Navigating the twists and turns of life
While on a decluttering mission at home recently, I came across a box filled with VHS cassettes. You remember VHS, right? Video Home System – yes, the outdated technology of home viewing that was a craze in the 80s and 90s!
As I sifted through them, intending to clear the box, I realized that a couple of them contained priceless memories. Memories of loved ones who had passed on. Memories of Mom and Dad in particular.
I got the tapes digitally converted and despite their poor quality (it’s a wonder those tapes hadn’t worn out completely!), it made for very emotional viewing. While watching one of them, I was reminded of just how fickle life can be with its cruel twists and turns.
This particular video was recorded during the time that Dad was at the height of his glory. An ex-military man, he gained a second wind in his career post-retirement as an educator. He looked every inch like a man set for a glorious second inning in the company of my Mom, his life companion for 34 wonderful years.
Unfortunately, fate intervened less than a year from the date of that video with Mom’s untimely and unexpected demise.
I recall that fateful day when Dad was sitting with a shocked look on his face as the ceremonies started for Mom’s final farewell. The strong and proud Navy man looked broken and rudderless. He kept saying through his tears, “I can’t manage without her”.
While Dad was the provider in the marriage, Mom was the preserver. She was a homemaker and the queen of her castle. Their partnership worked beautifully with clearly demarcated responsibilities, and they had no qualms about each of them focussing on what they did best! The home (kitchen in particular!) was Mom’s domain, just as bringing home the bacon (or cauliflower, as we were vegetarians!!) was Dad’s. The result was a wonderful home environment that I was fortunate and blessed to grow up in.
It is quite phenomenal what a crisis brings out of a person if they have the will to adjust and adapt. As the saying goes, “I can’t change the direction of the wind, but I can adjust my sails”.
The former sailor adjusted his sails, and how!!!
Dad “managed” on his own for 27 years after Mom left. He lived alone, and never felt the need for another woman in his life. He carried on with the memories of his beloved wife until the last couple of years of his life, when even his memories were snatched away through Alzheimer’s disease.
From a man who didn’t know how to even make a cup of tea when Mom was around, he transformed into an expert in the kitchen who could cook up a feast.
To me and my brothers, he became Dad and Mom rolled into one. His personality morphed from the strict disciplinarian to the kind and loving parent, almost merging Mom’s personality into his own.
Witnessing firsthand Dad’s ability to handle the unexpected jolt in his life with fortitude and resilience in the face of huge personal tragedy was a massive learning experience for me.
Life is never a straight-line journey. There are usually more hairpin bends than a winding mountain road!
When you least expect it, you can get hit by a change you were never seeking. When you think you have things under control, the rug can be yanked from under your feet.
“Be prepared” is a good philosophy, but is it possible to always be prepared for any eventuality?
Life can often lull you into a false sense of security. When things are going well, we tend to let our guard down. That’s when we’re at our most vulnerable.
I tend to think of life as an opponent in a boxing match. Sometimes we seem to have the upper hand and start feeling invincible. Then out of nowhere comes a sucker punch that stuns us, maybe even drops us to the floor.
What defines our life from that point onwards is our ability to get back up and continue the fight. Instead of lying on the floor and bemoaning our fate, can we get back on our feet to go another round?
Life is waiting.