Usually people take time as the year draws to a close to reflect on life and what meaning it has. The month of May has been a wonderful time of reflection for us. After our time of opening our home for rehab for our son and another friend in April, we set out on a journey that took us through the month of May. We began our 3500 mile journey in Ohio at our oldest son and daughter-in-law’s home late the night before they were planning to move to a beautiful new home. We awoke early to the task of packing and organizing 12 years and several children later of accumulation. We spent 5 days helping them pack and unpack. Their gratitude at the end of each day was uplifting and reminded us that the work and joy of parenting doesn’t end when children have lives of their own. I treasure the moments of time spent and conversation with each of our grandchildren as we packed and unpacked their rooms. It also affirmed for me the values we hoped we had instilled into our children as I saw our son and daughter-in-law work together even in stressful moments. Their hugs spoke volumes as did our time with them on Sunday night as I saw the two of them snuggle on the couch reflecting how two “kids” from humble backgrounds got to where they are today. It was wonderful. When we left their home I told them that my retirement was beginning to make sense.
From Ohio we drove to Connecticut. The 12 hour drive was actually fun. We listened to music, chatted as we took turns driving, enjoyed the renewal of nature and had ice cream on one of the breaks. Being at our daughter and son-in-law’s was a roller coaster couple of weeks. We arrived to the excitement of our granddaughters who had not seen us since Christmas and the anticipation of First Holy Communion. The days of preparation and enjoyment were great. She was surrounded by everyone in the area who loved and supported her. Her responsibility and excitement for the day were admirable. I reflected on what the Church would be like each Sunday if everyone approached communion with the awe that she did that day.
The weather following that Sunday left much to be desired. It was cold and rainy much of the time. But we had made a commitment to ourselves to see some of New England and besides everyone there was either working or at school. For four days Bob and I traveled through a little of Vermont, New Hampshire and Maine. It was a great time for us as we realized it was nearly a month since we had had much alone time with each other. As Bob drove I as usually had the tour books looking for and reading aloud things we could do or that we were planning to see. Little stops along the way included seeing Lake Champlain and a granite factory, which we didn’t realize until we got there was they were making grave markers. That spurred a good conversation along with a few laughs. We stopped at a maple syrup store, cheese factory, ice cream factory etc. as we anticipated driving to the top of Mt. Washington NH. It was a driving challenge that Bob looked forward to, only to find it cold, snow covered and fogged in. We laughed as we drove to the top and decided that the very windy, dense fog and 37 degrees was not something we wanted to encounter so we merely descended. From there we let the GPS take us to Boothbay Harbor ME. The back road adventure was another fun-filled time of music, chatting and sightseeing. After a torrential down pour as our welcoming hours to Maine, the coastline drive the next day was beautiful as we stopped at various towns. We ended our little journey at a restored Shaker village in Canterbury NH. The time alone was great.
We arrived back in CT as we anticipated the conferral of our daughter’s doctoral degree. She and I managed a little time together doing a few of our favorite things—shopping and getting our nails done. The last few days there were a roller coaster juggling of good and sad times as her husband’s family experienced the death of his grandmother. The night of her death was one of those moments when as a parent one can hear in an adult child’s voice the need for a parent. The juxtaposition of the happy and sad times was amazing. Although it might always be difficult to think of her graduation without thinking of the passing, they worked well together to see the greatness of living and the joy of sharing those times with others. Her husband was amazing as he spoke of his pride in her as did his family even in their sadness. Her brothers all came to CT for her party, while they couldn’t help tease her with all the “doctor” jokes, all three of them could not have been more proud of their sister. We drove the 16 hour drive home with little issues. We made plans for the summer which Bob used his smart phone to list, took a few short walks at rest areas in 90 degree heat and laughed and sang along to crazy 50’s music. We came home to friends and the opportunity to pick-up our youngest grandson who had just finished his first year of pre-school and is anticipating arrival of a new sibling. As I wrote to our daughter on her graduation and said at her party that followed a few days later what we always dreamed for our children was that we would give them roots and wings. As we’ve seen them all in the past months we know that their roots are deep and their wings continue to spread and on some days they are able to soar.
