Seasons of the Heart

When I was a child, going to Sunday school and church was as much a part of me as putting on my clothes. I wasn’t made to go, I wanted to go.

Childhood memories flood my mind with Billy Gram crusades, Oliver Green tent revivals and meeting in the preacher’s house, then in his garage, then in a circus tent while the church was being built. Laughing, I remember the preacher’s rattle-trap van bouncing me up and down and banging my head against the window as he drove through deeply creviced ditches to pick up poor kids for Sunday school. Mr and Mrs Sterling were more than preacher and wife; they were our family’s best friends.

Mr Sterling often brought us bags and bags of groceries telling mom that God told him we needed them. He prayed over my baby brother one day who suffered a bowel obstruction. When mom sat him on his potty, everything broke loose and he never suffered bowel problems since.

I felt safe in the church; like I belonged there. I enjoyed being with my friends, memorizing scripture, having Bible drills, and singing and playing my accordion. And I liked that the church was plain and simple, not big and fancy that seemed more like a morgue than a church. It was a little, cinderblock mission where babies were allowed to cry, Baptisms took place in freezing cold creeks under God’s blue skies, and get-togethers were hot dogs and weenie roasts and kids wading in the creek and catching tadpoles in jars.

I always felt that people needed to be in church and always encouraged my brothers to go, thinking that it would somehow change their lives. And I’m not saying that it doesn’t change people’s lives, but it’s not the church that changes people, it’s a repentant heart and the cleansing power of Jesus Christ. And there are many people sitting in their pews thinking that because they go to church they are going to Heaven.

Sadly, along with many years of attending church, come heartaches and misunderstandings, gossip and quarrels, cliques, and favouritism, frustration and burn-out. Instead of being the perfect place for coming together and working things out, some leaders prefer to sweep conflicts under the rug and hope no one notices there are problems in the church. And then they wonder why people emotionally and physically drift away.

Sadly, I feel that many in the world today are either looking for something they long for in church or have lost hope of ever finding it and given up. And many may never find Christ as a result of it.

I’m thankful that I grew up in church and remember the good times. I’m thankful that I asked Jesus into my heart when I was five years old. I’m thankful that we have a warm and loving relationship and that He is always by my side regardless of whether I’m praising Him in church or sitting on my back porch or in my living room in front of a cozy fire.

I wish I could say I miss going to church. The truth is, my heart is totally at peace with not going. Many don’t understand why I feel the way I do, but God does. He knows and understands the deep hurt and the tears I’ve cried over things that destroyed my trust and turned my heart away. And where I expected to find love and understanding and let’s sit down and talk about this I found cold indifference; a total lack of concern.

After more than three years, I’m still struggling with hurt and anger and confusion. Call it a bruised ego, an unwillingness to forgive; whatever you want to call it. I call it a grieving process; and as with all grief, it takes time, for some longer than others.

And if anyone comes to the conclusion that the only way you can be a real Christian is to attend church, where does that leave our shut-ins and those in nursing homes?

I don’t apologize for my feelings, they’re mine and God allows me to have them plus all the time I need to work through them. Just like life itself, the church has its ups and downs, hurts and confusion, but it’s how it deals with it that matters in the long run.

 

 

 

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My Accordion, My Best Friend

I was such an introvert growing up. I’d rather stay in my room with the door shut, singing and playing my accordion than chasing boys in the neighbourhood. Many times I’d storm into my room bawling while strapping on my accordion. Once I started playing and singing, the blues slid off my back and slithered out the door like a snake.

My accordion was my best friend. It helped me get through some of the toughest times of my life, like sitting in school wishing I was anyplace but there. Compared to everyone else I felt brain-dead till I learned to play the accordion. Even the teacher called and asked mom what she had done differently because I was doing so much better in school.

Yeah, my buddy did stuff like that for me. It gave me self-confidence. Heck, If I could learn to squeeze the bellows in and out, figure out which little black buttons to push and play the keyboard all at the same time, I could conquer the world. Well, maybe not the whole world, but my little world at least.

I realized that God was looking out for me. He knew I needed an outlet, something special that I could do, so He gave me the gift of music. I was never Lawrence Welk or Liberace on accordion and piano. I was just plain me. Like Frank Sinatra, I did it my way.

My accordion gave me the courage to sing solos in church, too. Sliding my arms through the shoulder straps, feeling the weight of the accordion against my chest was like wearing a shield of armour. My hands got sweaty and my voice quivered, but I was less afraid with my buddy leaning against me.

