On a recent Monday morning, I went to the garage to start my car. It was really cold outside, and thoughts of warm leather seats, and a toasty vehicle made the unwelcome weather change bearable.
We had returned from San Antonio the day before, and I noticed that there was some trash in the back seat of my car. I opened the door, and as I picked up the empty Buc-ee’s bag, I saw something that caused me to have to catch my breath. And without warning, there were tears streaming down my face.
What caused this completely unexpected emotional reaction?
A tiny pair of mis-matched socks.
They were in the car seat, and I was reminded of the day that Cooper removed his shoes and socks in the car and threw them under the seat. A seemingly insignificant moment in the annuls of time, but to a grandparent, it was remarkable.
You see, not only did he take them off all by himself, he also said, “sock,” and “shoe.”
I’ve never been an overly emotional person. Wait. I should re-state that. Yes, I can be very emotional, and loud, and passionate, and can get “fired up” about all kinds of things. But when it comes to tears, this is a new thing.
After losing my dad, I had this “I-have-to-hold-it-together” mindset, and honestly, viewed my own tears as a sign of weakness. In other people, I never felt this way, but when it came to me, I made sure that I kept my emotions in check. I never wanted anyone to see me cry. I was tough. And I worked hard at remaining that way.
Years later I understand why I hid my emotions. I knew that if the dam ever broke, the water would never stop flowing.
And I was right.
At least right about crying over all the good and bad things that happen.
I wasn’t correct in thinking this was a sign of strength. It was a flawed concept from the get-go, but it served me well as I attempted to survive each day.
As sad as that season of my life was, I am so thankful for it. Through the hardships, and loss, and self-doubt, I have gained a strength I never thought possible.
And that is why I write. I hope in some way, I can reach the part of a reader that needs to be touched. I hope I can awaken, or emote realizations, recognitions, concepts, awareness, or maybe just let you know that it’s okay to sometimes feel overwhelmed, inadequate, scared, and unsure.
Just don’t stay in that place.
In addition to being a new member of the tender-hearted club, I’m also notorious for getting song lyrics wrong. It’s a part of who I am.
Just over ten years ago I realized that I had been singing “Drift Away” incorrectly my entire life. Each time the song came on I belted out, “Give me the Beach Boys and free my soul, I wanna get lost in your rock and roll and drift away.”
I was always a little confused about the words because I never considered the Beach Boys to be “rock and roll” (yes, I know the Beach Boys were honored in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame because of their ever-lasting mark on the surf genre and many hit singles, but in my mind there were so many other “rock and roll” groups that could have been mentioned in the song, “Drift Away,” if the way I sang the song was accurate).
Thankfully, I didn’t waste a lot of time trying to figure this out (until trying to defend my thoughts in the previous long and disjointed sentence), but I was shocked and a little sad when I discovered the truth. I liked my version better—maybe because it was what I knew. It was a part of my past. It was familiar.
Lately, I’ve been thinking about the passage of time. As a person who is in the AARP age-range, time certainly seems to be more fleeting than it once did.
As I was reflecting on how fast life is passing by, I was reminded of another song I got wrong: “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.” My version was, “Sittin’ on the dock of the bay, watching the TIME roll away…”
I remember the song from my childhood—it was released in 1968, and actually was one of my early favorites. I decided to delve more into the story behind the song and became a little bit sad with what I learned.
In June of 1967, Otis Redding and one of his friends and fellow songwriters went to Sausalito, California for some rest and relaxation. Otis and his friend sat on the beach watching the sunshine glistening off the calm water of the bay, and they had never seen anything so beautiful. As the seagulls circled overhead, old fishermen hauled in their catches in nets near the docks.
These moments lingered in Redding’s mind, and just a few months later, he was able to express this experience in his song, “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay.”
The singer and songwriter immediately knew this song would be a hit, and not only propel him to a No. 1 spot on the charts but would also cross him over from his R&B platform into mainstream pop music.
Two days after the recording session at Stax, Redding was back on the road in the Midwest. On December 10, 1967, he and five bandmates boarded his private plane, a twin-engine Beechcraft, bound for Nashville. Four miles into the flight, the engine failed and the plane crashed into the icy waters of Lake Monoma, near Madison, Wisconsin. One passenger managed to unbuckle his seat belt and survived. The others, including Redding, drowned.
Otis Redding was only twenty-six years old. “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay” was released in January of 1968, and as he predicted was an instant hit, becoming the first posthumous No. 1 song by an artist in the United States.
I’m sad that Redding’s life ended so soon, and he was not able to enjoy the fruits of his labor, but, oh, what a gift he gave to us.
And now that I’ve learned the back story, I’m okay with my lyrics gone wrong. During this season of my life, it seems I’m watching the time roll away.
But I’m making the most of every moment.
My life is packed with adventures. I get to spend three days a week with young students who are like sponges. They are absorbing knowledge, social skills, and learning to deal with their emotions. It’s fulfilling to witness their growth—their confidence, pride, and kindness, brimming through their strong spirits and personalities.
Many students do struggle, but as a school, we work together, and I am certain that each and every day, our students know they are loved and cared for by the faculty and staff of our school. I choose to look at the cup as half-full.
