Ready?

I’m not ready.

I’m sixty-two years old and do consider myself to be smart enough, capable enough, thoughtful enough, but there is still that lingering moment.  That flash of time between the second that my ears hear and my mind revs up into motion. And I think . . .  I’m not ready. I’m just not. 

And I don’t know when I will be. 

I’m hoping it will be when I’m sixty-two and a couple months, which is right around the corner.  Or when the winter turns to spring. Or spring to summer, summer to fall, fall to winter.  Or I’m thinking it might be when someone taps me on the shoulder in some way and says in a loud firm voice, “You, Deb, are ready.”  But, I know the latter is not what will be happening.  It’s just a wild dream of mine.

My children, four of the biggest blessings in my life and all grown, call me on a regular basis and share with me their life trials and tribulations as happens in most families.  Some chats are routine . . . about the day’s or week’s activities.  Cooking and recipes.  How to chip ice quickly off of a windshield.  Where to buy the best and cheapest phone plans.  Some conversations are slightly more involved. What to do when the roof leaks during a polar vortex.  The best way to volunteer to help the homeless in our community.  How much is enough in a future college fund. (Slightly less than a million and way more than a hundred thousand, I say??????) 

And then there are the big convos, the thinkers, the tête-à-têtes that are truly involved.  What to do when faced with situations that have no clear cut right answer and may in fact have two right answers.  How to handle family dilemmas that are so complex that even deep thought doesn’t reach the crux of the matter.  What to do during moments of great sadness, tremendous illness, or frightening financial hardships.  Those types of most challenging conversations are the ones that often leave me believing that I am not ready. 

You know . . .my mom and my dad always seemed ready. 

I could call them with the most perplexing, disastrous, complex state of affairs and the two of them would always be able to rattle off some piece of advise that spoke to me.  I realize that most of the time my parents just listened and let me prattle on and on until I found my path, but they were good at that part.  In fact, they were great at it. 

House falling down?  Here’s a solution.  Don’t have enough money?  Here’s a plan.  Children are out of control.  How about these ideas.  And on it went from one conversation to the next. My parents were my greatest confidants through it all. 

My parents actually seemed skilled at it.  It was like they had sat on some team sideline, learned a lot, and when it was game time, they were the best first string ever. They never ever let me down that I can remember.  Sadly my parents, God rest their souls, are no longer with me here on earth, my mom being gone much longer than my dad. Both have moved on.  Like most of us, I still think about picking up that telephone and dialing 1-800-helpmeplease, but that is just not the way the world works.

Now in my world, I am not exactly on my own.  In terms of family, I am lucky enough to have three wonderfully wise aunts – Norma, Pat, and Susan, and one equally wonderfully wise uncle – David.  And I have often enough touched base with them and gleaned the words of wisdom I needed to push me forward. They have lived longer than I, seen more than me, and are wickedly smart about what it takes to live a good and caring life.  I know that each of them will happily and willingly avail themselves to me if and when I need them.  As family they have always provided me with a safety net beyond what words can express.  In the end, however, I think it is my time to put my big girl pants on and be ready by myself.  I think?  And in thinking about being at the ready, I’ve concluded that perhaps I will never feel like I am, with the stress on the word feel.  That actually no one does and that is the key.

It has taken me a long time, but I have finally realized that the world is filled with opportunities to doubt, to question myself, to see so many paths and not know exactly which one to take. It is full of moments that challenge me in ways that can thrust me backwards, but usually inch me forward to new and exciting places.  The world has been a great big unknown from the moment that I have launched until this moment, and that is what brings the crazy-fun and adventure into it. 

And I have resources! 

I have the wisest of family members and a bevy of close trusted friends who often offer thoughts and ideas to me and for me.  Plus, there is a world of folks who provide guidance through art, music, literature and beyond, lest I forget the power of a piece of poetry or a song from the 70s or a painting by a world famous artist.   Then there is nature that is a huge door to peaceful, clear moments of thought.  A walk through the snow, a sighting of spring’s first flowers, a sunrise to a sunset, nature never lets me down if I take a moment to look at it.

