Waving Goodbye

It’s kind of a rule with some, that you wave goodbye until the people leaving can’t see you anymore.

It’s 2020, the year of the pandemic and other notable events. Our “pod” as I’ve come to label it, has been decreased by four significant persons. With that comes the strangeness of loss, and of uncertainty. What is life going to be like with all these changes?

Our small community consisted of my mom, my brother Dennis and his wife, their two children, myself and the husband. It expanded when my sister-in-law’s parents moved into a newly built house down the street. My brother designed it as a retirement home for him and his wife- for “someday”. But for now it was going to be convenient for Mary Pat’s parents to be close, so she and Dennis could help them when needed.

Unfortunately, it was Mary Pat who needed the help. Breast cancer returned with a vengeance. It has been only eight months, and now she is gone. It has been a difficult last few weeks. Both sides of our families have gathered to help and to mourn. Houses have been full. Schedules have been disrupted, and it was hard. She was at home when she died and we were with her. It was a little like waving goodbye until she could no longer see us.

Our pod also included a trio of women who we call “the sisters”. They have become like family to us over the last 25 years, included in our family reunions, our weekly sabbath gatherings, and countless festive occasions. Michelle is the elder sister, being almost 94. Judith and Susan are in their 60’s now, adopted as young children from Vietnam. Retiring from their daycare business led them to buy a house in a warmer climate and they have been planning their move for months, it seems.

Our “pod” plus a few extra visiting family members.

Nevertheless, there has been a lot of stressful preparation during this last week before their trip. They left this morning, with another one of my brothers driving a Penske truck loaded with the things they needed to set up housekeeping. Moving is always a big, stressful affair, especially when you have been a long time in one place. It is safe to say that the week’s work has left us all tired and a bit emotional. We are praying they have a safe trip. We waved goodbye this morning.

I know I will recover, but right now I am somewhat disoriented. There has been so much to do in so short a time. I didn’t feel like writing even if I’d had the time, which I didn’t. I move toward simple tasks, with clear cut goals that take my mind to a different place for a period of time; organizing a closet, doing a puzzle, cleaning the kitchen, taking a walk.

Life in 2020 has not been what any of us expected, and certainly not what I expected for my family. It has been an exercise of faith, and like most exercise, it has been strenuous. It doesn’t always feel good while it is happening, but there is a sense of it being worthwhile and useful. I have felt God’s watchfulness and his care in many ways. He has listened to my questions and complaints, and received my anger, confusion and exhaustion with great patience. I have felt loved.

I hear you, Mary Pat. You weren’t afraid and I won’t be either!

This is one of my favorite pictures of Mary Pat that was handed out at her memorial. It is testimony to her faith in God’s goodness, and mine as well. When you know God is good and in charge, there is no need to be dominated by feelings of fear. The crazy weirdness of 2020 becomes opportunity to exercise faith, grow stronger in trust, and remain hopeful. That’s where I’m at. I will not be afraid, just sayin’…

D for Detour

  I did not announce “family stories” as a theme for the whole challenge because I knew there would be days when I would depart from it.  Today is one of those days.

Longboat Key – so called because it is shaped like a, well, like a longboat and is about ten miles long with a small drawbridge on the north end and another bigger bridge on the south end going over to Sarasota, the mainland.  I was working today on the very north end.  I finished my job and headed home.  There was a long line of stopped cars as I came to the drawbridge and I assumed a boat was passing through and the bridge was up.  A short wait and we moved forward, and then we stopped again.  This time the wait was unusually long.

An ambulance came up behind me.  The road going over the bridge is only two lanes and the ambulance had no opposing traffic coming from the other direction so it went past.  Then a fire truck also went past, siren going, lights flashing. Two police vehicles followed.  A couple cars in the line ahead of me turned around on the bridge and headed back south.  For me, getting home would be well over an hour if I had to go all the way down to Sarasota to hit the mainland.  Surely whatever it was could get cleared up in less time than that.  I would wait.

I looked at facebook on my phone, I took some pictures of the boats lined up on the sandbar.  About 45 minutes later some pedestrians came across the bridge and were stopping to talk to people waiting in their cars.  “The bridge is closed. They are turning traffic back on both sides. Turn around.” they told me.  I got out and walked a short way, not even to the middle of the bridge and saw what was left of a small bright green moped crumpled in the middle of the lane. Ahead of it was a black sedan with the back window completely smashed out.  A young man was sitting down outside the sedan with his head in his hands.  The policeman guarding the scene, came over and confirmed that the bridge would be closed for some time – best to turn around. There was going to be accident reconstruction which probably meant a fatality had occurred.

