Thursday, October 28, 2010

Double Nickels

Yesterday, I turned 55 years old. I was born in 1955. Interesting coincidence. Kind of like one of those 10-10-10 things.

I don’t know anything about numerology, but 55 seems like a solid, responsible number. As a speed limit, it’s safe and reserved (compared to high speeds of 65 or 75). As an age, I have crossed into a different, older demographic. I was smugly in the 45-54 range, now I will have to choose the 55-64 group when responding to surveys. Did I just become statistically less relevant? Pfooey.

According to some Christians, the number 5 has Biblical meaning. It is associated with grace and redemption. Then 55 should be doubly good, right? I also read that the rosary of the Virgin Mary was made up of 55 grains.

To me, age is just a number. But having a birthday does make you take stock of where you are in your life. I am more than satisfied. Last night, Ron and I talked about how fortunate we have been. Twenty years ago we couldn’t even have visualized our lives today. Some things work out as planned, and for other developments you must go with the flow – even just survive.

It’s hard to believe that we have been retired for two and a half years. Cancer and corporate stress are behind me. I look ahead to a life of fellowship and grace. Maybe 55 is the gateway to a new chapter for me.

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Family Gathering

My entire immediate family gathered for the first time in five years for Mom’s 80th birthday last week. We were joined by Mom’s brother, Jerry and his wife, Elaine. It’s been almost a week since the main event, and I am still thinking about all the fun, talk, laughter, and even a few tears shared while we were together. I’m so thankful to everyone who was there: Mom, Jerry, Elaine, Xandy, Tony, Althea, Shawn, Jason and Ron. Dad would have loved it. I believe he was present in his own way.

What determines how families stay connected as they age? Mom and Dad raised four independent and headstrong individuals who (with emotional and financial help) went our own ways to pursue education, build careers, gain experience, and (in Jason’s case) serve our country. Through trial and error, we each defined the pattern of our adult lives, creating new traditions, finding personal comfort, extending our circle of loved ones through friendships and marriage - all greatly influenced by our upbringing. We are still the same in so many important ways… and yet so, so different now.

For Mom, having the whole family descend on her home in New Hampshire was a happy event; emotional and even a little overwhelming. She lives a pretty quiet life these days, and isn’t used to all the excitement a full house generates. I know that Mom loved having us all there and will be replaying last week’s gathering and celebration in her mind’s eye for a long time. So will I.

As the years pass, each time I say goodbye to Mom is more wrenching. This time, though, we expect to see each other in just three months. Mom and my little sister, Althea, will be visiting me and Ron in Prescott. We’ll look forward to that time, when we can make more memories to cherish.

Hold your loved ones closer to your heart with every passing year. Time is precious, and none of us hang around forever..

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Happy Birthday, Mom!

All four of us “kids” will be in New Hampshire this weekend to celebrate Mom’s birthday. Dolores Barbara Roberts Haropulos will be 80 years old. Mom was born in 1930, early in the Great Depression, to Barbara and Frank Roberts. She remembers rationing of butter and sugar, and as a child, longed for a birthday cake with butter icing an inch thick!

Mom met John Haropulos in 1948. He was a WWII veteran, completing his electrical engineering degree at the University of New Hampshire. They married in December 1950. Alexandra Susan was born in 1952, me (Laurel Anne) in 1955, Althea Alene in 1959, and Jason John in 1963. We grew up in Rockville, Maryland. All of us were educated in good public schools, and went to college on our parents’ middle-class incomes, with a little help from academic scholarships and government loans. Our wonderful Dad passed away at the age of 74 in 1999. Mom and Althea share a home in Manchester, NH.

Deciding on a gift for Mom’s birthday was a little challenging. At an age where she has no interest in having more “stuff”, Mom has asked us not to buy her presents. My older sister had a great suggestion – for each of us to write down enough childhood/family memories for Mom to have one for every day of the coming year. We’ll type them up, print them on small pieces of a lightweight card stock, fold them like fortunes, and present them to Mom in some sort of attractive container. Great idea!

Dolores Haropulos 2009
The reality of encouraging my siblings to actually produce their “Memories for Mom” has been a little stressful, given that we are all hopeless procrastinators and the immovable deadline is looming. Speaking for myself, however, the process of recalling the memories has been really pleasant. I have been daydreaming, mentally meandering through my happy childhood, making notes, and smiling or wiping tears. What I’ve received from my sisters and brothers so far has been fun to read, reminding me of things I hadn’t thought of in years, and providing an interesting perspective on what snippets of life have shaped each of us as individuals. I hope the end result of this project is something that will touch our mother…a gift of cherished memories from her children.

Thanks for everything, Mom. We love you.

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Fun is Not Overrated

When I was working, I craved time to enjoy more fun. Now that I have more leisure time, I can tell you definitively that fun is not overrated. It replaces frowns with laugh lines, banishes bags from under your eyes, and is conducive to better health and a sound night’s sleep.

Fun makes life feel fuller. It lingers in the mind through pleasant memories. You can replay the best of life via mental snapshots (the way a loved one smiled and laughed with you that beautiful afternoon), or audio you can rewind time after time (of that cool, new rock band jamming at the street fair). Happy memories are stored in your own personal database, where you can take them out and review them whenever you want.

Everyone has their own idea of fun. For me, it could be any one of a number of things, like an afternoon absorbed in a good book, a hot dog and a baseball game, a visit with a dear friend, a gallery opening, or wiggling my toes in warm sand. I think if it generates smiles, warms your heart, or rocks you happily to sleep at night – it’s a keeper.  I'm into pursuing as many of those happy experiences as possible.

Fun also helps put life into perspective. I prefer to have less day-to-day drama now. Life deals us poor humans plenty of real drama, in the form of illness, accident, and misfortune. When people generate their own mini-tragedies, I find it sad. I don’t want to be an enabler of that type of destructive behavior.

Life is complicated and sometimes really serious and difficult. Fun can help make it a lot easier. Make time for it and feed your spirit.