Sunday, March 20, 2011
Reunion on the horizon
In December of 2008, we were all in Texas except for Norma Jean. She and Pete stayed in Florida, and the rest of us gathered to walk a half marathon together. My sister Markee instigated that trip, and it was a good one in many respects. It sparked my desire to find a way here in Bellingham to find some sort of exercise that would require concerted effort over several hours. I found the Senior Trailblazers, which now provide a high point in my life, with every Thursday reserved for our hikes. In the winter we stay close to Bellingham, but in the summer months we carpool up to the Mt. Baker wilderness. We start at 8:00 in the morning and are sometimes not home before 4:00 pm or even later. I'm always tired and renewed at the same time. I treasure the friends I've made, as well as the familiarity with the beautiful mountains so close by. And it all started because of the need to train for a half marathon.
The three weeks I spent in Florida have now settled into their place in my memory, although Norma Jean and I spend a fair amount of time with the video chat feature we have on our iMacs. Now that I've been there, when we visit on line, I know exactly where she is and can easily slip myself into the room with her. I usually wait until I know she's got a glass of wine (it's three hours later there) and I can enjoy being with her at the beginning of her evening. Technology has changed things so much. It's almost as if I were sitting in the room with her, and even though our hugs are virtual, our tears are not. We can laugh and cry together for as long as we want.
My heart aches for her losses. Yesterday she cleaned up the motorcycle on which the three of them spent all those many hours and days together, in preparation for selling it. They covered somewhere around 70,000 miles on that motorcycle in just a few short years, and now Norma Jean is the only one left behind. She is struggling to find her way and figure out what she wants, for the first time in more than four decades. Or even more, really, since I remember telling her what she wanted as her big sister. And I felt I knew the answer, better than she knew herself.
I was a bossy person back then, always thinking I knew the answers to everything. My world was colored in bright certainty, with no shades of subtlety. I didn't even know the meaning of nuance. I can't help but cringe a little as I look back at the confident and imperious person I was then. I've grown, no doubt about it, and a lot of that growth has been accompanied by the pain of self-knowledge. Slowly, over the years and decades, I have come to realize there is truly no way one person can know what is good and right for another.
Norma Jean gradually morphed from being a shy and reticent teenager into the assertive, competent and powerful person she is today. She did that without my influence, too. She raised two wonderful kids and dealt with a creative and (in some ways) difficult husband. I know Pete would agree with that statement. And now she stands on the threshold of a new life. Next week's reunion is the last obligation she has to make to her family, as we gather next week to honor Pete's influence in our lives and open our hearts to our sister. I love you, Norma Jean.