Monday, December 30, 2019

Family Thoughts As We End the Decade

I: A Family Tradition

My brother, thundering36, texted me early Sunday morning to remind me that Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family in the Catholic faith. This day will always be special to me and a few of my siblings.

A post I originally wrote in 2010 and reposted in 2013

Memories ofttimes have a way of pervading our daily lives, bringing special meaning to certain sights, sounds, days, or occurrences. Today was one of those days for me.

In the Catholic church, the Sunday after Christmas is the Feast of the Holy Family of Jesus, Mary, and Joseph. One of the readings at church today was from the Book of Sirach, which may be unfamiliar to those brought up in other faiths or Protestant religions, since Sirach was not included in the Hebrew Bible.

The Book of Sirach (also called Ecclesiasticus) is largely a collection of ethical teachings. Today's reading for the Feast of the Holy Family:

God sets a father in honor over his children;
a mother’s authority he confirms over her sons.
Whoever honors his father atones for sins,
and preserves himself from them.
When he prays, he is heard;
he stores up riches who reveres his mother.
Whoever honors his father is gladdened by children,
and, when he prays, is heard.
Whoever reveres his father will live a long life;
he who obeys his father brings comfort to his mother.

My son, take care of your father when he is old;
grieve him not as long as he lives.
Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him;
revile him not all the days of his life;
kindness to a father will not be forgotten,
firmly planted against the debt of your sins
—a house raised in justice to you.

With my father in the church pew next to us, my siblings and I loved to elbow each other and smirk when this passage was read. The line that elicited the action, of course, was "Even if his mind fail, be considerate of him." Little did we realize that when my father grew older, dementia would begin to take over his life. We have always considered it a blessing that my dad's body gave out before his mind.

I felt like I was okay with my dad when he passed away. Although his birthday and the anniversary of his death pass by each year without much trouble, the Sunday after Christmas is always the day that gets to me. I remember a sanguine young guy sitting next to a father who worked his ass off for his family...

lightning36 in high school

My Dad

II: A Timely Decision For Which I Was Rewarded

A little earlier this evening, I suddenly remembered that exactly four years ago, my brother, thundering36, was on his last full day in Las Vegas while I watched over our mother. She had turned 90 years old earlier in the year and seemed to be starting the slow descent toward the end. Her poor health and many medical demands had thundering at pretty much the end of his sanity. I saw a great opportunity to give thundering a much needed break and at the same time have maybe a last chance to have some quality time with my mother. I told thundering that I would pay for his plane fare and watch my mother while he took a short trip to Las Vegas to relax. He at first said no. I told him that he was crazy and that this offer wouldn't be on the table for long. He got his mind right and decided to go. This is what I wrote in my blog four years ago:

After spending Christmas with my wife and kids, I headed to the Chicago suburbs on December 26 to drive my brother, thundering36, to the airport for his vacation to Las Vegas. While he was gone, I took care of my 90-year-old mother, which is quite a chore. The first day went fine. However, thundering36 booby trapped me by making sure our mom was taking a stool softener. Well, dammit, on Sunday it worked ... in spades. I will spare you the gory details, but believe me, I earned my merit badge that day! The rest of the time wasn't so bad. And ... I had not had a chance to spend some real time with my mom for quite a while, so the time was important to both of us.

That brief paragraph did not go into the details about how much fun that day was when the stool softener took effect. I wanted to get some Chinese carry out and asked my mom several times if she would be okay for the short time I was gone. She assured me that she was fine, so I made the trip. When I returned, I ran into the horror show of all time! She felt really bad about it, so I reminded her that she had changed my dirty diapers more than  a few times when I was a baby. So yes - it is kind of funny to talk about that wretched day NOW. However, the assessment of her health was accurate. She passed away less than six months after that visit. While that, of course, was devastating, the thing that will always remain precious and personal to me was having several days of just the two of us, watching television, talking about the past, joking around. I will always treasure those days and will never forget the feelings I had.

III: A Good 2019 Christmas Visit and What the Future Will Bring

My youngest daughter still lives with my wife and myself and my oldest daughter lives only 20 miles away. However, my son lives in Seattle -- 2,000 miles away. He was able to come home this holiday season and stay almost a week. Having adult children together can sometimes be challenging. There were no big fights or arguments with any of the family, and Christmas Eve and the day of taking family pictures with lunch afterward went very well. I am thankful for that as it is upsetting, especially to my wife, to see any of the kids not getting along with one another now that they have grown up.

Realistically, my wife and I also know that we are at a point of change in our lives. I will be retiring next July and my wife will also. If we do not have our house sold and/or are just quite not yet ready for our planned move to Arizona, we might stay in Illinois for a bit longer. My wife would likely continue in her part time job while we wait, and I would finally get a chance to relax. But moving out west will also mean that we will now also have our daughters 1,600 miles away. For the first time in 28 years, it will be just the two of us again. That will certainly be different. I look forward to it, but am also somewhat scared of it after having kids in the house for so long. My wife's best friend lives in Scottsdale and I have a brother, a sister-in-law, a niece and a nephew (and their families) in Phoenix, so we won't feel totally alone out there. I know at least one former poker blogger in the area and know that another who lives 100 miles away from me now will also be living in the Phoenix area come next summer or fall. Going on the assumption that we like living there, we will be near a major airport and will expect that some family and friends will visit. Las Vegas will be only a five hour drive or short plane trip away.

A former high school friend, in response to an old picture I posted on Facebook, said "Some things never get old. Too bad I'm not one of them." I guess he is feeling it too. As one year heads out the window and another begins, I am reminded that I am not a young guy anymore. But like with anything, it is up to us to chart our own future. It is a scary, yet hopeful time.

Thanks for reading. I treasure the many friends that I have made over the years through poker, poker blogging, and trips to Las Vegas. May we all have an excellent 2020!



Blogger Sandi Joy said...

Lovely read, memories are very precious and reading yours was quite moving ty for sharing

1:24 AM  
Blogger Memphis MOJO said...

Happy New Years to you and family!

8:04 PM  
Blogger thundering36 said...

You forgot to mention that you had to contact me in Vegas to ask how to use mom's washing machine. I knew exactly what happened when you asked me. Mom always looked forward to a visit from her favourite son. :)

7:37 PM  
Blogger Ace said...

Happy New Year, nice story.

12:20 PM  

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