Friday, July 31, 2009

What Happened to the Month of July?

Today as I sit quietly and watch the hours go by my mind races through the memories created during my lifetime. Prior to age ten my memories are of events that occurred but without the emotion of the moment. I actually remember events dating back to toddler age. I just don't have a sense of how I felt about it, what it meant at the time.
In February of 1960 my parents moved to Texas where my dad had a new job and my mom could be near her relatives. Moving was really no big deal, we did it all the time! We lived in a small town of about 25,000 people and I could not begin to list the locations. No matter where we moved my friends were still within walking distance. Those were days when parents did not live in fear that their child would be abducted and never seen again.
This move was different, my friends were going to be out of my life forever. I remember sitting in the back seat of our 1953 Buick as we backed out of the driveway, leaving behind my home, friends, and most importantly, my dog. My dog was black, long fur, a mix chow and who knows what. We called him Cinders because of his color. Cinders would be the first real emotional trauma I would face. He went everywhere with me. He would follow me to school and wait beside my bicycle for my return.
My dad gave Cinders away, he said, to someone I did not know. My heart was broken to hear that Cinders had run away and found his way back to our old house. Neighbors said he would wait outside the back door, sometimes whimpering, sometimes barking. They said he would not leave and that he most likely would starve to death. Fifty years later I can still feel the emotion I felt at leaving behind my first pet, a dog that loved me unconditionally. A dog that, no doubt, did not understand where I had gone.
One of life's lessons. You can't always have what you want, even if it would be the right thing to do. I have to admit that event opened the gate to a lifetime of memories, some similar, some far more painful, and some that bring joy to my heart and have the power to lift me up when I am weighted down with life's trials.
During my youth an hour was a very long time, not to mention a whole day! You just never wanted to hear the phrase "Wait until tomorrow". Summer was long and fun, there were so many things to do. Of all the things a kid could do, baseball was always my favorite. When I was twelve years old I played for a Little League team. Our uniforms were all cotton and very hot during the humid summers in south Texas. Usually there were two games played twice per week. One day you had the early game, the next the late game. Start time was probably 5:30 PM or so, I really don't remember anymore. I do remember putting on my uniform, I loved to wear it, and walking to the ballpark a couple of hours early. I would sit in the old covered stands, most of the time in the announcers booth. There was something about the smell of the air and hearing the announcer say "And now batting for the Tigers, number 12, Roy Gunn". I suppose those experiences are what make movies like "Sandlot" so dear to me. I have a chance to feel like a kid again.
It seems that those precious days of youth were so fleeting, and we were so clueless, we did not even notice just how short an hour or a day really was. If you knew what the rest of life would be like, you would stop and savor the moment.
The journey through adulthood is like a roller-coaster ride. Filled with highs and lows, seldom just maintaining the status-quo. As we become our parents we realize just how many difficult, often unpopular decisions have to be made. Most people are not living their dream but somehow trying to make their dream fit the life they live. I wonder what my father's dream was. I don't remember ever hearing my parents talk about retirement, how they eventually wanted to live out their days. I do know that we lived payday to payday, with five brothers and sisters and my maternal grandmother living with us, my dad did not have the income to do much.
Growing up in a home with so many mouths to feed and so many wants and needs to satisfy I, unknowingly, developed my strategy for the rest of my life. Just after graduation from high school my parents moved back to my former hometown, without me. I was ready to begin my life, to experience the freedom from adult supervision and accountability. Looking back, my education began right there.
Two years earlier I met a young lady at the skating rink on a Friday night. Actually it was her 15th birthday and my neighbor, a girl we both knew, introduced us. If we could see into the future, what decisions would we make, or change? At the time I had no idea that this beautiful young lady would be my eternal companion. We, like young people of that day, committed to each other in the customary way. I gave her my initial ring. Three months later she gave it back and we both went our separate ways. Each leading to some very important experiences that would prepare us for the time we would meet again, seven years later.
Today my most vivid memories are of our marriage, the birth of our children, and discovering how deeply I love and cherish my family. We gravitate toward that which brings us comfort, makes us feel loved, needed and maybe even appreciated for who we are. Sometimes it takes a very long time to fully realize the importance of those blessings. I suppose some people may never come to that point in their life.
Time becomes the enemy once more, not because an hour or a day is so long to wait but because they pass so quickly. Stopping to smell the roses becomes impossible as you are riding an escalator that pushes you faster and faster through the remainder of your life. Children grow up, leave home, marry and have children. Being a parent is a wonderful blessing, being a grandparent is the opportunity to see how you did as a parent. Our children learn how to parent from us. They draw on their own experiences.
Where did July go? For three days all of my children and grandchildren were here at home, something that almost never happens anymore. Kellie, Nathan and their three left yesterday to return to Cleveland, Ohio and resume lifes journey. Nathan begins his second year of dental school. From where I sit today, I would tell my children and anyone else that would listen, life does not begin once you finish school, or exit the military, it is everything you do today and tomorrow and the next day. July has just 31 days and only comes once in a year, make the most of that time and there will never be any regrets.

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