Feb 212014

Imagine if someone gave you a five-year block  and said, “You can do whatever you want.” What would you do?

I’m moving into a new phase of my life, having completed five years during which I did whatever I wanted to do, including running my own consulting business, community volunteering, and the occasional mid-afternoon nap. Next week I start a new full-time job with a wonderful health provider.

Five years ago, I could not have imagined what I’ve enjoyed.

I’ve had a bucket list of items before the term “bucket list” existed. The summer before college, three high school friends and I camped at the Indiana Dunes. We had deep conversations on hot July evenings about where our futures might lead.

My list included a smart husband, many children, and a home with Japanese maples, meaningful work involving writing, and travel all over the world.

The smart husband has been hanging around for thirty years (he calls it the “best 18 years of his life”); we have an adult son (naturally the smartest, best-looking young adult ever.)

My vintage 1970s home has two beautiful Japanese maples in the front. I’ve written in every job since 1971, and I’ve been to a few European countries and the Indiana State Fair for vanilla taffy and lemon shake-ups.

Things I couldn’t have imagined when I was eighteen showed up on my bucket list five years ago when I started this journey.

My mother died two years ago last week. Because I worked on contract for many health organizations, I was able to help my father in some caregiving duties during the last three years of her life. My brother, who lives near my dad, assisted my parents and now my father on a regular basis. Living 200 miles away I cannot be there all the time. I was able to be present more than if working a full-time job.

During this time, I took my parents on several trips. I took Mom back to her beloved Indiana University campus six months before she died. We walked through the Indiana Memorial Union, and I could see her wheels turning. She was smiling and happy; Dad pointed out things she might remember. Did she remember Sycamore Hall, once her 1950s dorm, now offices? What resonated with my mother was the little campus Lutheran Church she attended.

We flew to Washington D.C. and worshipped at the National Cathedral, where mom thoroughly enjoyed the grand music of the pipe organ. We  stood in the lobby of Union Station where my father stood in 1949 on his Camden High School senior trip.

We visited Hot Springs, Arkansas, where we took a spring garden tour and a boat ride on the lake.

We stayed at McCormick’s Creek State Park during a Harley-Davidson Convention. Every night on our evening walk, all the men flirted with Mom and asked her to go on a ride! She laughed, but didn’t go but enjoyed her talks about the motorcycles. She unexpectedly held a two-foot black snake during a presentation by the Nature Center.

After my mother’s death, my father traveled with us several times.

At eighteen, traveling with my parents was not on my dream list. Now I treasure those trips.

Since age fourteen, I worked on and off in journalism; in my dream I wanted to write for newspapers again.

At eighteen, I thought “The New Yorker” might be calling any day. That didn’t happen.

However, during the past five years, my voice came out loud and clear. Once I stopped emulating others, my own voice developed. That voice has nothing to do with – nor do I have the literary acumen – for a national magazine. However, I found my voice hidden in the people and places of Indiana, and now my newspaper column runs in a dozen communities and several online sites. I will write as long as I have the gift of my senses, and pen and paper or a computer.

During this half-decade, my husband and I also did some travel that wasn’t possible when I had more limited vacation. One of our tours was to Italy where our organized tour director kept us on schedule so we could see everything planned. When people asked why there were only two photo stops on the way to some Tuscan city instead of four, the tour director said, “All the time we have, is all the time we have.”

I move forward with no regrets. All the time we have is all the time we have.

Published on BlogHer.

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