I watched 2012 dawn on the water in Florida. I always sing “Red Sails in the Sunset” when I see that big red ball of fire near the horizon. It doesn’t matter whether it’s sunrise or sunset, the song seems to fit and it makes me smile. I was up alone in the Destin condo while Dave and our friends snoozed for a couple of hours. I wasn’t lonely. I love that time of day, no matter where it happens to be.

The night before, we cooked a festive dinner of filet of beef and shrimp scampi and toasted with the balcony doors wide open to the rolling evening waves, a sincere toast to a “good” year. I should have stayed up to see something drop somewhere at midnight–a peach in Atlanta, a music note in Nashville, or the ball in New York City, but I just couldn’t keep these eyes open past 10 P.M. I didn’t want to.

I remember thinking, just before pulling the covers over my head, “There ought to be resolutions, oughtn’t there?” And then, “Something to think about when we get home.”

I started to think about 2012 in late September, I guess because fall is the time I start to think of what to write in the Christmas letter. Don’t congratulate me for in-depth planning. I don’t produce that holiday mailing until the week before Christmas. I just give myself plenty of time to root around in my failing memory and a chance to interview Dave regarding his take on the year’s most meaningful moments.

What do I want for 2012? By early October, I knew the overall theme I would adopt for the new year. I wanted to get my priorities straight–and I knew I didn’t want to wait until January 1.

By the second half of 2011, Mom and Dad required more attention. Dad is still a workhorse in the gardens and on the banks of the ravine, and he still team-teaches a Seniors Sunday school class; but he tires more easily and he seems to have more frequent “bad” days. His most consistent nutrition is taken in the form of ice cream, about a gallon a week, and his breakfast is a cookie with his coffee. Sometimes I can tempt him with New England clam chowder, enchiladas, or shepherd’s pie, but he never misses the ice cream or the cookie.

Mom’s arthritis seemed to progress more rapidly and then she had a bout with stomach distress that culminated in the removal of her gallbladder. Even after her surgery, she missed days of her water aerobics for arthritis when she woke up with stomach upset. We’re still trying to figure out what’s causing this recurring gastritis.

Sometime in the last half of the year, the four of us began to eat a common meal at the middle of the day, an old Southern custom. Most of the time, I cook. It’s my way of knowing the two oldsters eat a balanced meal each day; or, perhaps it’s knowing they are offered a balanced meal each day since my menu choices are not always hits out of the ballpark. I’m happier with the cleanup, too, when I cook.

When our resident old folks made a trip to Nevada to visit my brother and his family, my daughter-in-law and I launched a cleaning invasion in the apartment, scrubbing every dish, glass, and pan, replacing bath rugs and towels, re-engineering storage, and detailing bathrooms. Dave and I hired bi-weekly cleaning help without consulting the parents–and then thought about how to spin such a move when they returned.

We shouldn’t have fussed over their feelings. Mom loves the Monday all-clean house and Dad loves Mom loving it. Mom says she didn’t know how hard it was on her to change the sheets until someone else starting doing it. She says she didn’t realize how much she was letting go because it was too difficult for her to do. And she says she guesses she deserves to have her house cleaned now that she’s eighty.

The October short list of priorities went like this: more care and attention for Mom and Dad, write more/write more often, get that garage monstrosity cleaned up. There are still a few boxes that we’ve never unpacked–no, really, there are– and I regularly make something of a mess rooting around in what has been unpacked and reorganized. Who am I kidding? That garage is downright offensive.

I acted on the first two items on the list before Christmas, resigning from several time-eating activities, committees, and responsibilities. Actually, I answered the call on that second item earlier in the year by joining the best writing group I’ve ever had. I am not writing as much as I want to, but I am writing consistently and my novel-in-progress now gets weekly attention. I piddled and dilly-dallied with that thing about cleaning up the garage…

Now that almost half a month of the new year has passed, I think I’ll give myself a progress report. I didn’t rush but I packed away the twenty-odd bins of Christmas stuff. That corner of the garage looks good. Dave pounded some nails in the rafters so that I could hang baskets and wreaths. We hauled an old bookcase into my office to hold the overflow from the current wall of books. I figure if I do one little thing–just one weeeeeee thing–each day, I’ll have the entire downstairs organized and cleaned up by, oh, let’s say Easter.

Unless I get interrupted.

I finished Chapter 15 of the novel the first week in January. “It is a pivotal chapter,” I told myself, “and that’s the reason Chapter 16 runs from me.” But a funny thing happened in the garage yesterday. I found Chapter 16 just about the same time I found how I can make myself write more. It all has to do with that promise to clean up the garage. Three times as I was lifting, wagging, and settling boxes, I stopped to run to my desk in The Cellar to record a new scene, one that absolutely would not wait a minute longer.

I was certain this fight between organizing and creating a story would stand as evidence for the left brain vs. right brain theory (which I never really understood) and that Right was battling Left. But when I skittered around on various websites regarding creative writing or language or stacking boxes, I found educated opinion that such behaviors might all require bi-lateral brain activity. Well–who cares? I’ll just plan to push, pull, sweep, hang, stack, dig, and flop–and the chapters will interrupt the cleaning and demand to be heard! Or read. No, written.

More care and attention for Mom and Dad is a given. It just…happens. Dad has two doctor appointments next week. I’m working on an appointment for Mom. I cook almost every day. I also clean in the kitchen every time I go to the apartment. I wash all the kitchen linens which Mom changes every other day. I’m going to the apartment more often. I try to pop in for coffee or breakfast every other day. Dave and I still attend the 5:00 P.M. “cocktail hour.” We don’t leave Dad alone. If Mom and I go to the hobby store, Dave visits with Dad. I find a calm comfort in caring for them.

A funny thing happened in late 2011 after I embraced priority. I became able to “let it be.” Remember that John Lennon song? I don’t know who spoke those “words of wisdom.” My new feeling came as a gift, one that I received without knowing exactly how or when it arrived. As I attended that sunrise show in Destin, I was surprised to realize that I had found my joy. It was my epiphany. A couple of pastor friends call this kind of peace with the circumstances “living into it.”

This new year, the third year of living in the compound with Mom and Dad, is off to its own start. It will be as different from 2011 as 2011 was from 2010, and as 2010 was from 2009. This time will be its own time. I’ll carry on with the 2012 three-point plan and I’ll do one wee little thing every day about caring for my parents, about writing, about organizing, but to make this year’s moments really count, I think Dave and I–and Dave and I and Mom and Dad–can help each other by just living into them. All of them.

 

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