Thursday, April 17, 2008

Life and Times

A week or so ago I got a long email from my cousin, Mike. Mike is a couple of years younger than me and although he was "pesky" when we were both very young and those two years mattered much more than they do now, by the time we were teenagers I had developed a real fondness for him. I don't know if he felt the same way or not - I'll have to ask him sometime. But that fondness has only grown as adults.

Many years ago, Mike stopped in Hutchinson on his way to meet his future in-laws out west. He and his wife to be were both in the military and she was still abroad as I recall, so Mike was going to meet them without her.

Mike retired from the army a year or two ago and is now working with the Las Vegas Police Department. He and his wife settled there because it was the only place on which they could agree.

It was so very good to hear from Mike. He talked a bit about how life changes and how the decisions we make can have such impact on us. Of course, he traveled to many places because of his position in the Army that he might not otherwise have gone. And, naturally, he talked about family - those that are gone and those that are still with us.

I found myself doing the same when I responded to him.

Yesterday my nephew, Johnny, called and we talked for over an hour. At some point we were talking about something and I joked that he'd known me for 46 years (my age) and I'd been talking for 44 of them, so he ought to be used to it by now. He paused for a moment and said, "Sometimes I just cannot believe we are as old as we are. I think about it and I just cannot believe I'm almost 49 years old and you're 46. I just can't believe it." I could hear the wonder in his voice and I know exactly what he means. I feel it every day too.

We talked about how we became the people we are today and how that wasn't something we ever would have imagined when we were kids. I'm planning to visit Morocco within the next year, which seems odd for a girl who grew up in the Kentucky countryside, at the end of Terrell Road when it didn't even have a name. That girl who never traveled as a child grew up with a wanderlust that can only be quenched with far away lands.

Johnny travels all over the country, bidding on multi million dollar jobs that involve all sorts of experts - from carpentry to iron workers to a host of other things - none of which he is an expert in. It's hard to believe this is the same kid who was, like me, always a little uncertain.

Maybe therein lies the answer. I was always uncertain as a kid - uncertain of almost everything. Few things felt stable to me. Fortunately, some of the huge ones felt secure, but lots of things seemed to be constantly shifting. I think maybe that gives a kid a need to build security of their own when they can control it, or it gives them the ability to be comfortable with that shifting.

It seems practically everyone I know is in a reflective mood of one sort or another. I certainly am.

Adulthood gives us the benefit of dealing with each other with enough life experience to know what's important and what's not - at least to some degree. We are able to interact without the intensity of childhood difficulties being interjected into every conversation. Thank God for that.

It's amazing how adulthood seems to wash away so much from one's younger years. Is it a natural process or is it one we consciously embrace and encourage. I don't know. I just know it happens. And I'm thankful for it.

When I hear people say they'd like to a kid again I just cannot imagine such a thing. I'd much rather be an adult and have some control over my life.My childhood certainly wasn't horrible, but I have no desire to live it again - once was enough, more than enough.

I don't think any of the adults around me had any sense of how scared I was as a kid. I spent most of my days, and certainly my nights, terrified of what was going to happen next. I think part of the reason I have so much trouble sleeping as an adult (it's 1:53 a.m. as I write this) can probably be traced to all the hours I laid awake at night as a child literally shaking with fear at what the next day would bring, or what news would come in the darkness and change our lives yet again.

I can remember many nights of staring into the darkness, with my heart pounding, just waiting... waiting for whatever was next... alternately wishing it would arrive so I at least knew what I was dealing with, and other times willing it to stay in the future and not ever be part of my present. I learned early it was good to be alert in the nighttime - not to let your guard down - because the phone may ring at any moment. People die, accidents happen - the world arrives on your pillow and snuggles right up next to you making itself quite comfortable.

All these years later that terror is still there - I'm not sure we ever move past those early experiences - but I can function despite it. And it's held at bay by consciously refusing to acknowledge it, and by being grateful for all the good. But I do sometimes wonder if everyone is going through their days terrified on some level or if it's just me.

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