A Summer Unlike Any Other

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© Bruce Allen                            August 31, 2021

I’ve always enjoyed winter weather. I tend to run hot, and in winter I’m usually comfortable, inside and outside the house. Don’t mind plowing the driveway, don’t mind slipping and sliding in the car. Don’t like all the salt, but what is one to do? Of the four seasons, winter has been my favorite for a long time.

Early spring and late fall have always been nice. The change of seasons is in full swing; one of the few good things about living in Indiana is that one does get a taste of all four seasons, summer being the longest and most oppressive. My snowblower is now four years old and has about 20 hours on it, most of those spent plowing the sidewalks on my dogwalking route.

Fall was always my second favorite–baseballs and footballs filling the air, cool, crisp days, out in the country the look of farm fields getting prepared for winter. Fall dropped in the ratings back in 2005 when our dog Amos needed to be put down. The effect when we lost Gracie was not nearly so pronounced, so February is still okay. But the Ben Hur Lampman poem about where to bury a dog was written for a dog like Amos. October lost some of its allure after he passed.

I’ve never really liked summers. I inherited a pronounced intolerance to heat and humidity from my dad, who suffered mightily in the hot months and whose idea of a nice day at the beach involved a gin and tonic, an air-conditioned living room, and a color TV. He did like to open the sliding glass doors of their condo at night and listen to the waves. But summer for me has been, for a long time, something to endure, something to get through. Probably not a coincidence that I’m writing this on the last day of August, two weeks to the day since Nancy died.

Two weeks since the brutal struggle of her last week on earth came to a merciful close. Two weeks that have found me still in shock, immobilized, unable to stop weeping, unable to say why I’m weeping other an insightful “just everything.” Unable to write these damned thank-you notes because my eyes fill with tears and I can’t see down through my bifocals. I can’t talk about it; I can only write about it with dry eyes.

Most of the time, the feeling is similar to back when she would take a week in Seattle and I would stay home with the dog. Those ‘staycations’ for me were a way to spend a few unsupervised days attending to my various vices–smoking cigars, bad food, lots of CNN–with no fear of discovery. Only I can’t shake the fear of being discovered, can’t stop listening. Then arrives one of those moments that cause me trouble, when I have to hit myself on the forehead to remind myself that she won’t be back. I realize now that I probably asked her a dozen questions a day. Those questions are going unasked and unanswered. Where are her pearls? Where is the bequest ledger of all things? How is it that I ended up having cheese and crackers and a brownie for dinner last night?

We have a friend who is gravely ill with cancer and I’m taking some egg custards over there in response to my WWND–she would have me make egg custards and then drive her over there with them. So I might as well do it myself. WWND intended to drive me to that conclusion in the first place. But our friend’s prognosis is poor and about to get worse, I fear, and I may not get another chance. I will probably end up spending plenty of time with her husband; they were married forever, and he will be a mess. Next up will be our old friends on the south side who have myriad health issues themselves.

I’m trying to find someone to serve outside of myself, and these friends seem to be the first logical choices. There will be others. Going with my daughter next week to visit one of Nancy’s collection of disabled people over at his group home on the west side.

Things were getting bad for Nancy this past spring, but she was determined to get her last Bethany trip done. So she toughed through the pain for months in exchange for one last week in the sand with her grand kids. Things went straight downhill once we returned. Six weeks later she was gone. A lost summer, a memorable summer, a gruesome summer for the girls and me.

So far this has been worse than I had anticipated. It’s a guy thing, and I should have recognized it as such early on–the tendency to underestimate the difficulty of pretty much everything. The extent to which I have underestimated the emotional toll this is taking on me is laughable; I am going to have to seek counseling if things don’t improve in a hurry. For now, I am hunkered down, trying to discern God’s will in all of this. It seems to be venturing close to my motto, “Be humble or get humbled.”

My new bank checks arrived yesterday. Her name no longer appears on them; our joint account is now a single account. It feels disloyal. Lord please deliver me from too many more summers like 2021.

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Nancy and two of our girls, late in the game. Still smiling.

RIP Nancy Porter Gillespie

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© Bruce Allen
 
March 19 1952–August 17 2021

‘Grateful No Matter What’

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Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness

Nancy Gillespie, 69, died peacefully at St. Vincent Hospice on August 17. She was born in Woodbury, New Jersey, and was preceded in death by her parents, Edward and Elizabeth (Harper) Gillespie. She is survived by a sister, Mary (Volk), Audubon, PA, brother Ed Gillespie, Glade Valley, NC, husband Bruce Allen, daughters Liz (Pearce), Seattle, WA, Ginger (Edwards), Carmel, IN and Cate (Collins), Chicago, IL and her six grandchildren, upon whom she doted. She will be greatly missed.

