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Partway Through Portland...

Cross-country family is complicated...and precious.

I’m over a day into a too-short visit with my folks. Dad’s shoulder surgery, take-two, seems to be progressing with more optimism around. It is soothing something in me to be here at this time, though I’m not doing anything in particular and each of us tends to difficulty in our own way. We laughed together at this difference, as I had attempted to share my way, well represented in a beautifully written book, Wintering: Rest and Retreat in Difficult Times. Not their way. They couldn’t wait to get the book out of their home. (I continue to laugh aloud whenever I think of it–my irrepressible need to share my emotional ways to befriend difficulty, always contrasting with their well-seasoned ways. Completely independent of me. How could that be?!? hahaha) The walk to Whole Foods for me to return it was good for me in stretching my legs. Win-win. Also a win that we’ve learned to laugh together when this happens.

I suspect heart-ache and the adjective cross-country are what brings me to the page this morning.

My parents are living precisely the elder years they’ve chosen, hoped-for, sought. I am beyond thrilled, even proud of them. After 47 years in small-town Ohio, shortly before their 80th birthdays, they sold their home and trekked out to Portland, Oregon. The joke I often make is that they wanted to be around Democrats before they died. Wow did they succeed, perhaps a bit more than they could have imagined. They entered into a continuous care retirement community (CCRC) where my dad’s elder brother and wife had landed years before. They joined a Presbyterian church close to home. It has been a beautiful modeling of how I would want to age, if I get the opportunity to age as they have.

I’ve also taken to saying that they’ve created more years for themselves, by living in such a way as to require making new friends, finding new ways to participate in community, to live fully into the time they have. They are more alive than they were five years ago in their comfortable home of 47 years. And they are surrounded by a community and resources that will hold them as they age. Including “a hoot of Hesses,” as we’ve coined the collective noun for a “gathering of us.”

Yet my heart aches a little this morning. The generational transition is creeping in, and cross-country is only going to get more…what?...difficult? Sorrowful? Uncertain? I get to live with the delight in their choices alongside the inevitable grief at the impermanence of things, my inability to know close-up how they are in the years to come. They are aging as gracefully as a German-American/Irish-American couple might (hahaha), but I do smile that it was not my choice for this cross-country distance. An unexpected gift?

We stay connected as we know how, and love one another as best we know how. I am thankful. AND cross-country is hard, when you know family like we know family.

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