Including today. When we arrived, he asked Candy, “Go see Bob?” Not today, Henry.

I want to thank you for being the first man that Henry reached for, the only man that made him a priority, and the perfect man for me to point to when I encourage him to learn to ski and play golf. I think I will point to your example about a great many things, Bob.

The journey from father to uncle to great uncle was a long one for you. I know that. I also know Henry was the beneficiary of all the wisdom you gathered along your path.

After you left us today, Candy closed the door, which was covered with butterflies. Henry looked at me and said, “Bob sleeping, Bob gone now.” I don’t know if he was asking or telling me? You two had a closeness for which I am and will remain eternally grateful.

I suppose that answered my question. He was telling me.

Love you.

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Majesty and Adoration

I’ve officially reached the ripe old age of 42. I realize some people regret the addition of another digit to one’s age; and, though I reserve the right to bemoan that should I ever choose to do so, I simply have never felt that way.

Every year, I consider it a new start. A chance for something, or someone, new to arrive. Last year, my father, my son, and I went to the epicenter of the Ayres family, Hutchins. Two years ago, I crossed the border and went to Lake Constance (Bodensee) for my birthday. A few years before, I went to the Château de Chillon, another year – The Matterhorn. I have spent the years searching for beauty, embracing the world’s amazing offerings.

This year? I took Henry to the local zoo.

Henry is fascinated by drawings and flashcards of these majestic animals; so, I spent my birthday morning with my son, looking at these creatures in the flesh. He fed a giraffe, without a hint of trepidation. He sat with a pane of glass separating him from a gorilla and carried on an entire conversation (“How you doing?” was his opening line). His entire face lit up when he witnessed the brightly coral-hued flamingos. He wept when we could *only* ride the Carousel twice. The adoration of the majesty of the animals. It was so pure and simple.

I no longer visit sparkly places. The place I visited today smelled, sorry, of elephant poo. But, like everyone, I still have goals for which I will strive. Here are three.

Mr. D Less than two weeks ago, I was honored to sing at the funeral of a beloved teacher from ESD. During this service, he was remembered as a man that “seemingly loved the simplicity of everyday chores and tasks.” Doing his part to make his corner of the world…better? Easier? Cleaner? More interesting? More beautiful?

Joe and Mrs. Simpson Three days ago, I was honored to pay tribute to one of my favorite people and teachers from ESD. I’ve never known anyone to have the semblance of one harsh thought of Joe. Never. Also, during a discussion about another honoree, I heard her described as a woman who had decidedly used her life to seek out the best in people. That’s an important distinction from “bringing out.” Joe and Mrs. Simpson both have this innate ability not to merely “accept” people for who we all are, but to reveal in what makes us remarkable.

Late last night, a dear friend wrote to me about BML being a woman that sought to help, even when she was, herself, in need of help – a woman able to keep her own needs in perspective with the needs of the patients, friends, or family members that needed what she had to offer. Her ability to bring light and life to those in need of human kindness is something severely lacking in this world.

In addition to these lofty goals, for myself, to be a bit more like these wonderful people, I have a HUGE goal as a mother. I want to continue to bring that sparkle of adoration to Henry’s beautiful eye.

Happy May 21st.

 

 

 

 

My Thesis and My Bärli

Henry, I have been at the Law Office for a few hours, while you are sleeping. It’s quiet up here because it’s Saturday. I allowed myself 8 minutes to write this, post it without corrections, and return home. I hope I’ll be there when Lindy has just woken you up and is feeding you lunch.

Periodically, I have some hours to attempt to finish my thesis. It is always difficult now. I sometimes wish I’d had three weeks to live in my thesis, non-stop. This coming and going is brutal. I am working on sections, reworking sections that have become outdated because technology is constantly surpassing what we knew to be possible, and under absolutely delusions this degree means anything to anyone over here.

Yet, I continue plugging away at it. I think, more than anything, I still believe in it. I remember my first conversation with Mira. She was enthusiastic. They all have been, my advisors on this topic.

But, life has proven to be more important than my thesis. I was blissfully unaware of what was in store for me, for our Ayres family. We have had the most difficult year and a half of our family’s life. Truly. We are still trying to pull out of it, as a family. It is a daily, seemingly unending journey.

