Saturday, December 12, 2009

Things Are Looking Up Around Here

The sun came out this afternoon for a little while, and the river below my house shone brightly in silver-blue, running low, cold and clear.

The temperature climbed reluctantly out of water-pipe-freezing, single-digit misery into just-plain seasonably, reasonably, cold. Snow is predicted, but no one's concerned. We're ready: Snow tires on, extra weight added to pickup beds, wood all in, outdoor water bowl for dogs filled and plugged in, furnace filter changed, water to standpipes turned off, drafty windows sealed tight, bird feeders filled, and freezeable fluids in the trucks changed.

Part of the beauty of living here in this nordic country is the guarantee of a white Christmas nearly every year. For the little kids and all the rest of us who fondly remember snow from our childhoods, it's a big deal when it first starts to come down hard and stick. It's a time of celebration for skiiers, snowmobilers, snowboarders, sledders and all others who love to play in the white, wet, cold, fluffy stuff. By March, everyones' enthusiasm will have ebbed, but for now, it's all fun.

At my house, there's more than snow on the horizon. There's a hurricane headed this way, and her name is Anna. My only grandchild, who lives 400 miles away, gets to spend Christmas with her dad and me this year. An incredibly smart and beautiful six-year-old, she has about 16-times more energy than the average adult, and about 26-times more than me.  By this time next week, I'll be in full-blown Nana mode. I am preparing by making sure I'm well rested, reasonably toned up and have a fridge full of things little kids like to eat. Being Anna's Nana, in her view of the world, demands 100 percent devotion of my time, attention and effort to the continous and lasting happiness of my sole grand-offspring. It's my view of how things should be, too. I try to keep a no-crying, no whining rule while she's here, and that applies to both of us.

To be honest, in the past, I have anticipated her visits with some degree of trepidation, remembering only the uproar and disruption she brings to my normally mundane but comfortable, quiet and sane existance. Big Bird, for instance, is not who I want to see on my TV first thing in the morning. Where's Diane Sawyer? I usually don't have any Cheetos, Gummy Bears or Sugar Snaps in my house, either. What's wrong with a bran muffin, a fresh orange and some yogurt?

But this year my attitude is quite different. She's always been very funny and fun; it's me who usually gets tired and irritable. This time I will not Grinch-out, even after two whole weeks, I swear. I hope she still likes to sleep with me. Wouldn't that be a nice change from the snoring and sometimes, simultaneously farting, dogs?

I'll even be happy this time to watch the weird, pointy-headed Phineas and Ferb with her, so aware am I now of the Big Picture and the rapid passage of precious time. And we can talk about Grandpa now, too, if she wants. I'm ready.

When Hurricane Anna arrives, she's going to blow the biggest and best breath of fresh air into this house we've had in a long time. And not a moment too soon. Thank you, dear God, for Anna.

So bring on the snow and roll out the cookie dough. They say Santa's on his way.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Today Is Really All We Have

I don't mean to be a whiner, but I don't like my life right now. I know I have good reasons to be unhappy. That's never made much difference to me in the past, though. I've been chronically discontented for years, for basically no reason at all. That's how it seems to me now, at least, in retrospect.

I hope my husband, wherever he is, can read this. Honey, you were right. I shouldn't have complained so much. Huge irritations at the time, like a neighbor's yapping dog or a friend's obnoxious girlfriend, seem so darn trivial now.

Why did I get so pissed off, so often? Too much stress, perhaps. I was a small-town newspaper editor, for Pete's sake. It's a wonder I never went totally postal, especially after my 23rd annual Cub Scout pancake feed. There's so many other ways I'd rather spend a Saturday morning. Sleeping, for instance.

Am I a "Type A" personality, maybe? Is it my headstrong astrological sign, Taurus the bull? Since I had two red-headed grandmothers, is it like, a genetic thing? The Irish in me?

Who knows why we all do what we do, or act like we act. Every unpleasant personality trait I possess can probably be easily blamed on my mother. I mean, everything that’s wrong with everybody is always their mother’s fault, isn’t it?

Actually I lived with my husband far longer than I did with my mother. We'd been married for 38 years, were just going along, and then one day, "poof!" He was gone. It's been six months now and I can still hardly get my mind around it.

Oh, it’s sunk in, all right. He's gone forever. I get that part. It's my future without him that I'm having trouble envisioning. I can’t see the road ahead anymore.

I feel like an old draft horse that’s lost its reliable pulling partner of many years. I still feel double-yoked, but I'm simply going in circles, pulling blindly, wondering where in the hell I’m headed.

I feel so lost and get so tired without my sturdy partner beside me. He was the leader, the biggest horse, the strongest one. It's his steadying presence that I miss the most. It calmed me.

If God's got the reins, I'll be okay, I try to remember. But my life is as unfamiliar to me now as if I had followed a bright blue light into a spaceship and been whisked off to another galaxy. Nothing is the same as it was last year at this time. Nothing.

Like a lot of couples, we'd planned for our retirement for years. We were almost there. But I tell you: Don't do that so much. Don’t pin all your hopes on your future. Live in the moment and try to enjoy it. It is true that the present is all we really have.

However, I can’t stand to hear someone say, "Live each day like it's your last." Are you kidding? It’s my last day? That makes me want to run right down to the bar, start pounding down Jack Daniels shots, puffing on Marlboros and looking for a biker to take me for a ride on a fast Harley. Hey, "to each his own," applies to bucket lists, too.

Better wording comes to mind. I think it's from the Bible. "This is the day that the Lord has made," it goes, "Rejoice and be glad in it."

Right. Currently it's three degrees above zero and pitch-dark here already at 4:30 p.m. My feet are cold because my dogs have all deserted me for warmer places than under my desk.

But I'm not going to say, "Boy, I hate winter; I can't wait 'til spring." I've already wished enough of my life away.

So I guess I’ll go sit by the fire, enjoy the heat and see if I can’t find me a warm and willing dog belly to scratch.