Rod and I have just returned from a holiday reunion with my family at Mohonk Mountain House in the foothills of the Catskills. For three days we immersed ourselves in activities such as skating and hiking along with my siblings and their children. The greatest treat however, was sitting down to delicious meals prepared by someone else. After three days I crave nothing.
One evening my family gathered in a television room reserved for us, (there are only 3 TVs at Mohonk), and watched videos from years ago when my siblings' children were youngsters. My father who has been deceased for over twenty years made several appearances throughout the films. The emotions that struck while reliving the past surprised me. Frankly, I didn't recognize him; light and engaging with his grandchildren. Even his voice sounded like a stranger to me. He was more handsome than I remember, tan and square in the jaw suggesting strength and confidence. My mind searched for signs of the Dad that raised me at arm's length while devoting most of his energy to a long career so that he could afford four private college educations. The Dad who became my partner in horse ownership when I turned 16 and the Dad who instilled the value of saving money for emergencies and "stuff" that will last was difficult to locate in the character on screen.
Since watching the videos I have reflected on my reactions and have come to some powerful conclusions in the process. The opportunity to spend three days together as a family definitely falls into the category of quality. Perhaps it even dabbles as an emergency since ever-changing lives of so many busy people make it difficult to schedule a yearly reunion. My father's pride in his three generations spending time together radiated from us all. Finally, although the adult versions of those children in the videos were present in the room watching along with me, I still felt a pang of loss. Childhood is too short. I hope they were able to recognize a glimpse of who they were and where they came from while revisiting a time when life was carefree, innocent and under the supervision of adults.
As 2014 comes to an end, I scan the recent past before squinting my eyes into the future. Losses this year included our 9 year old goat Lilly in early October. On a Friday afternoon Rod met me at the car as I arrived home from school.
"Lilly is not good," he informed.
I found her lying down; her whole body quaking with pain.
"There is something inside her that shouldn't be there and I can't fix it," Dr. Jennifer Nightingale declared with sad honesty after a thorough examination.
Lilly's presence in the barn is missed by all who lent a hand to scratch the top of her head or provided a leg where she could rub her itchy spots.
Two weeks later, Rosemary, our 21 year old iguana was diagnosed with a mass in her lower abdomen. This news, although devastating, did allow me to spend eight more weeks caring for her at home. Not once did she appear to be suffering from intense pain. Her stoic attitude and willingness to eat if hand fed remained consistent until just before Christmas. On a day of unseasonably reptile-loving weather Rosemary and I returned to the vet clinic to bring closure to a long life. She was buried in the corner of our backyard where she had spent many a summer day basking in the sunshine. RIP sweet girls.
In May my family lost David Lane, the lovely gentleman who recaptured my mother's interest in living after the death of my father. She and David were married in 2001 and spent their time together traveling the world. David graciously visited the Adirondacks with my mother every summer. I am grateful for that and his devotion to her over the past 15 years.
With that said I punctuate the end of 2014. It is now free to drift off behind me while wispy memories remain to savor and soothe grief. Into a future full of promise and hope I now step. With age and wisdom I am learning not to fret too far ahead. Instead, I must keep my vision focused on where I am at the moment and soak up the simplicity of just being....right now. Peace to all in the New Year!
My first horse, Promise, Dad and me.
Lilly, (right), and her brother Liam were orphaned babies in 2005.
She loved to scratch her head on humans.
Lilly was always ready for her close-up.
My niece Meg, (a junior at Gettysburg College now), was one of Rosemary's best friends.
Yes, a reptile can lie in the sun for a few therapeutic minutes in the winter.
David and Bobbie Lane.