Before It All Changed

When we are young and carefree, it’s hard to imagine how life can turn, change and suddenly be something unimaginable.  We all have ideas, or scenarios when we are young, how our life will play out. Those wild unimaginable scenarios don’t ever cross our mind.  I planned, when I was young, to grow up, get married have a family. I didn’t plan on a child with Autism.   I have a friend whose husband is a quadriplegic, due to an accident, and know that wasn’t anything they planned for.

Just recently my friend was sharing some old photos, many of her husband, and it struck me, that at the time of those photos, they were living life, young and carefree, before it all changed.  Right until the moment of his accident,  and maybe in those first moments after, I would bet, they never thought  their life would be anything other than what they planned.

Like a game of pool, you line up the shot, 8 ball corner pocket,  you set your sights, pull back the cue stick,  take your best shot.  Everything is perfect, until that  8 ball hits slightly to the left of the pocket, ricochet’s  off and lands somewhere you didn’t plan.  You know you are still in the game, but the game is different now.  How do you go from being a young couple with a son, with nothing but the typical life issues, to a young couple with a son and now quadriplegic?  Talk about a major life changing event!  Everything in your world changes from that moment.  Your life, the family’s life, your dreams and what used to be your normal.  All changed.

Now there is a new world to learn, one that has immense challenges.  The basic act of getting dressed, eating sleeping, bathing, all those things taken for granted just moments ago, before it all changed. It’s not fair, or easy or anything you would wish on anyone, but it is now your world.   So what do you do?  You do what needs to be done, you learn all about your new world and move on.

It takes great strength and commitment to face these challenges and not give up.  Not give up on yourself or the person now in a wheelchair.  To stand united in this new challenge and continue to be happy.   I see pictures of  my friend before it changed, the smiles the happy times, the love that is there. I see pictures now of my friend, and see that same smile and love that is still there.  I can guarantee it’s been a struggle for all of them, but it says a lot to me that they have faced this challenge and haven’t given up.

Life can be a challenge, and all the plans we make can change in an instant.  No one plans for a catastrophic life changing event, it is too unimaginable.  To do so, would make for a rather negative existence.  Like most people, we go along, making our plans thinking all will be fine.  For those that have had life challenges,  whether they be physical or not, it can be so easy to fall into “what could have been, or should have been ” before it all changed.  I admire your strength to move forward.

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Sweet Lorraine

In a suburb of Detroit, on a street named Lorraine, a young couple bought a brand new home;  3 bedroom, 1 1/2 bath, full basement, large yard.   With their daughter and son, they moved in and started their daily life.  Nothing unusual about that, People do it all the time.  Happens every day to millions across the country. Every day someone moves to a new house, starts a new life.     That’s the thing, people do it all the time. The year was  1958.

Like any home, I imagine there were trials and tribulations within.  Young kids become teens, have their own ideas and their own dreams, soon become young adults.  As a parent, we raise our children to be good, honest, hardworking citizens, knowing that one day, they will fly from that nest on their own.  When they do venture out, that home is the connection, the comfort zone, the familiar.

Life changes and we move on, leaving one place for another.  Seeking either a new adventure, more space or less space.  Leaving the nest for the first time for some or downsizing for others.  That place we call home can have great meaning to us or be nothing more than a structure to live in.  Lorraine was a home,  a gathering place for family and friends, a constant.   So constant, that the couple lived nowhere else- ever.

The couple was my mother and father in law.  I joined the family in 1993, and was welcomed warmly from the beginning.  The first time we met, I was greeted with a hug  on the front porch of Lorraine. At the end of each visit  they would stand on that porch and wave goodbye as we left.  Every time, without fail, a constant.

Funny how some things NEVER change. Like the decor in that house.  In 20 years, and certainly before I showed up, it remained the same.  The same wallpaper in the kitchen, in the bath. The same perpetual christmas decor in the basement. A constant.

It’s hard when things change.  We lost my father in law in 2009 and mother in law in August of this year.   Years earlier, my mother in law had mentioned she kept money in different places. She wasn’t kidding. We found change and money nearly everywhere.  As we went through the house, it was not surprising to see all that was there.  I smiled  at the box that held  the wedding shower cards-from moms wedding in 1944. The various coin purses- filled with coins, in several drawers.  But the biggest smile for me was finding miniature candy bars and candies in nearly every coat pocket in the hall closet.  I never knew.

As we sat at the kitchen table that one last time,  I listened as the hall clock chimed, as the floor boards had that squeak when you walked down the hallway, how I could hear the others in the basement start a new game of pool.  Those familiar sounds, so constant throughout the years, that I will miss.

The contents of the house will be sold soon.  Gone will be the knick knacks, the dishes, the treasures that were their life.  Soon after, the house itself will be sold.  Gone will be the constant, the home the family knew.  The house is just a place, the home will live in our hearts forever, as will the sight of the two of them standing on the porch waving  as we pull away.

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Decisions

How do you know when your decision is right?  Change can be scary and making the wrong decision can have unintended consequences. So how do you know?

Some things are easy, like getting a haircut.  Oh wait, as I have recently lamented, haircuts are scary and can definitely have adverse repercussions.   What if it’s too short?  What if it is cut so oddly that it takes months to grow back to some semblance of normal? People will stare, will shake their head, will laugh.   Best to stick with the long hair, straight, no chance of mistake hair.

School is easy.  Oh wait, maybe not.  What if it takes 6 years to get that degree? I shall be older then.  Not that I wont be older anyway, in 6 years.   What if I flunk out?  What if I don’t like it?  People will stare, will shake their head, will laugh.  Best to stick with what I know.

Work must be easy then.  Oh wait, maybe not.  I have to spend at least 8 hours A DAY there, sometimes more! I have to be on time, pay attention and do my best.  People will stare, will shake their head, will laugh.

Vacation!  That’s it, the easy one.  Oh wait, maybe not.  I have to have money, a plan, maybe even someone to go with me.  People will stare , will shake their head, will laugh.

Life, it’s not easy.  There are choices to make,  consequences to consider.  People WILL stare, WILL shake their head, WILL laugh.  But in the end, the choices we make are OURS. Not theirs.   They can stare, as you accomplish that goal, shake their head- in agreement- as you explain your latest plan. Laugh -with you- at your funny stories.

Don’t be afraid of change.  As scary as it might be, as hard as it might be, it makes us who we are.