Thoughts During and After a Blackout (Family Matters)

I am sitting in our living room surrounded by candles as daylight on this late February day quickly turns to night. We are having a blackout, something we have seldom had even during intense storms because all of our utilities are underground.

But the darkness, I am finding, actually provides me with some much-needed light. Light into my mind, my heart, and maybe even into my soul. We spent last week with our family in Florida—two days with Bill’s brother and three days with my aunt, uncle, and two cousins. I try extremely hard to never say “my” family and “Bill’s” family, because when we said “I do” 25 years ago, our lives and our families were forever joined. There is no his and mine; there is just ours.

I wrote those first two paragraphs yesterday during our what turned out to be a six-hour absence of all that is electric. Now I am sitting, bathed in light from a single lamp, waiting for thoughts to arrive in a cohesive order. But right now I am having a huge bout of monkey mind, although for my purposes I will refer to it as lemur brain. In this Madagascar critter-filled brain of mine, a single ring-tailed lemur walks with her black-and-white ringed tail straight up in the air to let the other parts of her tribe know where she is. She takes a few steps and sniffs a thought. No, not that one. She sniffs at another thought. Nope. She continues this journey though a wilderness of thoughts and images but none make her stay and write about them. She sits down, opens her iPad, and starts doing her little stream-of-consciousness musings; today, it seems, this is all she can do.

I (and that crazy lemur of mine) are thinking again of last week. Of family. Of what it is to be a family. Of how vitally important family is to me now that both of my parents are gone. Last week seems like a beautiful daydream now. And yet I have memories and photographs that prove it was real. Yet as the days of last week marched on, I felt a growing battle in my mind. Half of my thoughts were telling me to enjoy every minute, you don’t know when you will see these family members again, life is short, blah, blah, blah. And the more these thoughts continued, the more anxious I became. The other side of my brain was being all Eckhart Tolle, telling me about the power of NOW, and then my Dead Poet’s Society memories began whispering “carpe diem” in a rather menacing way and then I felt horrible because I am really bad at this living in the moment stuff. So both sides fought while I sat and tried to figure out what to do. The battle continued and this internal war ramped up air and sea power. I stood in the middle, helpless. Cease fire, I yelled. But no one heard me over the sounds of the tanks and Apache helicopters.

And yet there is this: when I really think about last week, I realize I actually did carpe diem. I looked into my aunt’s eyes and thanked her for so lovingly making sandwiches for our picnic. I watched as she smiled and thanked me as her eyes twinkled. I saw my uncle happily open a gift I gave him filled with memories of my mom, his sister. I saw my brother-in-law relaxing in his Florida pool area, a smile on his face because his brother was visiting him and as the two of them chatted on about taxes and fishing and the economy, I watched and smiled. And my cousins. Oh, my cousins. How I love them both and how I wish I could spend more time with them. Much more time.

But I guess that’s what this rambling post is all about. Family. Family matters. More to me than ever. I guess the carpe diem pressure I was feeling last week was for a good cause, after all. Simply put, I wanted to stop time. Freeze each moment, perhaps rewind it and watch it again, then do the entire week in slow motion. But life doesn’t work that way. I’m home now and the week with my Florida family is over. But they are with me, just as my parents are with me. Because love is never a specific time or place. It’s not 2:48 p.m. on a Thursday. Love is an internal map leading one to the next special moment in time. And that map is always in our hearts.

So I go ever onward to that next special moment. Who knows…someday I may even learn to carpe diem.

 

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