-By ALEXI VENICE
I recently learned a few things from my future son-in-law. First, toast your old and new living arrangements. Second, keep a positive attitude through thick and thin. Third, non-stick copper frying pans rock.
Awhile back, The Pitcher told us he always said goodbye to an apartment by toasting it with a few friends. He did the same for his new place when moving in. This got us to thinking, so we planned a little family gathering at the old house. Bill’s side of the family was spending some time up north with us, so we all drove to Eau Claire to enjoy a bottle of champagne while saying goodbye properly to the 23-year old house where we raised our children and celebrated holidays.
Unbeknownst to us, Chap Daddy and Paige had always wanted to climb the stone wall, but we had a piece of furniture in front of it all those years, thwarting their efforts. Well, climb it they did!
After the successful climbing, we roamed from room-to-room, sharing memories in the echoey space. Bootie Pepper recalled pacing around the kitchen island a few thousand times as she told us about her daily experiences, or when she was solving a problem. (I recall a good number of times when she stomped around the island, her 14-year-old defiance in full bloom.)
I also recall Teddy running full blast from the kitchen to the living room, always glancing at the china cabinet to see himself fly by in its mirror.
I can see both kids as toddlers, fresh from a bath, their towels wrapped around them, standing in front of the fireplace.
Speaking of fireplaces, the buyers wanted all of the split wood (several cords) as part of the deal. I thought Bill was going to blow a gasket. He worked for hours, sawing down trees at the farm, splitting trunks with a maul, and stacking (and aging—don’t forget the aging) wood under the overhang and in multiple sheds. Hundreds of man-hours went into that wood. And, to make the wood part of the house deal seemed to…what’s the right word…diminish its value. The wood’s, not the house’s. Bill’s umbrage was fair. He put the sweat into it.
In the end, we agreed that the buyers could have the wood in the sheds, but Bill would take the wood that was stacked under the overhang. Compromising to reach a deal means both parties have to be equally disappointed, right?
As a seller, you start with pie-in-the-sky notions about price and ease, but buyers inevitably chip away at your price then erase any sense of ease with inspections, repairs, chimney sweeps (BTW—”Soot Loose” is the best name for a chimney sweep I could imagine—and he did a tremendous job), and other demands. After getting worn down, mostly by a desire to be “done with it” and move on with your life, you end up not getting exactly what you wanted, but, in the wise words of Keith Richards and Mick Jagger, “…you get what you need.”
And, so it goes in life. I was part of a conversation over the Fourth of July about overcoming obstacles life throws at you. I’ve always been amazed at how some peoples’ lives seem so easy (at least from the outside). Work and relationships just seem to fall into place for them, the air parting as they walk from one accomplishment to the next. That hasn’t been my experience, but, in retrospect, my obstacles have made me a better person.
I moved out of my parents’ house when I was 17. Thanks to some courses at Brigham and Young University, I graduated a year early from high school and began college. Finally free from the acrimony of my parents’ pending divorce, I was ready to embrace the college experience. I borrowed a friend’s pickup and moved myself into my dorm.
At semester break, my father called to tell me he couldn’t afford to send me to college any longer, so I was officially on my own. I scrambled. I faltered. I scraped by, got a job, and put myself through college (in 4 years) then law school. I conquered the obstacles with grit, dogged determination and persistence. It wasn’t easy, and I engaged in my fair share of self-pity, but I did it. One of my goals in life (there were four back then) was to send my children to college. A lump formed in my throat when writing a check each semester for Bootie Pepper’s education. I was so elated to do something for her that didn’t happen for me.
Don’t get me wrong, there were easy, smooth sailing periods in my life with Bill and the kids for many years. The obstacles became everyday problems and challenges that we all face—on a much smaller scale than jobs, struggling through school, health issues or making monumental life decisions. However, as you all know, we were hit pretty hard with the sudden, catastrophic loss of Teddy.
That tragedy can’t even be described as an obstacle. It was a life-changing event that remains an unsolved mystery. If I allowed myself, I could fall into a black abyss of regret, confusion, and pain, but I confronted all that, worked through it, and overcame to the best of my ability. Everybody has something with which they’re struggling, and I’m no different.
The serpentine and patchwork path that I’ve walked has made me a stronger, more compassionate person who is aware of the fleeting dalliance of life and the fragile emotions of the those around us. What I once took for granted, I now value more than ever. In the rush of daily business, my thankfulness and gratitude may not always manifest, but I express them when I can, allowing my defensive edges to fall away and vulnerability to rise to the surface.
No, life hasn’t given me “what I wanted,” but I’ve tried real hard, and, sometimes, I get what I need. The loving relationships and purposeful work in my life have made my journey not only worthwhile but greater than my expectations. Like a stressed vine that produces more robust grapes, I feel like my struggles have transformed into some very sweet and full moments. I know there are many more on the horizon, so I will embrace every day (not like it’s the last because I’ve always found that notion weird) as a special and unique gift on my journey.
PS – In my next life, I’d like to return as my dogs. They’ve lived a fun and loving life, and Daisy has reminded me how to engage in all activities with only three functional legs, a part of her missing, yet not the focus of her existence. Her disability is metaphorical for the missing piece of my heart.
If your eyes misted up, then I thank you for your readership. And, I applaud copper nonstick. The Pitcher suggested we replace a crappy (and crappie) frying pan at the lake with a copper pan. Voila! I don’t even need butter to fry an egg. This pan is a miracle. Where has non-stick copper been all my life?!
Don’t misinterpret this message. I’m not suggesting that we don a cloak of non-stick copper, so life’s problems and tragedies will slide off us. There are some things that cannot slide, and we don’t want them to. Rather, we embrace the problems and tragedies as part of ourselves, thus increasing our capacity for love. That’s my point for this article: our capacity for love will carry us through life, creating light in spaces we thought only darkness could reside. May your day be filled with kindness, gratitude and love.
And I pray, “lead me not into temptation (because I can find that pretty well on my own), but please…oh please…deliver me from email.”