Here's what I've noticed recently.
1. You can have family members living on your property without much stress if boundaries are established from the beginning. "Neighbors sharing a plot of land" has been a good rule for me and my husband Art and my sister Alyx and her husband Virgil. We chat nearly every day and share a couple of meals a week. Their cats go out from 7 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. and mine goes out after that. We split the cost of the utilities. Virgil works on our computers and patches little holes in the wall. Alyx the Nurse checks us out to confirm we're well. Art cooks. I mediate. Really, they've been here for five months and we're all doing well with the arrangement. None of us have kids at home, so that helps.
2. When a teenager decides he really wants to go to New York City with his grandmother, he may be motivated to pass his classes. I texted my grandson Kyle yesterday to see if he wanted to work in our yard today and he responded, "Can't because I have an English project to work on." Really? REALLY? I'm thinking June of next year he and I will be flying east. Until he was ready, though, no amount of encouragement would help. It could be he's just all of a sudden, in ninth grade, interested in school, but I doubt it.
3. You will see more of your grown son if he's doing a paying job for you. My son James fabricates and installs marble on yachts. He was supposed to be working on a nine-month job on a boat in Florida, but the deal got delayed for quite a while. James told me last week that the boat's owner is Putin's personal banker and his assets have been frozen, so no boat for now. When business is slow James looks for side jobs. That would be our upstairs bathroom. He and his workmate Josh have been here half a dozen times in the last week as they move along on the marble project. James tells us about odds and ends of his life. It is so good to see him.
4. If your husband decides to install the faucet for the new under-mount sink in the bathroom you should probably stay out of his way until the job is entirely done. When a 70-plus-year-old man is lying on the bathroom floor for three hours, his repaired-rotator-cuff shoulders and arms completely within the cabinet, hammering and pounding and cursing, it is useless to suggest he take a break, or let his brother-in-law help, or calm down. Useless. Tonight the water is coming out of both faucets but I can tell the job is not yet done. Tools lying around, you know, and unknown metal objects on the counter. If you make the mistake of thinking something you say will help the situation, you will be wrong.
5. If you read one of your favorite blogs and the writer notes with bafflement that no matter how much he exercises and no matter how well he eats, he is going to be powerless over the physical decline of his body, you nod with relief, because you have noticed the same thing and you thought you were the only one. My sister Alyx and I are thinking about writing a lighthearted but informative book about the aging process: why women develop wings under their upper arms; why we lose body hair in some places and grow it in others; why our night vision gets so bad; why it takes us three steps when we get up from a seated position to get ourselves moving.
6. If you spend all summer watering your corn patch and you get 15 ears of chewy corn, and then you hear that you shouldn't plant corn in the same place two years in a row, and you don't have any other place to plant the corn next year, you feel relief that next year there will be no corn in your garden.
7. If one night at dinner you have yourself and your husband Art, your brother-in-law Virgil who cooked the ribs, your stepson Jason and your grandson Kyle who shoveled gravel onto your driveway, and your houseguest Karuna who came up from California for the Jewish holiday, you can have a pretty cool dinner conversation!
8. If you are 66 and you strain your back and your shoulders from watering your garden, it will feel like they'll never heal. They do.
9. If you're annoyed with the man in the water aerobics class on Monday because he treats women like they were treated in the 50s, you'd best smile at him and give him silent credit for trying to be a good guy. Because on Thursday he might have a cerebral hemorrhage and on Friday he might be dead.
10. Each day is a gift.
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