This is a long, reflective post. I’m not sure it serves any great purpose but feel free to ramble along with me if you have the time.
So, I’ve been giving my life some thought lately. I’m not quite sure why. I’m not anticipating it’s end in the very near future tho recent events have made me ever more aware of its value.
Thinking back I’m reminded of my childhood. It wasn’t perfect but it was far from bad, in fact, I couldn’t have asked for much more. I was the 2nd of 2 boys but for all practical effects I could have been an only child. My brother was 12 years older than I and gone to college by the time I was truly becoming aware of my surroundings. The 6 years he was home had a profound effect on my life. He was diagnosed with a terminal pulmonary illness shortly after birth and was extremely ill most of his life. Many would have given up and waited for the end. Sullen and resentful. But not him. He had a certain positivity about him that I have rarely see. A thirst for learning that led him to be one of the 1st in our family to graduate college and then pharmacy school. Coming within inches of losing his battle with the lung disease on several occasions in the mean time. And considering he was fawned over almost from birth because, “the next infection may be his last”, he was amazingly humble, self-confident- yes, arrogant- no, and he always strove to do his best.
At this time, I was a short, dumpy kid with no self confidence. I didn’t go into school with the same overwhelming thirst for knowledge that my brother had and I struggled during my 1st several years. Most older brothers, especially those already moved on to their own lives in college, wouldn’t be overly concerned about their younger brothers struggles. But he wasn’t having it. He kept telling me I had the abilities, I could do anything I set my mind to. He made sure I didn’t give up. Now lest you get the wrong impression, my parents weren’t just saying, “eh, do what ever you want”. Nope, far from it. They valued hard work, integrity, family, honesty, and faith. Although they didn’t have a lot of formal education, they were very intelligent people, blessed with an abundance of common sense you might say, and they intended their children to have a good education. But my brother was the living embodiment of the belief to me. And he was doing so in the face of great adversity. Thus began the shaping of my life.
Even with my brother’s and parent’s best efforts, I limped through elementary school and entered high school. Although I was enrolled in some advanced classes I wasn’t expecting to set the world on fire. That all changed the 2nd week of school. That’s when I saw the prettiest, sweetest girl I had ever seen in my life. But I was too shy to talk to her, so I just assumed the opportunity had passed. Funny how life has its own ideas. That afternoon, just before algebra class, I was getting my assignments together when that awesome girl turned around, she was seated in front of me, and marked all over the work I had done the night before and winked at me. Incredibly flustered, and just a tad angry, I told her if she would stop that I would meet her after school. See what a smooth operator I was at 14. As I got to know her, I found that she was incredibly compassionate, intelligent, beautiful, and confident, above all confident. And she found me fascinating. And, she came from the top of her elementary school class and had every intention of remaining there through high school. That meant I had my work cut out for me to keep up with her. Oh, and she was about an 1” taller than I. We were quite a sight. We were together from that 2nd week of high school through graduation, each pushing the other to do better and always growing closer. And, by graduation, (she salutatorian, me valedictorian) she was about 5” shorter than me. A much nicer sight.
So we’re off to college, still together, neither of us having ever dated another person. By the end of 2nd semester we could stand it no longer, we eloped. Problem was, I had just turned 18 and my wife, I still love saying that, was 17, just shy of 18, technically illegal. In the end some fancy legal dancing saved us on that one. I think her grandmother was all that saved me from her father though. No one gave us a chance. They said 5 years would be a long life for our marriage. And theoretically they should have been correct. Well, in a way they were right, in two weeks we will be celebrating the 8th anniversary of our 5 year anniversary (40 years). So it did last 5 years, and another, and another.....
Soon we had finished college, I had been admitted to one of the best dental schools in the country and we were expecting our first child. Life couldn’t have been much better. But you soon come to see that it can’t be all roses. Dental school is a full time job. I spent more time with my classmates than I did with my growing family. Not an ideal situation. Also during this time we had our 1st real experiences with death. I lost 1 of my remaining 2 grandparents and my wife lost both remaining great grandparents. My children were blessed to have 11 living grandparents when born. We have a treasured 5 generation picture taken just before the 1st great grandparent died. I guess in my children’s case it would have been a great great grandparent.