I began playing the accordion when I was twelve. Mom bartered the preacher’s wife to give me lessons in exchange for cleaning her house. That only lasted a few weeks. I couldn’t help it that I played what was in my head instead of what was on the music sheet. She shouldn’t have played the stupid song for me before starting the lesson and then again before I left. Not my fault.

She quit. Said I had perfect pitch, whatever that meant, and that she couldn’t teach me. That really made me feel smart. Couldn’t teach me? I thought preacher’s wives always spoke the truth. That’s okay. I didn’t want to figure out all that math and follow those little black notes dancing all over the page anyway. It was so much easier to hear the song and just play it and be done with it.

I was happy that I didn’t have to waste my time practising anymore. It was cramping my style; taking away the joy of playing from my heart. So what if I wasn’t doing it right. It made me feel right and that’s all that mattered to me.

My buddy didn’t mind either. We had a good thing going and didn’t want some impatient accordion teacher messing it up.

As soon as I’d come home from school, I’d play my accordion, sometimes for hours. It was my happy pill when I felt down, my antidote against anger and frustration.

Shortly after I re-married, I bought a new accordion; shiny black, electric, came all the way from Italy. A real beauty. But it could never take the place of the one that saw me through the tough times of growing up. It was faded and worn and stained with tears. The bellows were leaking air, and the leather straps were peeling and cracking. But the most expensive accordion in the world could never replace the memories my best friend and I shared so many years ago.

I guess I can still play the accordion if I’d get it out of the closet. But fifty pounds way back when was light compared to now. But I didn’t stop playing it for that reason. It’s just that other things have taken priority, like a husband and two dogs, digital designs, and doing laundry and cleaning the house. Okay, I’m lying. The truth is I just got out of the habit. Like jogging and walking and eating right. I think I need to get back in the groove.

So tomorrow, If I can still lift it, I’m getting my accordion out of the closet and play it. I miss it. Who knows? It might make me feel twenty again. Heck, I’ll settle for fifty!

Well, this is tomorrow. I dragged my accordion out of the closet. It felt like it weighed a ton, and putting it on was like wrestling an octopus. And just as I knew they would, Bella ran and hid under my husband’s computer desk, trembling and Pepper stood there sniffing it to death.

Ten minutes later, I finally got it on, unhooked the snaps fastening the bellows together, slid my hand under the thickly padded strap attached to the Base and began playing. Just like riding a bike; once you learn you never forget. However, it didn’t make me feel twenty again, not even fifty. I guess nothing can work that kind of miracle!

 

 

 

 

True Love

Growing up, without saying a word, my dad taught me men are not to be trusted. They sleep late, work when they feel like it, and treat women like dirt; expecting them to do everything, be everything, and keep their mouth shut. That’s when anger gave birth to the Incredible Hulk. That’s when a sweet, faint-hearted child became a strong, courageous woman fighting against injustice toward women and all the underdogs of the world. No womanizing, woman-abusing anybody-abuser was safe in my world.

It’s no wonder my ex-husband and I didn’t stay married long. His big mouth was as abusive as his rough hands slapping me till my ears rung and slamming me against the wall squeezing my throat. He just didn’t realize he had a tiger by the tail until he dragged his butt home from work one day to find his bags sitting outside the door and the locks changed.

Now, holding my nine-month-old son on my lap, my cynical, twenty-year-old heart told me I can trust no one. I can depend on no one; not my family, not my friends, not my church, no one. I’ll have to buckle up, woman-up and stand on my own two feet.

As a single mom, divorced and back in the dating scene I soon discovered that guys only wanted one thing from me, and it wasn’t my keen mind. Fueled by the memory of being molested at the age of thirteen, sexually harassed on the job, and nearly date-raped one horror-filled night, the Hulk inside me grew increasingly fierce and strong; fighting all men and needing none because no “real” man existed in this so-called man’s world!

So I stumbled along, alone and raising my son the best I knew how. He was my little man, my hero; the only living soul my heart truly trusted and believed in. Still, my heart yearned for the right man for me. I was too young to go through life alone, and besides, my son deserved a loving father. But the wall of steel protecting my untrusting heart would take the strength of Superman to break down.

One Friday summer’s night out with, my niece and five-year-old, we dragged up and down Main Street in Debbie’s bright yellow, 69 Mustang. It wasn’t my style to do such a teeny-bopper thing but that night I decided to go along just for the fun of it.

