Friday, August 22, 2014

late summer musings

The stirring is within me again. Perhaps it is the late summer mornings, so similar to fall, yet without the color or enduring chill. They cause me to both look back on the current season and look forward toward that which comes soon. My itch to write, though it has been there all these long months, has lain dormant.  The writing happens in my head and in my heart. Yet, busy schedules, technology troubles, sleepy mornings, lazy evenings, and a certain lack of ability to focus, or "mental spinning" that comes with the parenting of young children, has prevented me from settling down to simply express my thoughts in tranquility.

I wonder of this - how many blog posts will remain forever in my my heart, never to be known by anyone? Perhaps someday I will strike at some of them I have wanted to share. I will reach into the recesses of the deep and share. Share with whom, you ask? This is always an interesting thought.  Who, exactly, am I writing to?  I'm not even sure I quite understand this myself. Many have thanked me for sharing my thoughts publicly, a humbling reflection to be sure. As I am not necessarily writing for the purpose of climbing up on a soap box, it is somewhat embarrassing to then post to social media, or an email group, these thoughts of my inmost being. Yet, I am frequently prompted to by that same inner voice that guides me in the big decisions of life....the voice of the One who knit me together in my mother's womb, and who is also well aware of the purposes for which He made me. I suppose He knows if I am to write and when I am to share.

So back to the "for whom" do I write.  In my own heart, I always hope that my words will provide a light to my children and grandchildren.  Though they may not find help or wisdom in my thoughts just yet, perhaps some year far from now, they will be walking along the same well trodden path as I, not knowing that they are not alone.  Thinking, perhaps, that they are blazing a trail that has never yet been traversed.  Yet, truly, it is only overgrowth that they are cutting back. I, too, have traveled that trail.....and many unknowns before me.

Lately, I have become awakened to a new dimension of my late Grandmother's life. My Grandma Blickenstaff passed away when I was sixteen years old. I had a good stretch of knowing her, and I am grateful for that.  Yet, I knew her as a Grandma......a kind little old lady who was my Grandma. Being born when she was eighty, and having lost her before I had the chance to experience life as an adult, I missed the chance to really know who she was. She was so much more than an old lady. And, it's not that her life wasn't still vibrant and active as such....I just couldn't perceive it.

This summer, I began researching our ancestry.  In the process, I dug into the cardboard box of forgotten old photos, unorganized and dumped in moments of convenience over time. What I discovered as I looked through those pictures was a treasure.  I brought them out at family reunion and was transported back in time as I heard the stories of various people in the photo, told to me by the remnants of that elder generation, the nieces and nephews of my own grandmother.  I learned of her siblings and their stories.  The stories and lives they lived during the time they were my age.  Looking into their faces was like looking into my own.  Time seemed irrelevant.  I heard of their love stories, their losses, their great blessings, and their family. I began to see the beauty of a family with fourteen children that year after year came together to reunite siblings and cousins.  And we still do.  How many years has it been since those early reunions back in North Dakota?  Seventy? Eighty? Ninety? My own grandmother would be one hundred and seventeen years old, were she alive today.  And still, our family comes together each year.....the off spring of a great generation. Will my generation know the importance of this?  Will we continue to gather as family? Do we know each other well enough to care?

I began to see my Grandma B for the woman she was:  I saw a courageous pioneer who went to nursing school in a time when women immediately married and stayed in the home. I saw a woman who loved photography and captured many adventures with friends, traveling, hiking, and seeing the great United States around her. I saw a fashionable socialite, but only in the best sense of the term.  I saw a committed friend. I saw a daring adventurer who moved to the wilds of Alaska to work as a nurse in an orphanage and was the only medical provider in the Eskimo village.  I saw a woman who met the love of her life on this grand adventure, my grandfather. I saw a handsome young couple, who now knowing the type of individuals they were made me respect them all the more. I saw a first time mother who kept three baby books for her first born, who recorded every bite he ate and every trip outside the home  (Is that unlike any first time mom?) I saw their growing family through the years. I saw their dreams, both fulfilled and those set aside. I met a woman who had deep, lasting friendships....and I saw her friend's children.....and I saw them grow up. I saw the great depression and a failing farm....a family who started a nursing home in their own living space to make ends meet. I learned of the heartache of a troubled home life of a mentally challenged first son and the pains his siblings had to endure....something his parents surely never imagined when their sweet baby was born.  I saw the lined faces of stress, anxiety, and premature aging. Yet, lines of laughter and joy were there too, for beneath the mask of the other - the joy and kindness could not be erased, though it may have been silenced for a season. I saw the smiles of vacation, of picnics, of pets, of meals around the table.  I saw laughter.   I met the faces of my grandparents as they gazed at each other with a deep connection that I share with my own husband. I saw love. I saw beauty. I saw LIFE.

And these were all things I stitched together from pictures, from baby books, and from the stories of others. And, so I wonder. Will my words help others to know me? Will they look into my eyes from pictures yet know my heart from my own words?  I would have loved to have heard the heart of my Grandma B. I would have loved her thoughts on life, heard the voice of her struggles.  I would have loved to have heard the result and the lessons she learned along the way, the wisdom gained. When she was alive, I wasn't wise or seasoned enough to have listened and understood, even had she told me the stories in person. I didn't know to ask, nor did I have the maturity to truly hear.

As I gazed into the eyes of my Grandmother, I saw myself. I look a lot like my Grandmother in my adult years.  Now, I am no longer ashamed of that as I was as a youth. Somehow in those early teen years, that comment made me angry. "I don't want to look like my Grandma!" I'd think. Yet, now, it is a badge I wear with pride. To be compared with such a great woman is an honor. I've never once heard someone say anything other than kind things about what an amazing Grandmother I had. I guess, even years past her death, I am getting to know my Grandmother. I am seeing her life in hindsight, knowing the end and the results of things as the face in the picture as of that moment did not know. Their life together, their years, their struggles, their joys, they are but a memory now. The only piece of them that lives on is their legacy, their children, and their pictures and memories.Yet, I am part of this next chapter of the story they began!

These words may sound melancholy. The length of life is but a breath. Yet, it is real and enduring while we live it. And so I go, off to embrace the day, to soak it in! Carpe diem!