a personal narrative, reporting for duty

IMG_2945when last I wrote…

IMG_3463And today.  Where did the time go?  Where did the foliage season disappear to?

Sorry, gentle readers.  I’ve left you in the lurch.  And for what?  Well, let’s see…

There’s the old Time Flies When You’re Having Fun excuse.  And yes, having fun was some of what I did in the month of October, since I wrote that valentine to my sweetie back around Columbus Day.  I might also blame my missing blog posts on the boxes I’m still unpacking, the trips we took to Maine, the house guests I entertained (and who entertained me) and the general whirling dervish that is autumn spinning away from summer and diving headlong into the holidays.  But honestly, here’s the true culprit: I have a college reunion coming up.  And with every reunion comes a reunion committee appeal to write a personal narrative for the class report.

This should be easy.  The expository essay is what I do. Why the angst?  Because I needed to circle around this assignment a time or two or twelve, to figure out what I wanted to say.

So, yes, I’ve been busy burning brain cells–fussing and revising every time I flipped open my laptop, editing in my head every time I walked around the reservoir, thinking of a new angle, every time I found myself awake at 4AM.  I’ve started and deleted at least three drafts. Bottom line, it’s not helpful to be at a complete loss around how best to describe having been sideswiped by life, not once but twice since our last report, with a deadline looming.

IMG_3258At least once a month, we drive to Maine to check on my nephew.  It’s part of a commitment my husband and I have made to my sister’s memory, and to a boy who lost so much, so early in his young life.

Whatever we do for him, it never feels like enough.

* * * * *

Here’s the thing: If I were writing my reunion report the way I write my blog posts, it would have been a cinch. Just tell it like it is, no sugar-coating required. Shit happens.  If you’re lucky, you learn a thing or two in the cleaning up phase.  But reunion class reports are not, in general, a place to overshare on the negative side. Class reports are heavy on success stories.  Mine would be more a story of coping than victory.  Why bother with this at all?

Honestly, I can’t explain why I’ve felt this compulsion to not dodge the assignment, to not sweep the hard parts under the rug.  I have hundreds of college classmates whom I’ve never met, whose names ring no bells.  I owe them nothing.  I could just save up my memories for five years hence, and hope for some distance, editorial and otherwise, between me and my lousy mammogram and the sister tragically gone from this world.  That, and the ongoing concerns I have for her son, my nephew, who is the usual subject of my 4AM tossing and turning.  He’s a part of my life, in ways I’d never imagined a reunion ago.  Do I put that in my report?  Do I skirt around the facts?  Do I mention it obliquely?

Then I remembered my last reunion.

IMG_8604Here I sat with a dear friend, and here we chatted about the things we’d left out of our reunion reports, last time around.

Five autumns ago,  I joined a beloved classmate on the sunny side of this football stadium. Having skipped the class luncheon, we huddled together, pretending to watch the game as we discussed our not-for-publication reunion reports—about our worries for our kids and their futures, our parents in decline, the various things that keep us awake at night. I don’t suspect that our conversation was unique to us, because no matter how blessed any of us may be, no matter how lucky we are or how hard we’ve worked, and despite whatever intelligence we may bring to the table, there are always things that just…happen. Add to that the law of averages, which has a nasty habit of playing catch-up, and I suspect I’ve pinpointed a common mid-life bond. It’s a universal truth: no one gets through this life without some bumps and bruises, without some missteps and heartache and tribulations, without unforeseen events playing havoc with well-laid plans.  To pretend otherwise seems pointless.

Which is how I got stuck on Speak Up.  “Fine, thanks,” would not be my answer to the “How are you?” reunion report question. I would own my imperfect experiences.  I would share the joy and the sorrow, or at least, allow that they’re part of life.

IMG_3454My personal narrative, just before I sent it zooming out into cyberspace.

Which is what I did, in the end.  And with three whole days to spare, I sent my little Here’s What I Know So Far report to my classmates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

On this day in history, my star was born

IMG_2525A week ago, the reds ruled this vista.  As of yesterday, the newly yellow backdrop owns the day.

 

Autumn.  It just swoops on by, not letting up for a moment.  The moon changes phases faster than ever, the trees give up their summertime greenery and dress up in fall fashions like teenage girls getting ready for the homecoming dance, and then just leave them in a puddle for their mothers to pick up.  Pictures taken just days ago seem dated, memories from a summer whose days have already fled.  I can’t keep up, on so many fronts.  I love this season, I want it to stick around, but I keep noticing that it’s shifting without me, whether I like it or not.  And there are days when I have been so deep in the process of relocating the details of my life–where did the silverware get packed away to?  Isn’t there a tape measure around here somewhere?–that I find my days spinning.  And too often, and altogether too soon, the four o’clock shadows close in on me, making me rue the time I’ve not been spending out of doors, drinking in this most lovely and fleeting of seasons.

IMG_9941This turned into…

IMG_2511This.  Which made the goldfinches ever so happy, but still.  Too fast, the summertime bounty gone to seed.

IMG_2560The view out our back window.  Every fall, there’s a stretch of yellow light that is magical.

* * * * *

But there are days and dates that demand that I stop and take stock.  Today is such a day.  It is the day on my calendar that always has a heart around it.  It is my beloved’s birthday.

IMG_2576This little guy.  On his first birthday, surrounded by his oh-so-young parents and their parents, along with three great-grandparents. On the day that Don Larsen pitched a perfect game in the World Series.  You do the math.

 

I am so lucky to be married to this man.  He is so many things to me. The usual lists hardly suffice: best friend, confidant, playmate, fellow parent, love of my life. And yet, if there was even the slightest dropping off of appreciation for what he gives me, what I learn from him…let’s just say, there were some tragedies thrown our way that completely renewed my gratefulness for how lucky I am.  With the things we’ve faced these past few years, I’m tempted to insert the words “I couldn’t have done it without him” right about here, which he would deny.  He thinks I’m stronger than I am; I like to think he’s right.   And yet, and yet.  Things that would have been scary and sad had I faced them alone, just weren’t so bad, with him by my side.  Trips to Maine after my sister passed away, the whole era of treatment after that one lousy mammogram, it’s all a blur, but a blur with both happy and sad moments, remarkably.  And it would all weigh so much more heavily on my heart, had he not been there with me.

IMG_1098Love of my life, in a happy spot.

He’s my Mary Poppins.  He figures out ways to make the medicine go down–like building in stops for lobster rolls or date night dinners at our usual spot, with our favorite bartenders holding sway.  He is, as our kids like to call him, Compulsive Man, which makes him a good person to have in your corner–the guy who labels the iPad charger cords and prints out three iterations of his calendar, one for him, one for me, one for all the overlap spots that need to be ironed out.  He is generous and kind, and he always does the right thing.  His motto these days, in his work life, is simply: “What can I do to help you?”  His willingness to make it possible for others get where they’re going spills over to everything and everyone else in his life.  I am the most fortunate recipient of that fantastic attitude of his.

He doesn’t keep score.  He loves me the way I am.  He is the best thing that ever happened to me.

IMG_9853And he knows a good photo op when he sees it.  Happy Birthday, my funny valentine. I love you!