Life is an always vibrant and an often intriguing combination of opposites. Within the course of a week we can have moments of great joy, and great sadness. We can suffer a horrible drenching thunderstorm one day, and bask in the most beautiful combination of blue skies and sunshine the next.
As I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to understand that one of the best tools I have for living life is the ability to “go with the flow”. If you’re a rigid sort, or if you’re excessively anal, then life can be a frustrating experience. How much better, to just awaken each day thankful to still be alive, and to say to the cosmos, “here I am, let ‘er rip.”
These past few days have seen occasions of celebration and commemoration for my family. Last Friday my brother Charles and his wife celebrated their 50th wedding anniversary. It doesn’t seem possible, when I look back, that so many years have passed since their marriage began.
I was eleven years old when my big brother betrayed me by marrying Rosemarie. That’s how it felt at the time, of course. He was my hero, and in lieu of our father who’d passed away just three years before, my sister, who didn’t seem to like me much, and my mother, who was either working or too tired from working to pay me much mind, my brother was the most important person in my life.
Not only did he get married, but his wife had sisters, three sisters who adored him! They’d probably always wanted a big brother, and their dream had finally come true. These girls were older than I by only a few years, and not being the kind at that tender age to stand up and stand my ground, I let my anger show in other ways. For a short time, I became a child who acted out.
Over the years, of course, I grew older and I matured, too. Somewhere in my mid twenties, I decided to rebuild my relationship with my brother, and my sister, this time from the perspective of my faith.
My brother’s marriage flourished, and he and Rosemarie had two sons, and now have four grandchildren. Family and friends were present to salute them this past Saturday when we attended a dinner in their honor. 50 years of the usual mixture of happiness and tragedy, of good times and bad, with no thought of “ending it”, simply living and loving and learning to get along.
There are many of us who are involved in long term marriages, but not as many as there used to be. And that, in my mind is a shame. There’s a comfort to be had from enduring together, and growing old together, a comfort not found elsewhere.
And then yesterday, Tuesday, marked the second anniversary of my sister’s passing. It’s hard to believe that two years have gone by, but they have. I think of her life, one lived inwardly, and I feel such sadness that her options were ever so limited. In her “heyday” she lived a little wild—a lot of booze and a lot of men. I learned, only after her passing, that her wild ways started very early. I never knew that, never knew that at the age of eleven or twelve that she would sneak out of the house at night, or steal alcohol from our parents. In 1960 the parental reaction to such behavior was discipline, not therapy. It’s useless to ask the question, of course, but I can’t help but wonder if her life would have been different if today’s responses to certain behaviors existed back then.
In the last twenty years or so of her life, my sister found a comfort and a place, and man who loved her flaws and all. She achieved a measure of happiness, grounded in her routines. She died far too soon, ultimately as a result of years of alcohol and prescription drug abuse.
Two family milestones, at opposite ends of the spectrum, occurred within the space of less than a week. Life is like that—full of ups and downs, good and bad, joy and tragedy.
As for me, I’ve learned to be content within whatever circumstance I find myself. And I try to live each day with not only an attitude of gratitude, but with the resolution that today, I am going to touch someone in a positive way.
That’s my mantra, and it’s one that has brought me peace.