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If you’re standing still, you’re going backwards


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I said to my Sweet Al, “Let’s talk about memories. I don’t know why I’m so sad. I’m missing our children and they haven’t gone anywhere. I’m sorry I’ve been so clingy lately.”

“I love it. Cling all you want.” Al was busy working on the washing machine. He stopped what he was doing just to listen to me. He has learned to take time to stop and listen. He knows the value of family and relationships. I never learned to take time. I’ve been too busy with another project. So, when I asked Al just to sit and talk to me, he jumped at the chance. I’ve got some things to learn about what really is important.

I’ve been sick for the second time this year. It’s that virus again. I’m too weak to do anything, so I’ve had lots of time to think. I went to the clinic to get more pills. They were excited to see me; they made me glad to be sick. I said to my kids, “They were so sweet at the clinic, I could just get sick so I’d have a good excuse to see everyone at the clinic again.”

We watched a movie the other night. The kids loved it. I said, “I’m so sensitive to everything. I’ve prayed for a sensitive heart. It’s not what it’s cracked up to be. I’ve been so sad over everything. Everything hurts my heart.”

Allison said, “Mother, you’ve got to get out of this. This isn’t like you. We like you the other way. ”

I don’t feel like tackling a new project, so I’m aimlessly circling the house and thinking of all the old family times we had. Now, I’m sad because everyone has grown up. They won’t ever be young again.

I thought I’d get some sympathy, so I asked my daughter if she was going through the empty nest syndrome.

She said, “I’m too busy to think about it. I’m looking forward to what they will accomplish. I’m ready to take my life back and find me again. Anyway, the kids aren’t that far away; we can stay in touch.”

“But, weren’t they so cute when they were young. I remember the popular bowl haircut on Creede.”

“Mother, we are in touch with our kids. We will all be going to all the football games for CSU Pueblo. We will be wearing red and blue instead of black and gold. And, yes, of course, you and Daddy will be going with us.”

“Oh, thank you, thank you. I can’t bear to be left behind.”

“No one is going to leave you behind.”

I knew this year was going to be about change. I never thought too much about it, because I’m always looking for the next project or the next adventure. Lately, I’ve had too much time on my hands and I’m driving my family crazy. I’ve pulled the sick card long enough. They’re getting wise to it.

I learned some things. When your life is full and productive, you don’t have time to sit around and talk about old times. When you’re busy, you’re making memories. When you’re sitting around, then you are thinking about memories and all those old days.

When you’re not busy living life, you’re thinking about all the things that went on years ago. I can understand why older people stay in their memories. They have quit living life on the same scale as they used to. There is a painful comfort with those memories. I went through two weeks of feeling sorry for everyone and everything.

Everyone is sick and tired of me being sick and tired. They aren’t letting me get by with any more memories.

I told my daughter, “I’ve lost my funny side, I might never write funny again.”

“Come on, Mother, I’m sure you will have plenty to say once you feel well again. Snap out of it. Why don’t you come over and redecorate my house?”

I learned some fascinating things. When I am thinking on all those memories, I am thinking of family. Family is the most important thing on my mind when I’m not feeling good. All I wanted to think about is when my children were small and the fun things we did as a family. I remembered when our four kids would get off the bus on the top of the Lower Blanco and they would tumble all the way down that hill. Or those days in the summer when they would swim in the swimming hole they built in the river and drag themselves home, sunburned and tired.

I thought about My Sweet Al and me sitting on the back porch of the round house. Midmorning, he’d call, “It’s break time. I’ll meet you on the back porch for ice tea.”

At the moment, Al is now working hard in the hot sun, pulling up old lumber from the porch. I should stop and take a glass of ice tea to him and make another memory. But, I need to get this article done. Maybe he’ll stop and come in and get a glass of water. You see, I’m back to the old me. My family said they liked the old me.

I’ve learned people who are in those melancholy places, they can’t help themselves. Give them space and respect, but not too much space. And don’t let them stay there longer than necessary.

Final brushstroke: I haven’t once thought about all I had accomplished or all the art projects, which I thought were so very important. The funny thing about it, for me, memories have nothing to do with accomplishments. I think memories are touching the soft places in our lives when we experienced our children and the people who mean the most to us. We need to take time for the people we love. We better be nice to them. When we’re down, we desperately need them around us.

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This story was posted on June 26, 2014.