It was finally here, the day when we would be leaving our home of almost forty years. As I swept off the basket-weave-patterned sidewalk one last time, I contemplated on my memories from those many years.
I may be older, I thought, but I am still that young mother who gently rocked her babies to sleep, cried when they boarded the school bus for the first time and felt both pride and anguish when they left for college. I am still that wife who not only fed a hungry hoard of men during Monday night football games but who also cooked thousands of other meals without ever once contaminating anyone with food poisoning. I might be leaving this house, I thought, but home will be coming along with me because I am still me.
This was not the original plan, of course, but who can really plan for what life throws at us? Health issues necessitated our leaving our beloved home and friends, our town and church, the treasured mountains beckoning in the distance, and the gentle whistles of trains that had occupied our subconscious minds without our even knowing. We were moving to a retirement community, some four hours away, because it was clearly best to move near our family.
Although I was not nearly as courageous as my ancestors who rode small ships across a big ocean, nor nearly as intrepid as my future descendants who will likely leave earth for a distant planet, I did what was necessary to make the move successful. I simplified. I discarded, unloaded, and donated. And while I was not like the wife on a wagon train who had to throw out her most treasured items to forge a raging river, I lightened my load enough to make our move achievable.
I didn’t discard my memories, however. In them, I am still the skinny kid who could shimmy up a tree and run like the wind with my braids in hot pursuit. I am still that young bride, smiling and proud in her sale-rack wedding gown. In those memories, I am still the wife, mother, teacher, church musician, and friend that I was so many years ago. I am even still the daughter who helped my aging, debilitated parents make a similar move years earlier.
Yes, I am still that same person, even though the freckles on my nose have been replaced by creases around my eyes. I am still that same person, even though my pace is slower and my vision has dimmed. The same person, but changed, too. For now, I am surrounded by others who also understand what those memories mean, and it is my new retirement community friends who have given me the freedom to still be me.
We know what we are, but know not what we may be.” – William Shakespeare
⚽I happened upon that quote recently, and I think the Bard of Avon is on to something. He has probably given us more quotes than anyone else in history, if we exclude President Trump😊. I went thru the majority of my life believing I had not reached my full potential, that something was going to happen that would require all my energy, and I was going to have a major impact on, either the company I worked for, or the people around me. That never quite worked out for me, but I have had a productive and rewarding life, not achieving my full potential, but twisting as much happiness from it as possible. I think the Bard is asking us to do great things, but a great thing in my opinion is a collection of many small things done right. If I’m driving down the road in a Porsche and pass someone on the road that needs help and I ignore their plight, have I reached my full potential as a human being? If your neighbor needs help but won’t ask, are you reaching your full potential by offering to help without being asked? There are many ways to achieve excellence in life, and it doesn’t have to be necessarily job related, it can be what you are as a person. I can easily tell you the most successful businessman I have known, but I cannot tell you how successful he was as a human being or how much he is loved by those in his personal life. And I’ll bet if I asked him which was more important all the money he has in the bank, or his family and friends, he would say family and friends.
Albert Einstein said it so eloquently, ““Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value.” Now that’s a horse I can ride!
⚽ My wife amuses me often, and in the most innocuous ways. She is averse to change and when that happens in our home, she becomes annoyed with me. I recently replaced all the land phones in our home (4) with a new Panasonic KX-TGF572. It is cordless and links to our two cell phones and downloads all my contacts from my cellphone for us to use. It announces the name of the person calling, if listed in my contacts, so practically, everyone we know gets announced. It has nine speed dials, so the nine people we call most are easily accessed by pushing one number and holding it for two seconds. To get any messages left, you push “Menu”, #323. Now that bothers her. With our old system, you simply pushed the “Play” button. That bothers her a lot. Never mind that it has all these other handsome features, that one little disappointment sours her attitude towards it. A few years ago, I bought her a robot vacuum, which we named “Fred”, and I start it on Tuesday’s while she’s out grocery shopping. By the time she gets home, Fred has finished his vacuuming and returned home to his charger, awaiting his turn again next week. I think old Fred is a great addition to our family, he doesn’t have to be fed, nor clothed, and is perfectly satisfied with his role in our household. But, there’s a reason why I turn him loose on Tuesdays and that’s because my wife is not home, because if she is, Fred gets a barrage of criticism, i.e., he moved a chair slightly, something fell over, etc.
