Gratitude Week, Day 5: Family

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November 22, 2018, Prescott-

There is no more important institution in this world than family.  I  have spent time, this year, with people who cherish their families and those who despise their families.  Counting myself among the former, I enjoyed communication with one of my siblings, and left messages for my mother and two other siblings. Son and daughter-in-law are on for tomorrow, by Messenger phone.

My family also includes those close to me here. In late morning, I went with one of my better friends to an early holiday meal. A young couple included me in their noon Thanksgiving gathering, so five of us enjoyed a perfect, complete traditional dinner, in the couple’s comfortable home in Dewey, a twenty-minute drive from Prescott. The meal had a British, rather Celtic, touch to it, having been largely prepared by a delightful young lady form England, who is a co-worker of the husband.  I ate with relish, but in moderation, knowing there was another gathering in store for me, later on. After a wide-ranging, two-hour conversation, following the meal, I headed home for a brief rest.

Towards evening, I headed out again, for yet another perfect gathering, at the forest home of another of my best friends.  The family, whom I have known for five years, was joined this year by my friend’s older daughter and her bright, engaging 2-year-old grandson. It’s always a sublime pleasure to watch a child experiencing things which we may regard as commonplace, for the first time, and with great enthusiasm.  He had great joy showing me each of his toy vehicles and telling what they were.  His other pleasure was in helping decorate his grandmother’s Christmas tree.  My friend pulls out all the stops in her holiday meal, with plenty of help from her two daughters and a sister.  After the meal, we all watched “The Greatest Showman”, which reminded me of the very basic commitment that is family and how easy it is to lose track of what matters.

I have had my variation on the dilemma faced by P.T. Barnum- Does career matter so much that family becomes trivial?  My choice was similar to his; when career threatened my marriage, I pulled back from work.  When Penny’s health declined, work became nearly irrelevant, much to the consternation of my superiors and their politician-benefactors.  Like Barnum, I bounced back and survived.

In the long term, my son is doing well, as are my siblings.  Mother is holding her own.  I am in a good place, in terms of work and in terms of friends.  The bedrock, though, is in how I was raised and in the importance I have given to those closest to me.  That will only get stronger, as time goes on.

Sixty-Six, for Sixty Six, Part LXIII: My Dream Pack

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September 18, 2017, Prescott-

A writer whom I recently began to follow has written, of late, about the concept of the Dream Pack- essentially, a way of life, place, group of close people which, collectively help each being realize the fullness of his/her particular dream.

The outpouring of love I have felt today, in person and online, brings me to reiterate what I have said on occasion, in the past.  People have come, gone and, in a few instances, returned.  I have found places, near and far, which bring me inspiration, for a time, and while some have lost their allure- others have drawn me close.  My way of life remains pretty much the same, though the accent, of late, has been on service, rather than a trail-side regimen.

My Dreampack , then, is large and varied:  My son, in Korea, is a phone call and an ocean away.  My siblings are a mere continent apart from me.  I have a nephew, in Los Angeles, who is a full schedule, or two, distant.  Mother is East Coast-bound, but will get a letter a week from me, and will respond, when she can, with reassurance that she is just fine, and inspirational comments.  My solid network of friends, in the Prescott area, and across Arizona, make it certain that, if I feel lonesome, it’s my own doing.  The same is true, all over North America.  I am never far, when in my car, from someone who at least has time for a cup of “joe”, or tea, or Jamba Juice.

There is a teen boy, who I am sponsoring, across the Pacific.  Someday, I will visit him.   My Dream Pack is large and varied, and includes kindred souls in the Philippines, South Korea, Australia, India, Zimbabwe, South Africa, Tanzania, Iran, Russia, Romania, Italy, Spain, Germany, Luxembourg, Belgium, Netherlands, Scotland and beloved France.  Yes, that’s a lot of turf, for one who lives on a shoestring, but since when has that been an impediment?

My Dream Pack has been a series of Chinese boxes, opening up to yet another, and a series of amazements, (yes, I just made up a word), which will continue.  The Universe is endless in its provision of many kinds of wealth.

Time Was…

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September 8, 2017, Prescott-

Time was, when my friends mostly had blond hair, blue eyes and family names like Smith, Wolfe, Doyle, Burnham, Stocker, Hansen, Murphy, Hines. Italians and Greeks moved in, and my new friends had brown hair and eyes, and their families were the Belmontes, Chassis, Chrisoses, Serinos, Spinellis, Geotises and Statutos.

I still dearly love people who need sunblock, when outdoors, whose ethnic legends are based on the tales of the ancient Germans, Anglo-Saxons, Vikings, Celts, Romans, Greeks and Slavs.  It hardly bothers me, that their politics are often rooted in survival and preservation.  They will adapt, survive and grow.  They are ever my siblings.

Time came, when my young adult self met people whose first names were Lutrell, Antonio, Luis, Angel, Devar, Wadous and Jesus.  Their skin was different, but otherwise, they were not.  I was, for the first time in my life, the one who had to win people’s trust.

I have come to dearly love people who relish collards and hamhocks, posole, menudo, hip hop, rhythm and blues, Salsa and mambo.  It started with Dr. King, who grew in my little white boy consciousness and became a source of pain in my  heart, when he was taken from us.  It has continued with some of the most essential people in my life, and some of them are in this nation, without papers.  They are ever my siblings.

Time moved on, and there came people whose mannerisms, dress, world view were entirely different from all who had come into this one’s life, beforehand.  They had names like Thanh, Ty Lanh, Jin-ho, Sook-ja, Tadies, Suhayl, Sohrab, Amal, Javidukt and Mohammad. Some had almond-shaped eyes, which protected them from the incessant blowing dust.  Others had tight curly hair, which guarded their scalp, from the blazing sun.  Still others wore turbans or kaftas, which served the same purpose.

I saw their presence in my life as a capstone, as a completion of my introduction to the full range of humanity.  They are ever my siblings.

Time was, when people my age were consumed with the Red Sox and the Bruins; when gathering around an 12″ television was a major weekend experience; when family trips to Cape Cod, Kingston State Park or Lynn Beach were de rigeur; when my hair length vacillated between “moddish” shoulder-length and buzz cut brevity.  Our battles were fought in VietNam, and on the streets of American cities.  They are ever my siblings.

Time came, when the next generations were consumed with making money; when our vinyl records were replaced by 8-Track tapes, then by compact discs, then by i-Pods. Birthday parties became occasions for gifting guests, as well as honorees.  My hair was like something out of the Middle Ages, then thin, then thinner. The battles of these generations shifted, to the Balkan Peninsula, to Mesoamerica, to collapsing buildings in New York and Arlington, to Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya.  Equality of colour and gender was seen as largely won.   The right to sexual identity became the cause of the age.  They are ever my younger siblings, my children and, most recently, my grandchildren.

It is a comfort, this inclusion.  I am guarded from those who shut me out, because of all who open the doors of their hearts.

Time is, a most encouraging and gratifying, state of being.