I’m watching the predictable patterns of life starting to play out now that 2013 has officially kicked in. I find both comfort and, admittedly, some drudgery in routine.
You don't need a fortune cookie to predict the seasonal rhythms of life.
Like right now, we’re at that post-holiday time of year when the holiday “hangover” still has a little grip on all of us. Your decorations have recently been put away, but it’s likely you didn’t fully redecorate yet. There are just some empty spaces now where there was holiday cheer last month.
You have some vague sense of Valentine’s Day approaching, but haven’t quite grasped that yet, either.
Around the house, I find it tough to commit any real effort to anything right now. I shovel the snow when it falls, warm the car before we go, and salt the sidewalks--all without much ceremony.
It gets dark so early that hibernating becomes a hobby this time of year, and the pro football season dwindles down to a few last playoff games, ending all the optimistic discussions that began last fall about your team doing so well.
Soon the Lenten weeks preceding Easter will begin, and my family will exchange phone calls telling each other where the best fish fries are being held. This is always from a hot tip given by someone else at the office or some random guy at a gas station.
We follow the leads, and every time it falls short of what we were hoping for. This always amuses me, too, because it’s just frozen fish cooked by church volunteers and coleslaw out of a carton served by eighth-graders, yet my family comments on the quality like the Iron Chef has let us down.
“These French fries are ice cold.” No kidding? Funny thing, though, this mediocre quality doesn’t prevent the holy of holies to nab $8.75 a plate, and man, the line goes all the way around the block; quite a racket, this.
And yet I know we’ll be back and I have no idea why.
Easter will come and go, and we’ll hear about the new prospects for our beloved baseball team and where you can get a good deal on mulch.
We’ll attack our yards with reckless abandon for the three months of successful blooms and under-sized garden vegetables (“the nights were just too cool”), and the pools will open, the air conditioners will start humming, and the backyard grills will scent the neighborhood most evenings.
Little League boys with matching caps will appear on bicycles on their way to and from practice and tables will be full at most of the outdoor eateries and patios we see.
July will come way too soon, and the “Back to School” ads will fill the papers and, before we know it, the high school football team will be conditioning in preparation for the first game.
We’ll hear the echoes of marching bands practicing as we pass local stadiums, and one or two days will have that autumn “bite” in the air. You’ll see a few leaves on a few trees starting to change color and, before you know it, pumpkins will be for sale from roadside markets and they’ll be stocking the bins with frozen turkey at the local grocery store.
When that big meal’s been had, we’ll go find us a nice sized tree and bring it home to officially begin the holiday season. Money will be short and things we plan will not come off as planned, but we almost expect that any more.
And soon thereafter, the cycle will begin again.
And though it sounds like I am complaining, I thank God each and every day for the reliable simplicity and routine of all I just mentioned above.
Of the many friends I have, and the many I have known who have passed on or been relegated to a life that lacks mobility or, worse yet, a life alone, these little routines mentioned above are the things they miss the most.
I had one friend who reminded me of that all the time. He was one my closest friends at work, and he lost his four-year battle with cancer late last year. He was the same age as me, but his bravery was just such an example for the rest of us.
He’d hobble into work having been weakened by another chemo treatment and he’d say, “Is this not just a BEAUTIFUL day?”
He’d ask about our families, notice little things like a new haircut, and wish us each a great day. When we’d be alone and I’d ask how he was doing dealing with all that was in his head (he knew he would be leaving behind a young wife and family), he’d pause and smile and just dwell on today; reminding me always that every hour was a gift.
See, he would live that example, not just say it. He always found something to “celebrate.” Always found something positive in the simplicity of life.
That particular habit of his always choked me up and reminded me of an uncle my mom used to tell me about. He was very kind to her when she was a little girl and always brought her treats and things to make her smile.
Never having had a daughter himself, he continued his habit of surprising her as he and his wife became elderly. Now and then he’d call and ask her to come by, and when she arrived she’d find a unique antique he’d found at a flea market or yard sale that he knew she’d love.
Well, one night he had an episode at home and his wife called my mother, as she was not very capable of handling stressful emergencies. My mom and dad dashed over there to find he had experienced a heart attack. They ran him to the emergency room, and my mom sat with him while my dad tried to handle the paperwork and admittance requirements.
She knelt by the wheelchair and asked how he was feeling. He smiled at her and said in that deep baritone voice of his, “pretty good,” although clearly he wasn’t. A tear rolled down her cheek and they became aware of some of the nurses talking just a few feet away;they were deciding what to put on the pizza they were going to order for their dinner break.
He paused and they listened together to the ladies chatter and then they read off the list what they would be putting on top of this masterpiece pizza. He smiled again and said to her, “Mmmm, now doesn’t that sound good?”
She nodded and hugged him and stood to talk to my dad, who had just rejoined them. When she knelt back down to explain to him what the doctors were about to do, he was gone. His head had gently rested to the right and down, and he had breathed his last.
Attempts to revive him were futile,and later that week Uncle Ed was buried in a humble plot off of Eastland Road in Berea, Ohio.
As we stood by the grave and watched them lower him into the ground, regular traffic went by on the street that led to the nearby highway; trucks making deliveries, buses taking children to school, life marching on.
Ron Ciancutti is the Purchasing Manager for Cleveland Metroparks. He is not on Facebook, but he can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.