Nancy graduated from high school in Woodbury, NJ in 1970 and attended Dickinson College in Carlisle, PA, graduating in 1974. She and Bruce were married in 1975. Daughter Liz was born in 1977, Ginger in 1980 and Cate in 1984. Nancy spent a dozen years as a full-time mom before re-entering the workforce in 1990. She worked at both Carmel High School and the Carmel Public Library and ended her career at OneAmerica as an Organizational Development leader.

After retiring in 2016, Nancy continued to pursue her love of travel, visiting Mexico, Hawaii, Arizona, Mackinac Island, New York City, Seattle, New England and the Atlantic coast. During this same period she beat all the odds in a battle against Stage IV pancreatic cancer. She credited the combined prayers of her family, friends and complete strangers for her lengthy survival. She was an avid reader, loved her book club members, and stayed in close touch with old friends from Woodbury, Cincinnati, and Annapolis. She loved birds, especially hummingbirds and cardinals, and beaches.

Nancy was an active member of Our Lady of Mt. Carmel parish for 37 years, volunteering for and leading a host of ministries over that time. A calling and eulogy will be held in the church narthex (14598 Oak Ridge Rd, Carmel) on Thursday, August 19, 2021, from 6 to 8 pm. A Mass of Christian Burial will be celebrated on Friday, August 20 beginning at 10 am. Interment will follow at Our Lady of Peace cemetery (9001 Haverstick Rd., Indianapolis). In lieu of flowers, the family requests your support of pancreatic cancer research through donations to The Lustgarten Foundation.

https://lustgarten.org/

Until Death Do Us Part.

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© Bruce Allen   August 10, 2021

Marriage Blog Art

We spoke these words in our wedding vows on September 27, 1975, part of the large ritual to which I paid little attention at the time. I was 24, she was 23, we were in fine health, the entire world laid out in front of us. The “until death do us part” line was just another piece in a large production. My belief we would always be together implied, as I’ve discovered, that I would pre-decease her. In other words, we would always be together as long as both of us lived. Once one of us were to die, the surviving spouse would only be able to say “45 years” or “a good long time.” Death interferes.

Death is busy interfering with our marriage at this very moment. She is lying in our room, in a hospital bed, an opioid pump attached to her giving her regular jolts. Mentally, she is 95% gone; physically, about the same. She has end-stage pancreatic cancer after over five years of chemo. She has fought the hell out of it. But, ultimately, as it almost always does, cancer wins. It may win here today or tomorrow. Actually, it has already won, since she is so far gone, a husk of her former vibrant self. Our adult daughters take turns hugging and caressing and whispering to her, all to little avail. But it makes them feel better.

My own instinct is to remove myself, as much as I can, from the scene in the bedroom, as I generally sit down, glance at her, and start crying, thinking about how I’m going to miss her. I went to Costco for a few items yesterday, and usually I glance at women’s clothing to see if I can find anything for her. Dressed by Kirkland, as it were. As I walked past the apparel, it occurred to me that so many of the things I buy I do with with her in mind, that I haven’t grocery shopped just for myself in over 40 years other than the odd week when she’s been out of town. Triggers.

Removing myself from her room I see as beginning the process of breaking 50 year-old bonds that will break completely some time soon. The hospice nurse said while here yesterday that when death is imminent she will start visiting everyday. She will be here today and tomorrow. I’m not sure all of this pre-grieving will help anything when the time comes, but I have no choice.

Just for the record, I do not buy into all of the “celebration of life” stuff they surround funerals with these days. When have you ever been to a real celebration where the main celebrants are all collapsed in tears? How does one go about celebrating a life cut short, a life with so much left to give? How does one celebrate a God who looks at a marriage, decides to take one of the spouses, and then takes the wrong one?

Our six grand kids will get hollowed out by this experience one way or another. For the four older ones, this will be a readily-understandable, if psychologically unacceptable, experience they will feel in real time, their grief ultimately replaced by real memories. For the two young ones, the older sister is, at 6, too young to get it completely, but she gets it, and is kind of stuck in no-man’s land–grieving with everyone else but not fully clear on the details. For the three-year old, this will be something she will only come to grips with when she’s older, seeing photographs of herself with Nanny, hearing about the pictured events, developing kind of virtual memories, having missed out on the real ones because her hard drive and RAM are still being installed.

