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I'm most recently a writer.  In the six plus decades of my life, I've been a wife, mother, grandmother, Jill of all trades though mistress of but a few, and most of the time pretty content with my lot.  As a much younger person, I believed I was called to write, but life and living distracted me for most of those decades.  An unwilling transplant from the South,  twenty years ago I unintentionally landed in the geographical center of the US.  Writing came about in part due to the unwillingness, I expect.  When caring for family, gardening, and renovating a century-old house failed to provide sufficient creative outlets, I turned to the one thing I always intended to do.  Eight titles later, I'm grateful I found myself while Lost in the Plains!

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

The Years of Seven

Numbers are not my thing. I don't have a lucky--or unlucky--number. I'm pathetic with phone numbers, house numbers, even birth and anniversary dates. I'm a word person. From grade school on, I chose to nurture my vocabulary and leave the numbers to fend for themselves.

There is one major exception--the dreaded seventh year of every decade--The Year of Seven. Now, I know how that sounds, but I categorically deny being the least bit superstitious. I love black cats and have been owned by several in my lifetime. I'm blessed with the lack of inches that allows me to walk under ladders without even noticing them. On rainy days,  I leave my open umbrella to dry in the foyer. I frankly don't have the nature or the time to indulge in superstition. But these years of seven aren't about superstition. Instead, they are about a a very real story about grief and loss. Yes, you can argue that there is all of that in other years. But over time these particular years earned a badge of mystical significance in my life, first through my mother and then for myself. I hope the story speaks for itself.

In 1947 my mother's fiance drowned at a party celebrating her birthday and their upcoming marriage. His death resulted in a very different life than the one she was looking forward to. She eventually married a brilliant young school teacher, gave birth to a daughter, and fought tooth and nail for the happy ever after that was never to be.

In 1957 my father committed suicide. It's fair to say, my mother never stopped grieving for him,
never lived fully without him, and never stopped reliving their time together. His death was the defining moment of her life.

In 1967 my maternal grandfather, a wise and gentle man who saved this fatherless child when her five year-old world imploded, died unexpectedly two days after Christmas.

At this point you can see the pattern, but you might also say this rule of seven was more about my mother than about me. You wouldn't be wrong. For years, I tried to lay it at her door. Hard things happened every year. But even I was impressed with the fact that the hardest things, the kind that change the color of our worlds forever, seemed to strike in the seventh years of each decade.

Then came 1977. I was a young, but dedicated, wife with two small children by this time. Short version--the marriage ended when my husband literally drove off into the sunset without a word of explanation or farewell. I ended up hospitalized for months with a major bipolar breakdown.  That was the year I embraced the truth of what many might call coincidence.

That said, 1987 was just one more year in the horror story of my second marriage. It might have been worse. It certainly wasn't better.

On Valentine's Day of 1997, my dearest friend died of cancer. I was blessed by her invitation to share her journey toward eternity, to sit by her, read to her, plan her memorial, and make sure all her pet projects were brought to a satisfactory end. I remember '97 as the year I cried almost daily, often at something we'd laughed at; the year I started talking to the familiar angel perched on my shoulder.

In 2007 my mother passed to her well deserved reward, exactly fifty years and twenty days after my father left her. If I'd never believed the seventh years held a special place in our lives, that would have confirmed it for me. I remember early that year, as she grew weaker and, between the two of us, we accepted that her fight was almost over, she stopped talking about my father. I sensed that she was thinking of him and that her thoughts were private. I knew she was hoping he'd waited for her.

Was I hoping during the past ten years that just maybe the cycle had ended? After 2015, when our lives were changed so drastically with John's fall, I couldn't imagine '17 topping it. Not that I was challenging fate. More like asking for a pass for this decade. Or forever. 

It's now 2017. Maybe it's just coincidence that I've been diagnosed with cancer?  Not the worst diagnosis, specifically bladder cancer, but one I hoped would never be entered in my medical history. Juggling all I have to do and want to do with surgery, treatments, and tests seems to be asking a lot, just when I've begun to realize I'm not as young and strong as I once was.

Whatever I think about these symbolic seventh years, I certainly do not expect the worst. Much like what I recall as the Black Hole of '77, I intend to fight my way out of this and survive. I have a husband I adore who needs me, literally, every hour of the day. I have family, friends, my old house, and my garden, to spend time with and care for. I have stories to tell, and possibly new ventures to undertake. Most of all, I have my God, who has held me close and carried me forward in the worst of times. I know I have nothing to fear and everything to look forward to beyond this seventh year.

This detour may be unknown and certainly unwelcome, but I'm looking forward to new things to learn and new people to meet along the way. I hope you'll join me.


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