Time takes you places you never thought you'd go. I grew up in the hills and hollows of Eastern Kentucky, in an area called "poor" by many, including much of the media. I certainly never felt poor, I had everything I needed, most of all love from gentle and hard-working parents and a host of sisters and brothers. (I am the youngest in a family of ten children).
Still, growing up, I imagined I would spend my life close to home. I expected to marry and have several children, seeing them play in the same places I played and attend the same schools I did.
Life takes a lot of twists and turns, doesn't it?
I was married fourteen months when my first son arrived. I was young and healthy with no problems conceiving. I could never have imagined enduring years and years of infertilty and miscarriages, attempting to give my son a brother or a sister, then finally giving up at age 38, after a devastating miscarriage 12 weeks into a pregnancy that had us full of hope.
I could never have imagined leaving the area where my roots ran deep, where generations of my family had lived and worked the land, earning the respect and affection of the community. My husband was a coal miner, like his father before him, the father who was lost in a mining accident while his mother was pregnant. The coal industry took a downturn in the 80's, and like many today, we found ourselves jobless. I could never have imagined moving my little family to the fringes of a metropolis. But move we did, 25 years ago, and made this area our home.
Growing up, I didn't travel very much. It was about an hour's drive to the nearest little town, "going to town" was an event in itself. Travel by plane was all but unheard of in my era and area, the nearest commercial airport was hours away. After marriage, we did take a few vacations, but I could never have imagined travelling to Europe and touring several countries. What an amazing trip we had for our 25th anniversary! We took our son with us for one last family vacation before he truly began his own life, and we made so many memories.
When my oldest son was a little boy, I couldn't imagine him all grown up, meeting and marrying a girl who would become like a daughter to me. Most of all, I couldn't imagine being a grandmother! Nothing, absolutely nothing, can prepare you for that surge of love you feel when you look at the child of your child for the first time. It is the most amazing feeling in the world! You are looking at the future of your family and you would move mountains for them.
Life brings its share of heartbreak, too. You will be tested and you will be hurt. You will find out what you are made of. Sometimes your pain is obvious to others; sometimes it is something too personal or painful to talk about. I could never have imagined the loss I've had in my life, and I am glad I couldn't. I have said goodbye to all of my brothers, all of whom died suddenly and way too young. At 26, I held my mother's hand as she died. My dad lived to be 95, losing him was difficult, and I have often thought of all the ones he lost in his life. I have buried a husband just a few months after giving birth, again, he was way too young. I had imagined growing old with him, I could never have imagined facing the second half of my life alone.
Sometimes we have some say-so in what happens in our life, sometimes we don't. Of all the things I have done, all the places I have been, all that has happened, all that I imagined might happen, I could NEVER have imagined finding myself pregnant at age 49! I could never have imagined giving birth to my second child just a few weeks after my 50th birthday, 32 years and 10 months to the day after my first child, another healthy, intelligent, perfect little boy, so unexpected and such a blessing. He has certainly been my biggest surprise to date!
How have you imagined your life, so far? Has it been anything close to what you thought it would be? What do you do when life throws you a curve?
If I have learned anything in my 55 years, it is this: embrace the things you couldn't imagine. Grab the joy of the unexpected twists and turns. Work your way through the pain and disappointments as gracefully as you can, for they will come. Give thanks for what you are given and for the ones you love and who love you. That, in my opinion, is living life fully.
Pictures, top to bottom:
Me at about age 1
With my son Matt,age 2
In London, England with my husband David
The moment I first looked at my granddaughter, Eva, in her hospital bassinet
The first time I held Jonathan, in the delivery room