These days, my greatest joy comes from the time I get to spend with my grandchildren. It’s always too short, but the memories, laughter, and tender moments always sustain me until my next visit, phone conversation, or video chat.
A couple of weekends ago, we spent time in San Antonio. Sweet baby Harper is growing, and her personality is coming out, as she is beginning to spread sunshine with her smile. I can’t wait for all the time we will share and look forward to watching her grow.
And then there’s Cooper. He is a hoot! Seriously. He thinks he’s funny, and that makes everything he does more hilarious. He is a ham and loves to entertain. But he’s also smart, and inquisitive, and so very loving. Again, my grandchildren are my greatest joy.
As I filled myself up with all the special moments, I was also a bit melancholy. I wish we lived closer. I want to have a front row seat to all that Cooper and Harper do. I find myself longing to be Marie Barone—I wish I lived across the street, and could help, and encourage, and play, and laugh with these two babies all day long.
But as soon as I imagine that life, I think about how Marie Barone tends to get into everyone’s business. She solicits her advice without consent and is extremely intrusive. I absolutely have these traits in me, and I have to temper them all the time. It’s not that I know best, by any means, but through my experiences as a mother, I did learn the hard way. My intention isn’t to butt in where I have no place, but it’s to be helpful, and maybe my suggestions will help them to avoid some of the pitfalls and mistakes I made as a young parent….
As Marie says, it comes from a place of love.
I remember as a young parent, when my mother made suggestions, I was always a bit offended, feeling that I had fallen short. As I look back now, I need to apologize. Life experience is the best teacher, and I wish I understood that back when I was so naive and young.
George Bernard Shaw once wrote, “Youth is wasted on the young.” Most of us remember that line from “What a Wonderful Life.” In many ways I agree. I remember the bliss of not knowing what I didn’t know…
But now, I do yearn for some re-dos. I wish I’d done a few things differently. And I don’t necessarily agree with Mr. Shaw’s quote. I’m thankful that as a younger me, I didn’t know how hard life can sometimes be. I’m thankful for all the lessons I learned the hard way.
In this season of my life, I need to work on simply enjoying the moments rather than trying to fix everyone’s problems, provide for their needs, or worry endlessly about things that are out of my control. I remind myself of this prayer daily:
I became acquainted with writer Leo Buscaglia as a high schooler. A few years later when my dad died, I read his most famous book, The Fall of Freddy the Leaf, to my young son Christopher.
The book approaches death through the eyes of a leaf on a tree—the springtime, when everything is fresh and new; the warmth of the summer; the beauty of the fall; and the coldness of winter—the time where the last of the leaves fall to ground as their time of life on the tree comes to an end.
It’s beautifully written and helps people of any age understand the circle of life through nature.
It’s a huge wake-up call that I’m entering in the Fall/Winter stage of life. Again, I’m not being morbid, I’m just wanting to pack everything into this life that I can. I want to be the healthiest I can be, so I can hang around and watch my children and grandchildren grow. I want to have all the time possible with my husband, my mom, my brother and other family members and friends. And I remind myself every morning, that the present day is the best day of my life. I need to make the most of it.
One of the highlights of our last visit to San Antonio was watching “Frozen,” and “Frozen 2.” I’m the only person in America who hadn’t seen these movies, although I did know the storyline as it was explained to me by an 8-year-old Disney Princess Aficionado.
We had been sent videos of Cooper dancing and “singing” to Olaf’s song, “When I Am Older.” Olaf makes Cooper giggle, and he adores him. He has learned to do the Olaf walk, too, which is all kinds of precious.
As I watched my almost-two-year-old grandson dance, and sing, I listened to the words of the song.
“What was that?
This will all make sense when I am older
Someday I will see that this makes sense
One day, when I’m old and wise
I’ll think back and realize
That these were all completely normal events
I’ll have all the answers when I’m older
Like why we’re in this dark, enchanted wood
I know in a couple years these will seem like childish fears
And so I know this isn’t bad; it’s good
Growing up means adapting
Puzzling out your world and your place
When I’m more mature, I’ll feel comfortably secure
Being watched by something with a creepy, creepy face
See, that will all make sense when I am older
So there’s no need to be terrified or tense
I’ll just dream about a time
When I’m in my aged prime
‘Cause when you’re older
Absolutely everything makes sense
This is fine.”
Wow! Youth definitely isn’t wasted on the young. Let children be little. Let them be innocent. Let them not understand all the craziness of this world.
And let them believe they will figure it out when they grow older…
Even if you know that no one ever does.
As I close this sort of mixed-up bundle of messages and thoughts, I hope you enjoy this season of your life, and in the words of Rod Stewart:
“May the good Lord be with ya down every road you roam,
And may sunshine and happiness surround you when you’re far from home,
And may you grow to be proud, dignified, and true,
And do unto others as you would have done to you.
Be courageous and be brave,
And in my heart you’ll always stay,
Forever young, forever young.”
As you navigate through each day, month, and year, watching the seasons change as you do too, embrace the sunshine, and warmth, the beautiful colors, and the winter chill. May you always celebrate the big moments, and may you be moved to tears when you discover a tiny, mis-matched pair of socks.
And as you continue to seek serenity, and courage, may you always have the wisdom to know the difference…