Thursday, December 08, 2016

Looking at 1990 from 2016

My father and I dancing at my sister-in-law's wedding

My sister-in-law sent me these photos she'd found just the other day. They were from her first wedding in 1990ish.

I remember laughing because guests kept calling my dad the 'secret service agent' because of the sun glasses. It was an outdoor wedding and by the time the sun set, he realized he'd forgotten his regular prescription glasses. I love this photo of him as the mature man of mystery.

I was so young then. Newly married. In my mid 20s. My folks were in their mid 60s. My dad had retired early and they were traveling the world. They seemed so happy.  I didn't think of them as old, even though they were a generation older than most of my peers' parents, as they had adopted me in their early 40s. 

With both my parents
This was before the dementia that robbed us of my mom appeared. Years before my father's failing kidney function would manifest itself and lead him to years of dialysis.

There are so many things I wish I could tell the person I was that day. Nothing critical. No single, simple piece of advice like 'turn right out of the parking lot in 2007' or 'buy that stock you were taking about.'

No. What I wish I could have said to myself is relax. Breathe. You're going to spend so much of your time and energy worrying about things that won't ever happen, that you'll miss so many things - so many amazing moments - in the process.

Your children will experience heartaches and yes, you will be powerless to prevent them and not much use in helping them heal afterward. These are the painful limitations of parenting. But they will know you love them. Just as you know your parents loved you, despite their flaws. And your children will do the same.

I wish I could have told myself to start writing sooner and not concern myself with whether it was good or not. That there was nothing to do but to get the words down and dedicate myself to craft because no matter how inspired I was, the pixie dust only lasts so long and the habits of consistent work need to take over. It took me another 16 years after these photos were taken to even start to understand that.

That holding grudges takes energy away from living and most of the hurts I would ruminate on, I was also guilty of and never even knew it. As important as it is to cut others slack, we also need to cut ourselves some, too, even as we strive to be and do better.

There were conversations I never got to have with my mother because by the time I was ready to have them, the dementia had already taken hold. I regret leaving so much unsaid. At least it was a lesson I learned well by the time my father had gotten sick. And it's a lesson I try to apply in my daily life.

I wish younger me knew that things in life rarely make sense; it's only that we impose a narrative on them to help us cope. Sometimes shitty things happen that no one deserves. It doesn't make you better or more noble or stronger. Sometimes amazing things happen that you don't especially deserve, even if you make yourself believe otherwise. I know I spent too many years blind to my own privilege. I am proud that my children understood this much sooner than I did.

I was fortunate enough for my father to live to see me publish my first books. My mother, the woman who initiated me into my lifelong love of reading, lost her ability to read to her disease. She used to flip through my first novel, but wasn't able to know much more than her daughter had written it. She was proud of that and so was my father, even if what I wrote was far out of his reading zone.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this blogpost is, other than when I got these photos last night part of me time traveled into the past.

It's also strange to realize that my oldest son is now just a handful of years younger than I was in these photos. Sorry for the melancholy and introspection. I think the shortening days and the oncoming cold and gray are to blame.

But as much as this is about looking back at the past, this weekend, we'll be looking ahead to the future as my husband and I take a brief trip to spend some time with our almost 3 year old twin godsons. (And their lovely parents, of course!)


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