Our hearts, though powerful pumps, are fragile things. They are subject to breakage, both slight–a chip here, a gouge there–and major, such as what occurs when a lover dumps you or a spouse contracts a fatal illness. My own heart is holding up okay thus far until the words goodbye, forever, I love you, I’ll miss you, won your race, made it home, time to let go, put it in God’s hands, or any of a hundred other phrases pop into the air, or even just my head, and I start to melt down. Hearing Brad Paisley and Sheryl Crow singing two songs–When I Get Where I’m Going and Always on Your Side–gets me right here. We have been anticipating these days for five years, yet it is still such a shock when they finally arrive. Like a train that’s five years late.

So, we suffer with her, me and two of my daughters. Our eldest is stuck 2000 miles away, has been here twice recently, but may not be able to return until after The Flood, with her kids and her ex, who is also part of this family. She and her kids have already said goodbye to her mom and their Nanny. As hard as this is for me and my kids, it will be harder on their kids, as it is like Pearl Harbor for them, emotionally.

Some of the hardest moments in people’s lives are those where they must face their own mortality. People who died suddenly sometimes avoid this altogether. Most people don’t. Some, like my wife, confront it every day for years, a constant reminder that there will be some terrible days in one’s future. There wasn’t a single day in those five plus years when my wife didn’t want to live. Now, that the time has come for her to let go and rest on her laurels, she is having a hard time, her memories reduced mostly to muscle memory, the holding on having become strong and firm and terribly hard to let go of.

But she will, perhaps today. I just went in and sat with her. Put my hand on hers and got no response. She is still inside that body of hers somewhere, but she’s hard to reach and getting harder each day. My goal, as a writer, is to get my readers to laugh and cry in the same post. Which is why I’m ending this one with her final coherent words to me, after almost 46 years of civilized discourse. A few days ago she wanted to hold a small bowl of cut fruit I had made for her, and I wanted to hold it for her, to help her eat and avoid a spill. In the midst of this slight tussle, she looked me in the eye and said, “Don’t mess with me.”

I married her, in great part, because of her indomitable spirit, how she was impossible to intimidate. Small but powerful. I never wanted a life partner who would be subservient and “whatever you say” me to an early departure. I wanted a woman with some genuine intellectual horsepower and the willingness to speak her mind. And I had her, for almost 50 years. That girl is now gone, but I shall hold up my end of the deal and care for her remnant, until death do us part.

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Long Marriages: The Burnishing of Love

© Bruce Allen               October 10, 2018

Relationships, over time, seem to become burnished, the colors changed and smoothed off around the edges. It is the evolving nature of the marriage relationship itself over time which produces this new appearance, this patina of age. It is accompanied at times by some sense of loss, but, in the best cases, maintains acceptance, understanding, kindness and friendship. It is what happens over 40 or 50 years, as lust grows into love which grows into commitment which grows into devotion. It is, in fact, something of a best-case solution to this whole marriage thing; it is rare—perhaps 3-4% of marriages get to the devotion stage—and therefore I consider it valuable. As is the sacrament that produced it and the foundational love that lives on.

A husband like me, whose go-to behavior (according to Strength Finders) is intellection, must try every day not to allow devotion to slip into The Unthinkable. My wife’s illness is with her every day; she’s with me virtually every day. As long as we Are Here Now things are good. Given her remarkable chemo results, it has gotten easier for me not to wander down the rabbit hole. This is clearly not the case for the majority of people with this disease or their caregivers.

When she first received the diagnosis, my wife and our oldest daughter sat down to build a CaringBridge site, which needed a title, which begat the wrist bands from Emily Taylor. My wife simply said it. “Healing, Hope & Courage.” It is, for the bulk of cancer patients, the chronology of one’s mentality, in three distinct phases, each jarringly giving way to the other over a painfully short period of time. The first two are accompanied by a rugged regimen of chemotherapy and its attendant side effects for six to 12 months. No one daring to connect the dots out loud. My wife determined to leave it in God’s hands.

Due, in my opinion, to the combined effects of chemotherapy, prayer, Losartan and quinine, my wife maintains the upper hand in her counter-attack against cancer. Winter will be hard on her, due to her neuropathy and sensitivity to sub-freezing temperatures. But we expect to get through it with relative ease. When the days are short and Christmas is a recent memory we can look forward to lighting the fire and being grateful for having survived another holiday season, both literally and figuratively, in the proverbial bosom of our family.

