Thursday, December 29, 2011

Goodbye to the old year

It's always good to look back on the old year before we move forward to the new.

At the end of this year, on December 31, 2011, my father will have been dead for a year and a half. I haven't gone a day without thinking about him. My youngest sister and I cleaned out his house, we put it on the market, and now a family with children is making it home. My brother and I worked together doing estate business, and I'm grateful for the time with each of them. My other two sisters had a high school reunion this year, giving the five of us an excuse to meet in Greensboro for a bonus visit.

We realized that there were many questions we should have asked my dad, so we've gone a couple of times to see his sister in a nursing home. She has let me tape her as she told us of their childhood, the loss of their father in his late thirties, and one very disturbing revelation that she had never told anyone.

Inspired by these stories, I have come up with a very intriguing character, a young boy named Eugene. He and his cousin, George, are revealing themselves to me a little at a time, and I'm beginning to think that a novel is sneaking up on me.

I lost two very dear friends this year. The first, in April, was Catherine. I have known Catherine since our children were in preschool. She was a magnificent presence, and her death a real loss. The second was a college friend, Linda. Linda and I took two writing classes together this year where she wrote of her cancer and the loss of her husband with poignancy and, believe it or not, humor. I have her story to remember her by.

We lost a few other friends and family too.

Our business has sustained us, a miracle in this scary economic time.

I ran over our wonderful cat, Chippy, and killed him. But a photograph I took of him was chosen to hang in the new NCSU vet school building, so he lives on to those who see it.

I celebrated six years of not drinking and five of not smoking. I remember thinking when I gave each of them up that I wished it had been a long time. And now it has.

My daughters have had their ups and downs, but they're mostly happy, doing work they enjoy. They were all home for the holidays. I told one of my daughters that when they were small, I used to feel sorry for people whose children were grown. Now I rejoice in their adulthood!

At Christmas, we had three gatherings - my family, my husband's family, and one with friends and family. They went off without a hitch! I think part of that is because my husband has figured out that work is the best place to be when I'm getting ready for big events! When my family came to town, we cooked oysters, just as we used to do at my grandparents house at the beach.

And now, I've looked back. I'm ready to pluck the new year, to welcome the joy and sorrow, inspirations and insecurities, celebrations of life and death that it will bring.

Thanks for riding this one out with me.