Then we spotted them. Two neatly dressed, good-looking guys sitting on the hood of a fire engine red, 63 Ford. Immediately, boy-crazy Debbie pulled into the service station where two curious guys slid off the hood of the car and strutted towards us like a couple of peacocks.

I had just broken up with a church-going-God-professing-born-again Christian who proved to be a druggie, a liar and a cheat, and just plain crazy! Shortly after our break-up, he barged into my apartment waving a gun. I never felt as afraid for my child’s and my life as I did that day. You can only imagine my relief when he said he was going to kill himself and stormed out the door.

So I was far from ready to strike up a conversation, let alone a relationship with Prince Charming poking his head through the car window.

However, soon after meeting that night, Buck and I began dating. But my heart was never off guard. Not even when I saw how much he loved Robbie. Not even when he knelt beside me, gazing into my eyes with the love I’d never seen before. Not even when he asked me to marry him.

My brain said he was a good man. My heart said he’s just like all the others. My brain said he’s good for me and that I can learn to trust him. My heart said when he finds out how I really am, he’ll run, just like everyone else. My brain said to give him a chance. My heart said it will never yield to any man any time this side of heaven.

Six months later, we got married.

This man saw the worst anyone has ever seen in me before and loved me in spite of my suspicions, fears, and insecurities. He held me when I cried, he supported me during counselling, he talked to me, he listened to me, he encouraged me. He lifted me up high and taught me how to fly. No one except Jesus has ever loved me like that before.

He weathered the storm. He pushed through the barriers. He broke down the walls of steel with his stubborn love, his gentle strength and patience and longsuffering. He won my heart.

I thank God for our forty-five years together and for the love and happiness that few people share simply because they don’t push through the rough times. Most of all, I thank God for revealing His unconditional, steadfast, unwavering love for me through my awesome husband; the man He created just for me.

I still have trust issues. I still view the world as being more evil than good. I still, and always will have a fighting spirit against injustice. But because of one man’s stubborn persistence, I finally know the meaning of true love.

I’m Old But I Ain’t Dead!

Sometimes I wish I were still that little girl, sitting on the kitchen counter, feeling moms firm touch as she slides my socks and shoes over my chubby feet. I wish I could run through the woods with my brothers, chase butterflies, and walk along the banks of the clear, trickling streams. I wish I could turn over one more rock, one more time with my brothers, looking for lizards and taking our precious treasures to the creek and watch them swim away. I wish I could see the bullfrogs plopping through the thick, green grass near the spring house. I wish I could swing beneath the limbs of the old giant oak tree, feel my long red hair blowing in the breeze; my feet nearly touching the sky.

Childhood memories; enthralling interludes between the confusing times of trying to figure things out for myself and having a real sense of belonging in a world so big and mean.

In school, I felt so out-of-place that I might as well have been on the moon. Had I not been so afraid of the consequences, I would have run away every single day. Like the chainsaw massacre, a cloud of doom hung over my head, causing my heart to tremble with fear. And as a shy, insecure six-year-old, nothing was more fearful than a shrew for a teacher and a classroom full of Einstein’s and social butterflies.

It seems that from my first gulp of polluted air in this chaotic world I’ve been plagued with this never-good-enough-something-is-wrong with me feeling. I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it, and I’ve spent nearly my entire life getting rid of it. But it’s stuck like superglue inside my brain.

I guess that’s why being old is so difficult for me. The bigger everyone else’s world gets the smaller mine shrinks. Like a withering flower, old people are viewed by many as losing their charm and beauty and usefulness. We’re too slow, too forgetful, too out of touch with young people’s lingo and technology. It’s as if being old means our feelings are dried up, our ears are deaf, and our physical and emotional desires are dead.

And I wonder: is this how my mother felt when she was seventy-one? What about my dad? They didn’t share their feelings with me; especially not my dad. And the feelings my mother shared were always negative and meant to make me feel responsible for all her woes. So I have no gauge to go by, only my gut telling me that old age just ain’t fair.

The only consolation I have is that all young people if they live long enough, will be old one day. They’ll experience aches and pains, grief and loneliness like never before. They’ll say more good-byes to their family and friends than they ever thought possible. They’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the person looking back at them. They’ll feel forgotten, neglected, at the bottom of the totem pole where old people just don’t fit in. I guess only then will they understand that as long as people have air in their lungs their feelings, needs and desires are still alive and worthy of love and respect. Only then will they scream from the top of their lungs to a cold and heartless world, “I’m old, but I ain’t dead!”