I headed south,

thinking about the two hours I was spending making the half hour trip home,

thinking about missing lunch and being hungry,

thinking about the man sitting beside his car,

about the hole in his window and the smashed moped.

Someone’s life took a very unexpected turn on that bridge a few hours ago.  Someone would not be celebrating Easter in the morning, or perhaps ever again.  And yet for me, it was only a detour.  I was shaken.

No Fun Today

I typed that and realized immediately that it wasn’t true.  I am quite sick today but in spite of it, there is fun to be had in resting, reading, doing quiet things that never get done while I’m able to work.  I’m having fun being sick, who would have thought…

Before anyone gets envious let me say that it’s difficult to concentrate when my head hurts, throat hurts, chest rattles with every breath and the aches and pains of fever make me feel weak.  This feels more like pneumonia than anything I’ve ever had before and it came on very fast.  Most likely I will recover but just in case, I want to say that it is very freeing to realize that things go on without me.  I know some people feel like they cannot take a day off when they are sick, or for any other reason, because they are indispensable. Well, nobody is indispensable.  I’m glad I’m not. I stayed home from everything today and plan the same for tomorrow. Nobody wants to be exposed to what I’ve got.  Staying home when one is sick is a way to show love to others.

In between naps I’m getting some reading done, catching up on my blog reader, cleaning out my inbox, and thinking.  How glad I am that I am here in my own bedroom rather than in Cambodia like I was last year when I got sick.  How strange that it has happened two years in a row after many years of not being ill.  Hmm…

I’m especially thinking how God uses sickness in my life to remind me that I am not in control, to increase my compassion for others, to get me quiet and listening,  I’m not afraid of being sick, whether it leads to recovery or not.  I love being here on earth, but I would also love not being here.  Thinking about dying is not a fearful thing, and I thank God for that. As I get older my most common thought about dying is wondering how it will happen.  Accident? Cancer? Pneumonia?  I have preferences but they are between me and God, and I doubt I’ll get to choose.  I think it’s very wise of him not to let me know ahead of time.

This is kind of a stupid post and I’m not terribly proud of it, but having this much time on my hands I had to write something, and these truly are the things I think about while being sick.. Just sayin’…

A to Z Challenge: The Letter D

D is for Departure: Another Family Story

A friend of my daughter, a thirty something business associate, lost her mother last week. In an email to my daughter she said “go call your mother, now”, and that’s why I got a nice, long chat with my eldest girl. I couldn’t help but think how blessed I was, at 60 something, to have my mother and dad visiting me for the past month. I went and gave my mom a hug and a good chat as well.

And this morning in the dark I drove the parents to the airport and watched them depart to their flight. Departures. Whole lists of flights going to everywhere. I wanted to go with them because their carry-ons were really heavy and Dad’s shoulder isn’t good. I wanted to be there to help hold things, find things, zip the zippers, turn off the devices, settle them in. But sometimes departure means you don’t get to go. Then there’s that final glimpse as the tram doors close.  I have that fleeting thought “what if something happens and I never see them again?”.  No one else thinks morbid things like that, right?

Back at home I have to look at the places where they sat at the table, the closet where their clothes were hanging. I have to change the bedding and put the bedroom back the way it was before they came. The pain of missing them has it’s very vivid moments when I can’t avoid the fact that they’re gone.  It’s a little like rehearsing for the last, big departure we’re all going to experience, not that rehearsing will make it any less sad, or easier – but maybe more familiar. It’s ok to be sad. I’m giving myself permission to miss them, for a while.

Fortunately, departures are only half of what’s on the board at the airport. We get to have arrivals too! If the snow ever melts up north, the husband and I are planning a car trip to Wisconsin to help Mom plant her garden. We’ll take Dad to Walmart to walk the aisles for exercise. We’ll help clean the attic, play us some Mexican Train, look through old letters and work on the memoirs, probably have a picnic and cook hotdogs in my brother’s yard. We’ll enjoy being a family! I am already looking forward to it with anticipation! Now that I think about it, I’m might be rehearsing something there too…  Yep. Just sayin’.