It was the best of times. It was the worst of times...
That about sums up the year 2007, so far. Events have been a rollercoaster ride of monumental proportions. Up until the beginning of Summer, the year was fantastic. Summer of 2007 however, has sucked. Really sucked. Graphically and with wild abandon levels of suckage, that's what I'm talking about.
First the house caught fire, then our 19 year old dog passed away, then my 100 year old grandmother passed away, then our car was rear-ended sending my wife and myself to the hospital... Sensing a bit of a trend here, are we? Well I am - What's more, I'm none too happy about it. But, and this is the kicker, things could have been a lot worse. How? I'm glad that you asked. Let me put it all in perspective for you, dear reader.
The house fire? The home office - where I work on Aphelion editorials just like this one - was set alight by an old box fan sitting in a window. Something on the order of $10,000 US has been spent to make repairs. Most of that was the cost of labor putting the room itself to rights. Only 10% of that was not covered by insurance. True, that was a thousand dollars that we didn't have to spare. But consider the alternatives. I did wake up just in time to put the fire out before it spread to the rest of the house. A few more minutes and we would have been forced to flee the house and consign everything we owned to oblivion. Or worse, we might not have woken up at all. In which case, Aphelion would have been looking for a new Senior Editor and Publisher. Dead is dead, folks. So we obviously came out ahead on that deal. The only thing that was burned and cannot be replaced was some of my own artwork. It turns out that there were several digital photos of that, so resurrection of that artwork isn't totally impossible - It'll just have to be in a slightly different form than the original.
The dog? He'd already lived twice as long as most dogs of that breed. His last days were filled with the knowledge that he was well and truly loved. His passing was swift and painless for him. He was at home, in the arms of someone who loved him dearly when he breathed his last. There was never a moment in his life when he was not loved, pampered, and cherished.
My grandmother? She lived two months past her 100th birthday. She raised a huge family, one that spanned five or six generations. She never spent a day in a nursing home, and only her very last day in a hospital. She lived in her own home all her life. She never gave up her few vices, with the possible exception of cooking for her family during her last decade or so. She never lost her faith, her joy, her hope for the future. She was always surrounded by her family, friends, and loved ones. She left behind a family who are fearless, determined, capable of overcoming any obstacle, proud of their heritage, and boundless in their ability to give love to one another. And she lives on, inside each and every one of us who were privileged to have known her. She left a legacy, in the form of her family, which will last until the end of time. I'm thankful that Granny got to meet my wife and welcomed her into the family post-haste. Oh, you don't think that being handed a head of cabbage, a big knife, and being told to make the coleslaw for a family reunion is much of a welcome? Allow me to buy you a clue, dear reader. There are women who have married into our family who had to wait years to be allowed to help out in Granny Griffith's kitchen for a family dinner. My wife? Thirty minutes, tops. Granny knew quality when she met it. She didn't hesitate to speak her mind about anything or anyone. She made it clear that she approved of Lyn, and no one better dare attempt to keep one of "her" girls out of "her kitchen." Lyn joined my Mom, her sisters - my Aunts Pudge and Geraldine, and Uncle Bill's wife - Aunt Mary in that inner sanctum of the Southern Female - The Kitchen Of The Clan's Matriarch. We mere men were allowed to sit in the living room and turn on the TV to look for a baseball game, or something. As long as we stayed out of the way... It was a great and glorious time, well spent with the ones we loved, and were loved by in return.
The car wreck? My wife and I were struck from behind as we sat waiting for oncoming traffic to clear so that we could make a left turn onto the road leading to our home. My wife is suffering from whiplash. I have a broken collar bone. Our car was totaled, our new-bought groceries slung out onto the road and ditch. I have no memory of the accident itself. One minute I was switching on the turn signal, the next I was waking up in the ambulance as my wife was being carried inside. I'm told that the fellow who hit us refused medical treatment, despite having totaled his car as well as ours. The entire duration of the accident remains a total blank to me. I'm told that I was suffering from a concussion. My wife had to crawl over my legs to get out of the car and then drag me out as well. We were both battered and bruised, but we survived. W spent more than six hours in the hospital being x-rayed and CT scanned several times each. Thankfully, insurance has paid for everything so far. So, we're temporarily without a car, my wife is temporarily having to wear a neck brace, and I am temporarily out of work without the use of my left arm... That's right, this entire editorial was written with my right hand while my left arm is immobilized in a sling. But it could have been so much worse, my friends. We live, a bit battered, but we live. We're both having to undergo physical therapy sessions. Those sessions hurt nearly as badly as our original injuries. We're having to depend on family and friends for transportation. Mom and Dad loaned us their van, but the doctors won't let us drive. We can't go work out in the yard or keep the house as clean as we like. My wife has been forbidden - by her doctor - to mop the kitchen floor or use the vacuum cleaner. I am not allowed to use the lawn mower or weed eater. Despite the no-housework rule, Lyn's workload has increased. She's having to help me bathe, wash my hair, and even has to help me put on clothes. I'm having to sleep in my lounge chair at night - doctor's orders. We can't sleep in the same bed, yet. We hurt everywhere, most of the time. We're tired of having to take prescriptions to dull the pain. We're tired of being stuck in the house... But this beats the heck out of 99% of the alternatives. We will heal. It'll take time, but at least we still have that time. We still have each other.
Besides which, things are looking up! Our two daughters, Judith and Michelle, are coming out from New Mexico to visit - They'll actually be here at Casa Vila as you read this. Our son Anthony has started college out in New Mexico, majoring in computer programming. Judith will start college next year, majoring in veterinary medicine. Michelle was just in a musical play and is auditioning for another one. Michelle and her boyfriend Marc are talking about getting married and moving closer to Lyn and I. Our step-son Shawn has been coming by to visit more often. Both to tell us about his own son Jackson and to help with the yard work. Shawn has been working lots of extra hours in order to stay caught up on his child support payments for Jackson. There's a possibility that Shawn's visitation rights will be expanded soon so that he can bring Jackson to visit us.
Also, my unexpected time off from work has given me an opportunity to get back to writing. Aphelion readers should find that bit of news particularly happy, I hope. I've pulled up several dusty old word processor files that haven't seen the light of day in months, cleaned them up a bit, and added new material to them. Lyn is particularly happy to know that there will soon be more of my stories to read. She still delights in telling friends and family how she got so engrossed in reading a printout of "The Orion Affair" and "Fly by Wire" on the long bus ride from New Mexico that she totally forgot it was I who wrote them. She was spellbound, unable to put the manuscript down until she reached the ending, and wanted more after the last page had been turned. This high praise indeed, considering that it comes from a person who has been a lifelong Heinlein fan!
There is more, but you get the idea. No matter how many things go wrong, there are also things that go right. The hardest trick is to keep from dwelling on the negative things and to accept the positive things as the gifts that they are. In truth, we have all been gifted.
I now return you to your regularly scheduled reading material...