Thursday, December 31, 2015

A Most Challenging Year

Without getting Dickensian about it,  I can say that 2015 was the best and worst of times.  A year filled with teeth gnashing frustration, tears, warm hairs on the back of one's neck, but also generosity, patience, and acknowledgement.  It is a year I'm quite happy to see join its predecessors, but one that will be remembered for some life altering turning points that, while difficult, proved ultimately to be educational and maybe even refining.

The year began with my grandmother's funeral.  It was well handled by the funeral home and cemetery, though I did learn what "ground closing fees" were and how competitors in the industry work their pricing structures.  Momentary cynicism gave way to gratefulness, though.  The service was simple and appropriate, the only sour note being that one of my grandmother's dearest friends - a young woman who visited her often, was unable to attend due to a miscommunication on the date.   I felt awful over this; the woman is as big hearted and caring as they come.  She still visits my mother in her nursing home, sometimes bringing lunch.

Among the attendees at the service was my step-father-in-law, who fewer than four months later would pass away himself.  Pancreatic cancer.  He died five weeks after learning of the diagnosis.  By that time the cancer had metastasized into his liver.  There had been symptoms of fatigue and loss of appetite for months, but who among us would think it was a warning sign to something fatal? It was an unbearably sad day, when I learned this.

Later, my mother in law called us one Saturday morning, crying that her husband was turning blue, slipping away.  We rushed over but by the time we saw David on his Hospice bed in the T.V. room he was already gone.  One of his sons and his girlfriend were there and had seen his final moments.  Soon his other son and his wife joined us.  My wife and I spent the day with my MIL, a sorrowful time but the outpouring of love from all corners was humbling.

Another well handled, very moving funeral commenced.  This one at the Catholic Church he attended and served.  Years earlier he installed their sound system.   For the reception I was asked by one of David's sons to read a heartrending eulogy that he composed as a text one afternoon, on the fly, to my MIL.  We put together a slide show.

The day he learned of his illness, David invited my wife and I over for dinner and asked if we would move in with his wife when the time came.  We agreed in an instant, and as I type we've been there for nearly five months.  The early days were a time of adjustment, to say the least,  not at all easy but other than a few awkward moments the arrangement has worked out well.  I can't imagine what it would be like to remain alone in a house that for twenty five years had been a place shared with your spouse, now a memory.  Every inch a reminder.  I still keep expecting to hear his voice.  We are happy to be there, to help make this transition easier.  I hope we are.

So in August we moved out of our apartment of three years.  Moving is always an emotional thing with me, and even though this place didn't have the same "hold" on me as others I still miss it now.  It had its own appeal.  I shot the above picture during the final days as we sorted and cleaned.   I had mixed feelings, a lot of loneliness. Why? Maybe another closed chapter means we're that much closer.  I always feel like a piece of me remains in all the places I've lived.  Sometimes I wonder about the new tenants, just as I did about past ones.

But hey, we did donate a lot of things.  Made our load lighter.   I composed an entry about the move some months back.  My wife still chats with our former next door neighbors and was told that a new couple moved in.   They said they are not as friendly as we are.

Last but certainly not least, there were changes in my workplace, known ahead of time.  But you never know until the time comes.  Upheaval, I tell ya.  A merger that has also been quite an adjustment. In its wake, several employees who, as you read, were not at the holiday party.  One very long timer decided to retire; her final day was earlier this week.  Her timing is excellent, you have no idea.   I am very happy for her but will miss her terribly, and fear she will merely join all the other ghosts who've passed on, perhaps never to be seen again.

I wish I could go into details about the workplace changes, invisible audience.  Some days this year I felt I was ready to launch out the sixth story window.  At present, things have stabilized, to some degree, but there are new bombshells every other week or so.  We look hopefully to 2016.

Yes, we do.
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