Today was a rare day of working from home. I say rare because it is not often that I can be at home all day, the entire day, whether working or not. And well…this one started out great…and rare…but it ended up being an ordinary day after all, and not so rare. A grandmother assignment knocked on my door and I was called out to active duty.
I was sitting in my jammies and it was almost noon. The morning had consisted of plowing through mounds of work, answering emails, talking to folks on the phone, setting up appointments, housework and anything and everything that was on the “to do” list. Yes, it is an actual list. I keep a physical list…written on a yellow lined legal pad…updated daily, sometimes hourly…and yes, I do get a lot accomplished and marked off that list each day. But the one thing that always bugs me is this: there is ALWAYS a list. I never get done, it is never empty, and I never find myself saying “Holy cow, what will I do now?” I was about halfway down the list when a voxer message came through from my daughter (look it up if you don’t know what that is, that is subject for another blog), about nothing earth-shattering or intense, but I could tell in the conversation that it was an edgy day for her. She wasn’t feeling too spunky, the boy kids were being rascals and the girl kid was occupied and peaceful for the moment but that is a volcano ready to blow anytime…she’s six. Enough said.
After a few messages back and forth I could see Samantha was not really feeling like getting out later to take my granddaughter to her square dancing lesson. It is an event taking the boys, busy little beavers that they are. They really are quite good, but by the time she gets them up from naps, fed, snacks ready for dancing because it runs late, everyone piled into the car, driven there, un-piled from the car and inside to watch young Sassy Sue do her stuff, then home and doing it all backwards to get them into bed for the night before they turn into pumpkins, it is pretty exhausting and leaves one wondering if it is really worth the effort at all.
I could see this wasn’t working for them and their family, but I also knew my granddaughter was loving every minute of it. She is a free-spirit and anything that she does in the creative field is like putting wind under gossamer wings for her…you can just see her lift higher in her confidence, her belief in herself, her talents and her pure joy in living. Her words to me after her very first lesson were pretty telling. “So, did you like this Lorelai, did you like square dancing?” to which she answered “I LOVE this, it is my THANG!” I snicker now to think of how sincere she was, and really how true it seems. So today when it began to look like she might have to stop doing something this important and nurturing to her, well, GiGi stepped in without a thought. I did take one tiny look at the piles of papers still on the desk and I winced. I knew my schedule was already crowded this week with an upcoming estate this next weekend, followed by meetings with vendors to get the home cleared and cleaned out next week and Thanksgiving holiday shoved into the middle of all that. Every moment this week and next was booked and planned and…on the list.
I told Samantha I would come get Lorelai and take her to class tonight, and I would designate myself her chaperone each Monday and make sure she got there for her classes. As I put down the phone, I did what I often do when Divine Intervention comes to visit…I make a little sighing sound, take pen in hand, mark out the non-essentials on the list leaving only the most urgent, and move the non-essentials to other days and hope for the best they will get done, too. This time I did a write in of ” GiGi pick up Lorelai at 6:30″ on all my Monday nights for the next several weeks, and perhaps months, because this had become an unexpected priority for me.
Unexpected priorities come in all shapes and sizes. They come in people who have a need for money when you just happened to get a little windfall in your mailbox this week. They come in the sudden extended illness or injury of a co-worker that places an additional workload on you when you are already a bit overburdened with your own job requirements. It comes in the little girl who loves to dance, the boys who need to run free on the playground even though there are dirty dishes waiting in the sink, the kitty cat who needs to sit in your lap, cuddle and purr and make both of you feel better and cared for. They may even come as strangers who teach you that you will either evaluate the substance of your days, or the substance of your days will one day evaluate you.
I had gone to lunch with a friend a few weeks ago. It was spontaneous and unexpected and I had that “list” going for the day. But I quickly decided to go to lunch, enjoy the food and conversation, and cross off a few things on the list so I could do just that. As we sat and talked I noticed a couple, about our same age, at the table across from us. The conversation between them was more one-sided than mine and my companion’s chatting, although it appeared the other couple was related, but maybe not married. She rattled on in a light manner, talking about family, about church and so forth. The man was hyper-focused on his food, and after a bit I could see he was struggling with his utensils and seemed to have every bit of effort being used to just eat his meal. The woman didn’t let that keep her from carrying on cheery talk. The man, after a few moments, got up from the table and headed to the restroom. My dinner companion was already away from the table. The woman leaned in after a few minutes and asked “Will you tell the waitress to bring our check if I have to leave the table?” nodding in the direction of the restroom. I said I would, but the waitress returned and I watched the lady pay, chat with a smile to the young girl, and continue to wait on the man, who I had found out in more small talk was her husband. “He is on heavy medication, but I try to let him do things on his own if I can. He has been ill a long time but only this ill a short while.” I could tell she wanted to talk to someone, so I said I was sorry to hear that and she teared up a bit and said they were celebrating their anniversary today. I wished them a happy one, but I was surprised when she said their real anniversary was not till January, and this was November. She then told me he had been diagnosed with terminal cancer the week before, and had been told he had only 3-4 weeks to live, and they decided to celebrate today. He was three weeks away…a bit more, a bit less…from completing “the list”.
I have thought about them often since that day. It is very possible he is still here, still working the list, still being her husband as best as he can. But chances are, if the doctors were right, he is no longer making choices about how he spends his time, who he spends it with, what he puts on the list, and what he takes off. Those choices have been made for him now, and also for those he loves. The wife had been taking care of him for almost five years and now that would no longer be on her list. All the errands, appointments, picking up prescriptions, crying in the darkness, wondering what she was going to do when she did lose him…was gone, too. An unexpected priority had presented itself in the care of a suddenly ill husband. A different priority was a now terminally ill husband’s care. Priorities had changed again and it was time to take care of herself, alone. I wonder if he would have made different choices in his moments, the things he placed on his to do list for his days if he had known this was how it would all end. More importantly I wonder if she would have chosen differently if she had known she wouldn’t have all the time in the world with him as one part of “them”?
Three weeks is such a short time when you are living the last of something…and seems like such a long time when you are living the first of something. We don’t have all the time in the world to get this thing right, we can’t always make it up later. Later isn’t always there for us or for those we love and have in our care. I think maybe it’s time to sharpen my pencil, get out the rubber eraser, and start eliminating some things that maybe were on the priority list but have moved on down or off the whole legal pad. It may just be time to pencil in a little more dancing and a little less “do it”. Dancing through my days…well, it may just be my “thang” very soon. You too?