Today, my mother is 80. Celebration time is here as relatives, sisters and grandchildren start the drive to Harrisonburg. Half of the fun has always been the anticipation of a gathering. There will be steaks and Kline’s black raspberry tonight and a big chicken barbecue on the river tomorrow. We think about food a lot in this family. My children never want to miss a Blose family gathering where you are always loved, celebrated and accepted and you can guarantee your sides will hurt from laughing by the end of the evening. Oh, the stories we have to tell!
My Mom grew up in the same environment that she and Dad created for themselves: loads of love, laughter and hard work balanced with fun. But my Dad didn’t grow up in this type of home. In fact, from the stories I’ve heard, most of my grandparents didn’t grow up in joyful, laughter-filled homes. There was judgement, anger, stress, tension and at times, emotional abuse. After years in public education and studying family dynamics, I strongly feel that the family you seek doesn’t just happen, but must be created with tenderness and intentionality.
Last night at dinner, we were talking about our love of Disney World. Lauren recalled an incident where a big water ride shut down, and we were stuck in the blazing sun for twenty minutes before they emptied the water and hurried us behind the scenes to disembark. They were more concerned with us not taking pictures of the ride without its magic water than our discomfort. She talked about how I talked the park into Golden fast passes for the rest of the day. What was really remarkable is that she talked about that trip with a smile. You see, I took them away three weeks after their Dad died, not to forget about what had happened, but to temporarily set aside the new normal of life without Tony and to remind them that we were still a family that could laugh and experience the joy and thrill of a roller coaster. The memory of that trip could trigger sadness and regret and perhaps to an extent, it does, but that sadness is balanced with happy thoughts. Intentionality is what I learned from this family and from my Mom’s family.
This past week Anne and her kids took Mom on a Virginia history tour, visiting Monticello, Colonial Williamsburg and Jamestown. When she was in one room at Monticello the tour guide offered her a chair for “old and decrepit people.” (Mom’s words, not the guide’s words) She said she wished she could have seen the look on his face when she politely declined that old person chair. Today Mom is officially an octogenarian. A new number. I recall my nephew Billy crying when he turned four because he was going to miss “his old number.” Will she miss her old number like little Billy? Maybe there are some new normals that she will have to adjust to with this new number, but she’s done it before. But the big things about her, the essence of her, won’t change. She will still be our Mom, wise and strong. Wife, confident and devoted. Grandma, keeper of sugared cereal and candy. Great grandma to two, keeper of juice boxes. Sister. Mother in law. Friend. Mrs. Blose to some. And most importantly, Ellen.
Happy birthday, you old brown-eyed girl! Let’s celebrate!