Knowing when to say, “No.”
So often, these days, we are told that to get along, to satisfy others, we have learned to say, “Yes”. ... In fact, the whole trend of learning to just say, “no,” teaches us that we must, assuredly, always say, “yes”, to be able to get along in this world.
Seven weeks ago at a reception for the LPGA, Terri Patton asked me to take two young men into my life. I could not just say, “no”, though I could have, if I would have. To just say, “no” is the thing to do. But, there was nothing. There was just not one thing in my person that could say, “no” to two boys. No to two complete souls of beings.
My date, whom I have dated for four years, would certainly need to be told that I had just taken two teenage boys into my life and his. I was scared to tell him. Who takes people they don’t know into their home to live and be and eat and shower and sleep and say prayers with? When Terri asked me if I would take them in, I had no qualms. It was just me: whom was I supposed to ask if it were a good idea? I was living alone! I knew that my date would “get it”, I knew my kids would “get it,” I knew my parents would “get it.” But the one person whom I did not know would “get it” was myself.
I had fought God against this idea for years and years: housing people and children of people whom I had grown up with? Fine. There have been many stranded clients who have lived with me over the years: Three’s Company with Dixie and Todd. Kathryn and her children. Laurie and her kids. Catherine’s Gracie. Lela’s Max. The list continues, but two teenage boys? Two senior Hillsboro High School students? No, Not me. Not I. Not me.
“Yes, you.” Thundered. LOUDLY – not the metaphoric thunderous silent shout but the very real thunderous roar is what shouted down my spine. I left the cocktail party with two boys in my heart and two boys whom I would meet the next day and two boys whom I would very quickly learn to love thicker than boundaries.
For ten years, I drove past Monroe Harding on my way to take Leila to and from Franklin Road Academy. For ten years, God shouted, “YOU ARE GOING TO TAKE MY BOYS INTO YOUR HOME.” It was a statement louder than any shout could sound. I took the longer way to school some days just to avoid hearing God shout at me. And, every next day, I would drive back down Glendale and again get the shout: YOU WILL TAKE MY BOYS INTO YOUR LIFE.
And, always, always I shouted back at God that I was a single girl- yes, a mother, but I was not prepared to take two whole new people into my home- much less two boys. He shouted commandments at me, and each day I heard the shout, and one day I asked If Leila heard Him, too. And, she said that she did ,too but that she heard Him saying that I needed in take in a baby! She gave it a good try, but, I knew that I was doomed. One day, I would be taking in boys. But, I could not understand why this was such a big deal to God. I knew he was going to make me do this. But I thought that if I just stayed really busy, He would forget or , at least, realize that I had too much going on with work… Maybe when I was around 75 or so, I could handle it…
My struggle was that I knew that He wasn’t talking to the wrong person, but I could not figure out why He has chosen me to do something that seemed so above my qualifications as a mom- heavens, I wasn’t doing so well with my own kids at that point. I never knew what I was supposed to be doing as a mother. It seemed that I never was on time. I never knew what the school was doing or when I was supposed to be where as the mother. Or the PTA person or the anything. It seemed that I was barely getting by by the skin of my teeth in the mother department. So, after Leila graduated into a car, I thought God had just kinda drifted on to some other person when I did not have Him breathing down my neck every morning. Until Catherine called a couple of years ago.
Catherine needed her daughter and her girlfriend to stay with me just a few nights until they found an apartment that they could rent for three or four months under 800.00 in the city (so they could work) in the summer of 2017. Big heap luck on that one, Catherine. The two, very open, unemployed recovering 26 year olds lived with me for four months. Kayla, I did not trust from the get go. Gracie, I had to trust since her mother was one of my oldest friends (since two years old). I had one rule: three lies, and you’re out. They told three lies. I hated when Kayla packed her things to leave. She was a hard worker and kind and loyal. I had been glad when the girls broke up. I thought Kayla deserved better. I was glad to see Gracie leave. She was trouble, and I told her so. It was she who broke the rules- all three times. But, the deal was for them as a couple- three lies and you’re out.
It was easy to put their things into the garage. It was hard to see them sit on their suitcases until they could get their car started. They headed for Ashville. It was good to hear Kayla call two weeks later and five weeks later and three months later and three weeks ago to tell me that she was still clean and that she was still broken up. It will be good to see her when she visits next weekend.
Should I have just said, “No?”
Lela’s Max came to live with me this past summer. He’s studying astrophysics. He just needed a place to stay for three or four days while he found an apartment to live in Nashville for the summer… Big heap luck to you, Big Boy. He moved in May 1st. He is his mother, Lela Bellows Simpson Gerald, all of the way except for the fact that he was a boy- and not as picky about things as his mother is.
Max spent the summer detailing Neely Coble’s semi trucks. He is in the very best fraternity at Alabama, and all the boys love him and all of the girls have his profile tattooed on their arms, and he thinks that I walk on water, and Max is very, very , very smart . And, he dated a girl with flaxen hair who was not good enough for him. And, when he left to go back to Alabama, I called his mother and just about cried. She reminded me that he had been on his best behavior all summer.
Should I have just said, “No?”
Mark and Elijiah walked in and sat on my couch and said nothing.
Mark looked at his feet, and Elijiah smiled from ear to ear.
Mark was going to be a problem, I could clearly see. He would not look me in the eye.
“Well, Damn, ” I said out loud. “This is not going to work unless you two will talk to me. And, You, there staring at your feet. That attitude won’t work at all. And, You, with the smiles. We do not smile in this house. If this is going to work, I have one rule: You must be honest with me. All ways always. Three lies of any degree- who left the fridge open? Who ran into the house? are both the same. No lies. Three between the two of you and you both are out. I don’t do lies. Period. And, you do not “stay” here. You live here. And I am Jodie- not Miss Jodie, and that is it. Bring in your bags.
Their backpacks sat beside their feet, and they took them upstairs and picked out their rooms. Elijiah took the room with the twin bed and walk in closet, and Mark took the room with double bed and plaid coverlet and smaller closet. Within a week they had changed rooms. It took them five weeks to smile and six weeks to laugh out loud. It took them seven weeks to hug me without grimacing, but it took them only one day to let me hug them when I dropped them off at school.
Yesterday we and their four friends carved pumpkins.
And, Should I have just said, “No?”
Damn, it, Ok, God, Count me in. You win.
There is a beauty in saying “Yes.”
Kiss your babies, tell your parents you love them and take a walk in the park with a friend.