Rare Days

Some days just turn out better than you think they will. B went home with two of the kids while Andre stayed with me. This can be a bit of a challenge because basically Andre likes to be left alone…completely alone. Here we are at the ocean basking in the coolness of the water’s fresh breeze and Andre just wants to stay in his room all day. As a person with autism, finding a spot to feel comfortable is his main priority. Dealing with people and the newness of places and situations are the crux in his craw. I did manage to get him to walk along the cliffs one afternoon but he complained the entire time and made the trip somewhat miserable. He does that when he is doing something he doesn’t want to do…he makes it taxing and a chore in hopes that you will never ask him to do anything like that with you ever again.

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So today, I woke him up and told him we were going to a town about two hours away to take the train. He told me he didn’t want to go on the train but wanted to visit the museum. Unfortunately, we got there 10 minutes after the museum closed so instead we went to lunch, walked around town and went into some shops. It really wasn’t his kind of day but on the way home he said, ” I really had a good day with you Mom. Thank you.” Needless to say, I almost fainted for he rarely lets you know if he appreciates something much less tells you he enjoys your company. It was one of those rare moments that is so surprising and lovely that it suddenly feels as if life has picked you up and carried you away to Nirvana. Everything is right with the world and your place in it and after a weekend in which B talked separation, it was such a nice place to be.

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Later this evening I went down to the Lodge. It was one of the situations that you are trying to talk yourself into doing. Should I stay home or leave. Which will it be? The stay at home option almost won out but I eventually, after a heated debate with myself, chose to go to the bar. I took my drink outside to one of the comfy Adirondack chairs and parked myself in it to watch the sun disappear over the ocean while pinks, golds and yellows filled the sky. Flocks of pelicans flew in V formation past the cliffs while Sid the Great Blue Herron strutted his stuff. The temperature was perfect, the scenery divine and I had the place to myself…until a tall good-looking man about my age appeared out of nowhere. As it turned out he was from the local Buddhist temple complex and as we sat and talked I became “enlightened.” I have always strayed to the edge of Buddhist philosophy for years while attending Christian church at the behest of my husband putting my own religious convictions on the back burner. The talk that this gentleman and I had soothed my soul and it felt nice to be appreciated and admired by a nice man again.

Yes, some days take you by surprise. Today was one of those rare and glorious days and it felt just like a day when my garden is in full bloom!

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Sometimes Sorrow Brings Its Own Kind Of Joy

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The first one-and-one-half years after the “Maybe Divorce” were full of sorrowful hours and weeks. Often I imagined myself like Eeyore as he experienced a “splendid” day. Sometimes it felt like I dived into a tank of oil filled with alligators, weighted down as I tried to keep my ass away from the razor-sharp feelings and anger that was making ribbons of my heart. During those times, I was never sure I could rise to the top…but I did and I have. And in doing so, I have discovered something amazing. That those days of sorrow, when I thought the world might be better off without me, that those pain-filled, soul-searching, scorched earth days taught me the most because they allowed me to find joy again in the little things. Things that went unnoticed prior to the “Maybe Divorce.”

My son’s laugh now brings joy to my heart. It is one that is unrestrained with smacks, giggles, and a love of slap-stick humor that rises up from the bottom-of-his-toes. His laughter booms around the house bouncing off the walls and climbing the stairs drifting like a melody to my ears. When I hear that joyous laughter of his, I automatically smile because my heart pings like an arrow shot straight to the center of it full of all the goodness that a hearty laugh makes you feel.

Andre’s sense of humor brings me lots of joy. While he struggles with social skills, because of his autism, one thing he holds is a wicked sense of the absurd. While there are times he uses his wickedness to tear me down, often I find that in the heat of the moment his sense of humor defuses my fuse and I begin laughing so hard that tears come to my eyes. Don Rickles would have loved this kid.

The youngest brings me joy just by being around here. Her fun breezy nature makes the day feel like there are just a few more rays of sun lifting me up and holding me above the chaos. Her natural joy in contagious and it makes me see things in life to be joyous about like painted toenails with rhinestones, fresh baked cookies and a game of Farkle.

