One Year To Live

As far as I know, I am in excellent health for a fifty year old – and I’m 57. But, think

With my daughter, Thanksgiving 2011

with me for a few minutes; what would change in my life if I was told I had one year to live? Gone would be the long-term goals. In their place, would remain stark priorities; things that could realistically be completed in 12 months if I stepped up the pace. I could not afford to waste any time. My bucket list would be overhauled from, “someday I would like to have a Phd. in Music,” to “what information and knowledge do I need, right now, to make better music?” “I want to be published, and achieve a certain amount of acclaim,” becomes, “I want to write my heart, get it all on paper, for the benefit of those who follow after and the great conversation.” Suddenly, it would be clear to me exactly what I wanted to do and what was important.
People who have only a year to live spend lots more time with family. They renew old friendships and polish up their relationships, making sure all those stories that need to be told are told; that all the words that need to be said are said; that all the missing pieces are put in place. I want to make sure to fulfill my mission, complete my calling, fulfill my heart’s desire, keep my soul in excellent heath by performing lots of music, walking, writing; and reading what philosophers and sages have written. If I had only a year, I would want to maintain good health and an attractive appearance, so that I might go out with a bang, sail into port grandly. To that end, I will cut my hair, iron my clothes, choose my wardrobe carefully. But, one year is not long enough for braces or facelifts. I want to invest in life-long friendships and loving and tending of family. There is no time to waste on pursuing or flirting with new relationships.

I will endeavor to live 2012 as though it is my last year. I will invest more time and soul in family, music, writing, spiritual and emotional health, and friendships. While I want to live as though I have been given only a year; I am not one who can live as though there is no tomorrow. Inevitably the doing of these things – travel to be with family for milestones and memories, daily needs of food and shelter- present financial challenges.
I want to be about the business of putting my house in order; settling my debts; reconciling my accounts; mending fences. A year of life is short. There will be challenges. Never-the-less, I have decided to live 2012 as though it is my one and only year to live.

Merry Christmas – It’s been a year

A year ago, I was living 1100 miles away from where I am today, working as a checker at Safeway in north Seattle, Washington. I was also writing on the side, practicing my keyboard in my cousin’s guest bedroom, and walking two blocks to the library six out of seven days a week to check my email, job hunt, and keep up with my friends on facebook.

A lot can change in 365 days.  I am now living in a beautiful little adobe house on the edge of public lands and walking trails, a few miles outside of Grand Junction, Colorado.  I am working full-time as a family focused personal assistant. I am self-employed, ideally suited to be a personal assistant both by education and experience; and my current client is very dear to me.

The people I work with

 But, what about the 365 days in-between?

In January, I went to work for a medical anatomical laboratory as a lab assistant, moved to a charming studio apartment in Edmonds, Washington; fell in love with the sea and decided to stay there forever. I took dance classes with my cousins and some friends I had known since junior high.  Eventually, I stumbled on a senior citizen band and became the piano player by default. It had always been my plan to fly my children up to visit and maybe interest them in collaborating on some sort of music business.  Or, maybe, I would just make enough money to travel to see them all the time. Abruptly, in June, my job came to an end. Not wanting to leave, I began beating the streets for get-by jobs, and interviewing for positions in my area of interest. My son Kevin; hearing that I was going back for a third interview at a preschool in need of a music teacher; communicated that he was in need of a personal assistant whose duties would encompass preschool, childcare, photo/video shoots, and various music business. Once again, I packed all my belongings in my Subaru (and on top) and drove the 1100 miles back to Colorado. Being a family focused personal assistant to a music and media oriented client is a perfect fit. Like any good personal assistant, I simply keep things organized and do all the things Kevin would be called on to do around the home and office if he were not out serving clients and making money. When he has a shoot out-of-town, and decides to take his wife Sarah as assistant; I stay round the clock instead of going home at night. If Sarah is doing books, I entertain the kids. If Sarah is engaged with the kids, I go assist with the video shoots or take care of office filing.

