Recommended by Ricochet Members Created with Sketch. Bloom Where You’re Planted

 

I’ve had the dickens of a time coming up with something to say about this month’s group writing topic which, to recapitulate is, “if I was a —, I would —.”

Fortunately, in the midst of expostulating about several unwelcome events in my life right now (like the recent, untimely, and–as it turns out–very expensive demise of my refrigerator only a decade into its young life), I expressed that frustration to a Ricochet friend who made a few suggestions which set me on a different path to those I’d been struggling with (thank you very much). As a result of that, here I still am, and here we go (not quite fully in line with the prescribed structure, but, as with everything else in my life it’s the best I can do, and if it’s not good enough, read no further or–as my dear departed mother would often say–“just do the other thing”).

Here it is: “If I were going there, I wouldn’t start from here.” Perhaps a variant, or just a re-statement of the more common maxim that “you can’t get there from here.”

But I know otherwise.

If I had wanted the marriage of my youthful dreams, I wouldn’t have chosen a divorced man, 16 years older than I, with three resentful children.

But, that’s what I got. Because I fell in love with him. End of story. But also the beginning. Because somehow we muddled through. Through some wonderful times and through some horrific catastrophes. Through to loving relationships on all sides, from those initially fraught with suspicion, mistrust, and dislike. Through my disappointment with the fact that I’d never be able to have children of my own, to acceptance and ultimately, grandmotherly joy. Through life’s vicissitudes. And, over the course of four decades, out the other side of all of them. Till death did we part. And here I still am.

If I had wanted the perfect house, my husband and I wouldn’t have tried to build it ourselves.

Crimenutely. Yeah. We were not flush with money in 1986, and all we could qualify for was a very small owner-builder home construction loan from a local savings and loan. So, two years after we’d found and bought an affordable piece of land carved out from what was once a large farm (easy terms, agreed to with a handshake in a field, via a private arrangement which didn’t show up on our credit report), we sold our crummy little house in Pittsburgh, went to live in a tent 40 miles away in that same field, and started construction, hoping to have things “closed in” by the time winter rolled around. (We just about made it, but it turned out to be a very good thing that, a few years prior, I’d made everyone in the family nice warm sleeping bags from some ripstop nylon and several down pillows we bought on clearance at Penney’s for $7 each–funny, the things one remembers.) It was a time when “DIY” stores were pretty thin on the floor and in order to make it easier to buy the materials, the two of us incorporated as general contractors for a time so we could buy things wholesale from the professionals. The possibility for mistakes and disaster were rife, and the consequences of some of our initial bad decisions lasted, and had to be lived with, for decades.

And boy howdy, we lived with them. until such time as we could, one-by-one, afford to re-do and fix them (a project which goes on to this day). We thought, going in, that the opportunity to have a few acres in hand, and a small farm with a few animals for my stepson Michael to care for and enjoy, totally justified what many thought was our reckless, or just plain crazy, behavior. (And it did. This was not one of our bad decisions.) Now Mr. She is gone. And Michael is gone. And here I still am.

If I’d wanted a career in information technology at a senior management level, I wouldn’t have started out with a degree in English Literature (1976) from Duquesne University.

But I did. And over the course of the next few years, I took every opportunity, and every occasion I could to find my calling and make a success of my professional life. Sometimes, you’re just in the right place at the right time. And, when you are, and when you find yourself at that fork in the road, you should take it. In 1980, that fork, for me, was an emerging career path, one which came to be called “end-user support” for people using technology in the business environment. Companies were hiring articulate spokeswomen (yes, in almost every case, women) to train, explain and assist other women (in almost every case), mostly secretaries and administrative assistants, in using the new “word processor” computers that were starting to appear on their desks. No-one, least of all me, imagined where that technology would go over the next 30 years, how important it would become, or what I’d be doing when I retired.

Although I do remember, during my second interview (1990) for the first job I took at the hospital where I would work for twenty years, telling Jack, who was in charge of mainframe hardware, programming, and operations, that one day his mainframe would make a nice little node on “my” network. (He’d just made a joke about what “toys” personal computers were.) And yet they still hired me. A job I loved, working with, and for, people I loved. And, when I retired in 2010 (Jack and I retired on the same day), my prediction had come to pass. (I’m not super-good at seeing into the future, so when I get it right, I like to point that out.)

