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“Say after me:  It’s no better to be safe than sorry.”  –  a-ha

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Watershed years defy tidy summary.  But as a nod to Dad and his passion for movies, I’ll begin by calling ours, “Two Funerals and a Wedding,” but then focus on these other in-between moments: Two college graduations; a wedding announcement by Bryan and Amy; and soon — anytime now — the birth of a new grandchild, Kara and Joe’s first.  Next year’s sequel waits to answer our family cliffhanger: Is it a girl or boy?

Amid these transitions, Don’s travel schedule was lighter than usual, with just a few short trips to Houston and overseas.  And while his annual backpacking trip fell by the wayside, we headed off into the western sunset together to enjoy the beauty growing wild in Alaska. It was our first taste of life on the retiree’s travel circuit – and while we may not have made the cut, we didn’t leave the ship without booking next year’s trip.

Closer to home, our family enjoyed a different sort of travel as we again took turns hosting a monthly moveable feast.  Most months we kept it simple by gathering at a local restaurant, where we played our assigned roles.  Don’s regular part is the manager who keeps us anchored in reality while moving clockwise, Kyle and Kara are our two creative souls, who talk someday of writing a children’s book together.  Then Kara’s husband Joe is the consummate sports fan, who is always strategically positioned to watch whatever sport happens to be airing on television.  Next are resident lovebirds Amy and Bryan — just glad to be together again, with Amy having just returned from a month-long family visit.  Finally there’s Glen and Kate, who keep us in stitches with their repartee — with Kate rolling her eyes, Glen’s been talking about how he knows how to fix their broken toilet — but that he’s just not worked up to it yet.

And then there’s me — the one who could write the book on not yet working up to doing “this” or “that.”  So how fitting it was for my watershed moments to pry me out of my contemplative comfort zone:  From leading my father’s funeral service in April to spending ten days at the Iowa Writer’s Workshop in July, you may be surprised to learn I’ve continued to set aside my introverted nature to make cold calls on Dad’s family back East.  While the calls began with hope of picking up the missing and puzzling pieces of Dad’s sad childhood story, my restored family connections have evolved into something more – especially my regular visits with Aunt Carol, Dad’s only sister – but exactly what the ‘more’ is I’m not ready to name.  Yet I can report how downright comical it’s been to listen to my own introductory spiel — telling unknown cousins how we really are related — before they hang up the phone, thinking I’m some sort of strange solicitation call.

I don’t know where the changes will lead.  But I know mine began during Lent, listening every morning to thissong-bite’ – “Say after me:  It’s no better to be safe than sorry” – performed by a band fittingly named a-ha. In a year punctuated by my father’s and aunt’s deaths – as well as the upcoming marriage of my brother Jon – I can’t help but wonder how lives would differ if we were to live everyday believing this song-bite true.  And on this dangling question I’ll close – for in this Season born of watershed wonders and professions of faith, who could want a tidy ending?  Like some movies, tidiness can be overrated.

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