The grandkids sense of discovery brings me a sense of renewal and joy. Each of them reminds me that time is precious and that when I see things through their eyes I am young again and can find joy in simple things like caterpillars, the color purple or watching streams of water flow out of the can as we are watering my garden. They make it easy to find those simple streams of joy and keep them nearby as they slowly drip down my arm and make a puddle near my feet.

West makes joy enter my life just by calling. As a busy executive he doesn’t have much time for his family…not complaining…it is just a fact. To hear his voice reminds me of that little boy who would grab me by the neck and pull my head to his whispering, “Mommy, I love you.” A surge of joy zips down my vertebrae like the thrill one gets when riding a zip line when those tender thoughts of yesteryear surface just by hearing him tell me about his life.

Our two oldest daughters whom I had difficulties relating to as teenagers now talk to me on a daily basis. At one point in our lives I thought there was the possibility that their silent treatments might last for weeks at a time. Yet, these days there is a deep sense of respect and love that reminds me that when joy is out of reach, it will sweep in again like the ocean tide and wet your toes just when you least expect it.

These days my husband is bringing me a sense of joy once again. Although some days it feels like we are climbing a mountain, at this point in time I am able to trust that we are making a journey to one other with each slow and steady step. Sometimes it feels like we are on Everest and are needing to carry an oxygen bottle with us to survive but more days than not it feels like we can discard that bottle and live on the small occasional joys that we find connecting with each other again. It is a work in progress.

But by far the person bringing me the most joy these days is me.  Decreasing the negative self-talk and seeing all the wonderous and joyful things that make me, ME, has given me a sense of happiness and pleasure that I once denied myself. I feel joy in meditating and aligning my psyche with the beauty contained within my soul. I am no longer content to live life as if a river controls my destiny by pushing me through the current instead of me acting as my own oarswoman and charting my own path. Today I seek JOY and find it much easier than I once did because I look for the little things instead of the grand occasions and I am able to still find contentment on those days when it is elusive.

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I guess at this point in my life finding the small JOYS in my life are enough. And while my family helps me recognize some of those things that bring me happiness; I now know that it is my job to seek those things that make me joyful and live my life as if it is full of joy even when it sometimes is not and on those days there is always….

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It’s Been A While

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. Life has gotten in the way. One of the reasons I have not been blogging is because I have been so ill and when you feel that sick just putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes the only thing you can manage to do.

The other reason I have been absent is that I just returned from South Korea. It was a blast. That is not to say that autism didn’t rear its head like a dragon…it did but we managed to keep the fire contained within the dragon’s mouth.

I love Korea. Not just because it is where my children were born but because of the numerous surprises that greet you while you are there. Like it raining and someone just hands you their umbrella and continues on their way. Like the fact that my children are now old enough to sit away from these two big white folks so they can blend in and become part of the majority instead of always being part of the minority. I wish I could give them that freedom every day of their lives. And I like the fact that pumpkin is valued and eaten in so many different ways.

I love seeing the small boats out with the huge freighters as they ply the waters for fish along the coast. I love the hidden temples and that sort of foggy mystical reverence that permeates the air.Riding the bullet trains are almost orgasmic with their down the the minute time tables and the snack carts that sell dried squid. I also love the open markets in which you can find the mass-produced and the antique amongst all the noise that radiates off of the stalls. And the smells of noodles of all kinds, ginger, kimchee and steaming hot bean buns bought just as they come out of the molds are to die for.

There is something about Korea…a people who have been taken over by invaders again and again. Who have known war too often the results of which allows them to then hold the holy and the beautiful above all else…even their pain. Same goes for my children whose understanding of their short lives here is bittersweet. Joy and pain sometimes it is one in the same.

And then we came home and I immediately went in for an endoscopy because I have been so sick with severe reflux for so long. And while I await the results I decided to try the anti-reflux diet and stop drinking coffee…and the next day feel so good that I don’t take the prescription medicine that never makes me feel great. And the next day I feel great. Better than great. And so I stop coffee and pills and one week later I feel better than I have for the past two years.

So now I rejoice. For travel. For discovery. For the happiness of my family. And for my health. And for the oh-so painful re-discovery of myself, my husband and my marriage over the past 18 months.dsc04814

I’m thinking that 2017 is going to be a pretty great year! I hope it is for you too!