So it’s done.  I’m not ready.  I’m really not ready, and I have no plans to ever be ready.  At least those are my thoughts for today. 

Onward I go!!

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Nature is always ready with spaces that provide time to ponder away!

To Every Thing

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He was always there . . .

He was always there.  Winter, spring, summer, fall. There he was.  As a child, I would see him each week, and though we never chatted or discussed it, I suppose he would have seen me each week as well.  Always wearing a brown three-piece suit.  Always had a hat.  Always happy.

He sat on the St. Joseph side while my family and I sat on the Mother Mary side.  Both of us walked halfway down the aisle every Sunday and scooted into a pew that was nearly a dozen shy of the front of the church.  In essence, we were ‘peripheral parallel pew partners’.  Always.

Oddly enough, the week, the month, the year did not matter.  From the earliest that I can remember to the time that Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church on Washington in Florissant closed, he was always there.  If I was in town for a visit and attended the 10:00am Sunday mass, he was there.  It didn’t matter how many people were with me or what the occasion.  If it was Sunday at 10:00am, I would lean forward in my pew, peer down the row, and there he was.  Always.

His name eludes me, but his personality does not.  He seemed to be a man of great faith, a man with a great smile, a man with friendly eyes and a confident step.  He also seemed to be a man who valued consistency, at least on Sunday.

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Consistency is an interesting concept, and at moments, has some type of attraction for me.  Call it a routine.  Call it a habit. Call it a custom or a tradition.  Regardless of the term, there is something about things that are the same over and over that catches my attention. 

However, consistency has its detractors.  Just ask Mr. Oscar Wilde, a nineteenth century Irish poet and playwright, who contends that “(c)onsistency is the hallmark of the unimaginative.”  There are many different buckets that I placed myself into, but I shudder when I think about being plunked down into the unimaginative one.  Not a place I want to exactly go.

Still, I like waking up at the same time everyday, hopping out of bed and knowing that the first fifteen minutes of my morning are going to be spend exactly like the first fifteen minutes of yesterday’s morning.  In fact, the first sixty minutes of my day is highly, highly consistent. And that most unimaginative time seems to give me a wondrous opportunity to think and ponder and dream, often times bringing that which isn’t mundane out of the mundane.

Per Ecclesiastes 3:1, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven.”  Thus, I claim that consistency has a greater purpose than what Mr. Wilde concludes. 

Take parenting.  I often link good parenting with consistency.  It seems like a natural partnership.  I can readily recall my children having been justifiably angry with me for being wrong as a parent and making related missteps because I was wrong as a parent, but they were never mad or disappointed with me for being consistent as a parent.  Case in point: they may not have liked the food I prepared for dinner week in and week out (I have never claimed to be a great cook – sorry gang), but they seemed rather appreciative that some sort of meal would show up on the same table at the same time with the same characters in the same seats each night. 

On the flip side, I relish the moments that are truly inconsistent, the times that I have no idea exactly what is going to happen next, and am aware of that feeling in my stomach that tells me that something very unknown is happening.  Mary Poppins, in Mary Poppins Returns, says is best when she leads the Banks children into a mystical and magical moment, and states, rather firmly, “We’re on the brink of an adventure, children. Don’t spoil it with too many questions.” Consistency is being damned at this juncture, sent away, chided, and left behind.  All jets are set to go, and imagination takes over.

And again, to every thing, there is a season.

I honestly hope, in the deep recesses of my heart, that I understand the difference between the beneficial consistency and the non-beneficial consistency, and  know when to use the appropriate bucket.  Certainly the turn of a new year gives me plenty of opportunity to work on it.

And if there is ever a moment, when my childhood church reverts from its current status as an offsite location for a regional university back to Our Lady of Fatima Catholic Church, and I show up at 10:00am on a Sunday, I know exactly who I will see on the St. Joseph side of the aisle! 

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It’s a tradition for my daughter and I to consistently stand on the same side when being photographed. Just sayin’

 

What Happened to That Girl?

