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’…

And We Wait…

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Yep, that’s our house.

Life is strange now. I want to be out of Florida before hurricane season, but I’m horrified by the finality of a sale and having no home. It has taken so long to get ready and yet something about it seems to have happened so fast it’s scary.  Hurry up and wait is an accurate description of what has happened.

Having a house for sale means we are in a state of constant tension. Showings are requested at random times, and of course we don’t want to say no so we must be ready. Part of the tension is being ready and then having nothing happen when it seems that something should be happening, or being ready and full of anticipation only to have the showing cancelled. It seems to happen frequently.

We’re eating out a lot. People want to see the house over lunch or dinner time when they are free, so we make the house presentable, turn on all the lights and make sure the AC is going, then we vacate so as not to interfere. The logical place to go? A restaurant where we can sit and eat and not mess anything up in the kitchen at home. It works for every reason except our so called “diet”. We have pretty much left that behind for the time being.

Last night we went to the local diner, “The Recipe Box”, during a showing and I was feeling a bit frazzled. I noticed immediately the relaxing music – soft jazz, recognizable songs, like at a piano bar. It was such a different sound from normal restaurant background music, because it was live with a real person playing a keyboard. She played during our whole meal and it was a gift from God to my house selling soul. She was so good that I bought her CD. There were only a few of us having dinner and we all clapped and commented on the songs.

The immediate result of all this showing is that we find out new reasons why people don’t want to buy our house. They have reservations about getting their RV down the one lane drive, reservations about the kind of neighborhood we’re in, reservations about whether they could remodel the way they would “have to”.  Hmm… I don’t remember having any reservations when I moved here. I thought it was heaven on earth and could hardly believe it would be my new home. Was there something wrong with me? Thankfully, most who have looked have felt it was unique and fairly priced.

At this point, I can honestly say that I’m not upset about waiting. I am expectant of something interesting, and happy, and good. I fully trust that the process was started by God, in his timing and we’ll be looking back on it at some point and marveling at how it came about. Something is going to happen. I can hardly wait. No, wait, I am waiting. Whatever…

Thoughts on Moving Away

I have been asked when and where we are moving, by people who seem surprised. I have thought about it so much, for so long, that it seems everyone must know. And now I find out that they haven’t been reading my mind…

The husband and I, and our two daughters moved to Florida in 1987. Our children were young and did most of their growing up here. My parents spent their winters here with us. We had frequent visits from my brothers and their families. Over the years we developed many friends through church, work, our daughters school activities, and the neighborhoods we lived in. Bradenton was a busy, happy place for us, filled with people we loved to be around.

this is the walton's house
“Goodnight John boy”. “Goodnight Mom”. “Goodnight Grandma”….    Photo from FanPop

You know the scene as the lights start winking out in the big white farmhouse and John Boy says good night? And one by one, the whole family responds to him? They had multi-generational living back then. It was more common because the world wasn’t so easily traveled. There was more chance of children meeting and marrying someone in their own community and living close. More people made a living on farms and in small towns. Well, that all changed, and many other things with it.

Our family aged into a different phase. The girls went to school in different, sometimes far away places. They had choices of where to work, where to live. They experienced that feeling, close to disdain, toward their hometown, the place they knew everything about – both good and bad. They left to see what other places were like, if they were better. Sometimes the available job opportunities made the choice for them.

Things changed for my parents too. Travel became more of a chore, and then my dad died.  By herself, mom felt more like a burden and lonelier wherever she was. Last winter she stayed with us in Florida for two months and then went home to Wisconsin. This winter she didn’t want to travel away from home at all.

Mom lives in Wisconsin, one daughter lives in North Carolina and the other in Seattle (only Alaska would be further and more inconvenient). I’m left with this burning question the last few years – how can I possibly spend time with the people that I know best and love dearly when they are scattered all over the country? Why do I settle for only seeing them on vacations and at funerals and weddings? I began to ask God to help me do something about the situation.

The plan to move has come about gradually, but I’m sure you can see the sense in it. It’s the only way we can put feet to the prayer, and the desire to be closer to at least one of the individuals we care about. We have been tied to the area by the husband’s good job for the last thirty years but he will retire very soon, leaving us to choose to go elsewhere if we wish. We do wish.

There are advantages in taking time to plan and work toward a move. I’ve been studying downsizing and paring down for a while now and it is making a difference. I have helped other people move and have acquired definite opinions on how I don’t want to do it when it’s my turn. And taking time also gives us opportunity to think and pray for the best path to take, even if it should turn out to be staying where we are. We aren’t telling God how to answer us, we’re asking for our heart’s desire. We don’t ask to see all the way to the end of this process – just the next step, one at a time.

We do believe in having some sort of plan though, and you have been hearing hints of it in my writing. We are quite close to putting our house on the market. I am looking at the contents of each room, selling some things, packing others, giving some things away. When I finish this, the house will be ready for staging and showing. We will put our boxes and furniture in storage and if the husband can finally say goodbye to the job, we will go…. somewhere.

We want to go someplace where we are useful, because we still feel we are useful. (I am aware that will also change and we will have need of help ourselves.)  I can’t say that the people we would want to live near really need us, because they are getting along just fine now.  I can say that I think we could add benefit to their lives by being physically closer to any of them. The most probable scenario would be to store our things in North Carolina, until we find a suitable house there. We would likely delay buying for a while, living instead with Mom in Wisconsin, enabling her to have our help and company at home if she desires. Her move to an assisted living facility for the winter has given us more time to prepare the husband’s mind – he has mixed feelings about extricating himself from his work. That is understandable.

There, you have it. There are no deadlines or dates attached to anything yet, but unless God stops us, you can know that is where we are headed. Moving is not easy. There are so many emotions involved, so many memories tied to this place of thirty years. The oneacrewoods has been God’s blessing to me personally, a hideout for a country girl trying to live an urban life. But I am ready to consider the next home, with anticipation.

I know there are good times coming.