Jen has been writing some beautiful stuff about her family vacation and the growth of her children. You should go read it if you haven’t already.
I was thinking about my own family in that context of how we grow together and define each other, having spent so much time with them over the holidays. Last Monday we were at my sister Sandy’s in Imperial for her forty-second birthday. She just had her second child. At forty-two she is young, I am young at thirty-one. I look young. Without the beard I look very young indeed. If you read this blog regularly you will know I act fairly young and dumb too.
I was stunned a few years ago to meet a childhood playmate who had already gone bald. I see the signs of aging on my peers and I wonder about us as a family. On both sides my grandparents lived into their late nineties, my parents in their mid seventies are more fit than people half their age.
My great uncle George was downhill skiing into his late eighties. At one hundred and ten my great, great uncle Elder was at that point the oldest man in Wisconsin. Sometimes I think that there is something about us that is somehow outside the “normal” flow of time. It’s not lifestyle at least as regards the common wisdom; many of the longest-lived were smokers and drinkers much of their lives.
Maybe humor is part of it. I come from a very funny family. I was worn out from laughing by the time they left, literally exhausted from how funny they are and how much of a pleasure it is to be with them. On their last visit it was my father who had me in hysterics, this time the best punch lines all belonged to my mother. Her timing and wit were off the chart.
Don’t get me wrong, we have our arguments about Iraq and abortion, religion and any number of other things – but all those arguments happen in a context of love and laughter with an edge of sarcasm such that ultimately none of us can take ourselves too seriously.
My father and I were going out of Sandy’s to warm up the cars as it was time to leave. Everyone else was in my sister’s house saying their goodbyes. We stood for a moment looking at the full moon through the trees and my father said, “That’s the sort of moon that painters paint. You could wait a lifetime to see a moon like that.” So we stood there in the cold and watched the moon with its halo.
From the hill that they live on you can see the Mississippi valley in the distance – the area is not so developed that the city lights would compete with the reflection of the moon off the far away water. Perhaps those pauses are a key to our youthful family – we are always on the look out for moons that you’ll never see again. These pauses somehow slow us down and keep our hearts light, even when there are so many reasons to be sad.
My ex girlfriend Mary was killed in a car accident when she was thirty. Thirty is all she gets. Her bookends are set. Her father is still alive in his nineties and if it weren’t for the car accident that took her life I’m sure she could have had a good run too. She told me once that she knew what I was going to do with my life, but she reserved the right not to tell me. “You’ll have to figure it out on your own, but I can see it plain as day.” We broke up in our mid twenties when she transferred colleges. The distance thing didn’t work, as it rarely does, so that was it. When we were still together she asked me once what I saw in her and I told her, “No one has ever made me laugh like you do.”
Happy New Year everyone – glad I know ya.