It was Tuesday.  At 11:00am. In my kitchen.  I was standing over the sink, lamenting the countless water spots that littered my stainless steel sink.  With absolutely no hesitation, I reached under that sink, pulled out my Weiman’s Stainless Steel Cleaner and Polish plus two fresh reusable, recyclable dishrags and began to earnestly polish that puppy.  In no time, the sink was more shiny than glitter in the sun.  Job finished . . .But then my eyes caught something else . . .  those pesky streaks stretched across an otherwise clean and uncluttered countertop. I began to pull out the homemade vinegar/water spray bottle solution and more dishrags, when I just stopped.  I just froze.  I stood.  I stared.

And at that moment . . . the light when on and time seemed to be moving backwards.  It was as if the bulb not only was turned on, but had somehow maxed out its ability to shed one more ounce of  light.  There I was, in the kitchen, holding my Weiman’s, at age 61 and 1/2, looking at a glistening kitchen, recognizing that I had successfully and honestly turned into my mother.  I was Izzy.  It finally happened.

Now, don’t get me wrong.  I love my mother, God rest her soul.  She was everything to me.  A great, great mother.  A great mother.  And I miss her dearly. And Isabelle Washford Greiner spent a large chunk of her life . . . in the kitchen.

The kitchen happened to be in the center of my childhood house, and was on the small side.  In that crazy tiny kitchen, she cooked up a storm in there, clinking and clambering those pots and pans until she produced a meal.  And as the family finished eating, Isabelle would be cleaning that kitchen with the gusto of a race horse in first place headed for the finish line. Tidy in and tidy out, morning, noon, and night, each and every day.   And now, I was doing the very same thing, in much the same way, as my mom had long ago done.  Holy transformation, Batman!

Really – as a youngster, no one accused me of being neat and tidy.  In fact, I was just the opposite.  My clothes never saw a closet they liked.  My bedroom floor was too littered with junk, trash, and other assorted sundries to ever be seen.  Pencils, pens, paper, books, dishes, laundry, etc. were piled high. I am sure that even bugs detested the quality of life in my room and scampered away. But, I was one happy camper there.

My mother’s kitchen was perfection.  My room was beyond a catastrophic failure.

And all I could think was . . .What happened to that girl?

I looked at my kitchen at that moment and began to think way more deeply than I expected.

What happened to that girl who was so sure that she could solve poverty . . . eliminate hunger . . . end war?  What happened to that girl who protested for change . . .participated in every sit-in in the near metro vicinity . . . fought for social justice.  What happened to that girl who listened to hard rock music full blast, wore clothes that represented the meaning of the 70s, jumped off cliffs, slid down mountains, and in general approached life by taking risks without ever thinking about potential consequences?

What happened to that girl?

Never in my wildest dreams in my youth did I ever think I would own a kitchen, let alone have one with granite, stainless steel, hardwood, and recycled crown moulding. I had no idea that I would be married for forty years, have four children, and spend a lifetime working in education. I had no idea that  there would be so many twists and turns to my life and that there would be so many choices to make in so such a short amount of time.

What happened to this girl was the same thing that happened to my mom.

We grew up.

And in growing up, we both learned similar lessons in very different generations.

I have learned that world change comes slow.  I may want it to be faster than the speed of lightening and more powerful than a locomotive, but it still comes slow.  I have learned that fights worth fighting won’t fall off my radar.  I’m still out there doing my part for poverty, hunger, and war.  I’m just not as dramatic or over-the-top about it.

I have learned that there are ways to protest beyond carrying a handprinted sign and marching through the streets, that sometimes what we don’t say or do is much more powerful than too many words and too much action.  I have learned to love more than one category of music and one type of apparel.  Luke Bryan and flannel shirts are my friends.

And finally, I have learned that it is very important for all of us to continue to take risks, every day . . . in every way. Growing up doesn’t mean settling. Not at all. Today, I may be unable to jump off roofs or ride a bike with no hands or backflip off the trampoline into the swimming pool, but I can still be a risk-taker.

We can step forward even when it is uncomfortable.  We can work for those who can’t work for themselves.  We can walk on the edge of life and feel that wind on our backs.  And we can spend everyday anxiously anticipating the next adventure that lurks around the corner.

