Family

When I was a young girl, I dreamed of the things I would do and the places I would go when I got older. At one time I thought I would move to Germany, and while there, I was going to marry a German man and live happily ever after. I discovered the German language in junior high school, fell in love with the country and I still love it today. Well, part of the dream came true. Bob comes from a strong German background, and we have lived happily ever after. As to moving away, well that didn’t happen.

Bob and I have both lived here since we were very young, and after marriage, we have stayed right in the same town. He had a good job, and our families were here, so we just never moved away. As the years went quickly by, the kids grew up and had families and stayed right here. We would never want to leave the kids and grandkids. Then our parents were suddenly older, and we were needed to help them. The time to move away…well, it became just a distant memory.

I suppose many people would think I missed out on a lot by living in the same place as I grew up. By never moving away and living somewhere exciting. But, while my life might seem boring to some, I have had the benefit of a close family. My mother was born here, and spent all her life here except the first five years of her marriage. Her family have all lived here except for a couple of them who lived away for short periods of time. See, I bowl with my cousins. My family has a family Christmas party every year, and we have to rent a hall to hold us all. My boss says I’m related to half the town, and he might not be far off. Many of my clients are relatives. I work with my daughter and granddaughter. I attend the sporting events of my grandsons. It takes three rows of chairs to hold our family at church on Sundays. I might run into my family at the mall or Walmart. Many of my friends on Facebook are relatives. And, my sisters are some of my best friends.

Yes, my life has been spent surrounded by family in one form or another. I grew up around grandparents, parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and I wouldn’t change that for the world. I guess some people would think that boring, but there is something to be said for knowing what is going on in your family’s life. Something to be said for getting to know the babies, and knowing your grandparents through the years. Something to be said for being there for the good times and the bad times. Something to be said for being where you are needed. Yes, some people would say I have really missed out on life, but to that I would have to say, “I haven’t missed a thing. I have been blessed with the best life there is. A life of contentment, knowing right where I belong.”

I have been blessed a number of times in my life with what could only be classified as an unlikely friendship. These would be friends you find where you would least expect, or people you would least expect to be your friends. We’ve probably all had friends like these.

Often, as we get further and further from our high school days, we are able to look back at people we would not have been friends with because we were in different circles. Now, all that doesn’t matter anymore, and you are able to see things you have in common, and with that, a friendship is able to grow.

Sometimes, some of the dearest friends are the children of friends who have now grown up. Now while I’m sure most of you could not imagine some of your friends children as friends, but I have been blessed with a very dear friend whose mother was also a very dear friend. And I established that friendship after about 25 years had lapsed since I had seen her mom. Very unlikely.

Once in a while friendships are born between people who have never met, but were drawn together for a variety of reasons. I have met friends due to an error in an email address, the sadness of loss, and mutual faith. These friendships have become very dear to me, even though all we have of each other, is the internet, some letters, and a picture, but the blessings have been so great, and I an so grateful.

And sometimes, someone you would never expect to be your friend, becomes your friend through a random act of your kindness. Acts of kindness reach so much furher than we expect or could ever know. You simply filled a need, answered a call…you were there. And from such a small thing, grew a friendship that will last a lifetime.

There is really no way to do justice to what these friendships mean to me. I’m sure by my stories some of my friends will see themselves. I just hope they will also be able to see how important they are to me and how dearly I love each and every one of them.

My mother-in-law has Alzheimer’s. I go over three nights a week and help her get to bed, to take some of the load off of my father-in-law who is on oxygen and isn’t very strong himself at nearly 81 years old. Most nights our conversation is much like the re-runs on television. I ask her what she did all day, and she pulls something from her dwindling memory such as the dishes or laundry, both of which she hasn’t done much of in years. Then she asks about my day. After telling her I worked, she asks where I work. I tell her that I work at The Stengel Agency, selling insurance. To that she responds, “That’s right.” Then I get her to bed and tell her that I will be back in two days. And she asks what day today is. Our routine is fairly predictable…on most days, that is.

