I always get contemplative at this time of year. I think we all go into the new year hoping for the best, making resolutions, looking for better days. Most of us think, “If I could lose 20 pounds, my life would change for the better,” or “If I got a new job, everything would be great!” We look back as well. Remembering the bad times and the good, progress made or lost–I think of that Bruce Springsteen line, “One step forward, two steps back.”
A lot of us have had to face a new reality during the years of the Great Recession and afterward. The old life is not coming back. That job, that money, that ease of living, will not be ours again. It’s the new normal, and unpleasant as it may be, we have to adjust.
Like most people in their 50s, I didn’t expect this. But when I remember my parents, I see that it happened to them as well, for different reasons.
Daddy worked for several years for a government contractor driving ICBMs (intercontinental ballistic missiles) into the tunnels where they were stored after the warheads were assembled. Yes, that’s really what my dad did for a living! But when the Vietnam War came about, gradually the cold war lost emphasis, government spending for nuclear “defense” was cut–and Daddy was laid off. His life was never the same.
He was reduced to doing hard physical labor, unloading trucks and carrying meat in to the commissary freezers at Ft. Campbell, KY when he was in his late 50s. He had a heart attack and couldn’t do that job any more, so he drove a school bus. All the while he was farming our small farm. He died of his second heart attack not long after I graduated from college.
The good news in all this was, he loved the farm and was never happier than when he was feeding the cows or driving the tractor. We managed to keep our house and the farm despite mortgages, and when Daddy died there was property to sell so Mother had something to live on. It was never carefree or easy, but we had family and friends and fun.
So when I feel like whining I try to remember that this is a new cycle and I’ve been given a second chance to keep going, to make this life work. And hopefully to have some fun along the way!