My Four-legged Girls

We’re sitting on the back porch, Bella pressing her regal nose against the screen watching the squirrels and Pepper curled contentedly on my lap sniffing the air.

Bella’s eyes are like those of an Egyptian Princess; only hers are naturally and perfectly lined in black, melting my heart with her wide-eyed expressions of love every time she looks at me.

Pepper is jet black, except for the white on her chest and dainty paws. Looking up at me, rolling her big brown eyes, it’s as if she’s looking straight into my soul. I press her head against my chest and whisper how beautiful and precious she is to me.

That’s when I got to thinking.

My girls don’t need to take thousands of selfies to prove to the world how beautiful they are. They don’t have to wear the latest fashions, walk with a strut, talk like the Queen, or become members of a Country Club to prove their self-worth. They don’t need hundreds of fans on Facebook or thousands of likes and comments on WordPress to boost and encourage their ego.

My girls don’t need to be painted up, jewelled up or prettied up in any fashion to be dazzling to the eyes and pleasing to the soul.

My girls are lovely and gracious, loving and forgiving, fun and playful. My girls take life as it comes and remain beautiful in spite of the bad things that have happened to them. My girls are strong and loyal and truly excited to see me when I get up in the mornings or come in from being outside for a few minutes. My girls treat me like I’m the most important thing in their lives.

And that’s why I love them. They don’t try to be anything. They don’t try to prove anything. They just are.

Our Fur Babies

We rescued Bella from the Animal Shelter over a year ago. One dog has always been enough for us to handle at a time. But, this summer, when we rescued hubby’s sister after being abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we couldn’t resist rescuing the puppy as well.

She was light as a feather. Skin pulled over bones. More dead than alive. How could anyone be so cruel? There were other dogs, too. Thirteen in all. But we could only rescue this little one. We called Animal Control for the others.

It was love at first sight for Bella and Pepper. The two are inseparable as if they know they share a common bond of being abandoned and left to die. We love them both and are so glad we made room for them in our hearts and home.

A Child’s Tea Party

 

Sitting in the large Victorian parlor with its high ceilings and antique furniture, was my grandmother and four of her dearest friends. Being a part of such classy women with their braided buns and hair nets and ankle-length dresses was the highlight of my growing up years. Sometimes I would sit at my table and color, listening to their hushed tones echoing through the room. Other times I would sit quietly, my eyes bouncing from one face to the other wondering why old people get so wrinkled.

But this day, I didn’t want to color or just sit and observe. This day I wanted to be as sophisticated as the Queen herself. Not that I didn’t enjoy having tea with my dolls. They were always willing participants. But this day I wanted real live people at my tea party.

Cup after cup made its way around the circle of women, each one swallowing the cool, clear liquid and smacking their lips with delight.

I felt so proud.

Suddenly, wondering where I was getting the water since I couldn’t reach the kitchen sink, my grandmother followed me and watched in horror as I dipped my dainty little teacup into the commode!

I think that was the last tea party I ever had at my grandmother’s house. Come to think of it, I think that was the last tea party ever!

Secrets in the Attic

I can still hear the distinctive scraping sound of the board sliding across the opening in the floor and see her creeping down the ladder. She only came down to empty the slop jar and replenish her food and water supply. How long had she lived up there, a week? A month? A year? I don’t remember. But I will never forget her dark, glaring eyes and wrinkled frown when she turned and saw me standing there. I’ll never forget the cold-steal blade of anger and hatred piercing my soul or the hurt and confusion I felt.

It was a makeshift bedroom daddy half-heartedly put together for the two of them when my grandmother came to live with us. Mom laid a carpet remnant across the plywood floor and somehow, daddy maneuvered a full-size bed through the narrow opening. Then came an old dresser, and a couple of makeshift night stands and TV. Mom added some personal touches with a few lamps, a pretty bedspread and setting pictures on the dresser. There were no windows or walls or ceiling covering the exposed, unsightly wiring. No heating or air. Just a temporary, cave-like room for my parent’s privacy.

Now, mom made it her permanent home; her escape from a disgruntled mother-in-law; an emotional strike against a family who didn’t seem to care or appreciate the sacrifices she made. Let them fend for themselves. Let them do their own cooking and cleaning, washing and ironing and dealing with the bill collectors banging on the door.

But that’s not what drove her to live in the attic. That’s not what pushed her to the brink of insanity.

