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Slow Walking to a Good Place

Success is progress, Progress is not quitting, Not quitting is success.

This is not a history lesson. This is not a whimsical tale of some memory from the dust bin of my brain. This is not an exercise in me exorcising my snarkiness. This is not a writing exercise, though I did force myself to sit down and crystallize my thoughts. This is me telling myself that the process is worthwhile, that appealing to those better angels is worth it for no other reason than it is better than caving to any other angels whose intentions are often less than angelic. This is me, just stating out loud that life is hard sometimes, it was never intended to be easy nor guaranteed to be thus. Life is like many of those sunsets or sunrises that greet me on my walks with Oliver. Sometimes they are bland and lifeless and gray and ominous. Sometimes they are resplendent and glorious. No matter how the sun rises, it just matters that it does.

From my phone: Freedom, WI on Feb. 21, 2021, at 6:46 AM

My mother-in-law, a courageous, funny, down-to-earth woman who loved everyone, left this earth 29 days before her 96th birthday, on November 28, 2020. There were situations and issues with her passing that still cause us pain and sadness, but the truth of the matter is that she was ready, and she is at peace. It still hurts to say that for an awfully long time, due to COVID, her seven children were not able to be with her. Early on the morning of November 27 we were called and told that she was in distress and that three of her children at a time could come to be with her. COVID restrictions can be waived when a person is dying. My wife got to hold her mom’s hand and tell that awesome woman that she was loved and treasured by everyone. That was important to my wife. It was not lost on my wife that her mom was no longer responsive.

So, we got to honor and pay tribute to and celebrate the life of a grand and hilarious woman. And we get to treasure up that she was to us and quote her endlessly and be thankful for what she was. We toasted to her many times throughout the holiday season, up to and through her birthday on December 27.

And then there are my parents. Those 92-year-old teenagers who thought that it was keen to move out of their senior living apartment last summer. The big rub for them is where they were living was a yearly lease that they had to sign. After three years, they couldn’t abide by signing a one-year lease every year. Which is why they moved into a regular, residential apartment that was just being finished and signed another one-year lease.

I wanted to use that phrase “fast forward to where we are now…” and then I realize that there was nothing fast about it, but thankfully we have moved forward. We got them convinced to go back to a senior living community, not the same one that they were in, and we will move them at the end of April.

My mom’s depression and anxiety have been topics of some of my discussions, comments, and headspace on LinkedIn and elsewhere. We have worked with her health care providers to get her on the right medication, and it is finally starting to show. Mom agonized over which of the two places that we showed them and now seems to be looking forward to moving. If my Dad could do cartwheels, he would. She picked the place that he wanted all along.

Every day on this journey, which began back in January, there have been fits and starts. Every day I would head out into the darkness for my hour-long walk with my pal Oliver and I would have various podcasts playing in my headphones. Some days I actually listened to them. A good many days, my thoughts were jousting and shadow boxing about the parallels of our lives. Mom and Dad moved into a duplex when Dad retired, he was the age then that I am now. We just moved into a condo two years ago. I have four siblings and it’s taken all of us to carefully navigate them to this point.

My prayer is that we won’t be like this for our two kids, should God grant us the longevity of our parents. When you hear the old saw about becoming your parents’ parents, I know now in painstaking detail about that process. And in that process, I have grown. I hope that I have grown.

Last summer, after their shortsighted move, I had flung at them some well-chosen words, in my opinion, that was only hoping to get them into a mindset of taking counsel from us. My dad called a few hours later and told me to butt out. “We’re too old to change and we don’t feel as if we should have to.” Ok.

In the intervening time, I completely changed my tactics with them. Upon reflection, we were pushing them in ways that made it sound like they needed to do things to make our lives easier. Since then, we all try to emphasize that whatever we are doing, it’s all about making their lives easier. In August of this year, God willing, they will celebrate their 73rd wedding anniversary. We’re doing everything in our power to make whatever time is left for them to be good, dignified, and full.

It hasn’t been easy, and it hasn’t been smooth, and it hasn’t been lightning fast. But it has brought us together as a family. We’re all working toward the same goal and working with them. Wherever the path leads, we’re going together. A lot of time and effort and energy and patience has been expended for them to have a measure of peace and quality of life in this sunset era of their lives.