But, I gather I have less than one month of pure, forced (i.e. I am forcing you to be with me because you have no choice) time with you left. I already ache to feel how much I will miss you later in life when you want to be with anyone OTHER than me. For now, that is not the case. Your face lights up when I greet you in the morning.

But, soon, I will need to put you in daily care and go to work full-time. That destroys me, but I see how badly you need it. You need your intellectual curiosity to be fed by other children and educators. You need your mother to provide for you financially in addition to the copious love and care I give you. You deserve opportunities, and I will do my damnedest to help you get in doors.

So, my thesis, which is now 18 months overdue (NOT AT ALL – coincidentally, you are 18 months soon) will have to wait at least one more month.

You are the most important thing in my life. I will soak in every moment of the next few weeks. When you were born, during that nightmare, your uncle, for whom you are named said, “Do not be distracted when you take him home from the hospital. You get that moment one time. Be present.” Though my phone was buzzing from reporters who’d “somehow” been given my phone number, I followed his advice. I am keeping it in mind now, as well.

I love you. I love your precious snaggle tooth. I love how much you love your vacuum. I love your precious singing voice. I love your thick brown hair and your deep brown eyes that always remind me of L. I love your tantrums that remind me of my own frustrations when I couldn’t “get it” right away, be “it” an idea or a thing. I love everything about you.

What a wonderful month this will be for us.

Glitter and Ashes

Because I was privileged and lucky enough, I spent 5 “Fasnacht/Ash Wednesday”s in Luzern.

Luzern does pre-Lent well. From Tagwach/Schmutzigen Donnerstag until the sun announces Wednesday has come, the city truly celebrates life, joy, music, food, culture, children, adults, visual artistry, drinking, city landmarks, etc. They bring so much life into the world during those days and they do a far better job than the Baselers (sorry, I’m FIERCELY loyal to Luzern, Basel!).

The Tuesday festivities for me always began on the train from either Zürich or Bern to Luzern. Inevitably, revelers would start “celebrating” as the train twisted through small villages and over little brooks. I’d witness a group of girls drinking Aperol Spritzes (I was more a Kafi Lutz gal on the train) or a man in a suit slip into the bathroom a banker and come out a bumblebee or (not-so) sexy nurse. Hours later, I would take in every mask, every instrument, every little band or big band, every smell (some not so great). I loved it. The first year I went, I was alone/abandoned. The last year, I was alone-ish – Henry was in my belly.

The next morning, I would wake early. I would attempt to remove as much of the glitter and caked-on makeup as possible, usually to no avail, I’d have a good breakfast, walk to Friedental, visit Bibiana’s grave, light a candle, place a rose, and then go to Ash Wednesday services. Every year.

Ash Wednesday services never depressed me or made me miserable. I would close my eyes as Cornel or Ruth or Father Luzzatto or Justin sprinkled the dust on my head. I would let the Aschermittwoch words enveloped me. I have always understood, since I was a small child, I am dust and to dust I shall return.

All day, during those years, I would walk feeling the pieces of glitter and specks of ash co-mingling on my forehead and in my hair. I never took that beautiful juxtaposition for granted.

I am far away from my heart and spiritual home, but I am walking down the hill, over the bridge, and into my church now. I contemplate that life and death are parts of each other. The darkened veil of sadness is laced with golden threads of bliss.

Ashes and glitter. It is always thus, is it not?

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Bärli – First March

You took part in your first exercise of democracy on Saturday. With Momma strolling you through a crowd of hundreds of women (and men) and children, you marched for Womens’ Rights.

Many times, people would stop, look at you, and tell you to remember the day. You will not. Some said you should run for president some day. I hope not, but will support you, if you decide to do so. When Mommy’s voice joined the others saying, “This is what democracy looks like,” you looked up at me and smiled. Sometimes, if Mommy was very loud, you laughed.

Mommy was never an activist and many of the women marching were similar. But, these are important times. Important things are slipping away – civil liberties, progress in the various areas of equality, common decency. Mommy has to raise her voice sometimes.

For me, the Womens March was about more than politics, that’s why I wanted to take you with me. It was about coming together as a community and supporting each other during a challenging time. I don’t care if you are political, but you will be informed, okay? You will never take your most powerful weapon, your vote, for granted. That is your brain’s only defense against corruption, injustice, and oppression.

