Monthly Archives: December 2009

Endings, Beginnings and Lessons Learned

As I write this, it’s a little after 11:00 PM, December 31st, 2009. In about another 40 minutes this year will be over. Like a lot of people, New Years Eve makes me think about everything that’s happened this past year and everything I hope (or dread) will happen next year.

One year ago today I was in Tennessee arranging my Mother’s funeral – technically, that was 2008 but that just means that I started 2009 off by burying my Mom. This is not one of my more pleasant memories. Three months later my work contract ran out and I was unemployed. Another low spot for this year. Three months after that I started a new job with a company of VERY good repute and things were looking up. A few weeks later my wife was in Cardiac Care five hours from home and I was asking my new boss for time off. Again, not a high point. Since then, I’ve been struggling to get the bills back on an even track while paying for Sean’s current semester at College and keeping the cars running (over $1500.00 in repair bills in the last 6 months). And did I mention that our savings were gone because my work contract had been for about 40% less than I had been making and I had to pay for the bulk of Mom’s funeral?

From the bald listing of events in that last paragraph it looks like 2009 was a bad year for me and my family…and in some ways it was. But in a lot of ways it was a very good year.

Mom’s funeral was not pleasant but traveling to Tennessee allowed me to reconnect with relatives that I hadn’t seen in years. Over the years, I’ve kept moving North and my Aunts, Uncles and Cousins kept getting further and further away. Nobody’s fault really but I feel like I should have made more of an effort to go see them. The trip down for Mom’s funeral gave me that chance. I also got to drive through the town I lived in as a little kid and show my wife and sons where I had started school, learned to swim, gone to church, etc. They were very kind and showed absolutely NO indications of boredom during my trip down memory lane. I think I may have mentioned before how much I love all of them. However much I’ve said, it’s more. They were wonderful during that miserable couple of weeks and I wouldn’t have made it without them. I didn’t think it was possible but we’re closer now because of that bad time.

Having my contract run out and being unemployed wasn’t fun but did give me a short vacation (unpaid, I admit). It also ended up with me getting hired at Cutco which is a definite “Good Thing”.

Being scared out of our collective wits because of the blood clots in Tami’s lungs was terrible but again, we’re closer because of it. Plus, Tami and I have a whole new appreciation of the old phrase, “Carpe Diem”. You really learn to sieze the days you’ve got when you find out you were within 24 to 48 hours of not having any more days at all.

Even getting the bills back in order has an up side. In trimming the fat from our budget, we’ve had to re-examine the choices we make for a lot of the little things in our lives. It’s truly amazing how much cruft can sneak its way into your life (and budget) when your attention is elsewhere.

Now we’re here at the beginning of a new year. I truly hope it goes smoother than the last one. I’d like to not lose any family members. I’d like to not lose my job. I’d like to not have to visit any member of my family in a hospital. I’d like to continue to watch my sons grow into strong young men. I’d like to continue to hold my wife in my arms in the morning before I get out of bed. I’d like to continue to have epic conversations with my family on long car trips.

Right now, though, it’s time to go downstairs to the living room, tune in Dick Clark and count down the old year with my family. That way, I can start the new year hugging them and telling them how much I love them. Because of all the good and bad things that came out of 2009, of all the lessons learned, the most important one was the one I already knew…and got to learn all over again. When everything is said and done, when all the problems are solved, when all the pains are soothed, when all the joys are shared, the only thing that’s important is the people we love.

Tami, Sean, James. I love you.

Thing change

It’s Christmas evening. The presents are all open. The traditional Christmas movies have been watched (once again, Ralphie managed to not shoot his eye out) and all is at peace in our world. Tomorrow we’ll all pile in the car and drive 5 hours to have Christmas all over again with our extended family – my sister, Tami’s Mother and Brother and his family – same as we do every year. And it’s good that we do it every year. It helps keep our family close when the miles keep us apart.

But some things are different than they used to be. The family is smaller this year. A year ago tomorrow, when we were making the same trip that we’ll be making tomorrow, we were about half way there when my cell phone rang. It was the nursing home calling to tell me that my mother had died. This was not as big or as painful a shock as you might think. Because of a head injury, Mom had been declining slowly for years. She hadn’t spoken in at least 4 years. For a couple of years before that, she didn’t know who I was. So, in a sense, I had lost my mother several years earlier. I was just waiting for her body to catch up with the part of her that made her Mom.

Sorry if I sound callous there but we all have our little coping mechanisms. That was mine. The quiet, Southern Lady that I grew up with died years ago. All I’ve had left these past years was her was her beautiful corn-flower blue eyes and a smile that was…wonderful.

Dad has been gone since just after Tami and I got married so now the family is just my sister and I. I remember Dad telling Sue and I when we were fighting as kids, “One day you’ll only have each other.” Right again, Dad. And, in true father/son fashion, I’ve used the same line on my boys. And that’s another thing that’s changing.

Sean is home from college for Christmas break. He’s 20 years old now and we’re not going to have him around much longer. James is 16 and chasing hard on his big brother’s footsteps. A few more years and it’ll be just Tami and me around the house. We’ve talked about it and we’re both OK with it. Intellectually, we know that it’s all a part of the “Great circle of Life” (TM Disney). Emotionally, we know it’s gonna hurt to see them both go out and start their lives even as we’re bursting with pride as they go out and start their lives. And even though we’ll not see them as often as we might want, we’ll have a chance to do things together, just the two of us, that we’ve not had in a long time. That part we’re actively looking forward to.

Things change. And change, in and of itself, isn’t good or bad. What you make of it determines whether it’s good or bad. Tami and I have always tried to make changes work for us…for the good. And we’ve pretty much been able to do it, through layoffs, moves, loss of family…and we’ll do the same with this. And we’ve raised the boys to face change the same way (hope we did that right). It’s a change we’ll accept. But not yet.