Just Another Day?

Pasture spiritI woke up this morning just as I do every day, though admittedly a good deal later than normal. Yes, I slept in. It was nice. It felt lazy and indulgent. I can’t believe all of our dogs allowed it, but God love them, they snuggled in and enjoyed it right alongside me.

When I finally coaxed my eyelids open, it looked like any other day. The sun was up, the sky was perfectly clear. Maybe I should rephrase that, it looked like any other gorgeous day.

Things outside the window looked familiar in the early morning brilliance. The pond had a thin little layer of ice tiptoeing tentatively from one shore toward the other. The frosty dew highlighted the trees better than any strand of Christmas lights ever could. I could see a few of our horses milling around in the pasture behind the house, likely wondering when one of the humans was going to emerge to toss a little hay their way.

I could smell Jim’s first cup of coffee, or maybe his second. I did sleep pretty darn late. I could hear some of the dogs tap dancing up the stairs to join him in our loft office, where a morning newscast played on the television in the background. Jim is always an early bird so these smells and sounds are familiar and comfortable.

Yes, it was by all appearances just another day on the farm. Or was it? Well, I guess that’s up to me.

It really wan’t just any other morning. Last night, in a fit of laughter and good fun with good friends, we said goodbye to a five and welcomed a six. 2016. Twenty-sixteen. Sounds big. Sounds like it could come with change…or should come with change. Sounds promising?

I have to admit that I have never been great with change. I was the kid who cried on the first day of school. I was the preteen who was shocked when her girlfriends threw away the comfort of knee socks in exchange for shaved legs in pantyhose. I was the tomboy who would have been content to just drape myself across my horse’s back to nap in the shade forever and always.

But those things had to change. I had to grow up. Through all of my Happy New Years I’ve embraced a lot of really good change. I’ve also had to suck it up through some rough change. It’s that thing called life. We all do it. Some of us do it better than others.

I saw a lot of people I care about go through change  in 2015. It seemed like a year for it. Some of it was amazing – seeing my niece and her husband welcome new baby Grace comes to mind. Some of it was hard – and by hard I mean major life altering stuff. I honestly witnessed a couple of friends have the proverbial everything-I-hold-near-and-dear rug ripped right out from under them.

One friend in particular comes to mind, and I think she will know I’m referring to her when she reads this. She truly had a hell of a year. The triple whammy runaway freight train kind of change that can easily take the strongest of people straight to their knees. You wonder how a person ever stands up again after a year like that.

But my friend did stand up. Oh, don’t get me wrong. She allowed herself to grieve. She allowed herself to fall apart a little bit when she needed to. She allowed herself to feel every step of the way from complete devastation back toward the promise of new beginnings. She put herself right back together with such amazing grace, and charm, and pure strength of heart.

For all of the times I have had to face change, I hope I have displayed even one tenth of her character. I think she is ready to put the trials and lessons of 2015 to good use in building a shiny new 2016. I’m right there with her.

So here we are. Facing another new year. By virtue of a calendar, basically some numbers on a chart, we give this day such great meaning.

I won’t sit here and tell you that I’m going to make a list of New Year’s resolutions. I did manage to stick with a few of those cliche bullet points I scribbled down this time last year. I did actually mail a few Christmas cards this year (if you didn’t get one, it could well still be on the way…I said I mailed them. I didn’t say I mailed them on time.). And I did complete a half marathon (don’t get excited, a friend and I walked it, but we walked really fast). Oh, and I only locked my keys in the car one dang time, but that was great progress over the previous year. Points for effort?

This year, my resolution is to NOT tie myself down to an annual ritual so many execute and so few achieve. But I am entering the new year with some new ideas. Yes, the word idea sounds SO much friendlier than rez-OH-loo-shun.

I’m going to embrace the things that matter most to me. I’m going to focus on Jim. I’m going to focus on our home. I’m going to focus on the animals that are here sharing our world. I will love this man, these creatures, and this place with greater, ever-growing intention.

I’m going to focus on being a true and good friend, sister, and aunt. I have amazing people in my world and I need to always be sure to nurture and honor these relationships with the same care and dedicated attention my dad gave to his beloved, prize vegetable garden. (This may or may not mean I will actually spray water at my friends and family. They’re cool people. They’ll think it’s funny too.)

I’m not going to try to define exactly what these ideas mean. I’m going to let them evolve and I’ll evolve with them. I’ll invent the meaning as I go along. But I will work to keep these ideas top-of-mind every single day.

And I’m going to focus on me. I’m going to believe wholeheartedly in myself. Maybe 2016 is the year Nancy finally realizes what and who she truly wants to be when she grows up. I have a pretty good idea. I learned a lot about me in 2015, and what I learned is that I may be ready for some change. Some good, old fashioned change for the better-for-me. It won’t be anything radical…you might not even notice the change. But I will.

Truth be told, I’m at an age where change happens whether I like it or not. My body has changed, my mind has changed (oh so many times), people around me have changed. And boy has my world changed from where I was during this calendar flip 10…20…30 years ago.

Despite the number of calendars behind me, there is so much great possibility still ahead. Some of it requires leaving old ideas behind, some of it requires dusting off ideas long buried. I believe my mind can follow my heart into some great new chapters.

And I think a little well-nurtured change will be a great thing. I just have to tell first-grade Nancy, who stood sobbing as her mother turned to leave her at school on the first day, that everything truly will be OK. Because darn it, “…you is kind, you is smart, you is important.”  (Oh hey, I may have just realized the answer to the “what is your favorite movie” question that I can NEVER seem to answer. The Help. Such a good one.)