Mommy wishes she was in Geneva, using her degree and expertise to make a difference. Dallas feels like a wasteland to her, in that way. But, Saturday morning was nice. It was nice to scream and raise my voice, and it was wonderful to have my full-of-potential son with me.

Screen Shot 2018-01-23 at 10.12.06 AM Mommy and a great lady she met that day…you are in that stroller, buddy!

Ladies, this is killing us: Domestic Violence and Guns

Sources are at the end of this post.

A woman is shot by a current or ex intimate partner once every 16 hours.

We have congressional leaders unwilling to implement gun safety measures that the vast majority of Americans want. The anniversary of the Massacre at Sandy Hook found the head of the NRA celebrating the holidays at the White House. The NRA is actively working (and succeeding) to stop meaningful legislation aimed at domestic/intimate abusers’ access to guns.

Reports indicate 4.5 million of our fellow sisters have been threatened by an intimate partner with a gun and 1 million have been shot. These are the NONFATAL statistics and these are only the reported incidents.

Ladies, we must do something to protect our sisters. Unlike the NRA, I do not believe the answer is arming ourselves; unless we are arming ourselves with protective legislation and local/state/federal regulation. Violence begets violence. We must examine the example we set for our children.

Most of my well-educated circle of friends and colleagues believe we have mandatory universal background checks in place – we do not. Licensed dealers are required to perform a background check; however, the exchange of guns through transfers, online sales, etc. comprises roughly 40% of ALL gun purchases. These are done without a background check.

Every time there is a mass shooting involving children, we collectively cry and mourn. When the dust settles, it’s always the same – history of domestic aggression/violence/abuse and collection of firearms.

When will that crying be replaced with collective anger and action?

Here’s what I’d like to suggest: if every woman in the US joined the NRA, we would control it. We could implement meaningful change to protect our sisters, trapped in domestic and judicial situations they cannot control. We can’t stop mass shootings, but we could take a step toward curtailing them.

What else can we do? The #MeToo movement is strong and powerful, as was the Womens’ March. We have strength in numbers. Why don’t we save ourselves?

Support anything Chris Murphy does, same with Gabby Giffords. Support your local shelters, CASA, any organization trying to implement meaningful change. Share this post, write your own post (with sources for statistics and information), do SOMETHING.

Vote. Stop this epidemic.

Every sister is my sister.

I don’t want to hear stories about an abusive husband murdering of his wife and children over a looming divorce he does not want, or a boyfriend with a record breaking a restraining order and killing a roomful of employees at his girlfriend’s office, or another mass shooting by a white male with a clear history of domestic violence and an arsenal of firearms. Enough! Aren’t we all sick. Aren’t we all tired. It is enough.

One of these stories could, and odds are will, be about a friend of mine. A family member. Me. It’s enough.

images.duckduckgo.com

Sources:

https://www.thetrace.org/2016/02/woman-shot-killed-frequency-domestic-violence/

http://www.nola.com/politics/index.ssf/2015/05/heres_what_the_nra_got_strippe.html

http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/1524838016668589?journalCode=tvaa&

Thousands of Guns, No Background Check Required

https://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/nra-guns-domestic-violence_us_5967dd57e4b01741862645f2

http://fortune.com/2017/11/07/domestic-violence-shootings-statistics/

Domestic Violence & The Lautenberg Amendment

Did President Donald Trump Host the NRA on the Anniversary of the Sandy Hook Massacre?

Graphic: theodysseyonline.com

Thanksgiving – Vomit on the Menu

Bärli,

A few days ago, I think I’d told Keeli, who works with me at Nerium, or someone else, “Luckily, Henry has never thrown up.” Last week, Coopie was really sick with a stomach bug, and Uncle Chris took such good care of him that Uncle Chris got sick. That’s what sparked that discussion.

So, it’s only fitting that, the day after Thanksgiving, you gave me that gift. Your first throw-up. Thanks. Really, thanks so much. 😉

Let me tell you what happened when you blew chunks BECAUSE…it will show you what you have (other than molars coming in).

