Bitter Sweet

Life is full of challenges, and changes.

Challenges come in many formats – some are fun, some you just endure, some are worrisome, and others are downright scary! Like having kids! It was fun and scary when each entered into this life. How we worried over their aches and pains, but how much fun they were when we played together. Each of our kids are First Kids. Jason was First and born in Texas. Elizabeth was First and born in Alaska. To us, each was a First! First for their gender and we only had one of each. First for their birth state. Jason is a Texan who loves Alaska. Elizabeth is an Alaskan – I’m not sure I would ever think of her as a Texan… I cannot really think of them as the oldest and the youngest, they are each special, unique and lovable.

I remember specifically the events surrounding the days they were born. Jason came after a hard day of labor. We did not call anyone from family or work – we just went to the hospital and experienced the day together – Brenda endured a lot that day, but there was such joy when Jason breathed his first breath. Elizabeth came after just a few hours of overnight labor. Her middle name tells anyone that she was born at Dawn, but of course, dawn in Anchorage came earlier in the day that July morning rather than at 6am…

Each birth brought new challenges. Jason would often flee to his room, slamming his door shouting that he wanted to be left alone – with Elizabeth crawling down the hall to play with her brother. Elizabeth would often pout and frown when I took the camera out to take her picture, from which you can see how much I was interfering with her playtime. Jason began reading at 3 1/2 years old, long before Elizabeth could even grip a book. The kids enjoyed playing together, and often enjoying playing by themselves. They both graduated from the same high school, they both left Alaska to go to other states, they both settled into new life styles with new people in their lives.

Captured images (photographs) bring back the realism of the slices of those moments in time when they were taken and are generally from enjoyable times. I was a photographer in High School and enjoyed taking the many thousands of pictures we have in boxes, and some in albums. This afternoon I spent a few minutes looking through some of the albums Brenda has painstakingly assembled into order and nicely put them into collections. Through their growing up years, Jason and Elizabeth have produced those fun times that I fondly recall as I turn the pages. Here’s a picture of Jason peeking through the mesh of the fence from the outside viewing area at the airport in Anchorage as his grandparents fly back to Texas. There’s a picture of Elizabeth riding her bike down the street with her bigger than life homemade doll she named after her grandmother that made it (Bunky) and she’s got it strapped to the back of her bike! There’s a picture of them standing on the frozen Potter’s Marsh with Brenda. Playing at Valley of the Moon Park, enjoying the Zoo in Anchorage, sledding and playing in the snow, celebrating their birthdays, enjoying their friends and involved at church.

I cannot look at any of these pictures and think of them as a challenge that produced any worry or fear. I see them as my wonderful memories.

And that’s where the Changes come in to play.

They are grown now. Married. Soon they will both be over 30. Even though we all live on the West Coast, we are all in separate states. Jason and his wife, Felicia, are just a long 12 hour drive away, but his work schedule often makes it hard to visit on the spur of the moment. Elizabeth and her husband, Mat, now live in Oregon – effective today. Over the past month in their process of relocating they have hung out at our house. We didn’t see them very much as all of our schedules are weird. Today we celebrated with Elizabeth her last day at her job. Today Mat came by the house and picked up the last few items and went to pick up Elizabeth from her job and drive out of state.

This has made me think of the changes that we’ve had in our lives over the past 35+years. We moved 14 times the first 5 years of marriage! We left Texas for Alaska (6 years), went back to Texas (9 years), went back to Alaska (10 years), and now live in Washington (7 years). I sit before my computer remembering the jobs we’ve had, the houses we’ve lived in, the cars, the pets, and the churches we’ve been apart of. During the course of these years of marriage we’ve lost a lot of family and friends to death. We have experienced lots changes and challenges.

Over the remainder years of our lives, my kids will continue to experience changes, whether we want them to or not. We will always be there for their challenges. My prayers and thoughts are with both of them.

Changes. Life is full of them. Some are enjoyable. Others are sad. While others are in between the two – sort of Bitter Sweet.