My phrase can’t be “What happened to that girl?”  It must be “The ride of her life is going to happen to that girl.”  Let the crazy fun continue.

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Waving on the ride of my life

 

 

This Life is the Best Life Ever

He turned to me and smiled.  It was a flash of a moment.  A quick grin.  In total, it probably lasted less than a second, and when it happened, I really didn’t think too much of it.  But, it was the same smile – the same welcome – the same hello – the same moment of family affection – that we have shared over the past 50+ years.

Throughout the day’s activities, I probably saw that same smile a hundred different times. . . when we loaded into the boat . . . when we jumped into the lake . . . when we prepared to eat . . .when we ate . . . when we cleaned . . . when we sat and talked . . .  when we drank . . . when we reloaded into the boat . . . when we watched fireworks.

I can honestly say that I can only recall a fraction of our topics of conversation.  We talked a lot, about a lot of great subjects.  But if pressed, I must admit that the specific details are more than a little bit blurry to me.  The smile, however, is etched clear as a bell in my mind.

And that is fascinating to me.

I find it interesting to think about what I retain in my memory and what I don’t.  It is a filing system that I have never really understood.  I have memories and the ability to remember, but I have no idea how it all comes together.

That part’s a blur.

I think I have a solid ability to memorize, which means I can actively place something in storage and bring it to the forefront when necessary.  That part isn’t random. It is intentional. Sooooooo comforting to know that the memory part of my mind is not just a vast wasteland!

I also have memories that are linked to sounds and smells and sights and tastes and touches.  Drinking lemonade brings out memories of my grandfather.  Carole King songs take me back to 8th grade backyard camp outs.  If I smell suntan lotion, I am time-warped back to every Florida vacation I ever took as a child.

My interest isn’t in the fact that there are sensory associations to my memory.  Moreover, I would like to know why these particular associations.  What clicked in my brain to forever link various everyday items with happenings in my past.

All I can say is  – interesting!

In addition, I have taken my fair share of general education courses targeting the memory topic. Somewhere in my educational background is a stream of knowledge on this very issue. I spent credit hours and clock hours of time reading books, listening to lectures, writing papers, and taking tests to expand my mind about what memories are.  The good news is that I can recall taking those classes.  The bad news is that the exact content is a little vague . . . until and unless I read my college notes as a refresher or I utilize that Scholar-Google for a little assistance.  My memory on memory is less than memorable.

I am the type of person who tends to have an imbalance in terms of positive/negative memories.  Like everyone else, I have had my fair share of not so pleasant circumstances in my life, but I only really remember the glass half full times.  Bad moments, hard moments, sad moments are in that great big filing system in the sky, but happy, crazy-funny, joyous moments are the easiest for me to recall.   I assume it is like that for everyone.  I know it is for me.

The 2018 July 4th weekend brought all kinds of moments into my life.

I will remember the outline of young Brooke sailing towards us on the paddle board in the dim of the early evening on the lake.

I will remember the laughter of Max and Cosi as they were pulled behind a slow-moving boat.

I will always see the gentle hand of Craig as he kindly moved a rope back and forth to ensure the safety of several young charges being towed behind the boat.

Without any trouble at all, I will hear the chatter coming from the cousin table – a group of nine lake-logged guys and gals, boys and girls whose ages ranged from 6 to 39 – as they sat outside together eating, talking, laughing, and bonding. And the chatter coming from the adult table – same activity a mere few feet away from the first group.

With all of these memories, I cannot recall any of the details sandwiched in between the moments. Many hours passed, so I know a lot more actually happened.  But I can barely recall exactly what we ate.  I have no idea what everyone was wearing, and I am quite sure I can’t remember who arrived first or departed last.

What I will remember of these times is much more stark and simple.

My daughter’s twinkling eyes . . .  my sister-in-law’s laugh . . .  my brother’s hug . . .  my cousin, Carl’s smile.

This life is the best life ever.

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Fireworks on the Lake

What’s In Your Wallet?

