Monday, December 29, 2014

The Broken Road

Broken Road - Photo by Jimmy Capps
As another year winds down, I find myself reflecting on the past year, and the years before that, and how I’ve arrived at this time and place. Have you ever stopped to ponder the small events  that shape our entire lives? The positive influences: a chance meeting, an unusual connection, making the right choice, joy, success, birth, and random acts of kindness. Life isn’t all smooth traveling. We have negative forces at work: accidents, disease, heartbreak, betrayal, deceit, failure, and death.

Everything that happens in life shapes who we are. The choices we make determine the quality of our very existence.

This year the broken road has climbed some high peaks and traversed through some deep valleys. I’ve lost loved ones this year. Most recently a cousin to a lingering illness, a niece to an unexpected death, and today my sister-in-law’s mother died from Alzheimer’s disease.

Life is tainted with a special type of sadness when a loved one is afflicted with dementia. Even with our small successes in Alzheimer’s legislation, this awful disease is still without a cure or effective treatment.

Alzheimer’s changed the course of my life. It took away the man I’d shared my life with, changed the color of the sky, and the taste of the air. It left a hole in my universe. Snapped away all my plans and dreams and left me with a different destiny.

It’s hard to believe that Jim died nearly ten years ago. I’m still sorting through a lifetime of mementos, and my heart breaks when I find one of Jim’s favorite shirts, a guitar pick, an old pair of glasses, an outdated drivers license—things that he once touched, used, or cherished. Old pictures memorialize slices of our lives, and stacks of videotapes provide a record of vacations, jam sessions, or a mundane day with a conversation long forgotten. The loss ambushes me from time to time.

But just like others who lost loved ones, I found more strength than I ever suspected lurked within me. Basically, when life crumbles, you have two choices: quit or move on. I like to say that I’m not a quitter so the second choice was a natural one for me. I conquer another piece of the broken road. Life goes on and life can be so good, sweet with many more smiles than tears.   

I had some major life changes this year—retirement, marriage, living in a different home, publishing two books, and watching time blur by and recede into the past. I have much to be thankful for as most of my family keeps on keeping on without missing too many beats.

When I think about life and all the “stuff” I’ve accumulated—toys, possessions, collections—it becomes clear that the important things in life can’t be bought. It is the intangibles that make life worth living: attitude, love, happiness, faith, hope, family, health…

To move forward in life, I can’t keep looking back at what once was, but must anticipate what is yet to be. After all, everything that happened along the broken road is imbedded in my memories, and seeped into my DNA. I’m comfortable with who I am and where I am at this stage of my life.

Today at the post office I saw a former co-worker. In fact, he was picking up the company mail. “Looks like retirement suits you,” he said.

“I love it!” I agreed. There’s something totally liberating about choosing what to do and when to do it. Oh, sure, I still have commitments and appointments that I keep, but most of my day is what I choose it to be.

“What are your plans for today,” Harold often asks me when we first wake up. He is a planner, I’m a seat of the pants type of person.

“I plan to drink this cup of coffee,” I say.

“Then what?”

“Drink another cup.” One thing I know—until I’ve had my coffee, I don’t want to think about the day beyond this moment, much less plan it. Besides, instead of spending time and energy to make plans, I’d rather be moving on down the road toward my destiny.

copyright © Dec 2014 by L.S. Fisher

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