 

Sit Still

It’s Sunday. B is out hiking in the mountains with Paul while I put on 8,500 steps talking and walking around the block. Gracie is sitting here whining at me, “I’m bored. There is nothing to do!” while Andre keeps raiding the refrigerator.

Me? Working on a puzzle and refusing to go anywhere at all. I don’t want to move after being on the go constantly last week . I want to sit in the stillness of the day and observe, ask questions and just enjoy what we have created together. But pressure is being put on me by the kids to leave the house…go food shopping or somewhere fun. You are wasting your time trying to convince me for its not happening today unless you are losing blood in vast quantities. And maybe not even then.

I have no idea how this generation of kids is going to survive when they are adults. Without 24/7 entertainment I suspect they will perish should the time come when there is a power outage that lasts over one hour. Having to always be entertained is a great burden and trying to fill it will be an exhausting never-ending effort when they are adults. In addition, they will have to make a ton of money to pay for their entertainment addiction. Frankly, illegal drugs would cost them less.

And so my sweet kidlets , I just want you to know I am doing you a favor by trying to break this chain of constant on-demand entertainment. Let’s relax… do nothing… or lets try some mediation. Let’s just zen out together doing something together that costs nothing. Believe it or not, we can just sit in the stillness with one another and we will be just fine. Who knows, you may just learn to appreciate the qualities that make us…us. And that would be mighty fine entertainment.

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What It Means To Love Someone Fully

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Yesterday, we had a Marriage Encounter meeting at our home. It was fantastic and the people who came were interesting and good, kind folks. One of the questions that we shared in our circle was: When I first met you did I know what it was to love someone fully?

Of course, for me, the answer was no. When you marry young, I don’t think anyone knows what it is to love fully. I think we try, God bless us, but until you have lived with someone for quite a while I don’t think it is possible to even fathom what loving someone fully means because it often means different things to different people. I think having experienced a history together is necessary for this type of love to come into sharp focus.

I can say that for a very long time I was selfish (maybe still am) because I was demanding to get my needs met by B because they had not been met as a child. I should have been wise enough and mature enough to meet my needs myself but I did not understand the complexity of what that entailed and the depths you have to plumb within your own soul to accomplish that. I also tried to make B love me in ways that were comfortable to me instead of ways that were comfortable for him because I was unwilling to change. I clung to ways I was familiar with instead of having faith in the love B had for me and that his way of showing it was also valuable.

And so yesterday, when I answered the question, I replied that I still did not think that I knew what loving B fully means. But today, after much contemplation, I want a re-do because I think I may have been wrong. Why? Because:

  1. If I am fighting to preserve my marriage through the worst of times and on those days where it seems impossible to keep putting one foot in front of the other but I do it anyway; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  2. If I eliminate major flaws within my own personality by reducing anger and increasing peace in order to save my marriage; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  3. If going to painfully sad counseling sessions to learn about myself and to try to learn to look at things from my loved one’s point of view, while listening to the pain and hurt I have caused them, and actively attempt try to remedy that hurt; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  4. If  I am actively looking for reasons to be grateful for everything wonderful and wondrous about my spouse; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  5. If I am working hard to see the good in my spouse and I have faith that he has my best interests at heart; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  6. If I step out of my comfort zone to do the things that make my spouse happy without expecting anything in return; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  7. If I work hard to improve communication between us in order to reduce misunderstandings; then I know what loving someone fully means
  8. If I take responsibility for my own actions instead of blaming; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  9. If I make the conscious choice to find ways to love my husband each and every day event though he may not be at his best; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  10. If I provide my spouse with gentle encouragement; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  11. If I talk to my man in the way I would talk to my best friend; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  12. If I decide that I will do whatever it takes to make things work between us; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  13. If I am actively working to keep that sense of aloneness between us at bay by finding opportunities for connection; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  14. If I let go and decide to trust my heart to B completely, then I know what loving someone fully means.
  15. If I work to put my spouse first… above work, committees and all the other countless things that need our attention; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  16. Being with my lover through the daily grind is easy but if I choose to be with him during the hardest of times; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  17. If I practice just listening instead of fixing or giving unwanted opinions; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  18. If I work on being fully present and in the moment; then I know what loving someone fully means.
  19. If I share my feelings in a kind and appropriate manner; then I know what loving someone fully means.

