Life provides turning points of many kinds, but the most powerful of all may be character-revealing moments.
Verified by Psychology Today
Confessions of a replacement child
Barbara A Jaffe Ed.D.
Age has given me the gift of reflection and reprioritizing what gives me immediate joy as well as the ability to appreciate my todays.
Seasons are so much more than changing weather: they are memories of poignant changes within my family and myself, the ebbs and flows of schedules and routines.
The house holds the secrets of young motherhood, of early carpools, of fears of getting it all right; and my older age, when I accept I just didn't just get it all right.
And, because I miss my mother so much (even after nine years), my mind plays tricks on me, and, for a couple of seconds, I actually forget she is gone and I go to call her.
Spending my days in significant and thoughtful ways takes on an importance I had never thought about when I was younger.
My wedding dress became a distant memory, only coming into my frame of reference when my eye would catch a glimpse of our wedding photo on the wall in my parents' house.
When our parents become ill, we can create a new image of them while still carrying the memories of their healthy selves within our hearts.
So many meaningful scents provide backdrops of endearment, which join my heart and soul to the places and loved ones I so treasure.
I can’t imagine my life without books, without reading, without the joy and beauty of words as they unfold on a page.
It wasn’t until I was older, I mean a lot older, did I accept that I have a gift—that I might even be better than just a ‘good’ writer, better than just a pleasant writer.
One of my saddest tasks was the dismantling of my parents’ house of 55 years. Where does one begin to sift through a lifetime of memorabilia and meaningful possessions?
The strange thing about hoops is that we don't really know they exist until we review our lives with our greatly earned hindsight—awarded by surviving our own countless hoops.
Despite all the things (and they are just things) that have been discontinued, goodness, family, friendship, empathy, and joy will never be replaced.
It is the house that holds the memories of my young motherhood and my aging self--the memories that will accompany me for the rest of my days.
The initial excitement I felt in viewing the miscellaneous and colorfully frozen moments has now been replaced by an extraordinary melancholy.
I sit among the piles of journals that reveal snippets of my past, often times reflecting a younger wife, daughter, or mother in turmoil over decisions I had to make.
Today, the older version of myself (the grandmother), patiently and loving talks to the young mother I once was.
At an early age, I learned that what was said was not always what was meant, and this became my first lesson in the power of words.
It is inconceivable that along with my office, I am now facing the dismantling of a role that has joyfully defined me for decades.
How is it possible that time can morph and change course, stand still, yet engulf our lives while, at times, yet also seem to disappear altogether?
My mental Rolodex of priority decisions has been so helpful to me, as it has enabled me to calibrate what I really want to do, not what I should do.
Life cycles consist of births, deaths, and all the milestones in between, but I also wonder, too, about the often small, pivotal moments—the highlights—of these cycles.
Gratefully, I do not hold grudges. One might attribute this to good fortune, or to my father’s genetics, but actually it is a result of committed and conscious work.
Quite a while ago I decided that regret was a useless emotion and vowed to never give into its beckoning allure of unfulfilled longing and disappointment wrapped in self-pity.
My daily Grateful Lists help me to return to the essential, to what is most important in the infusion of my joy despite my troubles.
The substance of my old tapes used to engulf and define me: "I am not a good enough mother; daughter; professor; I’m not smart enough."
Writing has been my passion since I was young enough to make the connection between pen and paper—long before computers and keyboards. When I write, I am transformed.
Invariably the woman would glance in my direction and say, “Your daughter is very pretty," to which my mother would respond: "The main thing is she is nice."
If Jeffery had lived, you wouldn’t have been born. Mother’s declaration punctuated my childhood as I came to understand my unique position in our family as the replacement child.
Barbara Jaffe, Ed.D., is a fellow in UCLA’s department of education and a professor at El Camino College.