Some days find my mother-in-law much more…confused, lost even. Last week, during our “normal” conversation, when we got to the part about where I work, she said, “Oh, at Kmart.” I know my jaw dropped, because I haven’t worked at Kmart since 1974. I told her, “No, at The Stengel Agency. I sell insurance.” Then came her normal response of “that’s right.” Then tonight, the conversation went along normally and I assumed we were past the bad spell, until she said that she would be glad when she could go “home.” I wasn’t sure what to make of that, so I asked where she was. She replied, “Casper.” That being right I asked where home was. She indicated north of town, and I thought she meant the place they used to live out in the country, but she said, after obviously realizing that something was not quite right, “That place we used to live when Walt was working for the railroad.” In talking to my husband about that part of her life, I found that his dad worked for the railroad in the 50’s in Montana.

I have known that this stage of the disease would come, and there would be things and people she would not remember, and confusion would become the norm, but when faced with these moments that are still shocking to me, I makes me feel very sad. I can see what the future holds for her, and it is heartbreaking.

Every Thursday night, I go over to my Mom’s house to spend the evening with my Mom and sister. Sometimes, like last night we are joined by Cheryl’s daughter Liz. I originally started spending Thursday evenings over there, and many other nights too, when my Dad got sick. After Dad went to live in Heaven, I continued going over on Thursday nights to spend time with Mom and Cheryl. Bob bowls on Thursday nights, so it was just us girls. We have dinner and watch television, or a movie. It’s just our time together.

Now anyone who knows me very well, knows that I like cop shows, you know the good old blood and guts stuff, but Mom and Cheryl don’t go in for that stuff, so the choices in movies are, shall we say…much more tame that my first choice. We watch things like “Kate and Leopold” or “Letters to Juliette”. You know, the basic chick flick. Now at first, I found myself dozing off, but at some point, I started really watching some of the chick flicks, and decided that some of them are pretty good. It’s not that I’m not a romantic, it’s just that I had never really gotten into some of those shows much. I have to say, that it has open up a different world for me…the world of the chick flick.

I still very much like my cop shows, and that is the kind of shows Bob likes too, so I think it has always been a source of relief to him that he didn’t have to watch too many “chick flick” movies. And when we do watch television, we usually watch shows like CSI, Bones, and Criminal Minds; or movies like Red, Die Hard, and Terminator. And that is usually what I prefer, but on Thursday nights, I go over to my Mom’s house, and we three girls sit down to take that all important dose of the medicine called the “chick flick”.

When everything around me is in chaos, and I feel like I am being pulled in several different directions at once, I find the need as I’m sure most of you do, to escape to a place of peace. Wouldn’t it be lovely if we could just fly off to somewhere exotic every time life got a little stressful? Unfortunately for most of us, that isn’t feasible, and well…how many Calgone bubble baths can a person really take? And yet, we can all relate to the woman in the commercial with all the screaming kids, barking dogs, and broken dishes, holding her aching head and begging to be magically taken to a peaceful place where she can be alone.

Sometimes, when life gets too stressful, we really do need to find a place to have some alone time. A great peaceful place can be as simple as a quiet room, just you and a good book…or in my case, my Kindle. Curling up with a good book, especially in the Winter cold, a warm blanket, and a nice fire, can be very soothing to the soul.

The great outdoors is another great place to find a peaceful place. A quiet walk on a trail near my home is so peaceful to me. My husband and I walk almost every day, and when we can be outside, well that’s perfect. We love to hike, and the mountain is the perfect get away without having to go far. Some people, like my cousin Greg and my brother-in-law, Chris, love to fish. Now being on the lake or by a river is quite relaxing to me, but that whole waiting for the fish to bite, not to mention the worm issue, puts fishing in the “I don’t think so” catagory for me, but, that’s what makes people unique. You guys are welcome to the fishing thing…I’ll just soak up the sun, thanks.

When I was a little girl, and still today, one of our family’s favorite things to do was to go up on the mountain for a picnic, and stay there into the evening sitting around the campfire roasting marshmellows and laughing about any funny stories we could think of, and believe me, there were quite a few. This was one of my Dad’s favorite things to do. Just the smell of the fire, and the comfortable companionship of family puts everyone in a relaxed mood. Now you can buy a fire ring to use in your back yard, and many people find that to be a geeat get away. In fact, Bob and I just bought one at the end of the summer, and I look forward to using it this summer.

In the hectic world we live in, if you don’t find a way to unwind, you will find yourself moody and depressed. But if you can unlock the secret to your own peaceful place, you can rejuvenate your spirit, and be ready to take on the world.

