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The yearly rush-hour

Food For Thought

Along about the end of October, Midwesterners seem to suddenly realize winter is on its way and there are a lot of things we intended to do during the past summer and fall that have yet to be accomplished. Between mulching the rose bushes and storing away the lawn furniture, we find ourselves scrambling to get to that family reunion put off almost too late again this year. And, didn’t we promise that favorite aunt we wouldn’t miss her 80th birthday party this month, but the visit is going to have to be shortened to two days, rather than the week she invited us for.
The kids are occupied with school and other activities and you’re glad to see they are busy and involved, but why does their involvement suddenly require nearly as much of your time as it does of theirs? You hate to disappoint the kids, and you sure don’t want to look like a disinterested parent, but with Thanksgiving nearly here and Christmas on its heels, you don’t know just how much time you can devote to all these unexpected projects.
Now, throw in one unplanned for but essential event– like a funeral, for instance– and you discover you’ve lost control altogether and your time and energy seem to have been wrested from you and taken over by aliens from another planet. There is only so much time, there is only so much energy, there is only so much willingness to give up your own plans to cooperate with the needs and wishes of others. We search our minds and hearts and priorities and pray we make the right decision. We hope we are forgiven by those we must disappoint and we hope we are appreciated by those who seemed to need us most. But, most of all, we wish we didn’t have to deal with this dilemma in the first place.
The past month of my life has been a classic example of this annual rush-hour. Most of the urgency got its start last spring or before, and the true beginnings may have originated several years ago. For simplicity’s sake, I’ll start with the invasion of raccoons in my attic. This was a costly, messy, time-consuming problem that prevented me from doing two of the things I intended to do early in the summer. I wanted to take a day to spend in my hometown of Knoxville, having lunch and visiting with several of my high school classmates. And I wanted to take about a week to drive to northwest Iowa to spend some time in my husband’s hometown of Graettinger, where there are still a few relatives and several friends I like to keep in touch with. Both of those could be put off for later, I thought. When “later” arrived, I found I needed to attend to the carpal tunnel problem in both my hands. Having been told, if I waited too long, the surgery might not be as successful, I chose that over the more enjoyable trips.
A string of hot, dry weather and several projects I’d committed to for some organizations I belong to, kept me busy until late August when I planned to make the visit to Knoxville. As I always phone to make sure the lunch plans are still in place, I was disappointed to learn nearly all the people who usually attend had health problems, appointments, or other urgent matters pending and it had been postponed for a month. In September, one of the classmates died the day before the planned lunch and it was again postponed.
Suddenly it is October and things are piling up. There is a family reunion scheduled for the second Saturday. This is a rather tardy attempt to revive what was, for many years, an annual event for my sisters and other relatives. Too many years have gone by without that yearly contact and there are grand-nieces and nephews who have grown up without my ever meeting them. I want to encourage this venture, so am determined to be there, even though it means a fast trip to Des Moines and back. I have a doctor’s appointment on the following Monday, Tuesday is a regularly-scheduled meeting with some other poets, and on Wednesday the classmates’ lunch in Knoxville– finally going to happen! It looks like a hectic week coming up.
There won’t be much time to recover from all the travel, however, as the next Saturday is the day one of my favorite groups is having a special meeting for prospective members. I’m supposed to be ready to talk a little about my writing and bring a dessert to serve at the party. In addition, I promised to print a supply of brochures to give to our guests who are interested in finding out more about the organization.
I get home from the Wednesday lunch and my telephone is ringing as I walk in the door. It is my niece Tammy telling me her father died that morning. My husband’s younger brother; the last of his immediate family. The funeral will be the next Saturday in Des Moines. Rush hour isn’t over yet.