New Year’s Eve reflections

Kitchen windowIf she were still alive, my mother would celebrate her 88th birthday today. A member of what Tom Brokaw termed the greatest generation, her youth was framed and her world view shaped by the Depression and World War II.

Although a very intelligent woman, my mother did not attend college. The limited career options for women in the late 1930s &#151 teaching, nursing &#151 did not appeal to her, and she respected her parents’ limited means too much to spend their money unnecessarily. This was unfortunate, as I sensed that she forever felt a stigma that she didn’t attend college. The lack of a degree certainly did not reflect a lack of capability, nor did it hinder her. She ran a business, successfully passed her real estate and broker’s examinations, sold real estate, was active in the community and her church, and read and wrote voraciously. She even migrated from a PC to a Mac at age 85.

Divorced after an abusive marriage, a marriage she never regretted because of me, she had to make her own way in the world. This was before equal rights for women emerged in the national psyche or had been codified into law. Nonetheless, she quietly pioneered her way and, although sympathetic to the principles, never endorsed the women’s liberation movement. She felt she had achieved her goals without all the “hoopla.”

After I was launched into college and career, my mother lived an independent and contented life. I always hoped she would find a Prince Charming to share her later years; she had opportunities, yet preferred living alone.

Mom, I miss your e-mails, our chats and visits, and your wide-ranging commentary. You were so engaged in the world’s affairs, a trait I have inherited. We didn’t share the same perspective on politics, though, much to our mutual frustration at times.

As I mark this anniversary of your life, there is so much for which I am thankful. I think of your constant encouragement and, particularly when I was young, your willingness to let me pursue my dreams and support me along the way. In later years, you confided that you had doubts about those dreams from time to time; yet I didn’t know it. As a parent myself, now, I have a much, much better appreciation for all you did.

Bless you. And Happy Birthday.

Send to Kindle

Glimpse of a parallel world

Drying off after my morning shower, I raised the shades and glanced out the window overlooking the yard between our house and the neighbor’s. Bare trees, snow, sunlight, and the motion of what I initially thought to be a neighborhood cat. A return glance revealed a reddish figure with a long, fat tail, a figure much larger than a cat. A red fox was casually and gracefully sauntering through the trees to the neighbor’s back yard.

For just a few moments, I caught a glimpse of the parallel world of the wildlife that share the neighborhood. We’ve seen fox before, as well as deer, fisher cat, opossum, skunk, and wild turkeys. The sightings are infrequent and don’t last long, yet they leave me with a renewed sense of humility. Thankfully.

Send to Kindle

Emily’s home

We learned last night that Emily came home from the hospital on Friday, over six months after she was diagnosed with a brain tumor and had surgery to remove it.

We met Emily the morning after Andrea’s second surgery, when the hospital staff asked Andrea if she would be willing to meet another 14-year-old who was facing surgery and was quite anxious. Emily was nervous. I’ll never forget her wide smile and big eyes, as well as the tears and fear in her parents’ faces, as they tried to comprehend what no one knew. Prescient, perhaps.

Emily’s tumor was malignant, complications kept her in ICU for weeks, and then she faced what turned into months of chemo and rehab. We saw her from time to time, Andrea wrote letters, and we donated blood. And we wondered how any family could cope with what they had no choice but to deal with. Our own eight day experience in the hospital seemed trivial, in comparison.

While Emily’s ordeal is not finished — she begins radiation treatments next week — the news that she is out of the hospital, is again sleeping in her own room, and that her family will be together in their home this Christmas is joyous. There’s no better Christmas story or gift than this.

Send to Kindle