The fact of the matter, my peeps, is that, in almost every case, you can get “there” from “here.” Sometimes, you have to go the long way around the rosebush to do it. Sometimes, you have to be willing to make a few wrong turns, or take a couple of unintended or unexpected detours. Sometimes, you have to accept your limitations and ask for help, and see if others are willing to give you a boost or a shove (hopefully in the right direction and not down the drain). Sometimes you have to trust. Sometimes you have to pray. And always, you have to work at it and want it.

A few months ago, I finished reading My Grandfather’s Son, the autobiography of Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas. (I’d already read, some years ago, Dr. Ben Carson’s Gifted Hands.) And whenever I think I’m in danger of injuring myself by too much back-patting and self-pity about the struggles I’ve had and the obstacles I’ve overcome, I spend a few salutary moments thinking about these two men and about the superhuman, and in some ways still ongoing, struggle they had to get to “here” from their initial “there,” and of the grace and triumph of the human spirit they displayed in doing so. And I feel very humble indeed.

It’s never easy. Sometimes, for people in straitened circumstances and in difficult situations, it can seem impossible. And that’s why we should pay attention to, and learn from, role models like Clarence Thomas and Ben Carson, and pay attention to, and learn from, those in our own lives and families–present and past–who’ve persisted and overcome. It’s never easy. And if it is, then there are probably questions that should be raised in Parliament to find out why it was. Because, it’s too easy, something’s likely wrong.

But is it worth it?

I’ve always thought so.

I get a bit squirrely sometimes when I talk to the very young (anyone under about 40 these days), and I listen to how they’re meticulously planning their life. How they can’t possibly afford marriage yet, or perhaps ever. How they can’t possibly afford children yet, or perhaps ever. How their entire careers are already mapped out and inevitable. How they never want to buy a house and put down roots, but prefer to rent and move as the fancy takes them. How they’ve got every “I” dotted and every “T” crossed in their lifetime plan, every play-date, extracurricular activity, and social interaction carefully managed and crafted, and the appropriate college picked out before Junior’s second birthday. How no-one, in the history of humanity, has ever faced the challenges they face, and how very, very careful they have to be in surmounting them lest they or something in their lives veer off course the least little bit…

I get a bit squirrely because I know that “the best-laid plans of mice and men gang aft agley,” and that sometimes, too much planning and too much reliance on the premise that I know where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing 20 years from now can lead to serious repercussions when things don’t pan out as expected. (“Man plans. God laughs.”) And because I know that once one’s dotted as many “I’s” and crossed as many “T’s” as one can in life, and when it’s time to get to the next “there,” sometimes the best, the most uplifting, the most affirming, and the most human thing that a person can do after rationally considering the alternatives and thinking it through is to take a deep breath, close her eyes, and jump. The chips will fall where they may, and there she’ll still be, figuring it out and making it work, just as her ancestors did for thousands of years before she arrived on the scene.

I jumped. Mostly, somebody, something, or some form of grace intervened and caught me. There were, to be sure, a few “splats,” from which I had to “pick myself up, dust myself off, and start all over again.” That’s a part of life too, right?

But here I still am. My life is by no means perfect. And yet. The garden is pretty, the roses smell lovely, the sheep are shorn (although they do not smell quite so lovely), the hay’s in the barn, the siding on the house is (almost) finished, the new bathroom is underway, my neighbors are keeping an eye on me, I’m reasonably healthy, those I love are taking care of themselves and are staying safe, my granddaughter is in seventh grade and has just announced that she’d like to spend more time with her granny, and it’s a wonderful, wonderful world.

And right now I can’t think of anywhere else, anything else, or anyone else, I’d rather be or do. And I can’t think of anyone I’d want to change places with, not for love nor money.

Well, maybe for love.

“Whatsoever thy hand findeth to do, do it with thy might; for there is no work, nor device, nor knowledge, nor wisdom, in the grave, whither thou goest.” Ecclesiastes 9:10

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  1. Arahant Member

    She: (“Man plans. God laughs.”)

    So, so true.

    • #1
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:04 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  2. Percival Thatcher
    PercivalJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Perhaps 80% of my opportunities came about because though I had no idea how to proceed on a challenge, neither did anyone else. I volunteered the first few times. Those could be put down to a copious supply of ignorance and inexperience. After that, I started receiving the assignments to do the Star Trek thing to boldly go*. I asked one time about that, and was told “If you say it can’t be done, you’re probably right. And you almost never say it can be done. Usually you just say ‘I finished it.'”


