In 1996 my family moved from America to Yorkshire, England. The kids were seven, five, and three years old, my husband and I just beginning our thirties. That’s nearly twenty years ago, which is bizarre to consider. But what is stranger, although not at all frightening, is how I have changed since then. Well, it’s certainly good that I’ve changed, no one wants to be the same year after year. But growth was rife in Britain, not just for my small children.
I became a different person while living in the UK.
Looking back on some photographs my husband recently scanned, I am reminded of some of what altered me, and it wasn’t merely tea and the BBC affording the changes. I could say that 2014 was a year of upheaval, what with Dad and chemotherapy, quilts muscling novels off the page, and grandkids on the way. But some of that was expected; no one undergoes chemo like it’s a walk in the park. While I wasn’t thinking I’d be an abuela, that’s a joyful addition to my retinue. And I love sewing, although I miss writing. And I’m far more comfortable with how life ebbs and flows.
For all I thought I knew when I was thirty-one, I didn’t know jack-squat.
Today, going through those photos, I noted what my hubby had named each one, sometimes hearkening to where the picture was taken, or just his interpretation of the photograph. The Storm Warning was his idea, but it recalled how two-thirds into 1997, our lives were rocked to the core; my brother killed himself. Joe was a meth addict who had lived with Type 1 diabetes since he was twelve, so his death wasn’t a total surprise, but no one is ever prepared to deal with the suicide of one so beloved. Even all these years later, when I see these shots, I know how they relate to the person I am now.
My brother died three days before his twenty-fifth birthday, and I was never the same.
But, change is good. It’s necessary, it’s part of life. Death, as unpleasant as it is, is also part of living. I have two grandchildren on the way, and my father is unwell, and yes, I do wonder if he will live to see both of those great-grandbabies. But then I muse how he has outlived one of his own children. There is no rhyme or reason to parts of this life, it simply is what it is.
Tomorrow my father has a thoracic MRI, to accompany the lumbar and SI MRIs he underwent on Friday. Wednesday he’ll see his doc, and we’ll learn the results, which might provide information as to why Dad feels so crappy. It could be late effects of chemo, or it could be something else. But unlike how I reacted to my brother’s death over seventeen years ago, I am older now, maybe wiser. At least I am more in touch with my faith, which enables me to appreciate all facets of living, even dying.
And this time, the storm warning isn’t a terrifying clang or cluster of disasters. That picture is of the back field behind the second house we lived in during our expatriate days. Often sheep and cows graced the land, sometimes a hot air balloon decorated the horizon. It was where my youngsters frolicked, where snow fell, where sun peeked from behind abundant clouds. It was where I watched the sun rise on the morning I learned of Joe’s death, wondering what in the hell this world was all about.
Many years later, I have a smidgen more knowledge than I did back then. The Storm Warning is just to pay attention. Don’t lose any precious moments along the way.