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My husband is a very consistent type of guy. And for his four children plus me who know him well, we all know that he carries an odd conglomeration of whatnot everyday. All of the items fit comfortably within the corners of his pants pockets, and each of the them is practical as the day is long. None are overly expensive, and yet together they create more interest than he ever expected.

I, too, have a short list of items that I always carry. My grouping, however, is nowhere near as compact as his. In fact, mine can’t fit in a pocket and are instead kept in a dingy, yet rugged, ziplock bag, plopped in whatever purse I’m using. Mine aren’t near as purposeful and I am very uncertain about the message they generate. Still, I carry them.

His list is simple – a freshly laundered handkerchief for him and for sharing, a few dollars to buy him out of any monetary jam, a scrap of paper with an early morning minted ‘to-do’ list, and a pen. My list is a little more harebrained and non-sequitur-ish.  In no particular order, I carry a pocket-sized copy of the constitution of the United States, my first communion prayer book, a full rosary & a bracelet rosary, and one $2.00 bill.

If I sneeze or if someone else sneezes, I have no immediate particular solution. I’m like a dog chasing its tail, looking round and round for tissue somewhere, somehow.  I have witnessed my husband, on the other hand, reach into his pocket, pull out a crisply folded handkerchief, and use it for the save. In his line of work with patients, I am sure it is more than comforting to have him – without fail – carry an immediate solution to a potential germ crisis.

On the flip side of this coin, I may not be able to circumvent the common household sneeze, but I am able to quickly read the list of names of the Supreme Court justices in order – which happens to be part of the pocket constitution addendum, page 87, seventh edition. I can give guidance on the amendments, offer “Fascinating Facts about Six Founding Fathers,” and help if someone gets stuck reciting the Declaration of Independence. My mini-book is filled to the brim with great stuff to solve all constitutional crises.

However, if traveling on tollways or tipping valets or purchasing a food cart meal, it’s my husband who carries the right stuff. He’s absolutely correct that cash can quickly circumvents calamities. It just does. Need a five, he has a five. Need a ten, he has a ten. Need a twenty, he’s got it. He has all denominations and all combinations of cash and coins too.

He’s always cash rich and I’m always cash poor. Except when it comes to the two dollar bill. That’s my strength. Twenty dollars may cover costs, but a two dollar bill always buys a smile. The two dollar bill buys little, is used little, and is worth little.  But, it’s fun – which I believe is its sole circulation purpose.  No other paper denomination has such crazy-funny power.  And spending a twenty dollar bill is easy, but carrying and spending ten two dollar bills takes a little more courage and thought.  Just try it.  It’s not as simple as it sounds.

Moving on, having possessed my Saint Joseph Children’s Missal since 1964, it is showing severe signs of age. The spine is taped.  The pages are tilted.  And the cover is worn. But, the gentle message inside has the ability to keep me grounded. It’s not a matter of me reading it at a moment of need, just a matter of me being reminded that the world is still in front of me, that I have a group standing with me, and that there is nothing that is impossible when my God is with me.

Likewise is that little ‘to-do’ list that my husband carries. Threaded among the bullet points that remind him to run past the bank or pick up some grocery item are notes that remind him to follow his dreams, to think big and broad, to care for others, and to see the glass half full, not half empty. I only wish I had the fortitude to create and carry such a daily list. He’s got it. I don’t. Nuf’ said.

Then there’s his pen. The purpose of the pen is writing – and the majority of the time that’s what he does with it. But, I have seen him use it to pry things open, to clip something together, and to wedge something apart. He thinks he’s MacGyver.  Always has.  He sees a pen as a tool that happens to contain a little ink. Clogged sink – use the pen. Barefoot and a bug needs to be killed – use a pen. Burgers flaming out of control and spatula is missing – use a pen. There is no problem that the pen can’t solve with a little thought and ingenuity.  In the future, I am hoping to film his uses of the pen to create what I think would be one of the most viral YouTube videos this side of the Mississippi.

Me – my skills with a pen are limited to only those that include paper and writing. If I’m in need of an inventive solution to a difficult problem, I go for the rosary every time. In the short term, the pen might be more successful, but in the long run, the rosary – whole or decade version – may be the best choice.

