I’ve watched you command any room you’ve walked in to. Been present when the French government placed their highest military award around your neck. Stood in the corner as you joyful played with one of your thirteen great grandchildren. Closed my eyes as you once again asked us to bow our heads in a family prayer. Sat with you in a hospital room wondering if this would be the last time I got to tell you thank you and I love you.
Today, 14 hours from home, I walked the welcoming halls of your new assisted living complex. I beemed with pride as you introduced me to anyone you met as “my grandson, the principal.” No one hung medals around your neck. You didn’t give any speeches. You still prayed. You walked around with joy and a smile I haven’t seen in a couple of years. Your move to Florida has been hard on the entire family. But being able to see you living and enjoying life again makes me know the decision made almost a year ago was the right one for you…..and that’s all that matters.
Staring out at the vastness of the blue-green ocean can awash one in emotions. Splashing around in the salty surf allows you to go back to the glory days of your childhood. Finding shells on the beach reminds you of lazy summer days and the smell of Coppertone. Imagining someone standing on the other side of the world, gazing over the horizon, into that same body of water can make one feel small.
Spending 14 hours doing anything can be intimidating. Spending that time in a car with my mom….. I wasn’t sure what to expect. What would we talk about? Would we be able to agree on where to stop? Who would control the radio station?
It turned out to be a wonderful, exhausting, roller coaster of a ride. We talked about fun and depressing things in the past. Politics. Something’s we agree upon…. many things we don’t. We stopped at Wendy’s. That wasn’t good for either or us. We talked about the future. The traffic. The weather.
In a few weeks I probably won’t remember anything we talked about. What I will remember is that for 14 hours we just talked and connected.
With little less than a week to go in my first Slice of Life Challenge I have mixed emotions about how it has gone. I appreciate the fact that it has brought me closer to understanding what our students go through when they are expected to write every day. I recognize that the challenges and mental blocks we all must get through as writers only helps to make us more aware of what good writing is.
But I also understand that I still do not enjoy writing. It is not therapeutic for me but it as one more thing to check off the list each day.
What has surprised me about writing in this challenge is the sense of accomplishment that comes over me every time I hit publish button. I’m sure some pieces turned out better than others but regardless of the topic, the amount of time I spent, or the number of comments it garnered, I am proud of each piece that I have posted on here.
Is there anyone who doesn’t feel better when they have less stuff lying around? We have long been a culture that accumulates things we no longer need yet struggle to get rid of it. Our house is no different. But over the last four months something absolutely wonderful has been occurring.
Week after week more and more items leave our home. After three boys we believe we are finished having any more children. With each passing week as Henry grows older and loses interest in the “baby toys” we fill one bag after another. We label it with a blue sharpie saying things like Newborn and 8 months. We then delightedly pass it on to our appreciative friends who have no idea how quickly their lives and homes will be taken over.
The best part is we have become unstoppable machines. Purging has become an addictive habit that has spilled into all aspects of our lives. The garage, closet, and even my office at work are thankful for the chance to breathe again.
This liberating act is something that everyone can do. With so many people getting ready for Spring Cleaning I urge you don’t just clean it, make it disappear.
In two days I will be leaving it all behind. Jumping in the car for an arduous 14 hour sprint on the expressway. I am going to visit my grandparents over Spring Break in a nursing home. In Florida. On the Beach.
Normally going to the white, powdered sugar beaches of Northwest Florida for a few days would have me ecstatic; however, my overwhelming feeling as I prepare for this adventure is guilt.
I am leaving behind my wife and three boys under the age of 5. It’s supposed to be in the low 40s, raining, and I’m sure like most Chicago springs a lot grayer than we hope for.
I won’t have to wake up at 2:30am to feed the baby. I won’t have to deal with saying no to watching Thomas and Friends for the thirteenth time that day.
Instead I will get to eat out with other adults. Watch what I want to on TV or heaven forbid even finish an actual book.
My wife says that I need to go and that everything at home will be fine. I believe her when she says that, but at the same time I just can’t get past that one word…. Guilt.
Maybe sleeping for 8 hours straight will help with that 🙂
Sometimes you just know.
It was the eleventh house we had been into over a two week span. These visits consisted of driving to four communities. Mulling over everything from a remodeled 1950’s home to new construction.
There were homes that we felt we could easily afford and ones that we knew would stretch our finances.
Decisions had to be made. Would we rather have an updated kitchen or a pool in the backyard? Compromises had to happen. What was the most important aspect of a home to one spouse wasn’t always at the top of the list for the other. During those 6 months there was never a pause in the conversation between us, never a time to catch our breath.
When we thought our house was sold the contract was ripped from our awaiting hands three days before closing.
But 3 months later there we were sitting at one of those cheap conference tables found in every office, signing our lives away while gaining a dream. All those months of worry, excitement, and nervousness had all down to us filling out paperwork with those cheap black Bic pens.
A few hours later we were excitedly turning the key in our own front door. We walked into the entryway, smiled, and sat down. We could finally catch our breath.
Most people don’t give the mundane areas of life a second thought, until something or someone messes with it.
For the last 21 days I have had a monotonous schedule of getting to work and composing my slice.
Yesterday was different. When I walked into my office there were things that just had to be taken care. I could have been selfish and stuck to my unchanging ways but it would have impacted a lot of other people
No big deal. I didn’t give the switch in the routine a second thought. That is until I had brushed my teeth, kissed my wife goodnight and turned off the lights. That’s when the realization and panic suddenly struck. I hadn’t typed a single word down for this piece.
Immediately my mind raced. Should I go downstairs and start typing away? What would I even say at that point. Should I lie here and try and think of something first? What would my colleagues think? I was in danger of losing the challenge. The next thing I knew my alarm was going off at 5:00am this morning. The world hadn’t come crashing down. The SOL Gestapo hadn’t taken the entire family away in a black sedan.
Instead I ate breakfast, showered, came to work and wrote this slice. Maybe I’ll write two today to make up for yesterday. But then again, why would I disrupt my own tedious routine.
Planning a trip from scratch is one of the most wonderful rides you can take yourself on. Whether it’s a one-day road trip across state lines or a 3 ½ week jaunt through Northern Europe, there is just something about the endless possibilities that are conjured up in your mind while you research your destination.
Some people like to leave the planning to others but in my case I love knowing everything about where I’m going. I’ve had friends joke that I should have become a travel agent. For the last 10 years I have had the opportunity to be a pseudo one for friends and family. What I have found through doing this is that you really get to know someone on a whole different level when you are planning a vacation for them. You can see what their priorities and dreams are. Are they the adventurous type or do they just want a cozy place to relax?
I’ve learned a lot about myself as well. As I have gotten older and added little ones to the family I have realized I can’t structure so much of my vacation without it blowing up in my face. But what I can still do is anticipate all the possibilities.
As I struggled to come up with something to write today, I scrolled through the litany of titles for inspiration. Eventually I came across a title “Ode to Shamrock Shake.”
Utter disappointment and resentment immediately boiled up within me. For you see, the Shamrock Shake is a time honored tradition in our family. Like going bowling on Thanksgiving or drinking Coronas to celebrate the 4th of July. And yet here I sit three days after St. Patrick’s Day without tasting that fake minty goodness.
This year we talked a couple of times about one of us running to McDonalds but there always seemed to be something else to do.
For the next 11 months I will live with regret. I will keep picturing one of those memes on Facebook that say:
Life is short. Take the trip. Buy the shoes.Drink the Shamrock Shake
And in February 2018, drink it I shall.