Just as Doug and I were adjusting to freedom and the ability to come and go as we pleased after Mom died, the corona virus shut us down. Plans we are making for our future look a little fuzzy today. They’re still out there, we just can’t define the how and when.
My daily routine is messed up too. My usual quiet morning coffee has morphed into a weird place. A couple mornings ago, upstairs where my books are, I put on MY coffee. I make it super strong and it makes me super happy. Then Doug wandered out of the bedroom and I thought, oh yeah, maybe I should put the big coffee pot on in the kitchen. So I did. Then he left. I had two pots of coffee and no Doug! He came back 5 minutes later. I’ve learned not to ask “why”. Maybe he felt the need to run recon around town, I don’t know. Later I found him staring blankly at TV, watching an old hockey game. It was so old they weren’t required to wear helmets or pads yet. Poor guy. No coffee shop and no NHL.
Today I opened up a box of Mom’s old photo albums. Maybe that wasn’t the best place to start in my quest to be productive. But I did find an old scrapbook that gave me a lot of laughs. It also gave me a different perspective on what is happening now in our country and in our world.
Inside the album was my Dad’s high school diploma… Franklin High School, Seattle Washington, June 15, 1944. And there was a pink card, his “hall pass” if you will, that allowed him into the hospital nursery when I was born.
There was a letter, written by my sister, Kerri, to explain why she was running away with her dog, Sugar. I never knew Kerri ran away. It must have been a short lived event because all I ever remember is her getting into my stuff!
I found tons of very long, wordy letters from myself to my parents after moving to Alaska. I found almost as many letters to them from my second oldest, David. I’d forgotten that he always wanted to send them something whenever I did. And of course, there was the momentous occasion of my oldest, Ian, announcing he’d learned to moonwalk. Now that’s some hot off the press news for you!
Mom kept the notice that I’d completed driver training and the program from my high school graduation. And the day my cousin, Adam, graduated from Marine Corps boot camp in San Diego… she kept that program too.
One of my favorite finds was a map I’d traced and sent to my folks prior to our move back to the lower 48 from Alaska. I traced our approximate route and written mileage from place to place. I knew they were worried. There was no cell phone. No good way to keep in touch. I thought if I broke the route down and gave them a picture to follow along, it would help. I’d forgotten that little map, but was happy to see that next to my mileage figures, Dad had written approximate dates. He was pretty close. And when I called him from Everett, Washington, there was a date and exclamation mark. That is a map I will treasure.
There’s no way we can map what is happening in our world today or how it will ultimately impact our lives, health and economy. None of us, in America anyway, have ever lived through such a thing.
But we are living.
When I looked at the treasures in my mom’s scrapbook today, a few things stuck out. First, my Dad’s high school graduation certificate. He wasn’t there to receive it. He had been drafted right out of his senior year in high school and was already on his way to war in Europe. It would be two years before he could come home and marry the girl he left behind. That two year delay was never part of his plan. But he went through it. He survived it. And that experience partly shaped him into the wonderful man he was.
I think of my cousin’s military service and the violent death of his loved one… I chuckle at my sister’s runaway note, then catch my breath at a horrific time in her life. They are both survivors. They hadn’t planned on the hard things, but they made it through. It is part of what shaped them.
A little son’s innocent notes for grandparents, juxtaposed against years of military service and combat… volunteering to care for an ill mother-in-law as a temporary measure, which turned into a ten year journey and the care of my parents… these things were not necessarily “the plan”. But they were survived. We got through. We are shaped.
Someday, I imagine one of my grandchildren opening up an old scrapbook, because heaven knows, I’ll be leaving a lot of that stuff behind! And she will read about the year we couldn’t go to restaurants and we had to stand six feet apart and businesses shut down, the stock market staggered like a drunk, many people got sick, and some people died and someone found a house completely stuffed with petrified toilet paper…. but many people survived. We got through it. And it shaped us.