Mama Used to Say: ‘Your Tank is on Empty’

Mama Used to Say: ‘Your Tank is on Empty’

One of many of Mama’s infamous phrases was, “Ann, your tank is on empty.” As I reflect on this last year there have been a plethora (sp) of phrases that have entered my mind which my Mama used in conversation; I am astounded that I understood anything she said in my childhood.

I certainly have my own quirky phrases that I throw out there on the regular basis, but Mama’s phrases were flooding my mind so often that I had to just start writing them all down. The strange thing is that I literally had forgotten these phrases were a part of our world on a daily basis growing up in our home.

When God gave us Rachael Lutz, we had to tweak so many things to try to help her. One that both myself and Mama worked on was using phrases that were very abstract which only confused and frustrated her. But, I’ll be “throwing a few” your way today.

So, has your proverbial “tank” ever been on empty? Chances are indeed, if they’ve not reached empty, they’ve run on low a few times. It’s always humbled me to know life is just way to big and complicated for me to ‘go it alone.’ I know I’m just a spec in a world that is millions of years old, but I believe God loves each of the “specs” He has created with an infinite and universal love. This truly does help to keep my cup very full.

Sure, there are days when I am tired and plum worn out. I allow myself to rest. Years ago, Richard and I were far more social folks; now we spend a tremendous amount of time in our garden and home. And, as for Rach, she has found beautiful families who love her just the way she is designed by God and treat her as a gift and a blessing. Our little Isle of Hope community has certainly embraced her and that is a HUGE blessing that “fills our tanks” with HAPPY ENERGY and much gratefulness in our hearts while we “chill out” at home.

I can still hear Mama, “Ann, your tank is running low” or “Ann, your tank is on empty.” She knew me so very well. We had such a very deep connection, even though we did not always agree or even understand each other for that matter. I loved her with all of my heart and would have never traded her. Another of my many blessings that I count.

I recently had a chat with Ashton, who is thirteen, about energy. Sure, it’s invisible, like the wind, but Mom always knew when I was “running low on energy.” I may have been grumpy or snappy with she or daddy. I may have been acting anxious over school work, tests, sports I was playing at the time. Maybe I was getting sick. SHE ALWAYS KNEW, she was my mom.

I never thought much of the amount of energy it took to raise four children, especially when one had needs that were special. Our mom tried so hard to get help for my brother, Stephen, as they realized that he had learning disabilities/dyslexia. It was a very different time and there was not the amount of help available then as there is now.

Mama and daddy tried tirelessly to provide him the help he needed, from doctor’s to school’s. He has so many talents in which God has blessed him. I saw Mom’s silent tears (whereas, I cry hysterically) as the ache within her soul was so very real. Here she was (they were) desperate to help him and save him from himself and his own path of destruction. We are so thankful for the prayer warriors out there that have really helped Rachael on her path in life.

By the time Mama was eighty-eight and closer to leaving this world, I’d spent countless hours in conversations with her over the challenges of raising children, but especially children who have special needs. They are all gifts from God, but Mama always said parenting was a “humbling job” and I definitely agree with her. They are not “toy soldiers” for each soul is so very unique.

Unfortunately, Mama also spent many hours of her life “beating herself up” over she and daddy’s inability to “save” Stephen from some of his own choices. I bought her many books, “Codependent No More,” “Boundaries”, and etc. in hopes that these would help her to accept that they had not failed as parents. They made mistakes and had faults, but they certainly tried during a time when they did not have the science, medication or the same amount of knowledge that they do now.

It was when she was tired, when her ‘energy was low’ (which happened far more often after she had buried my brother Fred and my sister Josephine in less than a three week period of time) that she would reflect more about her life, her choices, her parenting. I certainly understood to some degree. In quiet moments, we often do slow down enough to reflect.

Feelings had always been difficult for Mama to share. There was a tremendous amount of love but she thought she could parent Stephen (well, all of us) through control. That back fired on her by the time Stephen had turned eleven years-old. Actually, it didn’t work so well with me either.

I remember running and hiding when Stephen had returned barefooted from days hiking to who knows where doing who knows what. In one sense, we were all so relieved that he was safe, and in another breath, Mama and Daddy’s ‘temperature gage’ was off of the charts, yikes, scary!!! This required emotional and mental energy for us all I believe.

When I was “running low” or “almost on empty” with having Kira and what was described to me as ‘Irish twins’ cause Kaelan and Rachael are only twelve and a half months apart, I remember Mom sharing that I had kept them awake the first four years of my life. As she would share her stories, it always struck a chord with me cause it sounded as though it had just happened, yet it was a lifetime ago really.

When Rachael was a little child, she was having very clear struggles with fine motor skills, language processing, listening (and defiance) and Mama had plenty to say. She, no doubt, loved Rachael so very deeply, but assertively let me know how to parent her. It took a lot for me to find my courage, but I quickly responded with, “How did that work out with you with Stephen?.?!.”

It was harsh, it was hard, it was my version of tough love. She did adore Rach and loved my brother. My brother had (has) unfortunately spent most of his life in prison. He can draw beautifully and is such a creative soul. He can build things and I remember him doing really well in “shop” when I was a child. He was gifted with much talent.

Rach is not Stephen anymore than I am someone else. However, Rach has helped me, tremendously, become my more authentic self. It took so long for me to find ‘my voice’ and to understand what that even truly meant. All of it has helped to define my “soul purpose” and help to clarify why I am here and what God wants me to do. I “WOKE UP.”

Yes, Rach takes more “energy” to raise. She has woken up her entire life throughout the night. When she was little, 6 times was her “magic wake up number.” Yes, we too were exhausted so I finally understood Mama and Stephen in many ways that I had never understood prior to having Rachael Lutz. It was through all of our efforts with Rachael that Richard and I worked tirelessly on trying to learn how to be on the “same team” (that was hard for us) and learn how to parent Rachael and our other children. One thing was made abundantly clear early on in Rachael Elason Lutz’s life: she was NOT going to be controlled.