Mommy was upstairs putting on her shoes. You’d been fussy, but I was going to run to Target with Aunt Jenny. We’d been trying to take the Christmas picture with the Ayres Little Men, but you were just not having it. I knew something was wrong with you. You are NEVER that kind of upset. You are such a happy boy.

Anyway, Mommy was upstairs. Uncle Chris was playing it cool, but he was a little worried something was really wrong (more than just a fussy baby). Apparently, Lindy was holding you and Uncle Chris was watching you like a hawk. He saw you do something that let him know you were going to be sick and he went straight toward you to get you. Aunt Jenny immediately sprung into action and got some plastic bags, Wyatt got paper towels. Coopie was standing really still because I think he was upset you were sick. He’s still pretty young and you were crying a lot.

(This, of course, reminded me of Pop at Marie Gabrielle’s. A similar situation, I’ll tell you about someday, when I looked over, saw Pop, said “Chris!,” and Chris and Pop Pop went into “EMT Alert” mode, as I call it.)

Why am I telling you a story about the first time you threw up?

Mommy gave up her heart’s home, Switzerland, because she wanted you to have a family that loved you. Mommy is sad about it a lot and she always will be. You might feel, someday, sad that Mommy left. You’ll hear lots of stories about Switzerland and how hard it was for Mommy to leave.

Don’t feel sad. Read this.

THIS is why Mommy brought you here. These people. This family.

Better than any country, any beautiful apartment in Bern, any wonderful job in Geneva, any sanctuary in Luzern…better than that? The family we have. They are not perfect and we drive each other nuts sometimes.

Nevertheless, it’s worth anything Mommy had to leave to see Lindy, Uncle Chris, Aunt Jenny, Wyatt, and Coopie surrounding you when you are sick,  or celebrating your birthday, eating eggs for the first time, getting your first tooth, etc. Angel and Vanni were there the first time you said “purple.” Pop Pop literally saw you take your first breath. It’s worth it.

I’ll take the barf, I’ll give up my beloved Switzerland…for those people.

Sherin Mathews

Sherin-Mathews-Missing-Toddler-Texas.jpgI imagine myself traveling to India with the intent of expanding my two-person family. I would do it in a heartbeat.

I imagine seeing a beautiful girl with a dim, but present, sparkle in her eye. She is not speaking, but I feel her speaking to me. I imagine myself feeling I am her mother.

I imagine she has never known the love every child should know. I imagine she is hungry, sad, and weary.

I imagine bringing her to my home, and giving her love and nourishment for her body, soul, and spirit.

I imagine struggles because she is malnourished, frustrated because she cannot communicate, and tired of being passed from home to home. I imagine myself feeling similarly frustrated at times, but overwhelmingly blessed by her.

Here are the things I cannot imagine.

I cannot imagine purposely causing harm to her for any reason under any circumstances.

I cannot imagine putting her by a tree in an area with coyotes at any time during the day. I cannot imagine letting her do anything unsupervised in an area with coyotes.

I cannot imagine punishing her for not drinking milk.

I cannot imagine letting her out of the house for any reason at 3AM.

I cannot imagine not calling the police (my family, my friends, and anyone else I could call) immediately upon the realization she was missing or possibly hurt.

I cannot imagine waiting five hours or five minutes to call the police.

I cannot imagine leaving the area in my car, even to look for her.

I cannot imagine doing laundry when she was missing because I can hardly imagine breathing.

I cannot imagine not cooperating with every police or FBI officer and every search party to find her. I cannot imagine not leading those search parties myself.

I cannot imagine withholding information about her location nor can I imagine lying about what I’ve done or not done to her, accidentally or deliberately.

I cannot imagine not imploring Acura’s Navigation system to track the GPS information and AT&T to do the same with the phone of anyone who might have harmed my daughter.

I cannot imagine 10 days passing and not being honest about the circumstances.

And, I speak for many people when I say this last part, I cannot imagine ever forgetting about this little girl. As long as she is missing, we will continue fighting for her to be found. We will never stop until she is found.

My prayer for you, Sherin with the sparkle in her eyes, is that you are peaceful for the first time in your life. You deserved better from our world, I’m sorry you have not had that. I do hope you have that now, wherever you are.

#SherinMathews

 

 

Ex Tenebris – Lux

This time, last year, was the most difficult of my life. I was afraid you would come early and I would be alone.