The most memorable highlight of the year was our family working vacation to Southern California. Andrea managed a week off college.  Philip flew from Ft Collins to Las Vegas to join us.  We spent five days together at a beach house in Dana Pointe.  And we…took a lot of pictures, of course! What a grand vacation with all three of my children and all my grandchildren.

The baby turns 21


Philip at 18several months. c

My baby is turning 21. In many ways, he has been behaving like an adult for several months.  He has his own house share, friends and a job.  For transportation, he rides a bicycle several miles to work.  Though he has not lived under my care for over two years, I still worry over him.  The other day, finding he was about to ride his bike to work in the snow, and feeling helpless from a distance of 400 miles, I urged, “Well, wear a helmet then; or, or do something safe.”  He laughed.

How can you know, when you send your boy off to college, whether he will come back to you and live in your nest; or whether you have released him forever and he will never be your little baby again?

How can you grasp, when he packs his unique clothes, his skateboard and guitar in his car; hugs you and goes out the door; that everything you have done for the past 18 years; every opportunity you have provided, every event taxi you have driven, every long philosophical conversation, every creative project; has been preparing him to go away from you? To be an adult?  To be independent?  To not need you.

Over the weeks and months, it begins to sink in. You start to acknowledge. If he wants to see you, it is because he wants to spend time with you for who you are, not because he needs you for life sustenance. He has learned to take responsibility for himself.

If he comes under your roof again, it will be because he wants to; not because he needs you. If he dines at your table, rests his head on your pillows, and snuggles in the quilts and bed of his childhood, it will be because he chooses to be there, not because of your authority or manipulation.

If he calls for advice, it is because it is your particular view and voice he wants to hear; not because he desperately needs counsel.  He has made a few quality friends over the years.  He speaks with grace and respect, adult to adult, with all those he meets-including you. He takes responsibility for his own support, housing, food. Maybe these character traits, now visible,have to do with the opportunities you were able to give him.

Watching a son become an adult is both a joyful and melancholy occasion.  You somehow feel you ought to be there; ought to be a big part of his life and celebration.  After all, you were a super big player in his birth 21 years ago.

Yet his desire to spend time with you for who you are, his mother, for better or worse; will have a lot to do with the relationship you formed with him for those 18 years you were together. It may hinge on whether you were able to accept him for who he was, to find and further his dreams and goals rather than locking him into your own.  He will like to visit with you because you like and accept who he is and who he is meant to be.  Because, if you have done your job thoroughly; he certainly will not need you to pamper or provide.

July 2010 Ft. Collins
Family vacation San Clemente October 2011

Oh, the bliss of holiday music

There is nothing quite like the joy of having heard a good musical concert; having seen an exceptionally  good movie; reading a good book; or going for a walk and having a great intellectual thought.   You find yourself crowing inside, wanting to say to everyone you meet, “Hey, the best thing just happened to me, I am overjoyed.”

What?  What happened?  Did you win the lottery? Meet the person of your dreams?

No, not that.  I…I just heard a perfectly executed, exquisite picardy third last night-from mere high school children; and I am undone.  

Sometimes one great musical moment is enough to make you forget any amateurish antics or dissonance that went before. Beautiful harmonies, well executed, heal the emotion if not the soul. I wish it were not so rare.

It happened to me once in Texas, at a state fair.  The midway was so noisy, the hawkers so abrasive, we acquired headaches and nausea and determined to leave early.  On the way to the gate, we saw that the President’s Own Marine Band was about to perform.  We detoured. The moment the huge bells of euphonium low brass turned our way, mighty decibels of perfectly pitched perfection went straight to our eardrums, soothing as only music can.

“Perhaps,” you will say, “It is all in the eye, the mind, of you – the beholder.”

Ah, yes, and may it continue.  I cannot think of anything better than to be a flesh and blood music amplifier.  Off to church now, in anticipation that the drums and bass will gently rock me toward even more gratitude to the creator for making me thus.