I believe it’s sorta like when she was replaced as the Navigator on our trips by our GPS. She still gripes about that thing, although, it gets us to places that we would have a difficult time finding with a map. I plan on making our next vehicle purchase an autonomous (self-driving) one, and I don’t think I will be disturbed because I have been replaced as the driver. I can just imagine us getting in our car in our small town on the east coast and saying to it, “Take us to John & Philly’s house in Thousand Oaks, CA”, and off we go without having to touch the steering wheel. Then, I will get to enjoy the beautiful scenery that flows by outside just like my wife does now. H. Jackson Brown, Jr., said, “Never give up on what you really want to do. The person with big dreams is more powerful than the one with all the facts.” Now that dog will hunt!
⚽ A few weeks ago, I was watching my granddaughter (Robin) on a Facebook video and she was describing her first grocery pickup at Walmart. She ordered her groceries over the phone and drove there, they were waiting at the curb, and the attendant loaded them into the back of her van. She was so excited that her voice increased two octaves. As I watched that video, my thoughts drifted back to my teenage years in the 1950s when our local independent grocery store would take call-in orders, fill them, put the cost on your credit tab, and delivered them to your home. You were expected to pay off your tab on payday, some did, and some didn’t. I remember my parents owing our local grocer $1300 ($9,000 today) and I was ashamed to go to his store with my mother’s grocery list. He never blamed me for non-payment, but I was, nevertheless, humiliated, because our family could not pay him. I am unaware of how my father resolved that issue, but many more issues followed us as I slowly marched towards adulthood.
Today, my wife and I put everything we buy on our credit card and pay it off monthly. Heck, even the soda machines take credit cards. I always carry some cash in my wallet, but I very seldom use it. I guess what I’m getting at is some things that seem new and exciting to our younger generation is actually a very old concept. I often wonder if we’ll ever get back to wearing our shirt collars turned up or cuffed jeans and flattop haircuts? Do I yearn for the good old days? Not really, because then I would have to give up the life I enjoy today, and I’m not willing to do that. But it does give me pleasure to remember them.
Someone once said, “What is hard to bear, is sweet to remember”. I sorta think that’s true.
⚽ I received a phone call from an old high school classmate (Wayne) the other night and he just wanted to talk about the missive I wrote, “Teachers Make Excellent Friends”. He enjoyed the article because he was a teacher for most of his life and, perhaps, it made him feel good that he had impacted so many lives. He still lives within a few miles of where he grew up and enjoys his life immensely. I can always tell because of the secret smile in his voice. The one thing that he knows that maybe some of us just suspect, is that home is the place where our life story begins. And, he has chosen to remain close to that special place in his life. Most of his classmates, including me, left the place we still call “Home” for other places. I still enjoy going back there every summer and visiting my family and friends, but I live eight hours away and time goes by so quickly. And, I know the bottle is forever draining, because each trip back reveals that someone from my past has transitioned to the other side.
Ok, getting back to my friend’s phone call. He told me that when we were in last summer, he drove by where we usually stay (my cousin Harold/Willis) and was unable to discern if we were there, not willing to just barge in. Oddly, we had driven past his home and, not seeing any vehicles, assumed they were out of town. Normally, I would take out my cellphone and call, but back home you’ll be lucky to get a signal. Back there your cellphone is just a camera. You can go across the mountain to Richlands and your phone works well, but in Buchanan County the mountains are high, and the valleys are deep, all the women are smart and pretty and all the men are strong and handsome. I guess that kinda makes up for not having a cellphone signal.
When I go home this summer, my friend is on my “Visit” list. An old Czech Proverb says, “Do not protect yourself by a fence, but rather by your friends”. Amen to that!