Remembering Momma: Simply A Shift Of Tense.

10 years ago today, my Dad called me to tell me that he was purchasing an airline ticket for my wife and me for the worst reason. Our bags were already packed. Less than an hour later, my Dad called me again. It had happened. My mother, Norma Jean McAfee, had passed away at 65. It’s hard to believe it has been 10 years. Some years are harder than others. These past couple of days have been a punch in the gut.

Momma, I miss you terribly. Having said that, I often look in the mirror, at my wife, at my kids, and at my grandson and YOU ARE THERE. When I had my TIA, as I lied inside an MRI machine, you were there. When Taelor took his first steps and said his first words, you were there. When Shayna got married and I walked her down the aisle, you were there (likely amused with my kilt). When Tom got married and I was introduced as Father of the Groom, you were there (likely shaking your head and giggle about my clown makeup). When my wife and I walked across the commencement stage together, you were there (I even said “Hi, Mom!” on the stage). I would not have obtained that degree without your inspiration and influence.

As easy as it is to recognize all the moments you WERE there in the last 10 years, I must remember that in many moments where you ARE STILL THERE. Every time Brianna sees a butterfly, you are there. She even bought a solar powered one that flaps its wings on the dashboard of my car. As Caleb becomes more and more independent, you are there. Every time I write one of these essays, you are SO THERE (to the point where I can almost feel your presence sometimes). I hate that I cannot share my writing with you face to face but you are still very much…THERE.

Most importantly, I need to remember that, in so many ways, you will STILL BE THERE. As Renee’s education and mine lead to new endeavors, you will be there with each of us finding out where our respective roads will lead. You will be there as each of the kids move on with their adult lives (watching in wonder alongside me). You will be there as your great-grandson, Taelor-James, continues to grow into the young mighty warrior that he has been since birth. Every time, I walk the boardwalk along the Genesee River, the harbor off of Lake Ontario, or the trails along the Erie Canal, you will be there. With every day that I wake up and pledge to do something about my weight, you will be there (as you understand that struggle better than anyone I know).

Yes, Momma. I miss you terribly. But I know, as you would poignantly point out to me, this is all just a matter of shift the tense: you were there, you are there, and you will be there. You have never truly left me. I know you will be there again…soon. I may not realize it until after the fact or even expect it (in spite of all the aforementioned examples). All the same, I can’t thank you enough for teaching when to shift the tense. I look forward to seeing the next shift.

[Note: Before I had a chance to post this, you were there. Once again, you came in the form of a butterfly in our backyard while Brianna played with Taelor. Thanks for visiting, Momma.]

From Henrietta Town Hall to the Commencement Stage: Part Two (What’s Stopping You?)

 

Hello, Folks! Well, I once again have another college semester behind me. I promised myself that I would do more blog writing once the semester was over. Admittedly, I got caught up in some other stuff over the last few weeks. Nevertheless, here I am again. I have truly missed sharing my life with you all.

I am sure that many of you who have read my pieces previously, you noticed the words “commencement stage” in the title. Yup, it’s another graduation piece. I know some of you are taking some pause at this. Yes, I have written commencement pieces for two kids who have graduated high school, a daughter who has graduated college, and a wife who graduated with a Bachelor’s in 2013. After all of those graduations, I know you are wondering who it is that’s graduating this time. Well, folks…I AM! To add icing to this proverbial cake, MY WIFE IS GRADUATING TOO (IN THE SAME CEREMONY)!!!! That’s right!. My college studies have been completed. My wife and I are having our commencement on 12 June 2016. We are both graduating from Empire State College. I have completed my Bachelor’s degree in Organizational Communications. My wife has earned her Master’s degree in Social  and Public Policy.

I should clarify that my wife and I didn’t exactly plan to attend college at the same time. I began pursing my bachelor’s in 2010. In 2012, as my wife was nearing the end of her Bachelor studies, we moved to our current home. I was dealing with the logistics of the move, part time college, and full time work. Juggling it all was a bit much to say the least. After some personal reflection, I decided, with my wife’s support to drop the classes I was taking and take the rest of the semester to settle in from the move.

Fast forward nearly 18 months later. My wife had graduated with her Bachelor’s degree. Things were settling in our new place which included our adult son and daughter plus a grandson who was born in 2012. I figured this was an opportune time to discuss with my wife my return to finishing my Bachelor’s degree. After all, I had stopped in 2012. 2014 was around the corner. Then, my wife dropped a bomb.

Try to picture this. I am sitting in our living room. I am talking with my wife and was literally within seconds of uttering my next words to discuss the subject. Before, I even got a breath out, my wife said: “I’ve been thinking. I should go back to school and get my Master’s degree.” I was floored. I sat there, like a deer in the headlights, not knowing how to respond. When my wife asked what was wrong, I explained that I wanted to talk to her about returning to school myself. Without hesitation, she asked: “What’s stopping you?”

I expressed concerns about us both studying at the same time and the toll that could take on our quality time together. She reminded me that we were already doing that when I halted my studies in the first place. What can I say? My wife had once again shown herself to be someone with amazing insight.

We did encounter a few bumps in the road during the course of our academic journey (as life is known to provide). We were blessed to see, not just one, but two of our kids get married. We have welcomed a grandson into the world. We have watched our daughter battle the onset of rheumatoid arthritis.  We have endured the heartbreak of several funerals. In November 2015, I had a mild stroke. Less than a month later, my wife had spinal fusion surgery which brings a slow but worthwhile recovery.

A couple of these bumps hit so hard that it delayed my wife’s graduation. Like I said, it never occurred to us that we would be in the same commencement ceremony. It just happened that way. We dealt with life’s proverbial lemons and made the lemonade as potable as possible. I can say, with no undue modesty, that I don’t think my wife and I are particularly any more special than another other married couple. Some couples just go to the movies together. We went to college.

In closing, I want to first address my lovely queen, Renee. Baby, you and I got married 22 years ago. We have reared kids to adulthood. We are blessed with a grandson. This commencement you and I are sharing together is one of the most amazing bonding experiences I can ever hope to share with you. I am so proud of what you have accomplished. Even more, I am blessed to have you by my side as I pursue my accomplishments.

Lastly, I want to ask my readers. Do you have a venture you are considering? Are you looking to pursue a higher education for yourself? Are you looking to make a career change? What are the obstacles that you see? In other words, as my wife so insightfully asked: “What’s stopping you?” Bumps in the road WILL come. Detours will happens. The thing to remember is…it’s a detour…NOT a stop sign.