Usually I make an attempt to create a humorous post and some weeks I’m more successful than others. But this week I thought I’d make a left turn and share with all of you loyal readers some of the things that transpired during my most recent visit back east to visit family and friends. It sort of brought me up short and made me think about some stuff that maybe I’d tucked away under the pillow of worry and concern that over the past few years I have avoided placing on the stack of decorative fluffiness that adorns my bed.
When I boarded the plane nearly two weeks ago I had no idea that this is what would be the result but if I cut to the chase and you don’t care to read this I’ll give you the last page right here. I am not one of those people who goes to the ending when I get a book but some people are. What did I learn over the past two weeks? Life, which is the ultimate sundae, is short. When I eat that gooey delight with syrup, nuts and whipped cream, I always save the cherry to eat last. From now on I won’t. Why, you ask? Because if you think the cherry is the best part and you save it, if something happens before you get to it, you’ll never taste it. So, from now on, I intend to eat the cherry first.
I didn’t think there would be anything abnormal or different about visiting family and friends when I arrived at Newark Liberty International Airport on a hot, sticky summer day. I nearly moaned audibly when I hit the jetway and felt the suffocating stickiness of the air that is found in August in New Jersey.
I boarded the airtrain to pick up my rental car and since I am one of those people who always talks to everyone I began to chat with a couple who was slightly older than I was. They were Florida residents, journeying back to the Garden State for their 50th high school reunion. How amazing was this? High school sweethearts returning to their hometown to re-connect with some of the people who helped form who they are five decades earlier. They were a lovely couple and I couldn’t help but feel a little tinge of jealousy because I wasn’t going to ever be married 50 years. I’d decided several years ago that I could become a bitter word that starts with a “b” and rhymes with “witch” but because of something someone very near and dear to me said almost in passing I made up my mind that I was not going to go down that particular bumpy road. God had handed me an opportunity I hadn’t asked for or expected and who was I to say “No, thanks!”
I was greeted by delicious sloppy, sticky kisses from the two youngest granddaughters and was immediately set upon to color and draw and produce the tickling spiders and build towers of blocks to be knocked down, etc. I could not have been more delighted. We had great fun going to parks and playing in the backyard pool where I drank many cups of pretend ”tea.” I was the chosen one to read the bedtime story a couple of nights and I got to give them a bath which ended up with not only my little girls wet and clean, but also with Grandma soaked and the floor all around the tub puddled. I was, pardon the pun, happy as a clam. I am not sure if I can say the same about my daughter’s reaction, but she just smiled.
I left there after a couple of days and drove upstate NY to visit my 91 year old parents. They are an amazing example of eternal love. They still hold hands, kiss (which as a teen-ager I always thought was embarrassing) and cuddle on the couch while they watch TV. My Dad always says to my Mom “I want to only live two days after you so I can give you a proper burial and then be with you for eternity.” I don’t know words to describe the depth of that kind of love.
While I was there, the 5.8 earthquake on the east coast occurred. I didn’t notice it because I was driving when it happened but the next five or six hours were filled with broadcasts of interviews with people in New York City and D.C. who had experienced it, accompanied by videos of the buildings shaking and people evacuating offices. As I watched the panicked reactions on the TV, the West Coast/Newly Californian part of me chuckled at what I saw, thinking that in my nearly four years in Orange County I’d been through several earthquakes, a couple of them of even a bigger magnitude but the part of me that is still a New Yorker and always feels the hole in my heart at the final descent of the aircraft and notes the absence of those two glistening buildings that were the World Trade Center and think of those that were lost there, especially the ones I personally knew, I realized that those scurrying, pale people thought that incredibly, 9/11 had happened again.
That was the first event that reminded of me of just how short and precious life is.
I went back to New Jersey from the visit with my parents and settled in with my older daughter, mother of four. Just before I got there, I attended a wonderful family event which I mentioned in another blog. It is held every year as a celebration of the life of one of the finest women I ever knew, my late father-in-law’s only sister. Her grandchildren out did themselves this year, having created a spectacular scrapbook and a beautiful video from photographs of her. It brought laughter as well as tears to the 50 or so people who watched it. No matter what adverse conditions challenged Aunt Irma, she never lost her sense of humor or her positive outlook on life. She was widowed at a relatively young age, had serious health issues later in life, but her smile and laugh were always present. Her children, especially her only daughter, embody that and I couldn’t help but think of how proud she would have been and what a marvelous legacy she’d left. As far as I’m concerned, she should have lived to be 100…again, a life too short for me.
Then another lady entered the scene: Irene.
I have been through many, many hurricanes having grown up on the east coast, but I never saw one like this. I was at my older daughter’s, again, she is the mother of four, and in true Super-Mom fashion she had the presence of mind to venture to Toys R Us for the kids to pick out fun, new things … then she’d spent Saturday afternoon cooking so in the event of losing power there would be good, healthy home-made food for everyone to eat.
We lost power on Saturday night at around 12:40 a.m. It was a bit of an adventure at first, but by Sunday night, as darkness fell, it became less of an adventure and more of a nuisance. Everyone went to bed early since there wasn’t much to do with no power.
Shortly after I’d retired, my daughter came upstairs. A very, very close friend of mine had suffered a stroke and the family had called her and asked for me to come to the hospital. My daughter being who she is, was not about to let me make the journey alone. We set out on yet another adventure that ordinarily would have taken less than an hour, but with roads flooded and trees down, took us closer to two and a half hours. Fortunately, the friend had only suffered a very minor episode and will have a complete recovery…but sitting in that ER, for what seemed an eternity, also made me think of how short life is and how at any moment things can change irrevocably.
In the scheme of things, my east coast family and friends were very lucky with the results of Irene. Many people lost everything and except for the inconvenience for some of no power for several days, everyone I know came out intact.
So, from now on, I will eat the cherry first. I encourage those of you who read this blog to do the same. In only an instant your whole life can change…have no regrets…make sure the stem is all that’s left when you savor that sundae.
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