Let me say, that I think it is important that you do not lose yourself or what you value in order to love someone fully or have them love you back; for that is not what love is about. And let me also convey that this list is not meant to imply that I do these things perfectly or even well. But I can state that I think I am much closer to knowing what loving someone fully means because I am actively practicing what it takes to show that love everyday, instead of acting as if these things will take care of themselves. It means that although there are times that I fail and disappoint both of us; that at least now I am now mindful and aware of what loving B fully might mean and I try to act accordingly. It means that these are things I want to do of my own accord instead of doing them out of some sort of obligation or expectation. And it also means that although I will continue to have to practice the art of loving B fully each and everyday; that I have faith that because of my love for him, that I will get it right eventually, and that I will be kind enough to grant myself some grace until I do.

 

Kindness

I saw a THOUGHT today that made me think.

What I saw reminded me to “Be Kinder Than You Have To.”

Wow! Did that struck a chord with me and it got me thinking. How does one Be Kinder Than They Have To?  Are there minimum levels of kindness that are expected? Is there a norm of kindness? Is there a minimum number of times per day that kindness is expected of us? Do we look for it or does it find us? Is kindness based on the intent of the giver or on the perception of the receiver?

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And what does kindness entail, anyway? Is it looking out for “the other” and putting them before yourself? Does it mean handing over your money to someone who needs it more than you do? Maybe it is just recognizing the deeds of others and commenting on them. Or does it mean choosing your words carefully or holding your tongue to the point that it bleeds?

The dictionary defines kindness as the quality of being friendly, generous, and considerate. It sounds as good a place to start as any. For me, the being friendly and generous parts are much easier than the considerate aspect. More often than I would like, my voice rings with harshness, or I flip off the driver who cut me off. I slam the phone down on the teller marketer who has disrupted my day for the fourth time instead of just saying “no thank you.” Yes, that being considerate aspect to life is going to get me turned away from the pearly gates without a doubt.

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In an effort to honor the idea of Being Kinder Than You Have To I decided to give myself a reminder list of things that I could do on a regular basis that just might embody that philosophy. Here goes:

  1. Instead of just tipping the restroom attendant also tell her that her bathroom must be the cleanest in the entire city and just how much you appreciate being able to plop your butt down on a seat so clean you could eat off of it.
  2. Keep McDonalds gift cards in your wallet and hand them out to those in need.
  3. Ask your elderly neighbor if there is anything you can do for them
  4. Send your kids teachers a card telling them how much you appreciate what they do for your child.
  5. Spend a couple of hours volunteering at a place that needs one-on-one interaction
  6. The next time someone cuts you off get out of your car and hand them a McDonalds card instead of giving them the finger.
  7. Do your kids chore
  8. Give your spouse a massage.
  9. Give a bigger tip than your server deserved.
  10. Feed the parking meters of others
  11. Bye a big bouquet of flowers and hand stems out to strangers
  12. Shovel your neighbors driveway
  13. Send a text to a loved one giving them an example of why you appreciate them instead of just telling them that you love them
  14. Write a REAL letter instead of sending a text or email. It is something they can hold in their hands and look at when they are feeling down
  15. Hand out balloons to strangers just because you can
  16. Throw out a little extra birdseed to our feathered friends
  17. Each day message a different friend you have on Facebook and tell them what you like about them
  18. Go through and label all those people in the zillion pictures that you have. Believe me your relatives will appreciate it in the future and will nominate you for sainthood.
  19. The next kid who passes you on the street…give him a buck.
  20. Practice biting your tongue two or three times a day.
  21. Make your spouses favorite dinner
  22. When sending your loved ones out into the cold cruel world instead of just saying have a good day go over and give them a big long hug,
  23. Pick up someone else’s litter
  24. Give up your seat to someone who needs it more than you do
  25. A heartfelt smile can do wonders for someone’s soul
  26. Let that mother with the three out of control kids go ahead of you in the checkout line. She just wants to get home and put the little boogers to bed.
  27. Pray for someone if you are so inclined
  28. Put a thank-you note on someone’s car.
  29. Pay for the person’s coffee behind you
  30. Say something nice to the person in the wheelchair
  31. Talk to someone who doesn’t look the least bit like you
  32. Forgive someone and let them know it

 

So there you go. A list to promote kindness is born and in doing so it is my hope that all of us will be reminded to BE KINDER THAN YOU HAVE TO at least once per day. Just imagine if everyone did that what a truly different and exciting place this world would be!