May has been a wonderful month for us. As I said above I think for both of us it put a new face on retirement. We could care for one of our children after surgery, help one move, experience the graduation of another and care for the child of the fourth. Years ago we made a commitment to each other to begin and end the summer with ice cream usually Memorial Day and Labor Day. While we didn’t do that alone on Memorial Day we did it last Sunday. It has been and is our time for each other.
Helping our son and his family move was something of an adventure as we helped to pack up boxes, load them in a truck and cars and then move them into their beautiful new home. We were pleased to find that we could hold our own working with much younger adults and a very strong, hardworking teenage granddaughter. It was a joy to be with the kids and grandkids. I felt good about being able to help them and to see their love for each other in the midst of the stress of moving. Their gratitude for our help and the grandkids for having their rooms organized just added to my wonder and awe at God’s blessings in our lives.
The trip to Connecticut was a fascinating mix of events, starting with the First Communion of our youngest granddaughter. I was uplifted by the joy on her angelic face as she received Jesus for the first time. Her joy remained throughout the day. I find much joy in watching the grandchildren grow and develop their talents and personalities. I love to tease them and am delighted as they learn to tease back (they are getting better all the time). The times when they cuddle up to me on the couch or sit on my lap in front of the fire are very special.
The middle part of our stay gave us the opportunity see some parts of New England that we hadn’t visited. The scenery was great, the drive up Mt. Washington unique, the seafood tasty and our visit to a Shaker settlement in NH educational, but the best part was just having some time for us. We had time to listen to music in the car, enjoy the scenery, talk to each other about many things, and sometimes enjoy the silence as we rode along. In all our driving I sensed a serenity and quiet joy in being together.
The last days of our journey were made interesting in the interweaving of a graduation with a death and a funeral (our son-in-law’s grandmother died on Wed, our daughter received her doctorate on Thu, the wake/viewing was on Fri, the funeral on Sat and graduation party on Sun). It was amazing to see how everyone worked together to make each of those very different events what it needed to be – to celebrate our daughter’s graduation and to help her husband’s family go through the process of mourning and laying to rest his grandmother. Our daughter’s husband remained determined that she should celebrate with the party he had planned for her. His parents came to her graduation and still hosted the party, as planned. We helped in any way we could, with needed shopping and food preparation and watching our granddaughters so that our daughter and her husband could be involved in the wake and planning of the funeral. Our sons, who had come to celebrate their sister’s graduation, even went early to her in-laws to help them prepare for the party and the oldest stepped in as a pall bearer for the funeral when the family needed one more.
We are finally home and looking forward to relaxing a little and getting some work done around the house. I am very grateful for the month of May. I can get bogged down in all the injustice I see and all the things that are not right in the world. The past month allowed me to see much that is right – in the love of our children and grandchildren and their willingness to help others, as well as their celebration of our daughter’s accomplishment. It was in the faith-filled responses of our son-in-law and his family to the death of a loved one and in the quiet joy of being with Rita as we were able to help others as well as have some time for just us.
We urge you as summer begins to take a few moments in the often hectic pace of summer to find a few moments of time together now and at various times along the way. Don’t wait until December to reflect on and enjoy the wonder of your marriage.
Note: We are considering a future blog on one or both of the following questions. If you have a story for us, please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org. We will only use your name with your permission.
1. Tell us of an attempt you made to do something nice or show your appreciation for your spouse that didn’t get the great response you expected. We don’t want to open any old wounds, but, if you can laugh about it now, please share it with us.
2. Tell us about something you should never do without talking to your spouse first. Again, we want real stories that happened in your marriage where you did something without thinking about how your spouse might react and got a surprise response.
We have our own story and will tell it when we get enough of yours to make a blog. We’re looking forward to hearing from you.