In a world filled with reasons to rush here and there, we seldom have the time to see what is really important. Most families have no choice but to have two incomes, meaning many parents can’t attend many events that their children are involved in. Children are coming home to an empty house and no supervision. Homework gets pushed to later in the day, especially if parental help is needed at all, because by the time the parents get home, get dinner made, and get started helping with homework, it is almost time for bed.

Where did the day go? And for that matter, when you think about it, the weeks and years seem to fly by. Before we know it, our children are grown up, and we find out that we have missed all those precious years. And the sad thing is that there often isn’t any solution to it. Parents can’t make ends meet without two incomes, and times are tough. And so the important things must once again be pushed to the background, so we can make enough to support our families.

So, is there a solution? Probably not entirely, but if we do our best to find a way to make as many moments as possible, we will find that we aren’t missing out on as much as before. There is a song by George Strait that goes like this, “Life’s not the breaths you take but the moments that take your breath away.” It is about doing your best not to miss the important moments. Make as many games as you can. Go to their concerts. Make the moments you can make, so they know that when you can’t make an event, it isn’t because you don’t want to be there.

Ah, the Super Bowl. The day when even non-football-fans and those who watch just the occassional game, gather together with the die hard fans, pick a team to support, even if it isn’t the one they would normally go for, stuff their faces with Thanksgiving Day sized feasts made up of mostly snacks, and scream like they know what is going on. Those who really don’t want to watch the game, come to the party anyway, for the food and socializing with the other people who really don’t want to watch the game, and laugh every time a “fight” breaks out over a play.

I used to be in the non-football-fan category, but my Dad always liked the Broncos and my husband and I love to go to Denver, so we became the die hard Bronco fans, that like to kind of know how their team is doing, and watch an occasional game, especially if they have a chance at going to the Super Bowl. But, when it comes to the Super Bowl, it doesn’t matter who is playing, we are watching. That all started one year when the Broncos went to the Super Bowl. I believe it was 1987. And we have not missed a Super Bowl since. We get on the game boards, hoping for a win, which has eluded us so far, but we are, never the less, hopeful for this year. We yell and scream at the refs, and of course when our team get a touchdown, you might not want to be too close, or plugging your ears would also be good, because we will be screaming.

Yes, the Super Bowl brings friends and football enemies together to fight it out for the championship. It is a very unique day in our year…or maybe, just the mid-Winter, un-holiday party opportunity!! And since my team isn’t playing, my daughter loves the Packers, and my grandson loves the Steelers, all I can say is…”Go Broncos!!”

Since I have been thinking about old times, I thought a few of the funny things that have happened might be interesting. My sisters and I are no different than I’m sure most of you are, and when you get 5 girls together, and then the neighbor kids, and a few cousins…well, it is a recipe for either disaster, or the funniest stories ever.

One that keeps coming to my mind, is the time my cousin Forest was over at our house, and all of us kids decided to play Hide and Seek. I can’t say for sure how old I was, but I couldn’t have been more that 5 or 6. Forest, who was the same age as I was, and I couldn’t figure out where to hide. So being the “helper” she was, my sister Cheryl, who was two years older than we were, decided to help us out. In our garage was a clothes dryer. It was one of those old style dryers with a window in front. So, Cheryl said, “Here, climb in and I’ll shut the door softly so it doesn’t close all the way.” Well, as you can imagine, Forest and I, trusting as we were, climbed right in. Cheryl slammed the door and said, “I’m going to turn it on.” We started screaming, and she started laughing. It didn’t take very long to realize that since it was out in the garage…it wasn’t plugged in! My sisters and I were always trying to see if we could pull one over on each other…good one, Cheryl. I still laugh about that every time I think about it!!

My sisters and I are all very good friends now, but as children, there were…shall we say…cat fights!!! Now these weren’t the type you might think. When we got mad at each other, we literally took matters into our own hands. We scratched, bit, hit, and pulled hair. We all had long hair, so hair pulling worked very well. After a few minutes into a fight, you would find both of us holding a handful of hair, and the attached head, firmly planted against the floor. Neither of us would give up, but we didn’t mind screaming so loudly that my mother finally had to come in and put a stop to it. We must have driven her crazy!! I’m sure you have all seen your share of sibling fights, but the is nothing quite as funny as two stubborn girls holding each other’s head to the floor by the hair and refusing to let go. Again, I laugh about that every time I think about it.

