Reflections: Planned And Unplanned

Wreath created for mother-in-law's funeral service.
Wreath created by my younger daughter for her Grandmother’s funeral service.

As mentioned at the conclusion of the previous post, relief at the end of the Tuscobia Winter Ultra was the only emotion I could muster. I was physically exhausted and mentally focused on finishing.  Speaking with a couple people in the KofC Hall and picking up my completion stocking cap seemed like a robotic formality. I soon loaded the sled into my vehicle and got on the road to Minneapolis. My interactions with people in food establishments, conversations with my daughters, and the interactions with desk staff at the motel were pleasant, but I was too numb to express more than words and data.

In conversation with my wife, she conveyed that her mother had suffered a severe stroke late Saturday or early Sunday morning. Beatrice was 89, lived in her own home, and was in seemingly good health. Per her request she was placed in the care of the local Hospice. Her doctor thought she would live 3-4 days, but Beatrice survived for two weeks.

I had arrangements to fly to Phoenix. I was visiting my older daughter, as well as seeing my father to recognize his 90th birthday. He lives in southwestern New Mexico. One of my sisters lives in the same town. Dad is in good health, lives in his own home and tends to his rose bushes, trees and shrubs, and on occasion my sister’s horses.

Dad and I in January 2016
Dad and I in January 2016

My dad told stories of his past with great enthusiasm. He especially laughed about getting the pick-up stuck in the snow and the cans of milk freezing in the back while he made sure his passenger was safe. Another memorable story was about his mother tending to the moonshine still during Prohibition. Value added agriculture before it was popular!

Even though there was laughter and stories, the realities of death drawing closer along with sharing joys and disappointments about life and family brought tears to my eyes and night time musings making for unsettled nights. I felt a great deal of melancholy as I considered what was coming to a close, sooner or later. The joy and elation of achieving an 80 mile trek seemed distant in the mix of surveying the events, but more importantly the people with whom I have been able to share life. Family stories, family secrets, family disruptions, and unasked questions took over my usual positive outlook on life. I wasn’t becoming depressed, but the scope and weight of attempting to compress and expand the diverse aspects of my life was producing deeper introspection than I had experienced for years.

Upon returning to Minneapolis, I was able to visit and briefly converse with my mother-in-law. Beatrice has been my favorite mother-in-law. She would always ask if I was busy with work. And if that didn’t provide for a deep conversation she would ask about the weather. Her stock answer to every problem or disappointment was, “It’ll all work out.” I finally have come to realize and here admit, Beatrice was right! Indeed, she has had an impact on my life.

In the days following that visit planning was placed on hold. Everything seemed to revolve around death, funeral, and when everyone could gather for the ceremony. I’m not used to making plans and having organization in my life. This uneasiness created paralysis. I didn’t want to commit to much in case it all had to be changed.  Death became reality and a funeral was planned. Our daughters came to southern Minnesota, to a small town that is slowly dying for a variety of reasons. My emotions brightened as I observed a new generation taking hold of life and connectedness. It wasn’t my wife and her brothers, but their children. From their various places of life and values came an energy and laughter that hadn’t been heard in Beatrice’s home for decades.

It has been a month of numbness along with laughter. I have experienced exhaustion and paralysis which hasn’t been a part of my experience for years. I have pondered emotions and feelings that previously submerged have come into full view. I still have an optimism and general positive outlook about life. Tuscobia was a rich mine of feelings, but exhilaration wasn’t a part of it. Quiet satisfaction which comes with a price is what I unearthed. There is a richness in digging deep, as well as in leaving some things observed and unanswered. I have been slathered with relationships that have help form my being. I’ve discovered beauty in simplicity and chaos. I’m determined to not so much cover miles, but to uncover what resides in those spaces and what resides within me.