In the Summer of 2008…

What happened is this. A beloved member of the family departed this world; my grandson accepted a position with Apple Computer in Cupertino, California; I had back surgery; and my daughter, Jodi, brought my grand-dogs home to roost. These events were all “Rites of Passage.”
My family stepped through new portals this summer. It was a time of change and it was all a part of life and living. Life, like nature, is lived in seasons. But, often, we are distracted and we fail to notice.
These were all pivotal events that will become a marker for a new phase in our family’s life journey. It was also a time I paused to notice how sweet life is and how softly time slips away. I spent the summer counting blessings and looking back on other times. Remarkably, I noticed that often what I thought were times of tragedy and chaos were, in reality, times when miracles were unfolding.

As I looked backwards, I noticed how times were as marked in the history of families as happening either when someone died; another moved; graduated, married, and so on. Aunt Nancy always marked time by these events, especially deaths.

Also, this summer I was acutely aware that I have become a “senior citizen.” I am not fond of the term, “senior citizen.” It sounds like I have a disease or smell bad. Still, I use it when it means I get discounts. I prefer to think of these years as the time when we become esteemed “elders.” The term, “elder’ sounds like we have reached the age of reason and wisdom whether or not we actually have.

Family hierarchies change? Time passes, we move through life’s journey stepping, turning, and shifting: taking on roles and leaving parts behind us. Like Aunt Nancy, I began to notice the changing seasons and to mark important events in the many journeys of my family members, universal events that occur in all families. Each life inside each family is, in the words of Joseph Campbell, “A Hero’s Journey,” that includes challenges, love, joy, and loss. Look to the times of your family and the friends you hold dear. You will see the reflections of your life.

In July, we lost Vince Kerrigan, a family elder. With his passing, my grandchildren lost a dear grandfather, my son lost a mentor, my daughter-in-law lost her father, we lost a friend, and, most importantly, Ruby lost her husband of fifty years. The summer of 2008 was a time when we all turned to each other for comfort. It was a time when the family knitted together and became a little stronger.

As we attended Vince’s funeral, my grandson, Christopher, was driving across America. A grandfather left this world and a grandson’s new life was beginning. How normal. How wonderful. How sad. It happens everyday.

During the funeral I was aware that I was to have back surgery in a few days and my daughter had come home to take care of me. As I have already mentioned, she brought my grand-dogs home to roost.

My back had been a problem for years, but now I had a herniated disc and the pain was constant. Jodi came home to take care of me accompanied by her dogs, Indy and Tripp, which has not totally pleased my two small dogs, Sassy and Jipper.

She has two medium size dogs. However, her dog, Indy, is a medium- size dog with a weight problem. Her stomach is the size of Rhode Island and her favorite position is that of an unmovable rug. And her favorite place is in the hallway by the kitchen which is an active thoroughfare and, of course, she never moves. It is here that she does her best imitation of a rug. We have spent the summer stepping over her and on her. Indy doesn’t mind if you step on her or over her. She makes no consideration of your presence…except that when you step over her, she does curl up her paws, a little. Indy considers the proper length of a walk to be no more than twenty-five steps and then, unmindful of your wishes, she heads for home. At this time she moves with the speed of a water buffalo and her stomach sways back and forth with each determined step.

On the other hand, Trip, is a combination of an Australian Sheep dog and an Airedale. Trip is lively. He has the mannerism of an over-eager Wal-Mart greeter and he has a little trouble with discipline. But he is getting the point especially if you scream his name. Then, he will pause and turn back.

Like a sheep dog, he needs to run and he needs to herd. He sits on his haunches at the edge of the yard (as far as he is allowed to venture unattended) and sniffs the air while checking the neighborhood to make sure we are all in our place. He is answering a primal urge from so long ago that was once his reason for being. He thinks that when neighbors walk to the mail box, they are lost.

On the other hand, like an Airedale, he is lively, intense, and curious. Often, living with Tripp is like living with a two year old child. He romps past furniture leaving items shaking as he passes. He is not too bright as he can watch my small dog, Sassy, bury a bone, and still will chase her back into the house thinking she has the bone.

Tripp and I have had a problem with who owns the couch since he moved in with me. He believes strongly that after 8:00 p.m. the couch belongs to him. He is vocal about it. One evening, I was stretched out on the couch watching television long past eight. Tripp sat on his haunches and spoke to me about the situation. For a long while, he whimpered, barked, sat and stared at me. I ignored him. Finally, he stood by the couch with his nose above mine.

“This is where I sleep,” he seemed to be saying. We struck a truce. I sat up at the end of the couch and he stretched out on it and went to sleep.

As I have mentioned, Indy is not a lively dog, but she makes her feelings known, especially during thunder storms. During this time, Indy, a sixty pound fourteen year old dog jumps into my lap in one stealthy leap; following the first roll of thunder, she jumps into my lap…it is like having a bean bag chair thrown into your lap.

Sassy has reacted to living with them rather inhospitably. The first few weeks, she would seek cover under furniture and growl threateningly at them. Eventually, she decided to make the best of the situation. However, she never messed with Indy as she recognized her as being a grand dame. Jipper, being older, recognized the advantage of walking between two big dogs. Like a quarter back, he has spent the summer running between his guards.

My daughter and I had spent the summer refereeing, chasing, feeding, hollering, hugging, and laughing at the dogs. Strange thing about daughters, at least this was my experience. Raising Jodi was like herding cats. She was born independent of me. I often have told friends that “two days after her birth, she drove home from the hospital.”

You see, when I was returned to my room after giving birth to my first born, my mother greeted me and leaned down, she kissed me on the cheek, and said, “Darling, congratulations, I promise, you will never have another good night’s sleep.” She was right. Both children kept me awake, but Jodi totally perplexed me. Throughout her childhood, I could hear my mother saying, “She is just like you.” I never agreed.

Yet, my most grand event of this summer took place between my daughter and me. I spent the summer discovering what a wonderful woman she is. She is a delight. She is funny. She is strong and brave. As roommates, we had a great adventure. We became the best of friends. We talked late into the night like we were at a slumber party. We caught each other trying to sneak into the kitchen after bedtime to snack. We teased each other and cried with each other.

In the summer of 2008, in the midst of many changes, I discovered how wonderful it is to have a daughter how much we love each other and most importantly, how much I truly like her. She likes me too.

The summer of 2008 brought many changes, but mostly, in this time of big shifts, I lay on the couch and hobbled about while healing from surgery, observing, and listening to all that passed through our home.

Now, I am healed and walking straight, again. It is a blessing that I can now sit and type without pain. As I write the column, the days of August are disappearing into September and fall, a time when life resembles nature.

I was reminded over and over that, like nature life is lived into seasons, Aunt Nancy always said, “The only constant in life is change.”

It is good, grand, and comforting, to sit and to notice how life happens to us all. It is a great equalizer. How fortunate we are when life proceeds naturally into long years of memories and we become elders. It is sometimes a relief, is it not?

In the summer of 2008, my time of reflection, I learned that back surgery can be a blessing. It slowed me down; laid me down, and made me listen. Yet, while listening, I thought of my parents and how they once stood where I am and began to mark time. It was also the summer I learned to practice love unconditionally.

In this season when nature soaks the trees in hues of purple, rose, and orange, fall’s rainbow, and summer dies, it is a good time to take inventory. I have always felt that Fall is the time to make promises and changes, not New Year’s Eve.

In the summer of 2008, I found my autumn resolution, to love each and every family member unconditionally and to treasure each moment in their presence….for time is fleeting.

To Comment

NOTE: Comments are moderated to eliminate spam.
This may cause a delay before your post appears.