It is important for patients to have stuff to look forward to, things to keep on the calendar, things to keep them engaged and relevant. For us, it is a trip to Chicago, another to Seattle, before the mayhem of Thanksgiving and Christmas consumes us and all those around us for two months. My wife likes the bedlam caused by a bunch of grandcousins racing through the house more than I do, but it is great to have them all here. Our daughters, as expected, continue completely supportive of my wife, consistently committed. There are now six grandchildren who love themselves some Nanny and enjoy her company immensely. Even the older ones, whom one would expect to start becoming jaded. Remarkable testament to the modeling of good behaviors by their moms and dads.

We recently celebrated our 43rd anniversary on a short trip to New England. The weather wasn’t entirely cooperative and one of the primary destinations was kind of disappointing. I was a little put out, but Nancy found it easy to enjoy pretty much everything. Our 44th won’t be spent in Maine, but we look forward to spending it somewhere. It is only fitting that the photos from the schooner, in which memories of 2018 reside, be burnished, too.

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Camden harbor from the schooner

Lobster boat edited

Lobsterman at work

What Four Decades of Marriage Does for You

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© Bruce Allen

This is a re-post from 2018 that I still like.

all you need is loveFour decades of marriage allows the two of you time to weave, with your kids and God’s grace, a family tartan of beliefs, values, standards and stories that will become part of their DNA and which they will, in turn, pass down to their kids.

It allows your relationship the opportunity to bloom, to struggle, and to emerge from struggle tempered, capable of withstanding decades of whatever the world throws at you. [It is during the almost-inevitable struggle stage, as kids arrive, that most marriages fail. To weather those storms requires commitment, which is bolstered by the fact that things tend to get easier as the children age and you can threaten to put them in iPad timeout.]

It allows you time to observe how your spouse likes things, things ranging from morning coffee to after-work drinks on the deck of a summer evening. Unless you’re a fool, you’ll do those things that way; it requires no extra effort.

It allows time to develop a sort of rhythm with your kids as they progress through school, a set of after-school routines that becomes standard and requires little discussion or negotiation. It allows them time to realize that the quality of their lives improves the closer they adhere to those routines. Studying, practice (sports and/or music), dinner together, free time, reading, prayer before bed, the whole deal. After a while they like it that way. Mostly.

It allows a steel bond to form between husband and wife that can withstand serious illness and show no signs of stress. Though the spouses themselves may experience stress, the relationship can shrug it off.

It allows time to influence the lives of grandchildren, should one be so blessed, and the luxury of having them around until bedtime, when it’s time to go bye-bye. Time to do grandparent things–coloring Easter eggs, decorating Christmas cookies, reading, playing on the floor. Getting one’s hair done by a four-year old.

It allows spouses to grow into an attitude where he or she is willing to give 60% in order to get 40% back. No 50/50 division of labor, no counting tasks​, no keeping score​. In a 50/50 relationship each spouse feels put out, as if he or she is doing more to support the family. In a 60/40 relationship each spouse expects to do more, and so it isn’t any big deal.

It allows time for traditions to evolve and get handed down. Our kids approach things like birthdays and holidays in the same basic way today they experienced them as kids. There are numerous variations of family or regional origin, all of which are good, all of which are variations on a theme.

cropped-sunset-lovers.jpgIt allows one time to, if necessary, drag one’s spouse to God. For which the spouse will ultimately be grateful.

It allows time for love to form in such a way that spouses learn to accept one another as imperfect people doing their best. To ascribe good intentions. To respect boundaries. To be happy to say, “You do you.”

Finally, it allows time for both of you to recognize and affirm that you spoke your wedding vows sincerely, believing every word at the time, and that you can gladly continue living them decades later. That you couldn’t imagine having lived without one another. That you did a fine job selecting a spouse.

These idyllic observations generally describe, somehow, our own family circumstances. Many people have far more complicated situations; I get that. People can only control things under their control. We have been greatly blessed. Beyond that, it’s important to keep praying and pray hard.