And here’s one last story I wanted to tell you about, and it is perhaps the funniest one of all. My parents had gone to the Fireman’s Ball, which they don’t have anymore, but used to be a big deal. My older sister Cheryl was babysitting the rest of us, and since it was going to be late when Mom and Dad came home, we had all gone to bed. Suddenly, we heard what sounded like the livingroom picture window crashing in. Cheryl jumped out of bed and ran out into the livingroom to see what was going on. I promptly pulled the blankets over my head as a form of “self preservation” I suppose, and my sister Alena started laughing. What is so funny, you might wonder. Well, Alena’s bed had a metal frame, and stuck between the bed frame and the wall was a metal Chinese Checkers board, which Alena had kicked, causing the crashing noise we heard. Way to go Alena…but then we all know that with your sense of humor, you had probably planned it and only got the reaction you had hoped for.

Yes, growing up with four sisters, a multitude of cousins and neighborhood kids was quite an adventure, to say the least. These are just three of the many stories I could tell. We often tried to outdo each other with our pranks and antics. Sometimes I wonder how we managed to survive without being choaked by our parents.

I have been thinking lately about the passage of time. It’s so odd that when we are young, time just seems to crawl. We are so excited about the next landmark event in our lives, and like a watched pot, it feels like it will never happen. When we are in school and waiting for summer, it seems like the school year will never end. As we wait for our next birthday, it seems so far away. We can’t wait to grow up and head out on the next big adventure in life.

Then suddenly our school years are over, and we can’t help but feel like we missed something, somehow. Remember when it seemed like forever? When did that change? But, that thought is short lived and quickly pushed out of our mind as we excitedly go into the next phase of life. We are adults now. We can make our own choices, and we don’t have to answer to anyone…or do we? We have a boss, who we must answer to. Most of us have a spouse, who we have to at least consult about things. And then there are the laws of the land, most of which we follow without thinking about it, but never the less, they must be obeyed. Hmmm, what ever happened to that great freedom we thought we were going to have when we were all grown up?

It occurs to us that maybe we recall our parents mentioning something about such things when we were going on about how great things were going to be when we were all grown up. And then another thing our parents told us about happens. Remember them saying that time flies? Suddenly it is doing just that. It seems like Christmas was just here, and suddenly it is back. The years fly by and you can’t believe that it is the year 2011, and then 2012, and 2013…wait…slow down! Somebody put on the brakes! Everything is moving so fast! Our babies are growing up and having babies, who are growing up and having babies. Before we know it, we have become our great grandparents, and we look back and think, “Where have the years gone. It seems like only yesterday that I couldn’t wait to be…all grown up.”

Two of my grandchildren will turn 15 at the end of this month. As I reflect on how quickly the years have flown by, I think back on my own childrens’ youth. When your children are small, you think it will be forever before they drive, date, get married, and have children, much less have children of driving age. But when you look back on those years from this side of life, those years seem like it was all just last week.

I remember the day each of my daughters was born. The miracle of life placed into my arms. It was so hard to believe that they were mine. Those days that I thought would last forever, quickly melted into their grade school years, filled with room mother duties, and throat cultures, field trips and sports. Again, I was lulled into the belief that those days would last forever, but before I knew it they were in junior high and then high school. Soon came that all important birthday when they would start to learn to drive and begin dating. They had turned 15.

By this time I was beginning to realize that it was not going to be very long before the next big changes would enter our lives, because time goes by so quickly. Their school years were over in the blink of an eye, and before I knew it we were planning weddings and adjusting to being empty nesters.

Then came the days when my girls told me they were having babies. My girls, who were born eleven months apart, were both pregnant at the same time, and before I knew it, I became a grandmother twice in two days. Those were two beautiful days. The next two and a half years would bring two more grandchildren, and we thought we would have babies around for a long time.

But, once again, I look back on those years, now flown so quickly by, and think, “It seems like it was just last week that they were born.” Before we know it, they will be married and having babies of their own. And yes, we will again be lulled into thinking those years will last forever, but in our heart of hearts, we will know the these children too, will be so quickly grown, as the years melt away, into the future that will be theirs.