|Me, Norma Jean, PJ, Buz, Markee, and Fia in 1983|
I remember my fiftieth birthday. It was a tough one for me, too. Reaching fifty is a true milestone, and one that is hardest, I think, for women. You stop thinking of yourself as the person that most advertisements are geared toward, for one thing. The mature woman begins her journey into invisibility. I don't think it's quite as difficult for men. But what do I know? I look at my life partner and think he looks pretty much the same as when we met, but of course he doesn't. I can look at an old picture to realize that time has changed him also.
Fia was married to Jim for well over 25 years, and he told her one day that he was in love with another, younger woman. They separated and Fia went through a very difficult period. She was absolutely taken by surprise, since she thought their marriage, with two grown children who had already left home, was solid. She is very close to Markee, the sister closest to her in age, and their relationship helped to carry her forward into a new life, along with plenty of other family support. It was a truly rough patch, but she came through it and met a wonderful man who will become her husband next month. I am so happy for her.
Markee met and married a Canadian many years ago and moved to Alberta with him. She and Bob have raised three children, twin boys and a girl who is now in college. The boys are still at home, but Markee was a registered nurse who worked for most of her life, eventually moving into management. When I saw her at Thanksgiving, she was quitting her job, which had become onerous, and now she teaches young nurses. She has taken some of them to India, where they are ministering to others. (She may be back home by now, I'm not sure.) I hope she is happy with her life now, and I know that she and Fia are incredibly happy to have one another. After Fia's marriage next month, she and Russ (her intended) will honeymoon in Canada with Markee and her family.
My brother Buz. Right in the middle of all his sisters, he is probably one of the most sensitive and caring people I've ever known. He and his wife Phyllis are the family members that I stay with when I visit Texas. Their home and their life together fills me with peace and contentment when I am there. Buz was married once before, and his daughter Trish has married and recently graduated from college. I know about her life with Matt mostly from Facebook, since they live on the East Coast and I only see them occasionally. Buz is very proud of her, but Phyllis is the center of his life. Their marriage is strong; you can feel it when you are around them. Phyllis is one of the sweetest people I have ever known.
My sister PJ and I have never been close. She has two grown children who live close by her, and she has grandchildren who are the apple of her eye. She and her husband Stewart have had several health issues this past year, but things seem to be better lately. When PJ had a heart attack this past springtime, it was touch and go for awhile, but she is on disability (last I heard) and has gone into early retirement. I hesitate to call her, because right now things are good between us and I don't want to rock the boat. She and I get into tangles every time we try to communicate, it seems. I love her but we are just very different people, I guess.
And next comes Norma Jean, who most of my readers know is the family member I am closest to. We grew up together and share so many memories. She and her husband Pete were married almost a half century when he died in 2011. Although he wasn't very old, he was a smoker who developed emphysema and still couldn't completely give up cigarettes. They fought more about that issue than probably any other, and Norma Jean came close to leaving him over it several times. But they stayed together, and when he died, I went to Florida to spend three weeks with her afterwards. Their two children could not be more different from each other: Allison is a Lt. Colonel at the Pentagon, and Peter is a multitalented computer whiz who has recently come to live with Norma Jean. He was laid off from his job in Michigan and went off to California to seek his fortune. When nothing panned out, he came to live with Norma Jean in Florida and is a real help to her. I frankly feel much better about Peter being there. I worry about her and come up with some real doozies when she doesn't answer her phone. I don't know how long he will stay, but I hope it's for awhile. The two of them returned yesterday from a visit at Allison's.
And me, here in Bellingham with my life partner, with my two sons long gone from this earth, no grandchildren in the picture, but a full life nevertheless. I made four skydives yesterday with my friends in Snohomish, and today I'll head off into the wilderness with some of my hiking friends. Monday I will go to the movies with my friend Judy, and now that the Independence Day holiday is behind us, my routine can be reestablished. On Wednesday I will have a nice video chat with Norma Jean; it's so much better than a phone call, and we will visit for a couple of hours and share what's going on in our respective lives.