Friday, May 11, 2012


When growing up,  it was inconceivable that someday I would look at the people I lived with and think of them as not being in my "family"--but it's true, if I define "family" as a nuclear group of mother, father, and children. Yet so it is. I am now a mother and not a child in the family I hold most dear. My parents and siblings are not in my "family", but they are important and special nonetheless.

When raising children, you get inklings of what will happen when they grow up and marry, and suddenly you are on the outside looking in at their "family". You have become "extended" family--someone that they stretch to include. With one child married and two more committing themselves to their brides this year, my "family" is shrinking and my extended family is growing. I feel a wistful happiness for them. So much excitement and living is ahead of them still.

I do not, do not, do not understand the joy people feel in being empty nesters. All I can think is that they endured parenting, always looking to the day when it would at last be over. It probably isn't that black and white. Maybe the teenage years were rough? I loved having teenagers, and I think my teenagers knew that. We filled our house with teenagers, our own and all their friends. I could never bake enough cookies.

When people ask me why I had five children, I have to quick decide if they can take the real answer: because I couldn't have ten. There were days when I longed to run screaming from the house, but most days I loved my life and my brood and wished they would not grow up so fast.

Having a granddaughter has been a great comfort to me. Although she always prefers mommy and daddy to me, and I love her for that, it pulls at my heart when she reaches for me.

Change is hard, but stagnation is death. I will learn to appreciate the quietness, and being able to have a rational conversation that isn't interrupted a dozen times. I will be able to keep up with my housekeeping and perhaps have time for some postponed projects. I'm just hoping that life doesn't get too quiet, orderly, and predictable. I don't want to be bored till death!

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Stepping up in the Queue

I have vague memories of my great grandmother, hardly anything really. There is a photo of her sitting in an armchair by the window of her room in a nursing home. And I recall one time waiting in the car while my parents went in for a short visit. It was a long time ago and I was very young. There is some confusion about what I remember--was it what I remember happening or what I was told about?

I can say a lot more about my grandparents--the three that I knew. My material grandfather died about the same time that my great grandmother did, and I feel the same confusion with him about my "memories". The other three grandparents lived to be ninety or more. Grandmother Zugg lasted the longest and best, living to be ninety-six and mentally sharp to the last day.

Both of my parents are still alive,  healthy and active--and approaching the ninety year landmark. At least, they are past their mid-eighties and showing few signs of the permanent wind-down.

My sixtieth birthday is a year and a half away. My husband just retired at sixty-five, and in a few months I can say that most of  our children are married. One child already has his own child.

Five generations. One has passed through the veil into eternity. The next is moving closer. Barring any tragic missteps, soon my generation will be first in line. Life is like stepping on an escalator in an eternal queue.

Slipping Down the Ladder

I have one married child. A second one is taking that plunge in little more than a month. It's a happy occasion, but bittersweet. Every parent has to recognize that they are now just a little further from the center of their child's affections. This does not mean that the child cares less for you, but that others, spouses for starters and children later, have stepped in front of you. This is as it should be.

Oftentimes this is also the beginning of a deeper revelation for the child of just what you gave to them, sacrificed for them, and how you blessed their lives. They find themselves now following your example, and feeling the cost. Then there will come this moment when the light blazes on. It might be triggered by something that touches them, but more likely by an act of their child in which they recognized themselves. Perhaps it was an act of deep ingratitude, or careless acceptance of a great sacrifice. And they understand how thoughtless a child can be and how much the child will take your best for granted.

I am fortunate. All of my children have eyes to see. And I have eyes to see, too. I see signs that they will outshine me as parents. I weep for my faults. I rejoice in their gains.

I am fortunate in what I was given. My parents did the best they knew how.

So although we continue throughout our lives to slip down our children's ladders of prominent place, if we are lucky, they will treasure where they came from.