This was perhaps one of the fastest moving years in my life. I can’t quite explain why I feel that way, but I think it may have something to do with the fact that my husband and I spent the first five months driving back and forth from his father’s home while his father’s wife was growing weaker and weaker from her congestive heart failure. It was quite sad to watch two formerly vibrant people slowly fade while we also lost other family members and friends. Our plans to finally travel without restrictions were cancelled one by one as we realized that for the time being our duty was to care for the older members of our family.
In late May my father-in-law’s wife died on the same day that he was being rushed into emergency surgery to save his own life. He made it through that ordeal but was so frail that he recovered quite slowly and then contracted Covid which compounded his health woes when he ended up on a ventilator. As he worked hard to reclaim his health in a rehabilitation facility we divided our time between fitting our home with equipment to facilitate my father-in-law’s needs and visiting him at the rehab center in an attempt to keep his spirit positive. Days, then weeks, were a blur when we finally looked at a calendar and saw that it was already the middle of July.
Then came the transition for my father-in-law into a new lifestyle that involved bringing him to live in our home. It’s been an adjustment for us all with ups and downs and moments when life felt so very different and each of us struggled to define our new roles. Instead of our usual vacations my husband and I worked hard to create a routine that worked for three adults all of whom have distinct ideas about how life should be approached. Our focus on adapting that took us beyond September and well into the last months of the year.
My father-in-law will be ninety four when April rolls around. He is a sweet man with a decidedly hard headed streak that is accepted by my incredibly flexible husband, but sometimes creates friction with my own bull headed insistence on being a very independent woman. He is from the old school where gentlemen opened doors for women and men took care of all decisions. I suspect that my boldness irritated him in the beginning, but at the age of seventy four I was not about to become meek and mild. Happily we have both finally managed to understand each other a bit more and accept the way we are without too much judgement. At least we have learned how to keep quiet about our differences and just let each other be who we are.
Leaving the house to teach my students three days a week has helped me to cope with my new reality much as school has always been my refuge from difficulties since I was a child. I am certain that it was also a good relief for my father-in-law that allowed him to be with his son without my constant presence. The two of them bonded over watching sporting events and making trips to check on my father-in-law’s home. September, October and November flew by and as those weeks passed my husband and I even managed to feel comfortable enough to leave his father for a few days to go camping in our trailer. Our three day sojourn alone revitalized us.
Twenty twenty two has been a year marked by the deaths of far too many people that we loved and illnesses of family members that have been frightening. Somehow all of it points to the fragility of life and the fact that each of us has a very limited time on this earth. I suppose that it has made me enjoy each moment more fully than I might otherwise have done. I’m finding that it takes very little to bring me great joy these days. Just being with people that I love is really all that I seem to need.
As we head toward a new year I am thinking less about resolutions and more about just taking the time to appreciate the life that I have. I have learned in the days and months from 2020 until today just how incredibly fragile life is. I have said goodbye to far too many people who were so important to me to waste time quibbling over much of anything. I don’t get upset as much as I used to do. I have truly learned how to live in the moment and not worry so much about the future which may or may not pan out the way I have so often attempted to force it to do. I’m just happy with the mundane and if something exciting happens in the meantime it’s like a cherry on top of my good life.
Some of my high school friends are planning a cruise in the spring. Aside from the fact that nothing seems to quell my seasickness even on calm waters, I am not quite ready to make plans that do not take my father-in-law and his needs into account. I suspect that we have to be careful about scheduling extended time away from him for now and that is actually okay with me. I’ve come to prefer our quiet days and the slow and gentle routine of our lives. This is quite different for me. I am generally a ball of energy ready to go, go, go. It feels good to be able to change, to become an old dog learning new tricks. It’s also nice to make a small sacrifice to insure that my father-in-law is safe and loved.
If I had one wish for the new year it would be for each of us to learn how to better understand and accept our differences, something I have had to do quite often during the past twelve months. It’s not always easy to compromise, but it’s a skill we should all learn how to better develop. The constant pull and tug and hatefulness that has defined politics and religion and philosophies of late has been brutal. Perhaps it’s time to call a truce and learn like my father-in-law and I have that we have the power to get along if we care enough about each other to embrace our diverse needs. If it can work with two stubborn souls like us, surely it can work for the world.