One Long Year, Maybe a Better One Coming?

My family
My family

2013 was a pretty powerful year.

I say that not simply because it was filled with amazing things. It was filled with a lot of terrible things as well. It was powerful in the emotional land mines that we seemed to step on throughout the year as well.

I’ll give you the lows first:

We lost a lot of people this year as a family. Some we expected. Most we did not. It started with my Grandmother, Lanone. She was a major force in my life, but at 92 had a full life. When I spoke with her, having lost her husband last year, she told me she knew I understood how she felt and that was both comforting and difficult to hear.  I spent every day as a kid going to her house for lunch.  It was far better than the school cafeteria (except during lent…when she made Tuna Helper.  Ugh.)  I got to have time every single day, both with my older brother, then alone, with my grandparents.  It was, in hindsight, an amazing thing to have happen.  My own kids don’t get that, though they have their own amazing experiences they get to have with my parents.
This was followed first by losing Andrea’s father, who was totally unexpected.  He was seemingly healthy and the man taking care of Andrea’s mother, who’d developed a degenerative brain disorder that had her losing herself each day.  He was diagnosed with cancer after months of calling the doctor and being told he “just had allergies.”  Those allergies were his lungs getting choked by tumors and they hadn’t done the MRI or other tests to make sure he was suffering like he’d said.  Had they realized he wouldn’t go to the doctor or complain unless he was really sick they might have saved him.  Still, it didn’t happen that way.  He was ill and when they finally found out what was wrong he was terminal.  He died about a month later. Then came Andrea’s mother, whose disorder was hard on both her and her remaining daughter.  The kids simultaneously loved seeing her and had to take time to recover after.  Andrea’s Mom had watched the kids after school when we first moved out West.  While that babysitting arrangement didn’t work out well and wasn’t the amazing experience I had with my own grandparents, it still created great memories for my kids.  That’s what really matters and they were around their daughter before she passed away.  The degenerative brain disorder took her just a few months later.

We lost my great aunt Colleen Miles, just last week.  Her family runs my hometown newspaper. Journalism in the blood, you might say.

The hardest was George Marshall. George was a dear friend and a drummer in our band. He was healthy, in great shape, quiet, and one of my brother’s dearest friends. It hit me hard, hit my brother harder. To lose someone so close, again, was just a lot to bear.  I told George’s story a week or so ago, so I won’t recount it again, but it’s hard to know music will be made but it won’t be on his backbone.

Five really close people gone, and five people my little ones had to contend with losing as well.

2013-08-10 14.58.31-1But there were highs, too.  This year was filled with adventure.  We saw giant sequoias.  Climbed them, too, and took pictures.

At the Sundial Bridge
At the Sundial Bridge

We stood on a Calatrava bridge.  My kids fed birds in an eco-sacturary.

2013-06-15 23.07.38I dressed up and went to an awards ceremony for work.

On a family event - feeding parrots
On a family event – feeding parrots

We went to a state fair in a different state.  We took my oldest to college.  I wrote music, recorded demos, played guitar and watched my middle daughter become an amazing singer-songwriter in her own right.  My sons have become great artists for their age.

The prize winners!
The prize winners!

We’ve grown up.  Three years ago this kind of year would have paralyzed us, I’m sure of that.  Today, though, we’re standing tall.  This was, I must say, a test of our mettle.  This was the sweeping wash of grief and change that could have been disastrous.  They could have seen their sister going to college as another woman leaving their daily lives but instead rejoiced in her phone calls and visits home.

It’s been a long year, 2013, and I won’t be unhappy to see it in the rear view from here on.  But the next year, whatever it throws at us, may not be as difficult.

Why?

Because we made it through this one, and I have to say, there have been some amazing things.

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