Friday, November 8, 2013

How Do You Live Without Regrets?

 "Jen, do whatever it takes to rearrange your schedule and make it happen. It may well be your last chance."

The email finds me late one night, as insomnia stalks me. Curled up in the corner near an outlet, I'm reading emails after midnight. Blue light from the ipad casts a blinding glow across my corner, throwing shadows into the sleeping house.

She's right, of course, my sister. It's been four years since I've seen my grandma, and she was just transferred to a retirement home.
The next morning, I made my case to my husband; he kindly agreed, and we set in motion the long line of phone calls, cancellations, and work schedule changes. Six days later, I kissed my family goodbye, grabbed my backpack and drove to my parents' home for the carpooling road trip to Florida.

In two long days of driving, we passed corn fields, farmlands, barren strips with windmills, and bobbing carpets of pink cosmos blossoms. State lines ushered in rising temperatures, cotton fields, pecan orchards, and finally, sloping palm trees.


 My grandma is 86 years old, and has raised six strong, hard-working children who love their families. Children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren span the country, while our matriarch sits quietly on a black fold-up walker in her new center's tropical backyard. Air plants coiled sinewy vines beside Spanish moss and draped off trees, while tiny lizards skittered nearby. I watched my parents and aunts and uncles swap stories and share family news with my grandma, and I lapsed quiet, the stories washing over me.

The days passed quickly, coffee cups filled and refilled, and we gathered for one of Grandma's favorite meals: liver and onions. Later at a picnic in the park, and around family tables, I was thrilled to spend time with my cousins and their families, my aunts and uncles, and to get to know them more.


We wandered at the sponge docks, poked into shell shops, and marveled at this town that boasts its identity as a Little Greece, second only in size to actual Greece for its Greek population numbers. Throaty dark-haired gals shouted out bargain deals of gyros and baklava, and we headed into one of the bistros for a hearty Mediterranean meal.

All too soon, it was time to leave. We packed up the car, carefully placed in our bags of shells, and headed cross-country to the midwest. The temperatures fell with each state, and we added layers as we drove. By Minnesota, we raced the brooding snowstorm home, beating it by a few hours.

The next morning's snowfall blanketed yellow leaves, masked my footsteps, and washed away my time in Florida like waves on the sand.

Pinks and yellows strata the horizon tonight, as the sun sinks low. Meat sizzles and sears behind me, and dishes clatter.

Is there anyone you need to call or go see? My sister's right. Do whatever it takes to arrange your schedule to make it happen.

Because, me? I almost missed it. When this trip was first offered to me on short notice, I turned it down twice, not thinking I could pull off a week's notice of cancellations and schedule changes. I almost missed it, would have missed this chance to reconnect with relatives, to meet new ones and to hug and see my grandma. My sister's right. 

Anyone you need to call? Pick up the phone, or grab a pen and paper, and don't let this day pass without saying the words you would want them to hear...

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5 comments:

Betty Draper said...

Jennifer this an awesome post...it was easy to take each mile with you because of the well laid out post. So very glad you took the trip, thanks for the challenge to take the time for others.

Floyd said...

The self sacrifice is always worth it. The inconveniences always seem to pay the biggest dividends in our Father's economy. Being the youngest, my oldest brother has done the same thing over the years to make sure I didn't miss something of significantly more importance than the things that I couldn't have recalled later anyway. Beautiful post.

Anonymous said...

So glad you went Jen. The week after Thanksgiving will be a year since I've been Mom/Grandma. Now you won't have any 'if onlys'. Thanks too for the pictures.

Jayne said...

You are so right. Time slips by too quickly and before we k ow if the generation just ahead of us is gone. So, glad you enjoyed your trip.

rainydayinmay.com said...

This post is always timely, and so true...

thanks for sharing your story and your heart. Your grandmother is adorable!