Sometimes, when I look at the younger versions of my parents’ pictures, I find that I can see the promise of the future in their eyes. Their young faces reflect the plans they have in mind for where they are going, and how their lives will play out. Some of those plans will come to fruition, and others will not…or maybe those that didn’t, were later deemed not important. Plans and dreams change as time goes on. I suppose that no one really knows how they want every part of their life to go, but as a young married couple, most people have definite ideas of what direction they expect their lives to go.
I wish I had thought to ask my parents about the plans and dreams that were dropped from sight, if they had any regrets, and if they feel like their life is better or worse due to the changed plans and dreams. I don’t really think my parents would have felt that their lives were worse for not having fulfilled some of the dreams they had as young people, but it’s hard to say for sure. I know that there are some times that I look back on a few things I had planned, and wonder if I would have been happier if I had done those things. Of course, after that moment, I look at the life I have and I think, “No, I wouldn’t have it any other way.” Even the sad things, are the way they should be.
Young couples tend to have lofty goals and big dreams, and then life gets in the way. There isn’t always time to do some of the things you thought you would. I suppose that is often because the dreams of your children come first, and you always think that you will do those other things later on…when the kids are grown up. Of course, then the grandchildren come on the scene. Before you know it, the plans and dreams you had are so far from your mind that you barely think about them anymore. I suppose you could think of them with regret then, but I don’t think most of us do, because there is always the promise of the future. As long as we are alive, we have the option to dream new dreams, or fulfill the old ones. Life is filled with possibilities, even if some of them seem to be out of reach for now. With the promise of the future comes the reality that the possibilities are endless, if we don’t give up, or change our minds.
Veteran’s Day is a day about sacrifice and honor, duty and dedication, war and peace, but the day cannot pass for me without thoughts of my dad, and how much I miss him. I know I am not alone in these thoughts, because my mom and sisters also miss him, as well as the rest of our family. Still, no one who has lost a loved one who was a veteran, whether to war or after, can pass this day without thoughts of their loved ones. I think of my Grandpa Byer, my uncles Ted Byer, Cliff Byer, Larry Byer, Jim Wolfe, and my cousin, Larry Wolfe…all gone now, but not lost in war, thankfully. I think of those who, in World War II, couldn’t serve in combat, and so they served at home in the shipyards as builders and Rosie the Riveters, like my Aunt Ruth, Aunt Laura, and Uncle Bill, who couldn’t go because of a hernia and flat feet. And I think of the loved ones…too many to list here…who have fought and returned, and those who continue to fight to secure our nation, and stop terrorist acts all over the globe.
Theirs is a sacrifice beyond measure, a debt we cannot repay. Every day of their service they work, without knowing if they will return to their loved ones, or if this will be the day that a bullet, rocket, or bomb will have their name on it. They go to work knowing fear, as if it was their closest friend, and yet knowing that it is no friend at all. They have to bite back that fear and do their job…because it is needed…they are needed…because without them we are a nation unprotected. Most of us go to bed at night, secure in what the next day will bring, because we live in a nation where freedom belongs to everyone. Nevertheless, we must remember that it is not free. Over the years, our nation has lost so many young people to war. They were really our hope for the future. They were people full of promise. People with plans and dreams…all gone now.
War is a horrible thing, and none of us really want to engage in it. Still, evil exists out there, and it does its very best to reek havoc upon the world. If we do nothing, many innocent people will die. And so God created soldiers. He knew that they would have to be people of honor and dedication, with a strong sense of duty and love for their fellow man. They would have to be people of courage and bravery…able to bite back the fear that dwells all around them. God knew the kind of people they would have to be…Heroes. And that is what every veteran is, was, and always will be…a hero. Today is Veteran’s Day. It is a day to honor those who have given so much to keep us free. Thank you all for your great service. God bless you…everyone of you.
My mother-in-law and father-in-law have known each other for a lifetime. Their mothers, Nettie and Vina were friends when the kids, Walt and Joann were just toddlers. Nettie and Vina became friends and spent time together while their husbands worked on the ranch. At that time Walt was 3 and Joann was 1. When nap time rolled around, they would put both babies in the same crib, and so years before they would marry, Walt and Joann slept together, a fact which has been laughed about by their family members ever since, much to the chagrin of Joann, who was never sure she thought that type of teasing was very funny.
My father-in-law speaks proudly of the years of marriage that they have mastered…63 years today. All those years of working together, raising a family, weathering the storms of life and loss, and making the journey toward growing old together. So many plans, so many dreams. A lifetime of making plans. For most of those years, my mother-in-law kept the house, and my father-in-law worked. It was the way many it was back in the late 40’s and early 50’s…before women’s lib and feminism came into being and so many women turned to careers. I’m not saying it was better or worse then…just a different time. And it was the way my in-laws wanted their life to be.
As with many things in life, sometimes things don’t turn out just exactly as you had planned. My mother-in-law was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s Disease in about 2004, and since that time her abilities have deteriorated…but not the love that has endured through all the trials, all the difficult times, the loss of daughter, and granddaughter, and parents. The love has endured. Now that my mother-in-law is no longer able to do the cooking and washing, my father-in-law has taken over those duties.
People never know how they will react to the illness of a loved one…especially long term illness. Some people leave, but most long term marriage partners stay. Still, not all people with an illness like Alzheimer’s Disease can expect to be living at home with the one they love. So many partners feel like they have already lost their loved one, so a nursing home won’t matter. And so many people have no other options, because there is not enough help. And even though they love their spouse, there are no other choices. It is a difficult decision to make and one that could still be in my in-laws’ future. There is no right or wrong choice…just no other choice.
No matter what the future holds for my mother-in-law and father-in-law, I know that their love will endure. When she no longer knows who he is or who her children are…the love will endure. He will still go see her as often as he can get someone to take him, because she is the other half of him…she is the heart of him. When she is ill, he worries, when she is difficult, he sweet talks her (after he fights with her a little), when she is having a good day, he praises her…because after all these years, the love endures.