My wife’s pregnancy with our second son was difficult. She had BP issues, preeclampsia, and he was born meconium stained. Had the OB not recognized this prior to birth and called in the pediatrician it’s likly our son would not have survived. His lungs were damaged and he spent the majority of his childhood ill. More than one physician told us they thought he had the same illness as his uncle, thankfully that did not turn out to be the case. But man, just the thought really knocks your socks off.
Now I’ve graduated, passed the state boards and am a freshly minted, state licensed DMD. Now all I have to do is decide whether to become someone’s associate or go into practice for myself. Ultimately, aging parents in need of ever increasing care and a large populace in dire dental need led us back to our hometown into private practice and owing more money than either of us had ever seen. The good thing about owing that much money, at least then, was that the bank will bend over backwards to keep you happy. They’re afraid you won’t pay back what you already owe. Ultimately, through 70 hour work weeks, a lot of volunteer work, community smoozing and just plain hard work, we paid the practice loan off in just over 5 years. We had barely earned a living in that time but the practice was ours and we should now start to reap the rewards.
I paraphrase but you know what they say about the universe laughing when you make plans? That’s what happened when we thought all was well after the practice was paid off. I’ve suffered migraines all my life but in the fall of 1991 I had the worst I had ever suffered. Turns out it caused a rare stroke leaving me legally blind. I never practiced again. Perhaps worse for our marriage, I never drove again. My wife hates to drive, it was my escape, I loved it, and I thought I could teach her to love it. Little advice, don’t ever go that route during times of stress! It was about this time my wife was finishing her teaching certification and went to work full time as an educator and I became Mr. Mom. Things worked out well but all in all it was stressful.
Eventually our boys moved away to college and made it clear that due to the local economy, or lack thereof, the drug problems, the isolation they would not be back to live permanently. My brother and parents had already moved away, neither of my wife’s siblings had moved back home after college. It was becoming more and more obvious it was time for us to move on as well. After some intense job searches, we settled in Northern Kentucky, just south of Cincinnati. Not a place I ever thought I would live but I have to admit, I absolutely love it, other than the ever changing weather.
We ended up building a larger home than we needed. After all, what if the kids needed to move back in, what if the parents needed to move in, what if, what if, what if.... As it turned out all the what if’s became realities. Within a month of moving in my father died and my mother became a semi permanent resident in our home. Our oldest son and his wife soon obtained jobs and wanted to move nearer to us. So they temporarily moved in with us until they found something. 4 years and a granddaughter later and they found something. And it broke my heart they were moving out so soon. But it was only a mile away. I could still walk there in under 15 minuets. And besides, they are awesome parents, she’s the perfect little girl, and they’re each secure and comfortable in their careers. (proud much) I suppose it was time, sigh...
About this time my wife was going from one severe infection to another and was eventually diagnosed with rheumatoid arthritis and eventually forced to retire from education and go on a strong biologic and methotrexate to control the rheumatoid. And about the same time, our youngest son, was forced back home. He has had some struggles but he has come a long way and made a great deal of progress. We’re very proud of him. As his mother’s health has deteriorated and I have started my journey with LBD, I’m not sure how we would have survived without him here with us. And during this time we’ve also lost my wife’s father, my mother, my brother, and a host of other family members. Our sons, who once had 11 living grandparents, now have 1.
And finally, we’ve sold the oversized house that became a home and downsized to what we believe will be our final hurrah. We love our little condo. It just came about a little sooner than we had anticipated.
I’ve been reflecting on these events for the past several days, again for no apparent reason, when I’m casually going through Pinterest boards and I find the poster I’ve attached to this post. It just wowed me. It summed up my feelings to a tee. And if at all possible, I want it inscribed on my headstone. And it’s the true cause you’ve been inflicted with my thoughts.
Take care and treasure those around you.