In the end, the items that we collectively carry are only purposeful to us as individuals. He can’t use my rosary to pray his way out of a sudden sneeze and his handkerchief won’t help me understand the Bill of Rights.

I only hope that my tattered and nearly torn ziplock bag remains in tact for a few more decades. I gotta lot of trouble to explore and I may need its contents.

And I might add a pen for the just in case moments.

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Need a pen?  Or a two dollar bill?  Just ask us.

Magic Journeys

She asked me if I would like to play tea with such an earnest voice, I had to just say yes. I watched her run quickly to the next room and carefully removed the teapot from the shelf.  Once back in the kitchen, she climbed up to the sink and filled it with water.  My instructions were to sit on the floor.  In her mind – and then in  my mind – the room transformed into some other unknown place where she and I were drinking lemon flavored tea and eating biscuits (which looked suspiciously like water and jelly beans).  But to us – at that time – it was truly tea and biscuits.

Several hours later, after she and I had left that moment, and after she had left my home, I  took off for my daily run.  Tennis shoes – check.  Hair tie – check.  IPod and headphones – check, check.  My body was ready to go, but my mind was telling me that I was tired, that I didn’t have time, that the weather wasn’t the greatest, that I should just forget it and call it a day.  I was ready to turn around, give up on the exercise idea, head back into my house for a little “R & R” or maybe a lot of “R & R”.

Mindlessly, I flipped on my music and began listening to the Sherman Brothers tell me about a magical world . . . the world between awake and asleep, between real and pretend. Magic Journeys.   I watched a bird skim the sky overhead and fly beyond the treeline.  Slowly but steadily,  I was again transformed to another time and another place.  This time, however, it wasn’t sitting in a castle drinking tea and eating biscuits.

With my imagination at work – I began to picture myself as a quick and speedy.  I could see myself many moons prior, running as if nothing could stop me.  The more the music played, the more I imagined myself, not being tired, or unmotivated, but having that trail-blazing, never say stop exercising attitude.

It didn’t take me long to figure out that my mind was rewriting the moment.  I spent the next hour running what I thought was like the wind!  Not because I was, for I assure you that my speed right now is generally the same – somewhere between slow and slower, but it felt different.  And I finished.  And I smiled.

I have spend a great deal of time thinking about those two moments.  The focus, however, isn’t on the tea party or the run, rather it is on my imagination.

As a child, I recall using my imagination all of the time.  Cardboard boxes became castles.  The backyard soccer game became the Women’s World Cup.  I was Peggy Fleming when I put on ice-skates, and Carole King when I played the piano.  I directed orchestras, danced on American Bandstand, flew, had the best presidential acceptance speech, and walked down those fashion runways like a pro.

Children use imagination all the time.  The world encourages it.  But somewhere within my childhood, I packed up that imagination and headed for adulthood.

I admit that it might look crazy-funny for me to sit in a cardboard box, with my soccer ball, ice-skates, piano, baton, ballet shoes, wings, type-written speech, and platform shoes  – all day long.  And I am thankful that adulthood has taught me that I need to be a little more realistic that my five-year old self.

I suppose what I am trying to learn is which parts of imagination are behind me and which parts are still in front of me. Mark Twain tells me that I can’t depend on my eyes when my imagination is out of focus.  And Albert Einstein tells me that imagination is more important than knowledge.  For knowledge is limited, whereas imagination embraces the entire work, stimulating progress, giving birth to evolution; and strictly speaking, it is a real factor in scientific research.

For the remainder of 2016, I am going to dust off my imagination.  I am going to look at it like one of the most versatile tools in my box and use it every change I get.  My approach isn’t going to be via the tea party model (however, I am not ruling anything out), but more towards the running/transformation model.

I want to look more at what can be than what is.  I want to see the potential rather than seeing the status.  I want to practice imagining all that can be – in all facets of my life – just to see what might happen.  I want to learn more about what happens when imagination is let loose.  What happens when I just unleash it and give it a go at all turns. I want to wonder more about everything, just to see the results.

I have no idea where this idea may take me.  I can only imagine.

