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Punchbuggy

When I was a child, my mother used to play a game with me.  We would keep our eyes open all the time and watch for Volkswagon bugs to drive down the street.  As soon as one of us would see one, we’d yell, VOLKSWAGON!  She would tell me, “You never realize how many of them are around you until you are looking for them.  They’re everywhere.”

I also remember an expression from my childhood: “I don’t give a care.”  Once I began to learn the difference between talking and speaking proper English (a habit I am not known to have cultivated) I thought to myself “That’s not a correct sentence.  It should simply be, I don’t care.”  But as I think back, it did make sense.  For at that tender age I was not obliged to give a care, not a single care in the world.  My food, clothing and shelter were someone else’s worry – not mine.  I wanted to go play, to explore the world outside.  The means by which I was able to come by these opportunities was of no concern to me.  My only concern was – Make it Happen!

I couldn’t wait to become an adult.  I prayed, “God, get me through this.”  What didn’t occur to me at the time I was wishing was that it wasn’t being an adult I wanted so much as I wanted to be the master of my own time.  I wanted to decide what I did and with whom.  I wanted to stay up, sleep late or go out – I wanted it to be my choice, no one else’s.  Me.  Sadly, I discovered that those rights come accompanied by responsibilities and those responsibilities then take over the decision making.  Ultimately, I controlled my wishes – but my responsibilities controlled the choices. 

Then you meet the person of your dreams.  You plan your lives together.  What better way to celebrate being an adult and being able to do anything you want whenever you want with your best friend.  This is perfect.  You plan a sensational party followed by a fabulous vacation; or maybe you just run off to a justice of the peace and sign the papers.  But you say, “I Do”.  And you think you will.

Then come children.  You quickly discover that your time is now THEIR time.  You are now the on-call concierge for this tiny person, or two, or more.  There is no such thing as going to work, coming home and crashing on the couch.  There is dinner to prepare, laundry to do and a house to keep clean. There’s homework.  After what felt like forever of hoping you would be free from your own homework you are now monitoring theirs.  You give it everything you have and then some, only to find that there are 10 more things on your list for the next day – and some of those won’t wait.  Again, you pray, “God, get me through this.” 

I spent over 25 years raising children.  It was a fulfilling time that went by way to fast.  I recall my children playing a game when we were all together.  Although my husband nor I taught them this, they would look for Volkswagons on the road and as soon as one was seen they would yell PUNCHBUGGY!!!

I remember the stress, but I also remember the joy that came from providing a happy Christmas; cheering them on in a game; applauding them from the audience for achievements in school.  It’s a bittersweet time of wanting them to stay young forever and hoping they grow up to be responsible adults.  And they do.

Now you are on your own.  And you find that the time you have waited for your entire life is consumed by as much for others as it is yourself.  You no longer have a job – you have a career and the demands are constant.  You plan for all those wonderful things you only dreamed of being able to do before – and then, out of nowhere, fate strikes a blow.

An ailing parent; an unforeseen illness, an accident.  Something happens and your world that you so carefully cultivated all those years has vaporized in an instant.  Your children, now adults with children of their own, are playing Punchbuggy or something similar and drowning in the day to day responsibilities that come with having a family. You talk to doctors, nurses, administrators. You learn every detail of that insurance you’ve paid for all this time but never bothered to read about.  You find yourself on a first name basis with your pharmacist and everyone they employ.  You pray, God, get me through this. 

Like it or not – you will get through it.  And the outcome is not always what you hope for.  Together, you fight a valiant battle but lose the war. Your loved one passes away.  Be it a parent or a spouse, an illness that took every minute of your time for 6, 12, 18 months or longer has, in a split second, come to a halt.  You sit, you stare, you cry, you even scream.  You wonder how you worked your entire life to get to a time when you could do whatever, go wherever, be whoever, and it’s GONE.  Just like that.  And in a moment of utter despair you look around as you did when you were spotting Volkswagons and you realize that you are surrounded by people just like you in the same circumstances.  Those who have lost a parent, widows who are trying to learn how to live without their loved one – EVERYWHERE.  So many you can hardly count them all. Worse yet, there is a new one every day. They help you.  You help them.  You help each other find your way.

And after a lifetime of living, you realize there is no such thing as not giving a care – And God will get you through this.

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