    * Yeah, I split the infinitive. I blame Gene Roddenberry.

    • #2
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:10 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  3. Andrew Miller Member
    • #3
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:12 AM PDT
    • 1 like
    • This comment has been edited.
  4. JoelB Member

    You knocked another one out of the park @she . I am amazed at young couples with kids who live together yet won’t get married because they can’t afford a fancy wedding. My parents got married in the pastor’s study with only my Uncle Charles and Aunt Nora as witnesses. The rest of their rather large families were not in favor of it. I did not know until rather late in their lives that this particular aunt and uncle were always special to my parents because of their support. Mother and Dad remained together the rest of their long lives.

    I had a friend a few years older than I who opined that God starts most of us off with little material wealth in our marriages so that we learn to depend on one another and Him. The makings of a happy life are not what the world thinks they are.

    • #4
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:15 AM PDT
    • 14 likes
  5. Arahant Member

    Percival (View Comment):
    I asked one time about that, and was told “If you say it can’t be done, you’re probably right. And you almost never say it can be done. Usually you just say ‘I finished it.’”

    And that is how it should be.

    • #5
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:16 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  6. Arahant Member

    Andrew Miller (View Comment):

    Arahant (View Comment):

    She: (“Man plans. God laughs.”)

    So, so true.

    He doesn’t have to laugh quite so loud.

    Eh, in my case, he’s drowned out by everyone else pointing and laughing even louder.

    • #6
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:17 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  7. Arahant Member

    JoelB (View Comment):
    I am amazed at young couples with kids who live together yet won’t get married because they can’t afford a fancy wedding.

    I believe studies have shown an inverse relationship between the size of the wedding and the length of the marriage. It doesn’t correlate in every case, but it often does.

    • #7
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:21 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  8. The Reticulator Member

     I liked reading all that. Ricochet is a better place because of your life experiences. Thank you.

    • #8
    • September 28, 2020, at 7:24 AM PDT
    • 11 likes
  9. Gossamer Cat Coolidge

    Beautiful post. I used to tell my students: there are more ways of making a living than you know. We all can name a few professions, but who grows up saying they want to be a claims adjustor? Take some time off between high school and college or college and graduate school and explore some of them.

    And I tell them that people got married and had children during the plague, countless wars, depressions and other calamities. Life used to be way less certain than it is today.

    But now if anyone asks, I’ll just give them your post to read!

    • #9
    • September 28, 2020, at 8:18 AM PDT
    • 7 likes
  10. CRD Member

    I am in awe of you! Thank you for this beautiful post!

    • #10
    • September 28, 2020, at 9:22 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  11. KentForrester Moderator

    Your post, She, started Marie and me thinking about our lives. We came to the conclusion that we just weren’t as daring as you have been, and there have been very few surprises in the way things turned out. No goats, no resentful kids, no big changes in occupations. We had some problems with our daughter, though she’s good now (and a funeral director). Does that count?

    Of course, we never saw ourselves as old and doddering whose yearly adventure is two weeks aboard a cruise ship.

    You seem to have lived an interesting life. Now you can make it really interesting in the time you have left. Perhaps you can marry a twenty-year-old and move to Paris. Then you and he can help restore Notre Dame. 

    I won’t comment on how good your post is because I know how humble you are as you deflect praise. 

    You know, don’t you, that we have nearby “It was a dark and stormy night” posts coming up soon? Be prepared. I’m coming after you. 

    • #11
    • September 28, 2020, at 9:41 AM PDT
    • 5 likes
  12. The Reticulator Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    No goats, no resentful kids, no big changes in occupations.

    She had goats, too? I hadn’t heard about that.

    We had sheep and goats. Also, chickens, but no pigs. 

    When our pastor asked, “Now do you see why the goats go to the left?” I told him that as far as I could tell, they should all go to the left. The goats and sheep have been gone for nearly 30 years now. We raised chickens a few years longer. But they all left their mark on our little acreage, mostly in the way of memories.

    • #12
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:02 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  13. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Arahant (View Comment):
    I believe studies have shown an inverse relationship between the size of the wedding and the length of the marriage. It doesn’t correlate in every case, but it often does.