Right now, I see the sun coming up, and it looks like it’s going to be a great day. To the prom king and queen of the class of 1945 – I raise a glass.

Tom Dietzler
Tom Dietzler
Lifelong, proud somewhat strident Wisconsinite, I love my state and love to sing its praises. A bon vivant and raconteur, lover of history, literature and good conversations. Laughter and music are salves that I frequently am applying to my soul. I have spent time (too much) in manufacturing and printing and have found great joy in my current position as director of operations at a large church in the same area where I grew up. Husband to Rhonda and father of two adult children Melanie and Zack, I’m the constant companion of my five-year-old Lab, Oliver, who is my muse to a lot of my stories. I’m a fan of deep conversation and my interests are in learning and gaining wisdom, so in the last few years I have become and less politically vocal, and hopefully more respectful and open-minded. Rhonda and I sold our home in 2018, bought a condo and have traveled a bit more, golfed a bit more and are enjoying life a bit more. If you take the time to get to know me, prepare yourself for an invite to the 30th state to join the union, a gem located in the upper Midwest, full of beautiful scenery formed by the glaciers, with lots of lakes and trees and gorgeous scenery, and the nicest people that you’d ever want to meet.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Tom we learn by sharing, we engage by listening and we care because we are truly in this together. I am fortunate to live out in the country, I don’t watch TV or news feeds, I garden, writing and take long walks in the forest with my dog. That you for sharing your story. Strong Ink My friend.

  2. Tom —
    Thank you for a beautiful story about family that was long on questions and short on answers. So much of what I encounter these days is the opposite of that. Everyone seemingly has everything figured out. You were willing to sit with “it” and let it marinate. It’s refreshing to consider that I don’t have all the answers.

    And thank you for a story that had nothing to do with our political divide and the numerous issues that form an increasingly large wedge in our lives. Congress has gone away on a two week break; it was nice to give us readers a respite, too, here with your story.

    Keep writing.

    • Jeff, I’m glad that this is beautiful now. The brush strokes I give to the story cover some of the less than wonderful uneven chunks, chips, dents and scratches that occurred along the way. I am in a better place physically than I have been in quite some time – I needed to be because this process was exhausting, painstaking at times, aggravating and such a test to skillsets that we didn’t know that we had. It’s not over, but I had to stop and reflect at where I am now, and that brought to my attention that we are making progress, that we are in a better place than where we were. Do we ever scale that last peak and say – this is where we can rest, we can’t get any higher… by the time we get there, the entire view may be obscured by fog or an impending storm may drive us to cover. If the view looks good from where we are, I want to linger just a bit and take it in. We will push on from here, but we didn’t snap our fingers to get to this point. It’s a process, and I want to be thankful for all of it. Thank you again, for your support and encouragement, as they will always be precious to me.

  3. Tom, I have some friends who challenge me, who provoke me to think things I might not otherwise, to abandon my comfort and embrace the pain of change.

    I have other friends, a very few, who introduce me to new ideas, to alternative ways of thinking, to other perspectives. They lead me to contemplate other visions and versions of myself. And those friends always — always — leave me feeling more peaceful than I was when they found me.

    You are one of those very few friends. I don’t mean to put pressure on you, but you may very well be one of those better angels we hear so much about. Without force or insistence, you somehow lead me to more patient, more considerate, perhaps even more noble aspects of myself. I love the way you see the world. And I love your willingness to share it.

    I don’t know how you do that. But I sincerely hope you never stop.

    Thank you for starting my day and ending my work week with this beautifully gentle and profoundly human contemplation. I’m so much more full and rich for it.

    I am so grateful to you and for you.

    • Mark, there isn’t much that I can say in response. Sometimes, what we tap into is primal, and with very little editing, and not much filtering, what lies inside is truth, and we just need to be conduits for its presentation. Exhaustion does that for me sometimes, and it’s just a matter of giving it voice. It’s gratifying to me in ways that cannot be conveyed, to be a part of a community of people who support, encourage and bring out the best in one another. It gives me such joy that we can share so much in this space, and your gratitude is shared and mirrored back to you by your generosity and enthusiasm for so much of life. Thank you.

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