Thursday, May 23, 2019
The Most Important Things
It's been a little quiet around here lately for the simple reason that May has been difficult this year.
Two weeks ago we got the news that my grandfather, my dad's father, had suffered a massive heart attack. The day after Mother's Day, we found out that my grandmother had walked into the room that morning just in time to see him pass away. I never had the chance to know Grandpa as much as I wanted to, partly because he lived across the country in Minnesota. He loved to drive all over the country with my grandmother in their camper, and occasionally they would swing through our town when I was young, often bringing along a paper bag full of balloons as a special treat for my sister and me. They came by a few times after my girls were born, and my oldest daughter vividly remembers playing card games with Grandma and eating jelly beans in their camper with them while it was parked in our driveway. Although talk always seemed to settle on frivolous things -- the weather, the dogs -- I remember one visit when Grandpa somehow wound up talking about his military service during World War II when he worked in the motor pool for Patton's Third Army. It was a glimpse into a side of him that I hadn't seen before, and I wish I could have heard more. Though he never broached the subject with us, I know that Grandpa was part of the American forces who liberated Dachau concentration camp way back in 1945. I was always terribly proud of his part in that, and I remember thinking of him when I visited the Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C. years ago as I was standing in front of the candles lit for Dachau in the Hall of Remembrance. It's hard to believe that Grandpa won't be driving up our driveway again, doting on my dogs and chatting with his great granddaughters.
Only a few days after that, my dad's best friend from college had a sudden heart attack. We worried and prayed and texted messages back and forth with his wife until he was thankfully able to return home after treatment. But I was shaken. It's hard to see the people you looked up to as a child suddenly struggling with health issues, as though your own stability is somehow tied up with theirs.
And then last Sunday night my oldest daughter broke her arm at a church youth gathering, leading to a host of medical appointments and a new normal for the next few months as we help her recover from this intensely painful injury. It's been hard for her to concentrate with all the stress and discomfort, but thankfully we were able to get her last tests finished last night for the school year so that she could start her summer and really begin a time of rest and healing.
As I sit here typing at my computer, I realize that the last few weeks have left me feeling vulnerable. It's not that you don't know that these sorts of things can happen to the people you love. This is life, after all. But when it does, it feels like a tidal wave sweeping over you. The one blessing in it for me is that troubles inevitably bring clarity to my life. Little, petty things that seemed like such a big deal before, now fall to the side where they belong. The most important things -- which are almost always the things I managed to neglect due to the demands of my over packed schedule -- come to the forefront. You suddenly realize what matters most, and it's okay to let the rest go. And the people you love -- your family and friends -- you understand how much you need them, how important it is to spend time with them while you have them, to not hesitate to say, "I love you" or hug them close as often as you can.
So today's schedule will look a little different for me. Yes, there will be dishes and grading and maybe a bit of writing. But there will also be Lego building and chocolate chip cookie baking, cuddling under quilts and games of Fishy Tag in the pool. Because every minute I spend with this dear family of mine is more precious to me than anything else in the world.