Friday, July 15, 2011

Appreciate "Now".

This is how my life looks lately.

Between work, looking after two widows, photography schooling, and teaching motorcycle classes my life is a blur. There are more candles burning that I have fuel to feed. At the end of the day I'm pretty much like this.

It's easy to become unbalanced. One of the things that helps us justify it is a familiar thing we tell ourselves. "I'll do this other thing 'later'". I had an experience the other day that brought me up short. It can be short-sighted to live for today. On the other hand, it's very important to realize that we have "now" while we're breathing, but there's no certainty about "later". I'm making some changes and adjusting my priorities. It's time to regain the balance.

I took most of a day recently and spent it with Grandma. We did errands and I introduced her to the joys of Starbucks. At 91 years old she's a bit set in her ways. However, in honor of the the special day she ordered something "fancy". Which turned out to be hot chocolate, but what the heck?

This isn't about what we did that day per se. It's about the end of the day. We'd been to the cemetery and put some new flowers on Gramp's headstone. Which is also meant to be hers. More on that in a bit. It was during this time that I took a photo that was really poignant for me. Afterwards Grandma wanted a bite to eat. Happened to be at a tiny little place that we'd been by a hundred times but never stopped at.

Prices are very reasonable. Quite so, in fact, considering the large portions. The woman who owns the place takes orders and serves. There is a cook and a dishwasher. Cash only, no credit or debit cards. Everything is done to keep overhead down. Including skipping upgrades to make the place fancier. Most of the customers seemed to know each other. Some helped themselves to the coffee pot. There is a counter and seven tables. I had some photos but, of all days, I had forgotten the G11. My old Razor phone has about a 2 megapixel camera with no adjustments. The photos are horrible and it's not about the place anyway. I did come back to take these photos to illustrate a point.

You can see the ramp and steps. There is a tight turn at the top. Grandma has only one leg and is in a wheelchair. Her remaining leg and arms aren't strong enough to hold her up with a walker. I got her up there and we found a place to park the wheelchair next to a table. Least I could do, especially after my experience at the cemetery. Here's the photo I took that had such an impact on me. Again, it was bright sunshine and my ancient cell phone camera. Despite the lower quality of the picture the message and impact is loud and clear.

Under the headstone is her husband of forever who passed away seven years ago. On the left, as you can also see below, is the inscription awaiting her date of passing. She'll be joining him under there in what is probably a relatively short time.

This is a photo of a woman facing her own mortality. She very quietly sat there for a long, long, time. I waited and gave her as much time as she wanted. Grandma is 91, like I mentioned. Cancer has cost her many surgeries and ultimately a leg. It's back in her lymph nodes which are rapidly growing in size. There's not much left to be done for her. This is a photo of an old woman who knows every day could be her last. She talks to me about that fairly often. She's well aware of how each additional day is a gift. Seeing her like this was pretty powerful for me.

Yes, she's lived a long life. Not all of us will. Witnessing these moments of a woman to whom I'm very connected put me in a spot where I was nearly the one in her place. Her mortality and mine are one and the same. Neither of us knows for sure when, only the "for sure" part. There was a combination of sadness and refreshment. The moment with her seemed much brighter, like a shiny treasure. It's a gift we can have and hold onto, if only for now.

So you see the point about the restaurant. Yes, it was hard to get her in there now. But that's what we had now. "Later", when they might get around to building a ramp may never come. It was worth the trouble after seeing her enjoy herself.

I spent the next few days making opportunity to tell some people I cared about how much they have meant to me. Some are family and some have become like family. I know it sounds corny in a way. On the other hand, I'd regret dying without having told them. When Grandma takes her final rest I'll not have regrets to add to the sorrow. Once again, whether she meant it or not, she has passed along the wisdom of her years to me in another lesson. I'm just glad this one wasn't accompanied by the thump alongside the head that I experienced so much as a child!

Miles and smiles,



Raftnn said...

A very poignant post, I think some times it is not till we enter middle age, that we come to respect old age.

Taking the time to spend time with our oldermembers of the family is always worth it.

Another great post Dan.


Anonymous said...

Dan: 2011 07 15

Fetterley is Katie's maiden name?
The other widow is your Mum? And your photography scnooling (where?)is paying dividends in your composition! If full time employment ever concludes, your photographic learning will keep you in good stead.

As the disease which knows no boundaries progresses, may your grandmother Fetterley feel no pain and may her passing on her next journey be as easy as possible. Those temaining shall experience the greatest loss and too the realization they too may well be next to pass.

Which is why my prior comment on frequent photographs and inter- family bonding is so important
for now and your future. Oh, and print those images, don't just render them to a computer storage device! That goes for the rest of you bloggers as well!

One of these daya I shall purchase for you a Starbucks coffee and we can sit, relax and enjoy our mutual company.

Goodbye for now. Ride safely.

Geoff James said...

I'm with Roger and his comments - very moving. I had similar experiences with my grandparents who all passed in their 90's. Whilst I mourned their passing, they'd had such full lives that it was hard to feel sorrow.

I think it also reinforces the need to live our own lives to the full.

Thanks so much for posting.

Bucky said...

A work associate's father once told me, "At its longest, life is short."

How very true.

Our youthful feeling of immortality fleets, and there is the realization that the end is coming sooner than we might expect.

Preparation for eternity is vital. There are only two choices to be made today, the better of the two, accepting Jesus as your Savior, will result in unfathomable joy and fulfillment after the grave -- including riding a motorcycle perfectly, I suspect!

Jack Riepe said...

Dear Dan:

Very touching pictures illustrating a compelling post regarding simultaneous priorities. Yet the time comes when you must clear some space for yourself... Even if this impossible at the time.

I hope the circumstances in your personal life lighten up soon.

Fondest regards,
Twisted Roads

BeemerGirl said...

Simply beautiful. Well expressed.


bluekat said...

The photo of Grandma by the headstone is very good. Doesn't matter that it's a photo from your phone. The quality comes from the content and the message, not the pixels. Very poignant. Very moving. That's what photography is supposed to do. A beautiful post as well, Dan. Take care.

david said...

I miss my gran, she was also quite old when she passed away. Happy to the last though :)
And granny and i agreed that hot chocolate was the perfect thing for a coffee shop, it's my official "bike beverage" too!!!
Your gran has excellent taste!

peace irondad :)

Krysta in MKE said...

Very touching & thoughtful.