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Carol Bossard

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It was odd... this winter, just past, of 2023 and 2024. And, spring seems reluctant to stand firm. Winter keeps making dashes back with a little graupel here and a snowflake there, as if to make up for its earlier lethargy.  We are usually safe from deep snow by mid-April, but one never knows. Early in March, warm weather brought out the snowdrops and winter aconite.  Potted Easter flowers have gotten me through to now, when my daffodils and hyacinths are beginning to open and bring more life to outside.

Change can often be a charged topic. People generally applaud winter changing to spring, and, in gardens, brown becoming green. A baby has a whole new attitude when his/her diaper is changed.  Finding pocket change (coins) is always fun. A changing of the guard is a relief for whomever has been on duty for hours. A change of clothes and shoes to PJs and slippers defines relaxation.  But when it comes to our habits, perceptions, comfort levels, or thinking, we would prefer to make no changes.

Over Easter weekend, one of our family conversations discussed how we humans resist changes in our perception of what we can do and be. One of our sons left home in Vermont, about 9 PM, to drive to Spencer, getting him here around 1:30 AM.  To quote him (the timeless answer to moms and wives): “I’ll be fine!  I’ve done it for years!”  His wife, who was already at our house, and I, were discussing the difficulty people (men especially) have in even contemplating the idea that they cannot do everything they have always done forever.  But, even as we laughed a lot, and worried a bit, I admitted that I, myself, do not take kindly to seeing my capabilities diminished. Who wants to adjust the vision of one’s self from a coping, can-do person to a fragile being with limited possibilities?  Life, however, frequently disregards our wishes and forces us to get real.

Reality compels me to confess that I can no longer dance all night. My doctor had the nerve to ask if I ever could!! I assured him that not only could I, but I had more than once. Now, unfortunately, I can’t do a polka without stopping half-way through to breathe and settle my spinning head.I’d probably never make it through a set of 3 square dances, though maybe, with steady practice, say, a square dance/weekend!! 😊   When sciatica hit two weeks before Easter Sunday, rather intense pain meandered from my lower back, down through my left hip to my ankle, and didn’t go away.  I was just a little cranky about the bad timing, and abandoning my usual holiday preparations.  I ended up baking no cookies, no Swedish tea rings, and we dined out for our family Easter dinner. While the bakery cinnamon buns from Owego, and pastries from Vermont, were very tasty ---- and dinner at the Parkview in Owego quite satisfactory ---- I was not happy at the necessity. It wasn’t what we did, but the change in what I could do that I wanted to resist.  But ---- as one of the Star Trek (the Borg, I think) lines went: “Resistance is futile!”  At least when it comes to change!

Hindsight proves that life is constantly changing. And changes generally bring discomfort, even angst, until they become routine. In our seven changes of residence, I only welcomed two of them.  And even then, while I was happy about the one move itself, I hated leaving friends behind.   I grumbled when my family home was sold out of the family and had a similar reaction when the houses of my siblings met the same fate. In my work life, when there was an opportunity to take more responsibility in the agency where I’d been for twelve years, I took forever and a day to decide; I was very comfortable in my position, so why change? And there were our offspring! Except for the rare occasions when I was tempted to send them to Outer Mongolia, I mostly enjoyed being an at-home mother, so when our children grew into adults, as children tend to do, (our granddaughters have also done this!), I missed those fun years with tweens, and teens.

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Even with my grumbling, though, I admit that with nearly every change, there has been a gift, something good that would have been impossible without the change. Our ancestral homes were purchased by people who respect tradition and have restored them well.  My time as a director of an agency kept us safe from a director we might not have enjoyed, and taught me quite a lot that I have since found valuable.  Our sons have grown to be amazing people and have married good and talented women.  Our granddaughters are on their way to becoming equally amazing people. A plethora of gifts, all intertwined with change!

I am having trouble recognizing any gifts in health changes (for myself or others), but I have been assured that such gifts will be found.  My fading vision is frustrating; I finally gave up trying to sew after several abysmal attempts.  Actually, I awarded myself an imaginary gold star just last week, when I neither screamed, gnashed my teeth, nor did I throw the machine across the room, all of which I was tempted to do.  To be unable to even do an alteration is challenging, so my irritation level was (actually, still is) quite high.  But I keep remembering my mother, who dealt with some of the same issues, and only said that she had more time to listen when she couldn’t be doing.

The change most difficult for us all, I expect, is the death of someone for whom we care and on whom we rely.  Two days after Easter, we learned that one of our dearest friends had passed on; a friend who had been part of our lives for over 50 years.   Because we have reached our 80s, we must expect to lose people, but that makes the grief and emptiness no less traumatic and lasting.  If I did not believe that human life here on earth is but one stage of living, I would probably be in despair, for this change I do not like. Bill was something of a “Renaissance Man;” interested and educated in a wide variety of things, and a wise mentor. Having been a history teacher, his perception of the world was based on understanding of what had gone before; on cause and effect. He was an outdoors person who enjoyed hiking the hills, watching birds and promoting good conservation practices, and he loved to garden.  Becoming an ordained pastor gave him an opportunity to create a safe place for people who came to him with questions and concerns about life itself.  He was a fine musician, and skillful with pen and ink; one of his sketches is on our living room wall. He helped us develop our theology and our families had many good times together.  He and Connie participated, with us, in Faith At Work and Marriage Encounter both of which deepened our understanding of ourselves and each other.

No one wishes to lose a friend who claims so much affection and respect.  But the gift therein, has been the many years we’ve enjoyed what Bill offered.  We have immense gratitude for all we have found good in this friendship and the impact he had on our family even as we regret his physical absence.

As is probably universally true, the death of someone close, brings a thought or two of one’s own mortality; certainly, one of those changes we seldom wish to contemplate at length.  I think I might be miffed (can one be miffed in the next stage of life?) if no one missed me.  I would hope that the gift accompanying my death might also be whatever good impact I had on the lives around me; that some individuals might be grateful that I’d been there and that others would forgive me for the times I missed the mark.  I would hope that our times together would leave stories and laughter, forming a golden thread of good memories, reminding those I love of who I was, and who I will go on being!

Change is universal and unavoidable, though we humans may dig in our heels and attempt to ignore the necessity, and continue pining for “back when.”  Unless one takes up residence in a glass ball of protected atmosphere, change will always be in every part of our lives; the seasons, the weather, our growth and understanding, choices and what makes up our cultures (no matter how me may disapprove!).

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Currently, we are on the cusp of change  from mud season to blossom time. The amusing woodchuck I watched last summer has waddled out from beneath the woodshed, and is once again happily munching sunflower seeds. I don’t know its gender; I’m hoping that there aren’t babies back in the den. Spring flowers are about to burst into bloom. The change from brown to green, from dormant to alive and growing is, for me, a most welcome change.  And this is a change upon which we can rely.  So far, we can be sure spring will come every year and these lines by Rudyard Kipling seem both humorous and reassuring:  Oh, Adam was a gardener, and God, who made him sees that half a proper gardener’s work is done upon his knees.  So, when your work is finished you can wash your hands and pray for the glory of the garden, that it may never pass away.” *  Proving that some things never do change after all!

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Carol writes from her home in Spencer. She may be reached at: carol42wilde@htva.net

*from The Glory of the Garden by Rudyard Kipling.  Kipling was a British poet and writer, born in India.   Two of his most famous books for kids are: The Jungle Book and Just So Stories.

 

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