Friday, August 26, 2011

Quakes, Hurricanes, and Family...Oh, My!

Nobody has ever before asked the nuclear family to live all by itself in a box the way we do. With no relatives, no support, we've put it in an impossible situation.
~Margaret Mead

The earthquake that rocked the Eastern United States caused problems with the machines my husband services. They are complicated and rather sensitive, therefore must be level. After the quake, the precision of their leveling was off just enough to cause some malfunctions. The Atlanta area was not effected but neighboring states were, therefore my husband has been away from home all week and probably will not be home tonight either.

Today he will be traveling to North Carolina and I made the mistake of nonchalantly passing this information onto his mother when she asked during our phone conversation last night. You see, Hurricane Irene is blowing her way up the eastern coast and her projected course makes for North Carolina to be its first landfall, but having lived in Florida for many years, I have learned why hurricanes are given names: they seem to have minds of their own and change their minds or just stubbornly not do what is expected of them.

Anyway, my mother-in-law related that she now has something else to worry about, since her anxiety levels began to lower now her car is fixed from the noise it made due to a faulty air conditioner and her kitchen sink drain is now draining properly. Now her son is going into the state where Irene is expected to make landfall! I assured her the he would not be near the coastline where people are being evacuated.

Now there is a sense of irony in all this that I cannot just let quietly slip pass.

She had just told me how, even though Irene will not be hitting Florida head-on, that she has closed up the hurricane shutters because of the strong winds that could blow things into the windows just from the rain bands. Apparently, she was concerned enough to batten down the hatches! (But, we are not suppose to worry?)

Unlike her son, my husband, being far inland, she is within ten miles from the beach, so that every hurricane season, we worry a bit more than usual about her living in Florida alone. I mentioned that perhaps she then can understand how we feel being concerned about her and not being able to get to her to help. I was met with silence and then the explanation that Irene will not be hitting, not this particular hurricane, but there is always another and there are other concerns about her being alone also. She cannot drive far and she has a dog, which makes it a bit difficult to go to a shelter, even if she would go, which we are convinced she would not.

I have been thinking about this quite a bit. First, if I did not have my husband (and sometimes it feels as if I barely have him as it is), I probably would not own a house, or at least not this one. I would chose something smaller and needing less maintenance, particularly less yard work. Houses need a good deal of maintenance and I am a realist about what I am able to do or at least willing to do and can afford. Mom's house is quite large: four bedrooms, two bathrooms and a Florida room that is as long as her dining room and living room together and just about as wide too. It is spacious, but with each square foot is extra cost to cool, heat, and maintain too.

Second, my husband and I joked that when the Princess settles into her adulthood and should that be a distance from where we are residing, that we will move to be near her. We want to be involved in her life and with our grandchildren. We don't want to make it difficult for her, as our only child, to help us when we need it. We do not have the same sense, which many people around us do, that we should not be a burden on our families...helping each other is what makes it a family and that is the family ethic that we hope our daughter embraces. We have seen that aging parents trying not to be a burden, being stubbornly independent, is actually quite burdensome for their offspring...more so, in many cases.

A few years back, my aunt and uncle moved out of the house they had lived in for 50 years. They had a house built with their son and his wife out in the country. There have been compromises on both sides, but those compromises have also allowed my aunt and uncle to maintain and pursue their interests more: gardening, raising and milking goats, playing her hammered dulcimer, reading books, creating artwork, cooking, and being active at church. My cousin has a demanding manager's job, working long hours, but he does not have to worry about getting home to let his dog out or spending his day off over at his parent's place helping them out with home or barn repairs. His wife, also a manager but just recently retired, has had several medical difficulties, which my aunt and uncle were able to help by going with her to a doctor's appointment or taking care of things around the house, like general cleaning that they would not be able to do if they had to care for their house as well. It has been mutually beneficial.

There are times things have gone through adjustments, changes, and personality conflicts, and even more compromises and working together, but these are what families do. I am heartened to see the arrangement they have and how it has worked. I wish my husband's mother could see that and would move closer to us, perhaps in a small house that would be less work for her to keep up. I wish she could see that she is not giving up memories, as memories stay with you, but she would be making new memories. That she would not be a burden but be involved with our family and especially her granddaughter.

On the other hand, I suppose what really makes it work is the willingness to make it work. The willingness to accept change and seeing the good in it. I wonder if I would hold so tightly to a past that I would not enjoy the future? No, I know I would not, because I grew up with an entirely different perspective. I believe life is about change and change is living and healthy families change as they grow stronger together. That is what I want for my family and I believe to do that I am willing to make the necessary changes.

Lastly, I could worry about every time my husband drives the long distances he does or flies. Once he was traveling up I-75 after I had warned him that strong storms were coming through, but God was good as he was delayed in leaving the one customer to get to the next. He had to wait for three hours at a complete standstill in the middle of the night as they tried clearing the Walmart that the tornado left scattered across the highway, where he could have been if he left on time. It is not that I do not worry at times, it is just that I put my faith in God that whatever comes our way is His will. I know He may not always protect us the way I would like, but I have faith that His will shall be done in our lives. Most of the time I have peace because I choose to trust and have faith in my Lord.

~ My Lord, I am so thankful that I have recognized You as my Father and that You have accepted me as part of Your family. Help me to continue to grow and change and be helpful to You. Also, please keep all of our family close to You, My Lord. ~

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Thank you fellow travelers for walking and talking with me along this journey.