For years I hated her foster-mother and the abuse my mother suffered at her hands. I hated my grandmother for putting her in an orphanage and my alcoholic grandfather for molesting her. I hated that my mother was too afraid to run away from her foster home and get help. I hated that she was never able to recover; that she never experienced freedom from her horror-filled childhood. And I hated that the aftermath of her abuse ricocheted through the family poking holes in our souls.

Even today I still wonder how it feels to a child to be held and kissed. To be praised and loved unconditionally. What does the world look like through their fearless eyes? What does it sound like without cruel and condemning voices shouting in their ears?

Looking back, the attic is as dismal today as it was decades ago. Secretly, it holds my mother’s tears, her broken soul and raging screams against an unfair world and a God who would allow bad things to happen; especially to a defenseless child. It holds the secrets of a little girl longing to be loved so that she could know how to love her own children; to be less critical and more patient and understanding. Only the attic knows how she longed for her husband’s physical and emotional support; to help lift and carry her heavy burden and to prove the words of love he spoke to her. And only the attic knows what led her to climb down that creaky ladder that day, put away the slop jar, and join her family again.

I wish I could say that things got better after that, that my youngest brother stopped getting into trouble, drinking and doing drugs. I wish I could say mom never had other breakdowns and that daddy got a job and mom didn’t have to work three jobs to keep our heads above water. I wish I could say that we learned to communicate without screaming and yelling and hurting one another.

But I can’t go back and change a thing. I can only keep pressing forward with a better understanding and perspective than I had as a child. I can appreciate the loving family God gave me through my husband and my son and his growing family. And I can accept that I live in a broken world and bad things are going to happen. It’s not my fault. It’s not God’s fault. It’s just the way of a fallen world. We all have a choice in how we play the cards we are dealt.

Crazy Quilt of Memories

Dear House,

We’ve been together a long time, you and hubby and me. We’ve opened our hearts and doors to family and friends, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and abandoned pets. We’ve made happy memories, sad memories, and memories I’d like to forget.

Like the time my niece tricked me into inviting her and her fifteen-year-old son and their dog to live with us. We hadn’t heard from her in forever. Didn’t even know where she lived. But when she needed a place to stay due to a failed marriage, and having used up all her other options, she knew exactly where to find me. All her silky-smooth promises to get a job and a place of her own slid off her back the second she and her obstinate kid and their untrained dog waltzed through our door. I was never so relieved to kiss two people and pat one dog goodbye in my life.

Then, there was that time my half-sister’s half-brother called me. My sister had a brother? When did that happen? After all these years why am I just now finding that out? My sister had passed away years before that phone call; still, we wanted to meet each other. So that following fall we anxiously awaited their arrival as they made the three-day trip from Colorado to North Carolina.

He had my sister’s baby blue eyes, short bowed legs, and curly gray hair. The four of us embraced like long-lost friends. From the moment they walked through the front door the week-long visit was filled with chattering into the wee hours of the morning, eating out and shopping and laughing till our sides hurt. We enjoyed each other so much that we invited them back again for a two-week stay. Even paid for their plane tickets. But, somewhere between that year and a half wait and absence makes the heart grow fonder, something went haywire.

The first three days, He and his wife were at war with each other. When that war ended, he started a war with me, which was a very bad idea. I told them to leave. My husband, the peace-maker asked them to stay. So the four of us, plus two of my grandkids and a dog, trudged through his grumpy, complaining, sarcastic, rude, insufferable attitude for the next ten days! When the day of good-riddance finally arrived, we rushed them to the airport, making sure they got on the plane, and haven’t heard from them since.

And remember that cold, early morning I got up to find my youngest brother sitting on the porch swing shivering? Though it had been a while since I’d heard from him and his mischievous, little boy grin tugged on my heart-strings, I couldn’t say I was happy to see him. Oh, he was playful and charming laced with a Bob Hope sense of humor. But I knew too well what lay beneath that innocent, enticing mask. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and crime. He spent most of his life behind bars and leaving a trail of broken promises, bleeding hearts, and confusion.

The white van parked in the driveway wasn’t even his, although he tried to convince me it was. And why was he driving without a license? Foolish of me to even ask. So with a faint, apprehensive smile and hoof-pounding heart, I invited him in wondering why he was here, what he wanted, and when was he going to leave. Hours later, and fearing the inevitable, can-I-stay-here-the-night plea, I kindly sent him on his way. But it would be days before I could shake off the flabbergasting disturbance.