So today, resolutions be damned, I’m coming up with ideas. Brand new ideas and old ideas that need a little TLC. I’m staring possibility in the eye and believing that I’m in for one great year.

After all, it’s either just the act of taking down one calendar to put up another, or it’s the first sunrise of a beautiful new adventure. It’s up to each of us to decide. I know which direction I’m heading.

Hope to see you there.

2016

In The Next Moment…

Dad and Miles

Dad enjoying a visit from his great-grandson, Miles. Photo by Erin Tindell

In one moment my sister Terry and I were talking about how to best help our dad recover from a bout with pneumonia. In what seemed like just a moment later we were talking with a hospice nurse about how to best ease his transition from this life. In the next moment we were telling him how much we love him. In the next moment, he was gone.

It’s funny how life can radically change in just a moment. My dad had just turned 86 years old. He had been having some ongoing health issues, but nothing on our radar suggested that we were about to lose him. Oh sure, he took an amazing amount of pills on a daily basis. And yes, he had many issues that we just helped him deal with as best as anyone can. But he was still “sharp as a tack,” as everyone says, and ornery as ever.

Dad was not, in his senior years, what you would describe as low maintenance. He suffered from macular degeneration and was legally blind. He also had suffered a broken hip and the combination of his fear of another fall with “numb, damn feet,” from neuropathy, as he would tell you, relegated him to life in a wheelchair.

I won’t lie. My dad could be demanding. He would call me and my sister a lot, asking us to come by to take care of the tiniest issues. Little tasks that we were quite sure he was paying a good sum to the caregivers at his assisted living home to handle for him. But he didn’t want to call on them; he wanted us to come take care of things. He wanted us.

“My hearing aid battery needs to be changed.”
“Something is wrong with the remote for the television.”
“I need some more candy to hand out to my neighbors”
“I need you to bring me some new socks.”

The list of needs went on and on. It was really no big deal to help Dad with any of these issues, but with our dad, when he put in the request, he wanted resolution now. Not after work. Not on the weekend. Now. In THIS moment.

I tried to be understanding because it would drive me batty to depend on other people to perform these simple little tasks. And you know, when the blaring sound of the television is your afternoon’s entertainment, well, you want the dang remote to work now, not in a couple of hours. Plus, this was the man who gave us life. This was the man who worked long and hard to ensure that it was a very good life. This was the man who had been accustomed to having our mother by his side for 61 years. Maybe he had a right to be a tad on the impatient side.

So Terry and I catered to Dad in as timely a fashion as life allowed. There were daily phone calls. Nearly daily visits. Long visits on Saturday mornings for Terry; Sunday afternoons with Dad for me. There were trips to the doctor. There were trips to the pharmacy. There were visits from grandkids and great-grandkids. There were times when I would bring a dog or two to entertain Dad and the other residents. There were quiet times just sitting with Dad at a large picture window describing the view he could no longer see.

And in what seemed to be the next moment, there was nothing. He was gone. My schedule became oddly, hollowly open. For all of the times I may have complained about having to rush over to change a hearing aid battery or find a specific pair of socks, I was sorry. In this moment still, I am truly sorry.

In the next moment, Terry and I were making plans, calling family and friends, deciding how to celebrate a man who, in Terry’s words, filled a room with his personality. In one moment my sister and I were planning our speech for his funeral. We could do it if we stuck together. Together we were strong. Yet, in the next moment I was standing solo at the front of a church filled with dear friends and family.

My dear sister—the intelligent, strong, calm, logical, witty, organized Terry—was sick. It was nothing too serious, but she was quite sick none-the-less and unable to attend our dad’s funeral. My heart broke for her, though she was very practical and wisely resigned herself to getting better without lamenting a situation that could not be changed.

So in one moment I was looking to my sister as the matriarch of our family, and in the next moment, for just a moment, it was me. I was standing at the podium solo, visualizing my sister telling me that I was very much strong enough to deliver this tribute for both of us. Terry would have been standing to my right, but in that moment, she was only there in spirit. That beautiful spirit did carry me through and I believe I said all of the things I wanted to say, and the things she would have wanted to say, too.

In the next moment we filed out to form a receiving line. I’ve done this a few times, for grandparents, my oldest sister, my mother. Our family would line up with the heads of the family to the right, then filtering down in some sort of familial seniority to the left. I was generally somewhere in the middle. My parents and sisters had always been to my right, nieces, nephews and extended family to my left.

In this moment, however, I looked up to find that there was no one standing to my right. To my left, my dear partner, Jim, my wonderful brother-in-law, John, and the rest of our beautiful family stood at the ready to greet guests. But to my right? No one. I was at the front of the line. In this moment, I was the “head” of our family.

I was stunned. I’m the baby of my immediate family and even at 51 years of age, I was completely unprepared for the fact that I would be the head of this receiving line. It’s funny how things like that can hit you. Of course Terry should have been there, to my right, holding my hand. But in this moment, there was only me.

Deep breath. Push back the tears. Smile and be grateful for all of the wonderful people who came to celebrate my amazing, generous, larger-than-life father. In that moment, thinking of him, I banished the panicked inner child and found strength.

Now, in this moment, I’m sitting at my computer on a Sunday morning. I’m enjoying some quiet time before I decide what to do with my day. Nine months later, it’s still odd for me to not automatically plan an afternoon visit with my dad, but that was then and in this moment, I have nothing planned.

That can all change, though. In just the next moment everything can change. I’m grateful for this moment. I will also find gratitude in the next moment to come.