I believe, as exhausting as it all was: doctors’ appointments, social skills, play therapy, speech therapy, occupational therapy, equine therapy, etc. that it not only stretched our hearts (through good times and really hard times), it stretched my mother’s heart to love differently as well, with no strings attached. Gamee learned quickly that she wasn’t going to control Rach in this here lifetime on this here planet Earth. Rach taught her how to love unconditionally, even more deeply than she had loved before God gave us Rach.

Did it take “energy” from Gamee to restrain her natural habit of being in charge, it did. Did it backfire sometimes when she thought she was helping but Mama’s choice to command and demand Rachael could set forth a series of unfortunate events, it did. Did we love her all the same, yes, indeed we did.

One of the last times I really remember it happening was when she had gone to Disney World with us. Richard had a work conference and commitment, regarding the conference, that had to be met. It was here a series of unfortunate events certainly ensued.

We were in one room of the hotel and mom, Kira and Rachael were in the other room. Kaelan was going to be sleeping on the sofa bed in the main living area of the hotel room. There was also a kitchen and dining room table area which all opened to the living area in which was Kaelan’s sleeping/resting area. I cannot remember how old Ashton was or even where she was sleeping.

Mama had traveled with us before and knew it took a lot of mental and emotional energy (with a large dose of forgiveness) to travel with us Grizwold’s. She was excited and up for it, she assured us. Okee dokee then…

After, I believe a long day in the park, we returned to the hotel room. Kira was on the little porch talking to Arthur on the phone. Kaelan was chilling on the fold out couch, quietly watching T.V. Mama was intent on doing the laundry. So we did and we folded everything while stacking each person’s neatly in a pile on the dining room table. No big deal leaving the stacks right there cause we were going to be eating dinner with the folks at the conference and were not using the table. However, Mama felt differently, she wanted everyone to put their clothes away right then and there. She insisted Rach take Ashton’s clothes (she was resting in our room on our bed quietly watching cartoons while Richard showered in our room – notice the theme here – our room) and put them in our room. Rach made her way in front of the TV in front of KAELAN and tried to open the door. It was locked.

Meanwhile, I’d run to the bathroom near the other bedroom (I’d not run to the hotel lobby) quickly. By the time I’d returned, I heard yelling by Kaelan letting Rachael know he’d warned her three times about continuing to walk in front of the TV. She was yelling at him that Gamee told her to put Ashton’s clothes away and my STRESS METER escalated quickly. I knew the looks and I saw Rachael’s pupils. They were huge, black and she was livid. The door to our room was locked; Rach kept yelping for Richard to open the door. I’m trying to intervene to “calm the waters” and Mama tells Rach to sit the clothes down on the TV stand. Naturally, she chose to sit them (a nice pile) in front of the TV show Kaelan was trying to watch instead of beside the TV. I said, “Mama, things are about to EXPLODE.” Suddenly, our mild mannered, sweet and gentle son tore off of the bed like a wild animal on the hunt. “For what?” You say, his SISTER, of all things! Kaelan suddenly proclaimed with extreme INTENSITY that he was walking back to Savannah and wasn’t staying here another minute!!!

Kira swooned in and took off after him. Richard had opened the door by that point and asked what in the world had happened. Mama got tears in her eyes and I simply exited into our room, into our bathroom and put myself in a lump on the bathroom floor. I think this is how it happened or maybe Kira saw me crying hysterically in a lump on the floor and then she asked me if I wanted her to go after Kaelan. I can’t remember because it truly is all a blur. My emotions were a big bowl of mixed up MUSH.

I love Disney World, but it takes a lot of energy. Many memories (again, good and bad) have been made there. However, the energy that all of this took, mentally and emotionally, was not the same as riding on the People Mover’s in Futureland.

I had to dig down deep to pull it together; I don’t remember much about the rest of that evening, I’d cried like a baby myself. I was at a loss for sure, but I do remember a huge relief sweep over me as Kira returned with her brother by her side quite some time after the monumental meltdowns had occurred. The gratefulness enveloped me like a warm soft blanket as I had been petrified for Kaelan and his well being. I don’t think anything was discussed that evening.

The next morning, Mama and I were up early. “I’m sorry” was always very difficult for her to say, but she did tell me, in a soft and quiet voice (unlike her:), “I did not mean for any of that to happen last night.” Of course, I knew that for sure. I shared that it’s why I’d suggested the clothes just stay in stacks on the dining table until everyone had had some down/ quiet time. I gently said, “Do you see what I mean by ‘I now understand better about which battles to pick’ ” and she assured me that she understood now. Yahoo!!! Excellent news.

She then proceeded to tell me that we were not going to talk about anything that had happened last night because today was a new day. “Hmmm… a new day, yes, but a crazy, dysfunctional evening the night before, yes,” is what I was thinking. I kindly told her that was not how we did things in our family. I shared that it was called communication and we could respectfully each have our opinion or even agree to disagree, but we were indeed going to talk about it and ‘clear the air’ as best we could. Then, we could move forward with our day. And so we did.

I don’t remember anything quite that crazy happening the rest of the trip. I DO remember that ALL OF THAT definitely took a lot of our energy and we needed time to recover. We rested, we found time to swim in the pool and go to the gym to rejuvenate until we felt refreshed and then, we began again.

We must pray, as well as allow ourselves time to rest, renew, rejuvenate and restore our energy in order for us to move forward on our way into another day. And always hold onto this quote by Walt Disney, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” So deep breaths and let us all keep being thankful for our little and big blessings now and while moving forward. Each breath we take is indeed a gift from God.