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A Miracle

Yesterday I spent the morning in a courtroom. No, I wasn’t on trial for murdering the guy next door who blares his music at 1 a.m. though the impulse is sometimes there. It wasn’t for a parking ticket or a jaywalking offense. It was for something much better…an adoption!!!

My dear friend (I’ll call her M) started down this path many years ago. While she and her husband (K) have two of the nicest boys you will ever meet; M felt like their family was incomplete. Her desire for a girl pulled at her heart for so long that she was unable to ignore it no longer. But first she had to get K on board. It took a while but once K made up his mind there was no turning back. They have worked hard to become a loving family of five.

Adoption is not for the faint of heart. There is the fingerprinting, the intense and intrusive background checks, the numerous day-long adoption classes you are required to take, and social worker visits that happen so often that often it feels you are adopting them. And then there is the paperwork. Mountains of it. Enough paper to clear acres of pristine forest. But perhaps the worst part about adoption is the waiting and uncertainty. The amount of faith you have to have to love a child with all your heart, even though you know there is a chance that their birth parent may try to reunite with them, often to the detriment of the child, can be crushing to your soul. Yet, you just keep loving despite of your own fears that a social worker could arrive at your door at any time and leave your arms empty once more.

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Adoption is fraught with challenges. It is often conceived in fear. In addition, there is immense loss felt on the part of the child even if their birth parents were less than stellar.But when it is done right it is the most miraculous thing in the world. Somehow  families are created despite all the chaos and the gift you receive with the first hug that your child spontaneously gives you and the first time they call you Mom…well… there is nothing like it in the world. It’s like stumbling out of the forest into a sunny field full of wildflowers.

And so I was honored to be able to sit and witness the legal creation of this family especially since my three adoptions had been such a blur. As I sat there watching the sunshine unfold and M trying not to cry; it gave me time to appreciate all that I have been given through adoption and how much richer my life is because of it. And while I distain the word “lucky” in the same sentence as the word adoption I do have to say that the Smith family has been lucky all the way around. Miss S now has the best set of brothers who willingly share all they have and teach her in such loving and touching ways. She is lucky to have found the best set of parents EVER.  People who are there for you no matter what, who provide unconditional love and lots of laughs. They provide patience and support, and spend time well spent reading and playing with their children, and exposure to new and wonderful experiences outside of their home. Together M and K make every day the best that it can possibly be for their family. They are the kind of parents every child deserves.

The Smith family is also lucky to have Miss S enter their lives. She brings her own fiery brand of temperament into a household that lacked her kind of undeniable and exuberant spark. She also brings that girlishness  that was so wanted into a testosterone ladened home. Miss S also brings a fresh look at life and an exuberance for it that makes everyone around her smile; her constant joy reflected back to them on her beautiful and radiant face. I do not know of any family made for each other more than this one. Lucky. Yes. Blessed. Yes. Content. Yes. Complete. Finally.

And so my friends, may you always remember the gift that each of you received today and when life’s little irritations arise may you always look back upon this day to put a smile on your face and give you some perspective. You are the family you dreamed of and what you have created all together is, indeed, a miracle. YEAH!!!!!

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Be Your Own Gardener

Spring Showers

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Where I live it is dry..usually bone dry at this time of year. If the weather follows its normal course it stops raining in April and doesn’t rain again until November. The temperature soars to over 100 degrees for days on end, sometimes months. I rearrange my schedule and begin walking at 6 am to beat the heat but sometimes that is not even early enough. So I end up sitting in my house, the air conditioner running constantly to beat the heat, and I wonder how those who do not have this luxury lift their eyes in the morning. Then I go up to the family cabin in the mountains and I remember what it is like to live with the unrelenting heat. There is nothing fancy or extravagant here. Fans twirl to move the stagnant air and I always spend the first hour cleaning the spiders and their webs from the windows/chairs for they are our only consistent houseguests.

