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In five days he’ll be flying half way around the world, unless he gets waylaid in Hawaii. That would be optimum. As a parent I can say, definitively and without any reservation, that I wish he’d just stuck to my plan. To my credit, I’m not really sure what that plan was, but I know it wasn’t for this.

Seriously, we had AFSC come and speak to our Scout Troop regarding how to register as a Conscientious Objector for the draft. Neither of our sons followed up on that suggestion, although I think that one of them has those files secreted away downtown anyhow, no matter how oblivious he may be.

So my kid, who has a great job, is moving to another country for a couple of years. My hope is that he sees the world. Should we win the lottery, we might join him in Japan. Maybe we’ll do it anyhow.

I love you. I’m proud of you and I wish for your safe travels. I’ll miss you very much.

I can’t begin to express  how much your preference of Quaker means to me.

Matthew 5:9

An Apology To My Sister

I was sitting at the dining room table with a friend once, when our children were very young, There was a loud, three way squabble underway on our second floor. When I got up to intervene, she placed her hand on mine and said, “My Mother would never interfere unless there was blood involved. Otherwise, she felt that she was showing favoritism”. She grew up with eight brothers and sisters so I supposed that there might be some genuine experience and insight on her mother’s part. This has been my approach, ever since. I have listened to ours duke it out on more than one occasion, although not too often. They are so completely different but they have learnt to respect each other’s quirks and love each other in spite. I know that they take pride in their sibling support system.  Although they have seen our interactions (yours and mine), most of their family experience has, definitely, been otherwise and never so fraught with frustration and anger. When you and I really try to communicate, these are the feelings that usually surface for both of us.

Charlie says that the first five and a half hours of our Thanksgiving celebration were great. It was only the last five minutes that were completely unacceptable and childish. In addition he says that we both spent the end of the evening pushing each others buttons supremely and hurtfully. He’s pretty observant and gives good counsel.

I think that as long as it’s superficial, we’re good. The question is, after all of these years, do we want it to remain superficial? I’d vote yes. We’ve missed too many of each others’ big milestones and tragedies. Hell, we didn’t even share tears over the death of our Mother. It was somebody else who rocked me, sobbing along in desperation on the floor for as many hours as it took to make the sick feeling subside a little. I’m still sick over that.

I have learned to push back hard and mean. You are the only person with whom I am so reactionary. Most people will never see this side of me. I think there was too much mediation in our childhood, at least for me, because I wasn’t permitted to retaliate. I don’t have to be that any more. That’s the part that changed. I take full responsibility for my side of our relationship. There are two sides to every arguement.

I’m sorry and I forgive you.

Perfection

As practiced as I am, I can spend hours and hours on a piece and still make a mistake. When I was younger, I would agonize over it for days and often begin again. What I have realized is that usually I am the only one to know that there was ever a mistake and that I learn as much or more from an error as I do from beginning again.

Parenting isn’t easy. You are your kids’ biggest cheerleader, but at some point there is a shift in your reality as it becomes your child’s reality. And, when your child is more than twenty you probably have little to say about it. You accept their decisions, good or bad (in your perception), but remain the cheerleader on the sidelines. Don’t worry. They’ll sit up and notice eventually. I hope.

Last night our daughter stopped by for a visit and cards after work. She and her new husband had gone to the pumpkin patch that we frequented when our kids were small and she realized that although we weren’t wealthy, we assured them a good time on a budget. They always came away with the pumpkin of their choice and a gallon of cider.

The choices that our children have made haven’t always jibed with our plans for them. Throwing away a full scholarship to a great engineering university was not optimum, but he’s in theater now. Organizing a Contentious Objector workshop with the American Friends Services Committee did not deter our eldest from enlisting and our daughter…

I can’t worry too much. I have my own dreams to follow (guess I won’t be dead any time soon), still. I’ve put them on hold for a long, long time. I can only hope that my chickens (the extended ones, as well) keep learning from their mistakes. Keep your nose to the grindstone and learn something new every day. A wise woman once said, “There are no mistakes in metal; only opportunities.” Nobody remembers your mistakes; only your triumphs.

I can’t fathom any other attitude.

Empty Nest

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T – minus 29 days till the big do. The candle holders are ready. We washed and polished them yesterday and tested the floating candles for timing as well. Being sewn into a dress is a long process. Would she be easier if she were an off the rack kind of girl?

The dress is beautiful. I wished we could have used more of my lace.

At family dinner on Monday I talked about the book that I’m reading. It was written by a journalist who finds herself at the crossroads after much tribulation (maybe not so much, but she’s young yet.) endeavoring to walk a long trail in ill fitting boots. She keeps to her path in spite of lost toenails, snow and water bourne illness.

I was buoyed by the sight of our nephew cuddling on the floor with the new puppy. That is the love that endures.

I wish for your enduring love.

 

Ephemera

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There’s a seven foot, desiccating shark on the beach. Ben thinks it’s either a Thresher or a Baskin. I wanted it to be a Mako. We’ve been watching it flatten. It smelled rank yesterday, and we set up our umbrella far away.