Your father was making my life a living hell. Though I was on bed rest, and I had horrible sciatica that kept me from being able to walk more than tiny steps, I was forced out of our little flat many times to finish the process for your Anerkennung because he did not.

Every day that I did not feel you moving around, I worried. The majority of my hours were spent talking to Lindy or Godmum or the Henrys or anyone free to talk. I cried a lot; it wasn’t the hormones. It was fear that you wouldn’t be healthy because of all the stress.

Usually, I watch West Wing twice a year. I watched it twice in those 2 weeks. I had it on all the time. I wrote dozens of spreadsheets about budgets, potential costs, etc. assuming there would be little help from your father. I reorganized your nursery a few times day.

When you and I were alone, it was bliss. I would sing to you, I would sit in your nursery with the furniture Pop Pop, your grandfather, gave you. I put together a rocking chair for you, maneuvering around my big belly! I made sure to give you everything you needed for a good start.

But, emails and messages would come. Every communication from your father was awful. Every lie he wanted me to tell, every cover-up – I refused. This made him angry and punitive. He is still punishing me and so is she. She doesn’t know the truth. But, I know her truth from last summer. I know their truth from the past few years. I also know my own. I will have no qualms telling you mine and you can judge for yourself one day what you think of theirs, collectively and individually.

One year later. This week was the last week for any sort of an agreement. After months of back-and-forth, it is over. For what purpose was there a reason to fight with me, you will ask me one day? I don’t know. He does nothing to help care for you and hasn’t asked about either of us since September 15, 2016. I suppose, again, he just wants to punish me and you, by extension.

I gave up. I proposed your father give me full legal custody, the judge and his lawyer didn’t like that. So, I proposed your father have possessory custody, your father didn’t want that either. At the end, he only wanted to terminate his rights and obligations, which I would not let him do. YOU can decide to terminate those obligations. Not me. And, definitely not him. You are his child and you have the right to know your father and your half siblings, if you want to someday. He cannot take that right away from you. He cannot threaten me OR you anymore – not through his messages, emails, or his lawyer(s).

As I look forward, like any parent would be, I am scare of a million things. I am also brave and resolute. I will do whatever I need to do to give you all the love, financial support, healthcare, education, and anything else you need. I will happily do that alone.

Du bist Mama’s Bärli. Ich liebe dich mehr als alles. DU bist alles das wichtig, rein, und gut ist. Wo ich gescheitert habe, du musst nicht leiden. Ich werde alles für dich möglich sein.

After this, as far as I am concerned, I won’t need to talk about either of them again until you are older.

Ex tenebris – lux. Amen.

First Steps on Swiss Independence day (of course)

Little Bear, you took your first steps on one of Momma’s favorite days – August 1st. This is the day that Switzerland celebrates its national day. I’ll tell you a lot of things about it when you’re growing up. We may even go see the little hill with the flag.

“Bower,” our family’s patriarch, just wrote to Momma and said, “My boy already knows history!  He was waiting for this auspicious moment. R.” Indeed.

You let go and walked straight to me. Didn’t look down. Didn’t stumble. Didn’t have the nervous heartbeat that Momma had. Just walked right to me.

On August the 1st.

When Momma lived in her beloved country, she celebrated Swiss National day every year and we will continue to celebrate it. In 2009, I hugged a St. Bernard, ate Raclette, and watched fireworks fill the sky over Zürich. In 2014, I sang at The Hospice of Grand St. Bernard. I opened my mouth and sang the Schweizerpsalm, by memory, in front of a wonderful crowd. It was magical. Last year, I was in the hospital because we were trying to keep you cooking! I still sang the Schweizerpsalm.

This year was such a sad August 1st for Momma because ich habe Heimweh aber du hast mir die Schweiz gebracht. Bärli. Möckli. Augöpfli. Ängeli.

I dream that someday, maybe, your first steps across a Swiss bridge will happen in Luzern on an August 1st? Maybe your first steps climbing a mountain will happen in the Valais on an August 1st? Maybe your first steps in a new office will happen in Geneva on an August 1st? Probably not. Most offices would be closed.

Anyway, great dreams. Crazy dreams. Just like Momma has always had.