    I could probably win prizes in that arena. The bride wore shorts. The groom was dressed like, and was hirsute enough to pass for, an escapee from The BeeGees. We were on vacation with the kids, with whom relations were beginning to settle. We had a couple of tents, and our $300 used Ted Williams camper, towed by The Ugliest Car In The World (and one which, under no circumstances, should ever have been tasked with towing anything). The ceremony was held in the beautiful, butterfly and hummingbird-filled, garden of the local JP in North Conway, NH. He wanted to make it as nice as possible, so we had both chosen pieces to read. His was “Let me not to the marriage of true minds…” Mine was “Entreat me not to leave thee…”

    Sam was the best man. Jenny was the flower girl. And Michael was the photographer.

    Afterwards, we retired to the Elmwood Motor Inn for the reception, and we all ordered the daily special which, if memory serves, was either veal or chicken parmesan, price $1.45. (I remember that, like I remember the price of the down pillows I made sleeping bags from that one Christmas.)

    I think we may have splurged on dessert.

    Can anyone top this?

    • #13
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:14 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
    • This comment has been edited.
  14. Arahant Member

    She (View Comment):
    Can anyone top this?

    I can’t. I tried hard, but the (future at the time) Mrs. wouldn’t let me.

    • #14
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:22 AM PDT
    • 6 likes
  15. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    The Reticulator (View Comment):

    KentForrester (View Comment):
    No goats, no resentful kids, no big changes in occupations.

    She had goats, too? I hadn’t heard about that.

    We had sheep and goats. Also, chickens, but no pigs.

    When our pastor asked, “Now do you see why the goats go to the left?” I told him that as far as I could tell, they should all go to the left. The goats and sheep have been gone for nearly 30 years now. We raised chickens a few years longer. But they all left their mark on our little acreage, mostly in the way of memories.

    Yes, memories. Pete the goat. Lady Ada Lovelace, our first goat. I love the goats. I have only one left now, as all the others have succumbed to the effects of anno domini and passed on to the great beyond. For about 15 years, we raised Angora (mohair) goats. They’re charming and beautiful creatures. But, I decided, just not all that well suited to damp northern climes (mostly an issue with their feet). So I’ve maintained a few “Heinz 57” variety goats for the past several years just because I find them so engaging.

    But, much as I love them, and smart as they are (oh, so much smarter than the sheep), they can be challenging to contain and manage. And, at this point in my life, perhaps they’re too much for me. I’m currently contemplating the prospect of allowing my existing sheep population to fizzle away in much the same way, and slowly replacing it with a flock of hair sheep wethers which will keep the pasture down but not produce an annual lamb crop, and not require the annual shearing.

    Stay tuned.

    Here’s Pete the (Angora) Goat as a kid:

     

    • #15
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:27 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  16. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    Gossamer Cat (View Comment):
    …but who grows up saying they want to be a claims adjustor?

    Indeed. Although it’s an entirely worthy and necessary profession. I know of a few folks who’ve come to it by a baffling and circuitous route, but who seemed to find it satisfying and retired many decades later from it. Good for them!

    • #16
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:33 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  17. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    KentForrester (View Comment):

    Your post, She, started Marie and me thinking about our lives. We came to the conclusion that we just weren’t as daring as you have been, and there have been very few surprises in the way things turned out. No goats, no resentful kids, no big changes in occupations. We had some problems with our daughter, though she’s good now (and a funeral director). Does that count?

    It totally counts. What counts is that she’s “good” and that you’re speaking. 

    Never forget that I’m my father’s daughter, so the “bar” to which I aspire for daring behavior is probably higher than most. After all, I don’t want to let the side down.

    Of course, we never saw ourselves as old and doddering whose yearly adventure is two weeks aboard a cruise ship.

    Me neither! I won’t succumb to the “old lady with dowager’s hump” stereotype. Hence the thrice-weekly 1/2 mile swim, the daily 30-minute rowing machine workout, and the refusal to believe that climbing three-lifts high on scaffolding in order to side the house is something I’m too old for.

    I will confess, a few years ago, to thinking that a cruise with a bunch of old-lady knitters might be fun. Now that what, in woke terms, is described as “the knitting community” has been rent by the BIPOC wars, I’m not so sure I could partake without chucking a good few of my fellow participants overboard. So, perhaps better not.

    You seem to have lived an interesting life. Now you can make it really interesting in the time you have left. Perhaps you can marry a twenty-year-old and move to Paris. Then you and he can help restore Notre Dame.

    LOL. If I could find said 20-year old (perhaps I could seek advice from current and former friends on how to do such a thing in these enlightened times), my requirement would be that he should live here, help me with the farm, and climb those lifts of scaffolding I mentioned somewhere so I don’t have to. My contribution to the Notre Dame fiasco was some advice and a sizable contribution to the archives at Worcester Cathedral, which I’ve visited and care more about.

