I planned my wedding while finishing my undergraduate degree. I was working full time and going to school two nights per week. We had already consolidated households and I had set up a home office. But with the living situation being new plus all the hubbub of wedding planning I had very little quiet time.
I had moved in with my husband who had the first floor of a two-family house. His mother lived on the second floor and he was her primary care giver. This was a big adjustment in itself - us living together, me getting used to the routine, them getting used to someone new to talk to and share dinner with. Compared to my tiny, quiet, and maintenance free apartment, my new living situation gave me a lot less free time and absolutely no alone time, even when squirreled away in an area I set up as a home office.
During this same period, my mother was diagnosed with cancer and began weekly chemotherapy treatments. I alternated taking her to treatments with my Dad. On my week, Mom and I played cribbage until she became sleepy and then I would do homework until her treatment was over. As the wedding neared, we made final decisions for the reception, and answered the nurses' questions about my dress, the food, the band, who was coming, etc.
Our September wedding was wonderful. My sister in-law, who was up from Florida, stayed at the house while we went to Niagara Falls for a week-long honeymoon. We came home and I resumed my crazy routine of work, school, housework, Mom's chemo treatments for three weeks. Then my new mother in-law became ill, and suddenly, quite expectedly, passed away. She left a tremendous void in my husband's life as he had been her best friend and caregiver for over 20 years, since his father died and because she didn't work or drive a car. My husband was sad, lonely, and lost with much less to do after work and on weekends, and missing someone who he shared a great deal of time with. I did everything I could to spend more time with him and help him adjust, and to grieve.
Somehow I was able to squeeze in a winter session class and thereby wrapped up the last of my required credits and graduated the following May. I walked with high honors despite the drama and sadness and family turmoil that had been happening. Mom sat with my father and her father in special seats I had arranged for them right near the stage.
The cancer inevitably won and Mom passed away 8 months later. Instead of taking her to chemo I was taking Dad out to eat once a week so he wouldn't be too lonely without her. That lasted for about a year and then I began weaning myself away, and for the first time in what felt like forever, I had some time to myself.
My husband and I decided to convert the house into a single-family dwelling, and so, having much more space to spread out and find our own forms of solitude and peaceful respite, we mourned and healed and began to look forward to whatever would come next. We accepted the change and challenges life had presented and together we grew stronger and adapted.
Last year I took a trip to Arizona to visit my eldest sister and there, exploring the painted desert, I decided that it was time to go back to school. I realized I now had the time. I had always had the interest and certainly the financial motivation to seek a promotion at work. I returned home satisfied with my decision and eager to begin exploring my options.
And so here it is. A new chapter in my life. Its a good time to reflect. I can't help but remember those days reading textbooks in the cancer clinic. I can't help but remember sitting at the computer at home, my husband stopping at my desk to say how happy he was I was there. I can't help but remember sitting in class exhausted, emotionally drained, tearful and wondering why I was doing what I was doing. And I remember my graduation day and seeing my mom so proud. I knew exactly why I was I doing what I was doing and it was worth every minute.