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A recent imagination moment.

 

Don’t Hurry Life

August by birth, Gus in life, my grandfather was an interesting man.  He was only alive and in my life for what seems to me now as a brief pause, a short stay;  but that time period was definitely a most impactful one.

He often described his childhood/boyhood as a time of hardship, a time of great challenge, where he had to use both his brain and his braun to make it through each and every day.  With jobs before and after school, and school not the focused priority that is seen in students and parents of today, I listened to his stories and imagined the life of a youth with more responsibilities than I could ever imagine.

Conversely, he described his manhood as nothing shy of glorious, as a time of great adventure, still using his brain and braun to make it through each and every day, but in a different more creative, fun-filled, devil-may-care way.  I listened intently as he regaled stories of danger, pride, cleverness, handwork, risk, and exciting uncertainty in a world of change. He was fetching in looks and ingenious in nature. And he was unusual . . . in ways difficult to pinpoint, best described by me as a grandfather of many mysteries.  He seemed to often times walk the fence and teeter between that which was pure and good and that which was in a more gray area.

His unwritten biography of today contains a plethora of stories detailing escapades with individuals from shady backgrounds, from moments of both average and dangerous shenanigans, from times of walking on the ethical border and times of not. There were moments told when he escaped death, found fortunes, relied on lopsided handshake agreements, bet against the house and lost, and settled a variety of scores.  With decades having passed since his death, and even more decades having passed since the origin of the most exciting of adventures, I find it difficult to decipher between the actual truth and the fond folklore nature of the memories we share about Grandpa Gus.

Throughout all these cloudy, misty, and foggy memories that now make up the ever-so-exciting version of his life story, however, there is one that is crystal clear for me. It was a quick moment that he and I shared with little fanfare at the time. There was no particular detailed or dramatic buildup before it and very little following. It was a granddad/granddaughter moment that happened on a sunny autumn day following a quiet, uneventful visit between the two of us. I never expected to create a memory at that time, but . . . we did.

From his hospital bed near the end of his time with me, he leaned towards me and told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”

At that time, I was starting my own adventures and was clearly in a rush to be whoever I was going to be and do whatever I was going to do.  I must have been on a visible mission to get to wherever I was going as quickly as possible, as it was so very obvious to him.  I wanted to work, to play, to find love, raise a family, create my own fortune, and figure out how to walk my own ethical line. I wanted shenanigans and escapades, and excitement and crazy-funny moments  that would eventually create folklore for me.

I had stopped by to see him as I was coming and going from one activity to another.  He, on the other hand, was unable to come and go any longer.  His movements were limited to those of a man reaching the end of his time  – a man who knew he had reached that moment – a man who was no longer rushing, but rather waiting.

And he told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”

I often think of that moment, the time he uttered such a short and simple phrase – that left me with oh-so-very-much to consider.

Am I always in a hurry?  Do I stop and appreciate the ‘now’ as much as I should?  What life pace is the best?  Who determines the speed and how is it determined? Is there something intrinsically better about the slow over the quick?  And for goodness sakes, how in the heck do I slow life down?

It wasn’t until recently that I think – and I am still not sure, just sayin’ – that I understand a little about what he was trying to tell me.  It is not that I haven’t pondered those words over and over and over for a very long time.  I have.  It is more that I have finally reached a point in my life that they make much more sense to me.

From his hospital bed near the end of his time with me, I held his hand and he mine. His was dark and wrinkled, mine not so.  His grasp was faint and slight, mine not so. I looked at face and he gazed at me with tears wallowing in his eyes. His life was near its end . . . in the home stretch, and I knew he wanted so much to tell me that I needed to enjoy every moment I possibly could throughout my life, that I needed to work to be all that I could be while appreciating everything that would occur in my story, and that I needed to stop and smell the flowers along the way for each step of life is more fabulous than the last.  Finally, he needed to know that I understood him perfectly and permanently.

And in a whispery voice that signaled both age and wisdom, in a barely audible tone, he told me firmly, “Don’t hurry life, Debbie.”

And I understand.

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The Flowers Along The Way