JA attended a meeting last week. Nothing terribly new about that. The thing was, there were several women there who had grown children coming in for Thanksgiving LAST weekend!
"But Thanksgiving is still a few weeks away," you say?" Yep. that's the point.
None of these devoted youngsters wanted to travel during that ghastly travel period, which goes to show that we've raised some intelligent kids. Plus, they have some plans of their own in their own homes, which proves that they also grew up independent and have a life of their own - another sign of fine maturity.
Just to let you know, our eldest, Roger, arrived here for a nice celebration. We fixed up turkey and all the trimmings. And, of course, a good time was had by all.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. We will have 2, at least, this year.
Garrison Keillor quotes this poem in his daily blog"
It was my father taught my mother
how to dance.
I never knew that.
I thought it was the other way.
Ballroom was their style,
a graceful twirling,
curved arms and fancy footwork,
a green-eyed radio.
There is always more than you know.
There are always boxes
put away in the cellar,
worn shoes and cherished pictures,
notes you find later,
sheet music you can't play.
A woman came on Wednesdays
with tapes of waltzes.
She tried to make him shuffle
around the floor with her.
She said it would be good for him.
He didn't want to.
"Dancing" by Margaret Atwood, from Morning in the Burned House. Houghton Mifflin, 1995. Reprinted with permission.
I think Atwood puts her finger on some important elements in our often flawed understanding of what our parents were all about - and how little we really know.
Over the years, three of our five grown kids have come back home for short healing spells when life in the grown-up world got a bit heavy for them. Kind of a retreat, maybe. These times are a mixed bag of honest sharing, a bit of tension, home-cooking, laughter, nostalgia, some tears, and then a return back to their unique lives.
Times like these are generally unexpected and not always at the most convenient periods of our own lives, but they are a part of what we call "family." They are hard to evaluate from the perspective of aging parents. We kind of muddle through, welcoming them back for a time and hoping that for them, the return to parents of old times had some value. Our home has always been open to our birds that have flown the nest. At least for a while.
One was a young guy who had lost his job and thinking out what to do next, maybe find something in Phoenix. That didn't work out and we probably weren't much help, but he went back home to his family after about a week, renewed and rested and with some new ideas and he went on to build a very successful career of his own. It was a good time.
The second was a severe health problem and a need to escape the frozen north for some sunshine, relaxation and maybe some parental love. He died a decade or so after his return home. This year, as a fact. He was with us a month and it was a difficult time, full of ups and downs and even a time of hospitalization for him. We felt we pretty much failed him as we didn't have the strength or the understanding of his situation at the time to help deal with his severe problems. Still, we were there for him and it was a major event in our family life.
The third was an escape from an abusive relationship. Our grown child had hit the bottom and arrived home pretty much with an empty tank. It only took a little support and honest times of talking out issues for a wonderful transformation to begin to take place. The times ahead for her would be tough, but suddenly she was tough and wise. She faced up to some of her own problems that had led to the situation. We exposed her to quite a few people in our retirement community who were mostly grandparents themselves and were amazed at the way they responded to her and her to them. Healing was beginning.
Last night I crawled into bed after the three of us had watched a baseball game on television. I was patting the dogs and settling in for a nice late summer night of sleep when I heard the sound of two women laughing heartily at something. This startled me a bit. What in the world was going on?
Then I knew. It was "family" going on. Nice stuff for a couple whose parenting these days is pretty much limited to memories. But parenting never ends in some ways. She will be moving on in a few days. I'm happy for her.
I'm happy for us.
My son Roger III posted this on his blog this morning. I was quite touched by this fine old song done by two fine old pros. All I can say is that Barbra's eyes are even better than her voice. I once sang a Karaoke duet, "Shall We Dance", from "The King and I" with my daughter-in-law, Jeanne, and she totally intimidated me with eyes just like that.
Look and see what I mean.
Our eldest spent some time with us this week. Our kids are spread clear across the nation and we don't get to see them often. So when we do, it's a treat.
Bo has always been open and honest with us. Well, maybe not as a teenager. But as an adult he has been forthcoming and spontaneous in sharing his life with us. This is a beautiful thing. When one sits down with one's grown children and starts off like it was just yesterday when last we met, it is true family. There aren't any awkward gaps that need filling in due to secrecy, thoughtlessness or shutting loved ones out of everyday life. Life just has gone on; a continuum of days when we grew up together. Things change. Things develop. Things remain the same.
Aging parents love that! It gives the feeling that days spent helping kids become what they are were well worth it. Like salting away a few dollars in a savings account and watching them gradually grow into something significant enough to be both of real value and a source of happiness well into the future.
We had more fun! He showed us the miracles of the latest Palm Pre and Kindle. We toyed with our laptop computers together. He gave me a lovely antique cane and some Bose headphones that he had gone beyond professionally (he's a musician) but that I never dreamed I would have anything to compare. We shared some great food and some excellent wine.
Best of all we caught up on stuff. Family gossip, professional and political happenings, memories of childhood, books read, ideas and plans shared. Lots of laughs. Some thoughtful sharing of soul matters. "The whole catastrophe", as Zorba so magnificently put it. But times like that don't happen in a vacuum. We've all paid our dues in staying in touch and keeping each other updated as to what was going on over the decades lived apart.
I would wish things like that for all families. Maybe one has to be well into the "declining years" to really appreciate what joy a family can be. Maybe not. Jo Ann and I are certainly appreciative. Life is a wonderful thing, a never-failing opportunity to love and be loved in return.
I read this piece in the Sunday Styles this morning and, surprisingly, my heart was strangely warmed. I'm not sure exactly why. It is simply a wonderful, heart-warming, subtly-expressed, piece of family-oriented writing. I wish you would give it a go.
Mother was something else. She was beautiful, athletic, artistic, controversial, emotional, profane, irreverent, unforgettable and wonderfully quotable.
She died at 69. Too many cigarettes. Too much booze. She was eaten up with cancer. Refused surgery or radiation. She's seen and done enough. Was ready to go.
I've never known anyone faintly like her. There was a lot I didn't like about her. But there was a lot more that I did. She could be thoughtful to the extreme. She could be thoughtless. She could show limitless patience. She could fly off the handle much too quickly.
Mother had nothing for formal religion. But she blubbered uncontrollably when Christmas carols started playing. She attended our eldest son's baptism. Wore dark glasses so no one could see her weeping.
She was a softie at heart. A little bit of mom found its way into my emotional and physical d.n.a. I look back at my years with mom with relish and satisfaction. She was special. She was a hell-raiser with the best of them.A kindred spirit.
She loved her grandchildren and struck fear into their hearts. Intimidation was the first rule of co-existing with grandchildren. I'll drink to that! She also knit countless sweaters and other goodies for them. They still have the little things! Treasures from great, loving hands.
I loved and love my mother. I wish I had shown it more. We were too busy having occasional clashes of antlers and showing each other our tougher than thou sides. She was a better mother than I was a son.
But all things work out in the end. I treasure her memory. When I get together with my sisters we inevitably share stories about this wonderful character we were privileged to call our mom. We always, to quote her, "Laugh, I thought I'd die. Thought my pants would never dry."
What a woman. Damn, I'm proud.