Many of us have the luxury of growing up “without a care in the world” — yet as life goes on and we face hardship or loss, our attitudes change, our priorities shift. It’s not only the sad times that change us.
Try to think back to your childhood; What were your biggest concerns? What were the things you were sure you knew all there was to know? How confident were you that you could handle anything that came your way? Hopefully, as a child, you were able to know love, you were kept warm and nourished, and your biggest problems were which toy you wanted to play with — I was indeed one of the lucky ones.
My parents weren’t rich, but they were extremely loving and made sure that my sister and I were cared for. Even if some of our “wants” were beyond their means, they made sure we had what we needed. One of my favorite playthings was a dollhouse made of a cardboard box and plastic toy rejects made at the company where my dad worked. My mom was disabled for as far back as I can remember, but she was always there to talk out our problems, to help us with our schoolwork and to teach us about growing up.
Eventually I did grow up. Life was different. My sister was married and a mom herself, and my dad had been sick and it scared all of us, fortunately he did recover. And I had met the man I fell in love with and we got married. Life seemed idyllic as we began our married life in a place of our own and even with job loss and an out-of-control downstairs neighbor, things were going well. Then life changed… a little more than one year into our married life both my husband and I had to bury our fathers less than three weeks apart. And less than two years later my mom passed away. No matter how old you are, when you lose a parent you feel like an abandoned child.
We pulled ourselves together as best we could and life went on. A house in the suburbs and we decided to grow our family. After two early miscarriages, our beautiful daughter was born. Life was wonderful, we enjoyed being parents and my mother-in-law was thrilled with her granddaughter. We tried again to expand our family and four months into my next pregnancy my mother-in-law died — and I miscarried again. Life continued changing. My doctor wasn’t optimistic about my getting pregnant again, but quite surprisingly, a positive test came back and at six-and-a-half months, we brought a beautiful baby boy into the world.
We went through the ups and downs of their finding their way through their childhood and teen years. Our two beautiful children grew into amazing adults, their individual accomplishments and adventures continued to thrill us. Amazingly we both saw similarities to our four parents (they are named for three of them, a niece is named for the fourth), we admired their activism, their skills, and their compassion. Each had romances, some false starts, and (today) they are both settled down with wonderful mates. Seeing our children grow has been total joy.
Four years ago my husband suffered a stroke, he was rushed to the hospital, thank G-d survived and spent the next two months in rehab. I will never forget how, just after midnight on our 41st-anniversary, the doctor walked in with the diagnosis. I was devastated to learn that my wonderfully strong husband was disabled. Today, four years later, though he has regained several of his abilities, the effects of the stroke remain (which often frustrates him).
So in 700-words, this has been my life. My priorities have changed, wearing a fancy dress to a party is no longer the most important thing. Losing our parents, our miscarriages, 9/11, storms we literally weathered, my husband’s stroke and this pandemic has certainly helped me see what is really important. Having my family around, seeing my (grown) children’s happiness in their own homes, knowing they each have good people to experience life with, and still having my husband to grow old with… to quote the song, “these are a few of my favorite things”. Happiness is what you have in your heart, the memories you’ve made, the dreams you still look forward to.
In a poem by Linda Ellis, it’s said “what mattered most of all was the dash between those years” (between birth and death). I’d like to think that one day my dash will shine very brightly with my memories, my tears, my joys and the love I have always known.