Last night as I rested my weary head I was roused from my nearly comatose state…BBBOOOOOOOOMMMMMM… a crack of thunder almost shook the ancient cook house off its rock foundation as the lightening crackled and light up the inky black sky, now so bright, that I saw a deer shoot through the trees into the protection of the dense thicket. And then the rain started pouring down. I went and opened the door, stood in the frame, and watched the anomaly unfold before me. The first drops sounded like cannons as they hit the deck…splat… with a force so strong you would think they had been shot out of the sky. My feet started getting wet as the raindrops ricocheted off the wood and onto my feet creating a small pond to dip my toes in like I did when I was a child. By now the frogs and crickets had quieted and I listened to the rhythm of the rain which was the only thing that sounded alive in the now silent forest. And as the water seeped into the greenery bringing it back to life; the sweet honeyed linen smell of the damp earth began to waft skyward. It was then that recognized the circle of life making its silent rounds again. A blessing to behold if you choose to see it in this light.

Spring rains. They wash away the dirt and make things clean and clear again. They give us a renewed sense of the precious gift of life and they bring hope to things wilting away whether it be plants, animals or ourselves. For rain has the power to change “what is” into something grander.Today, let’s all be the rain.

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Love Knows No Bounds

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Last night my sweet aunt Nan died. She was almost 90. Nan was the one I could call and discuss family politics with. She always had an answer to ponder and at times I think she knew her brother, my Dad, almost better than he knew himself. She was the one who nurtured my interest in genealogy and the records I am going through now are a result of her holding onto those pieces of family history that she believed could improve our future if we had access to the past. Yes, Aunt Nan was the family historian and was well suited for the job.

Aunt Nan was also a go-getter. She was practical, forthright, always willing to take your call, and smart as a whip.  She was someone I admired immensely. And while the majority of her life was happy and enjoyable, the end was not, as she suffered from severe dementia for the past seven years or so.

Dementia is cruel. It is disheartening and robs its victims of their personalities. It steals away their memories and drops a steal-clad veil over what makes a person uniquely themselves. For years, Aunt Nan no longer knew her husband, her children, her life-long friends, and was unable to celebrate the births of her great-grandchildren in any sort of meaningful way. While she held a baby she had no idea who the baby belonged to. Even worse, she lost a child and never knew it. Aunt Nan became a shell of her former self. Her brain  locked away while her body lingered on.

Unfortunately, a few years after Nan’s mind started shutting down, her husband, Uncle J, also began developing dementia. It was heartbreaking to see this former surgeon slowly begin to fade away into himself.My cousins now had two parents who needed round-the-clock care. I grieved for them understanding the difficulties of having two parents who were both incapacitated. To make matters worse, a doctor recently told the family that Aunt Nan could live another 10 years because she was as healthy as a horse.

Then three weeks ago my Uncle J died. It was expected for he was fading and rebounding for the past several weeks. He and Aunt Nan had been married 64 years. Thankfully, Nan didn’t know that J was gone…or did she?

It seems strange that a woman who just a few weeks ago was as healthy as a horse just up and dies. Rapidly. With only a few days notice. And it makes me wonder if love truly does transcend all. Is there some sort or life current that flows silently between long time lovers? Do we somehow “know” what we don’t? Can deep-seated love never be pulled out of you? It seems plausible. After all, I have many instances in my life where I knew something bad had happened to someone though I could not pick up on the particulars of what it was.

I think we all have invisible connections to those we love. Some of these “currents” are stronger than others but often, if we try, I think we can tap into them. Sometimes we get glimpses of  our loved ones state of mind. We can “know” without “knowing.” I think that is what happened to Aunt Nan. Although her mind was locked up somehow love held the key which let her know that J was gone and she had to go too. She really had no other reason to “live” for her one true love was gone.

So to Aunt Nan and Uncle J… I send you my love. I thank you for your kind words and advice. I appreciate the things you taught me and I thank you, Uncle J, for saving my sister’s life. My greatest hope for the two of you is that there is a swimming pool you can frolic in throughout eternity and that your undying love for one another and your family remain strong.