Marriage Blog Art

How Not to Hate Your Husband

In my ongoing study of the science of staying married for a long long time, I picked up a book at the library called How Not to Hate Your Husband After Kids, by Jancee Dunn. The book is aimed at new parents, or new-ish parents. I’m 25 pages into it and it has a hold placed on it at the library, so I probably won’t finish it. And since our youngest daughter is 34, it’s an academic read anyway. But there is enough good stuff in the first 25 pages to, as it were, fill a book.
Baked into the book are two major differences from when Nancy and I were raising our girls. The first, and most important, is the presumption that both spouses hold full-time jobs. The second is that fathers are presumed to be actively invested in childcare and domestic chores. Back in the day, Nancy quit her job and was a full-time mother for 14(?) years. My responsibilities at home were limited to the easy stuff–an occasional diaper change, a rare laundry folding, taking out the trash, cutting the grass, pushing the vacuum cleaner around every now and again. And I thought I was doing great!
I wasn’t doing great. And if I tried to get away with doing so little today, in the 21st century, I’d end up sleeping in the garage. The book offers a TRE (target-rich environment) for wives who rightfully feel that their husbands don’t carry enough of the domestic load, backed up by plenty of research and interviews with folks like my boy John Gottman. In the interest of brevity, I’d like to list the main takeaways from the first 10% of the book:
  • Since 1965, men have more than doubled, from four to 10, the average number of hours spent weekly doing household chores. But we tend to cherrypick from the Big Five: cooking, meal clean-up, grocery shopping, housework and laundry. We generally choose cooking, cleanup and shopping.
  • Throw in childcare and the number goes up from 10 to 24, which sounds good until compared with wives, whose average number is 37, with both spouses logging the same number of hours at work. Researchers also discovered that men did fewer hours of housework per week after the baby arrived.
  • Men also tend to cherrypick their childcare activities, choosing the fun stuff–trips to the park and reading bedtime stories–over the grittier chores of diaper duty, getting them dressed (often a horror show in our day), etc. Adding insult to injury, when the kids return from the park, they are wont to say things like, “Wow, we had such fun with Dad at the park–he’s awesome!” Meanwhile, while they were away, mom (the un-fun parent) did the breakfast dishes, made the beds, did the laundry and made lunch.
A couple of insightful quotes culled from all-women gatherings when these subjects arise:
“My husband works all week, so on weekends, he tells me he doesn’t want to ‘deal with’ our sons. I’m amazed that he doesn’t notice that I’m basically radiating hatred all the time.”
“I’m running on 5 hrs sleep and irrational anger at Adam while cortisol pumps itself into my breast milk.”
“I’d divorce Jason, but he drops the kids off at school in the mornings.”  😂
    • Per Gottman, 67 percent of couples see their marital satisfaction plummet after having a baby.
    • Working mothers are now the top earners in 40% of families with kids, yet they are still doing three and a half times as much housework as married fathers.
    • When men do help around the house, we tend to choose chores with a “leisure component.” Yard work, driving to the store to pick up something, “re-ordering the Netflix queue.”
    • This next one is key: On top of working full time and practically quadrupling the time spent on household chores, women generally do the “invisible tasks,” stuff that wouldn’t show up on any kind of time use study. “Kin work,” for example–giving emotional support to relatives, buying presents and sending cards, handling holiday celebrations, and so on. (Under this heading lies perhaps my own greatest failing as a husband.) “Emotion work”–keeping everyone’s emotional gyroscopes spinning, even the dog. Then there’s “consumption labor”– buying the kids underwear and school supplies, researching the car seat and the high chair. Husbands, by way of comparison, get into this arena only when it involves fun stuff like big TVs, cars and major appliances. Schlepping (school, sports, doctor appts) is another major task in this collection. But the granddaddy of them all is
    • Household manager, the position most eagerly ceded by husbands. Being the person that remembers everything–dentist appointments, kids’ food preferences, arranging for babysitters. Constructing shopping lists. Giving direction to everyone. For most wives, if they don’t mention it, it doesn’t happen, and that includes pretty much everything. Sure, dad might take junior to his swimming lesson on Saturday morning. But guess who packs his bag, empties his bag when they get home, dries his wet clothes, and gives him a snack and a bath while dad sacks out on the sofa? One of the author’s friends spoke about her own dad, saying, “He did car stuff, and stuff with the dog. Oh, and he liked to put up wallpaper.”
    • Finally, another major point. Wives are forced to become absolute time management mavens. “Give a mother a sleeping child for an hour, and she can achieve ten times more than a childless person,” and about 20 times as much as her husband.
​The book’s title suggests Ms. Dunn has found, and shares, ways of getting her husband, and most husbands, to pick up the pace and get in the game. And while the book is clearly written for women, I can’t think of a single husband–well, more than one–who wouldn’t benefit from reading this book.
Guys, never forget that if mama ain’t happy, ain’t nobody happy. Show your wives we’re not a bunch of halfwits stumbling around the house with our flies down, blind to the obvious needs staring us in the face. Do your job. Put as much mental energy into your home life as you do your work life, and everyone will be better off.​
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The Ties that Bind

