I know my daughter, Karen, has a sense of humor because yesterday she asked me if I’m going to stay awake until midnight to watch 2010 make its appearance. Yeah right! After laughing hysterically, I told her I’ll be asleep and just trust that it happens- I don’t have to be a witness!
It’s been amusing to be home this week and watch the morning news programs. Each has offered numerous suggestions for food, drink, clothing, and activities to celebrate and welcome the New Year. I know many people will be cheering and kissing at midnight, perhaps just because they have survived another year. Others will get so drunk that tomorrow they won’t remember what they do as the clock strikes twelve.
Something most of us will do today, and probably have done all week, is reflect on the past year and wonder what the new one will bring. According to the news 2009 was a very difficult year for most Americans. War, economic woes, political strife, social changes, crime, and even the weather have combined to cause financial and emotional hardships in many families. I’ve seen much of that in the parents of my students. However, 2009 was one of the best years I can remember for us, especially for me.
The year began for us with the arrival of some much-needed, long anticipated “extra” money. I don’t think we’ve ever had extra money before. I didn’t blog about it, or even talk about it very much, but we finally received some money from a real estate transaction that had been “in process” for nearly five years. When we first learned about the situation we were excited and had lots of plans and ideas about how to spend the money. At first we were going to sink all of it into a house or land. Then we talked about investing some of it or putting it into a retirement fund. Eventually we just stopped talking about it. As the years passed we didn’t forget about the money, but we started to wonder if God was just teasing us. Of course during the third year and into the fourth we decided it had all been a hoax and would never actually happen. Then out of the blue I got an email that said the powers that be had completed their fact checking and their forms and we could expect a check within a few weeks. Lots of discussion followed! When we finally got the money we used it to pay off some bills, buy a few “toys”, take a vacation, add to our savings, and help some other people. So we are ending the year in better financial shape than we would have been without that windfall. (Yes, the IRS is getting a full accounting.) And the money allowed us to do the best thing we have done in years- go on an extended vacation.
When I was growing up a vacation was a privilege of people who had white collar jobs and much more money than my family. My friend Elaine went on vacations because her father was a ranch foreman. My friend Tom went on vacations because his mother was a school secretary and his father was a businessman. My own family usually spent the summer, and sometimes holidays or spring break, moving! If my class enrollment is any indication, poor families are still doing that. We did things and saw things- like the Petrified Forest or the Grand Canyon- because they happened to be between California and Oklahoma or Texas. I suppose if my father had not been a “wild and crazy guy” with a sense of adventure we wouldn’t have done anything more than drive from A to B. I must remember to thank him for letting us experience some of the wonders of our country. (This photo of us was taken somewhere between CA and OK in 1964.)
Our vacation this summer was like a dose of mega-vitamins for our relationship and certainly a shot of adrenaline for our relationship with our daughters, especially Karen. Gary and I spent our drive talking and remembering old times and making plans for the future. We relaxed and let each day just flow. We took time to appreciate our good health and our great friendship.
The past ten years have not been the best for our relationships with our children and grandchildren. Absence may make the heart grow fonder and cause us to long for the company of loved ones, but it does not improve our relationships. There is just something about us that needs to see and touch and experience things together in order to stay close. We’ve missed a lot of that. Karen has traveled to see us a couple of times and so has Katrina. We’ve been to California and Vermont. But we’ve always been in a hurry or traveled for a specific event that demanded most of our time and attention. This summer we not only had the privilege of seeing both of our daughters and all of our grandchildren, but of doing so without an agenda, and with the benefit of a little extra money and time. God took care of that with our windfall and with Gary’s accident. Breaking his leg just two weeks before our vacation seemed like the potential for disaster, but in fact turned into a blessing when he was able to take six weeks off to recover. No one, including his doctor, seemed to think it would matter if he recovered in CA instead of OK!
So we spent time relaxing with our children. We got to visit with Karen in her home. We played games. We took pictures. We talked and we laughed. We went to our favorite place- the beach. But more important, we got to know each other again! It had been seven long years since we had seen each other. Too long, I know, but personal and financial circumstances kept working against earlier vacation plans. Karen and Taylor had moved since my last visit and I had never seen Taylor’s school or Karen’s office. There was so much that I knew nothing about! Now, when we talk on the phone there is a familiarity with her home and her town and her life that was missing before. I treasure that above anything else that our vacation gave us.
Our time with Katrina was more limited because of her schedule, but we shared some family history and memories with her family during our visit to the Underground Gardens. We ate together and shared some laughs. We talked and planned. She and the children had been to see us in 2007, and she is still in the same home that we visited in 2005, so I didn’t feel as disconnected from them. We will have more time with her next June when we visit for Hope’s graduation.
Because God blessed us with extra time and money we also had the joy of visiting with my niece Megan and her family in Utah. I had never spent time with her, hadn’t even seen her since childhood, except for a couple of brief visits at Mother’s house, and a quick hug at her sister’s funeral. We have discovered many common interests and have a great new relationship. Getting to know her children has been like adding more grandchildren to our life.
Of course I also got to visit with some dear friends and Gary got to see his only brother while we were in CA. And we got to experience a bit of our old life while we were there. It served to reinforce our conviction that we made the right choices in the past and that Oklahoma is indeed where we need to be now.
So Gary and I will long remember 2009 as the year of our “great vacation” and I will remember it fondly as a year of renewed relationships and profound joy.
I hope that 2009 created some great memories for you as well.
I pray that December of 2010 will find us reflecting on a year of health, wealth, and happiness.
Happy New Year!