    I won’t comment on how good your post is because I know how humble you are as you deflect praise.

    ? LOL again.

    You know, don’t you, that we have nearby “It was a dark and stormy night” posts coming up soon? Be prepared. I’m coming after you.

    I’ve already signed up. Game on!

    • #17
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:46 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  18. Arahant Member

    She (View Comment):

    You know, don’t you, that we have nearby “It was a dark and stormy night” posts coming up soon? Be prepared. I’m coming after you.

    I’ve already signed up. Game on!

    Man. Now I’m worried about having to kick the month off.

    • #18
    • September 28, 2020, at 10:51 AM PDT
    • 3 likes
  19. JustmeinAZ Member

    She (View Comment):

    Can anyone top this?

     

    Well…my first marriage. One Saturday morning we grabbed two friends, piled in our ’54 Pontiac and drove 3 hours to Las Vegas. Changed into our good clothes in a gas station restroom and found a JP at city hall. I don’t remember eating anything – if we did it was probably McDonald’s. The other couple took a couple of snapshots.

    I think this was the marriage that disproves the inverse rule. It lasted 24 years but was effectively over in less than ten. Second marriage we flew to Florida, my parents gave us a nice wedding by their pool and we’re going on 30 happy years.

    • #19
    • September 28, 2020, at 11:39 AM PDT
    • 4 likes
  20. She Reagan
    SheJoined in the first year of Ricochet Ricochet Charter Member

    JustmeinAZ (View Comment):

    She (View Comment):

    Can anyone top this?

     

    Well…my first marriage. One Saturday morning we grabbed two friends, piled in our ’54 Pontiac and drove 3 hours to Las Vegas. Changed into our good clothes in a gas station restroom and found a JP at city hall. I don’t remember eating anything – if we did it was probably McDonald’s. The other couple took a couple of snapshots.

    I think this was the marriage that disproves the inverse rule. It lasted 24 years but was effectively over in less than ten. Second marriage we flew to Florida, my parents gave us a nice wedding by their pool and we’re going on 30 happy years.

    Not sure whether to say, “congratulations” I think you beat me or not, WRT the first. The second one sounds like a keeper, though. 

    • #20
    • September 28, 2020, at 11:44 AM PDT
    • 2 likes
  21. The Reticulator Member

    She (View Comment):
    LOL. If I could find said 20-year old (perhaps I could seek advice from current and former friends on how to do such a thing in these enlightened times), my requirement would be that he should live here, help me with the farm, and climb those lifts of scaffolding I mentioned somewhere so I don’t have to.

    Alla Pugacheva might have some advice for you, but she went through several other husbands before settling on Maxim Galkin, who is young enough to be her son. She was just over 60 and he was about 35 when they married, and they are still married almost 10 years later. So not a 20yo, but from our vantage point isn’t that close enough? I don’t know that Galkin works on scaffolding, but he has recently renewed his Putin parodies. He had been one of the last performers who dared do them, and now it seems that the poisoning of Navalny and the Belarus situation have got him restarted with a vengeance. So if you’re looking for a risk-taker who goes for older women, Pugacheva might be able to give you some pointers. On the other hand, if Galkin keeps this up she might need a new guy herself one of these days. 

     

    • #21
    • September 28, 2020, at 12:34 PM PDT
    • 2 likes
  22. Clifford A. Brown Contributor

    A lovely tale spinning off September’s theme “If I was a —, I would —.” Do join in the fun with your own take or jump into October’s theme “It was a dark and stormy night. . . .”

    Interested in Group Writing topics that came before? See the handy compendium of monthly themes. Check out links in the Group Writing Group. You can also join the group to get a notification when a new monthly theme is posted.

    • #22
    • September 28, 2020, at 2:11 PM PDT
    • 1 like
  23. TreeRat Member

    She (View Comment):

    Can anyone top this?

     

    You have us beat on the clothing: I wore a cheap suit from Sears, she made over a dress from a thrift store that turned out very nice.

    We got a pastor to marry us ahead of another scheduled wedding, my brother (? I think he was the one. Whatever — it was someone of the few guests who bothered to attend.) took some pictures around the city, the reception was a beer keg in the back yard.

    It will have been 45 years this October.

    • #23
    • September 28, 2020, at 6:10 PM PDT
    • 4 likes