And let’s not forget this summer’s events when our strong-as-an-ox Whippet mix jerked me off the deck making me fall and hurt myself. She liked doing it so much that she did it again when she broke from her leash and again when I tried to catch her. Between over-doing it with the yard work and falling one too many times, sent me to the emergency room with severe back pain. A few X-rays and four painful hours later, I was released feeling like I’d been hit by a bus.

Still recovering from that, hubby’s sister came to stay with us for a month. Never saw that coming! I’ve had many goals in my life, but at the age of seventy-one, none of them consisted of caring for a seventy-six-year-old twenty-four-seven with short-term memory loss and other frustrating annoyances. But when she was abandoned for three days without food or water or electricity, we opened our doors yet again. Finally, after weeks of collecting and getting documents signed and notarized and being put off and lied to by one care giving facility and another, she is finally in a nursing home where she is happy and safe.

After weeks of having our lives turned upside down, we are finally getting settled. I don’t have a strong urge to choke someone anymore and I can finally enjoy sitting on the back porch with my husband, our two dogs, and a hot cup of coffee without interruption. The cool mornings are peaceful and quiet. Hubby and I play with the dogs and laugh at some of the crazy stuff we’ve met with over the past few months. We share our intimate feelings and thoughts with each other. We read our devotions and thank God for the many years we’ve spent together in our house.

But, sadly, House, I’ve been noticing some drastic changes in you. Like me, you are showing signs of wear and tear. Your handrail on the front porch is loose, one of your steps is sagging and the cedar siding is faded. You need new windows, and doors and grass planted in those huge bare places in the front and back yard. And you’re old and outdated. You really need a serious face lift!

But these are just minor things compared to the thirty plus years you have served us. You’ve sheltered and protected us from hurricane winds and rain and ice storms snapping massive tree limbs that fell across the driveway. And somehow within your crowded space, you always make room for large gatherings of family and friends and for lots of rowdy kids to play.

To the world, you’re just a little house that needs a lot of work. But to me, you are my mansion on a hilltop, my castle in the clouds, my sanctuary of learning and thriving and growing and pushing through some of the most difficult times of my life. I’m looking forward to spending many more years within your walls, sharing your warmth with family and friends and continue making a crazy quilt of memories.

Just Let Go!

Old age is not for the faint of heart! To get there, you have to push through the birth canal, survive childhood, adolescence, peer-pressure, and acne. You go through High School, puppy love, and heartaches. You skip college, get a job and hopefully earn enough money to pay for the used car you bought. Then you fall in love. Get married. Get your own place. And have a kid.

Now the fun begins. With true grit, you battle with his temper tantrums, potty training and cutting up in kindergarten. In Junior and Senior High you struggle through the designer-clothes-thing you can’t afford to buy, wrecked cars, girlfriends from Hell, and strange ideas; like living in the wilderness some day. You feel his pain and heartaches, get frustrated when he rebels, and want to clip his wings but let him fly. You pray for him, lose sleep over him, and want nothing but the best for him.

Then, he gets married and leaves the nest to start a family of his own. You’re happy for him, but you cry and grieve for the mischievous little boy who once was but will never be again.

Then he has kids that feel just like your own. You play with them, read to them, make up stories for them. You dry their eyes, rock them to sleep and tell them how precious they are and how blessed you are to have them in your life.

Then they grow up and have kids of their own. But things are different this go around. Your kid is now the grandparent. It’s time to take a back seat and watch as his grandkids run to him, jump in his arms and giggle with delight as he tickles them. It’s his turn to feel the love and the joy of being a grandparent. It’s his turn to help guide and direct and let them fly. It’s his turn to shine.

By now, you are feeling like a shadow. A stranger in a world where great-grandparents struggle to belong. You know you are still loved, but no longer feel needed or that your opinions are as valuable as they once were. Like sitting in a drifting boat, things that were once bigger than life become tiny specks on the horizon. You cling to your memories, grieve for your losses, and long for the moments in time that once were but will never be again.

This is the part where you face the naked truth that it’s the way of life. That you can’t build your dreams on shifting sand; changing relationships, ideas and opinions. This is the part where we must lower our expectations to protect our fragile feelings from anger, bitterness, and resentment. This is the part where we stop pining for the good old days, keep pressing forward and live each day to its fullest. This is the gut-wrenching part where we must unclench our white-knuckled hearts and just let go.