© Bruce Allen 2017

If you are fortunate enough to enjoy a predominantly happy marriage for decades, the fruit on the backside can be wonderfully sweet. Few people tell you this when you’re suiting up to exchange your wedding vows. In the beginning, you’re all eyes and skin and dreams, most of which don’t hold up well over forty years. In their place are these elegant moments that help us appreciate the life that is given to us and what we’ve done with it.

Even if we fall short of our dreams, there is something in me that says we’re allowed to, that it is the chase and the perseverance and the falling short that teaches us who we are. As seniors in our own family, we have the advantage of hindsight, and are still able to influence the thinking and behavior of our kids and grandkids. Those sweet, rare occasions when we make a positive, indelible impression on the life of a child are gifts beyond measure, especially to someone like me, whose main long-term concern is being forgotten by my family. I don’t give a rip about being forgotten by The World, just my own family. How to survive in people’s memory banks for longer than two generations. What will the grandkids’ kids learn about their Nanny and PopPop?

Here’s an insight. The stories they will tell about their Nanny will be funny and will emphasize her willingness to believe stuff, her loving, upright nature, her gentleness and consistency, her being there as a safe harbor when things might get tense with The Parents. Their stories about their PopPop will be about his generally futile attempts to corrupt them and his long, boring stories about when he was a kid. How he could bang on the piano and occasionally, quietly tell them inappropriate jokes.

Sweet. But as to our grandkids’ grandkids, probably next to nothing. Sad.

Another pleasure, a non-intuitive one, is having family responsibilities that one enjoys. There is no one I would want as Nancy’s primary caregiver more than me. I get to serve her, to drive her, to make things easier for her, some of which is scut work, at which I’m highly proficient, while some of it is “learned intuition,” knowing how she likes things, her meals and her schedule and so on. I am certain there are men she has worked with over the years whom she has dazzled with her Jersey and professionalism and insight and who must have wondered, at some point, “What must her husband have going on to keep up with HER?” Sweet. My goal–duh–is to relieve her of much of the drudgery, allowing her time and energy to heal, pray, snack and talk on the phone.

It was the right decision, to let our daughters survive their teens in order that they might someday present us with grandchildren. This sweetness I’m trying to describe is there again each time “the girls” (or their husbands) demonstrate good, loving parenting skills. Each time the grandkids reflect the receipt of good, loving parenting skills. Each time one of the grandkids complains that mom is more strict than the other moms. Each time they engage in the Movie Ratings Debate. “Why does it have to be PG?” “My friends have ALL seen it, and it’s only PG-13!” Each time they argue over after-dinner chores.

I can’t get enough of this stuff. This is exactly the kind of stuff about which Nancy was setting the bar 30 years ago and their moms didn’t like it then either but it was the right thing to do and PopPop would comfort them by suggesting they go write their congressman. What is left unsaid is, “And you’ll be happier and a better person as an adult if you ’embrace’ high standards as a child.” Best of all, I’m not even ALLOWED to get involved. Sweet.

So here we are almost 45 years later with glasses, skin that has sagged, and dreams constrained the way a football team’s playbook gets compressed in the red zone. Despite the challenges God has placed before Nancy and me, we have a seemingly endless source of these sweet moments, many of which are courtesy of our daughters and their families.

I was an only child and never knew my grandparents. I have become a big fan of this whole extended family thing, although I find it difficult to maintain over long periods of time. Short bursts are great; I’ve found I’m kind of a five day guy when I’m visiting. Here, in Hoosierville, kids and grandkids can stay as long as they want. There’s plenty of room, our local daughter’s family is somehow almost always available to get involved, and it’s all good. Plus I figure it’s important that they all get as much one-on-one time with Nanny as possible. Sweet.

This is the good stuff they don’t tell you about when you’re getting married. This is the stuff people need to know to survive those years when the kids are growing up and married life is way more work than fun. This is the kind of stuff that makes old age and arthritic knees and wigs such minor inconveniences.

These are the ties that bind.