I think the most enduring memory of the beach is my childhood. The best times were spent when we didn’t speak at all. In August, dragging an old-fashioned, webbed chaise lounge and blanket to the safety of the dunes, we’d gather to watch the Perseids.

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Whenever I am at the beach I pay attention to the sky. Here it is immense and beautiful. There are long stretches of National Park between the hamlets that dot the island. It is sixteen miles to the grocery store. Even in populated areas there is open space. There is a large swath of green in the center of this development and it supports wildlife of all sorts. I can hear the birds and the surf. There are no air conditioners as it is cooler than usual for this time of year. For once, I am happy that I brought jeans. We can see the ocean and sound; sunrise and sunset from the top deck.

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Today is day four. We have settled into reading, fishing, drawing and silence. There is no reason to blather on when you are busy processing the experience. I think there is deeper communication when it’s quiet. I’m no longer a child, but I feel the same at any beach, in any good company. This will be a pleasant memory. Sometimes we see shooting stars in May on Hatteras.

I sat in my little chair to draw the rotting behemoth. I am out of practice. I didn’t want to sit too close. Its skin was falling into interesting wrinkles where the flesh was eaten away. I watched the Ghost Crabs and Coffin Flies busy at their task. Somebody has come along and pulled out the teeth. Maybe today I can sit a bit closer.

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Thirty Two

We are learning to dance. At our daughter’s wedding we will not be busting “Rockem, Sockem Robot” moves like we did at our own.

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I am so very fortunate to have you as my partner. You have held my hand through so many joys and sorrows. We have raised our children, said our goodbyes to those we most cherish and learned to view calamity as possibility. You are my best friend. We ask questions and find the answers in each others’ eyes; never uttering a word. You are the funniest person on Earth. I laugh a lot. I think I can count on one hand the number of times we have fought. It must be the pragmatism that you brought with you. You are thoughtful. You run it through your head three times before it comes out of your mouth. Handsome is as handsome does. I love the beard and the new guy that sports it.

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Change can be a good thing. We are blessed to be able to recognize it, interact with it, embrace it, grow with it and move forward together. We are learning to dance and I am a lucky girl. Happy Anniversary, Bill.    

How the Other Half

The last day of January was warm and the songbirds were teasing us with the promise of spring. I remembered the packets of heirloom seeds that I bought last year, hidden away, waiting to be propagated under the grow lights in our basement. Perhaps, this May, I will finally get to see Mom’s peonies bloom. We have always been at the beach for the blossoming. Peonies don’t enjoy being uprooted and take years to acclimate to new surroundings. I believe they are pink.

The beach seemed impossible this year. We thought it more likely that we would be painting, packing and putting this good old house on the market; cutting our losses and looking for new beginnings. That’s a difficult concept to wrap our heads around at our age, just when we were beginning to think about retiring some day. Bill is terrific at what he does. He is dedicated, responsible, innovative, smart and accurate. And, when others aren’t pulling their weight or there is short staffing, he stays late, and goes in on weekends and holidays to make sure that the work gets finished. He saw the writing on the wall, but he was much too busy to search for another job. Attrition is a heartless way to “reward” such loyalty. After all, why would there be any value in retaining such an employee when there could be two younger and less expensive people carrying the burden? He’s not permitted to say this. I’ve got a big mouth and I didn’t sign anything. I am happy to report that in his absence there has been a long row for the finance department to hoe and that the man who was ultimately charged with firing him is very justifiably without a job. I still think they got the wrong guy. We have friends who love us, so we’ll get to the beach nevertheless.

Our “vacation” has been a succession of what ifs and worry. Bill has spent a great deal of time feeling emasculated and I fear that I have fed into this mind set from time to time. Wringing my hands and feeling sorry for me has not been helpful, I’m sure. But, the powerful knowledge that we could chuck it all and move on to something completely different was sustaining. We are so very fortunate. I look at ageism and unemployment with new eyes now. What happens to people who aren’t in a position to retire? How do they keep a roof over their heads and food in their stomachs? Why is it that nobody wants to hire people who don’t have jobs? Why is there a stigma placed on good, honest workers who made the mistake of working for total jackasses?

We’ve enjoyed our travels in the interim. They were perfect for pondering and we’re still dreaming the same dreams after more than thirty five years. There’s a great deal to be said for that. They have taken on a tangible quality in the wake of temporary instability. Tennessee in October was exactly what we needed. It strengthened our already solid foundation which is great because we still meet with challenges regularly. I suppose we always will.

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I wish we had known then that there would be a happy ending. Bill began his new job on Monday and he went in feeling very much appreciated. I’m still waiting to hear about some of my job applications. I got a lovely, affirming confirmation e-mail from a school in Virginia. One day we will have those chickens, a small, one story house, acreage, a huge vegetable garden and a kitchen made for canning. But, in the mean time, we’ll be thanking our lucky stars for a steady paycheck from a worthy employer, health insurance and each other. Happy spring!