In 43 years, life’s been full of surprises

Categorized as 07/19/10 Goshen News column

Numbers aren’t my thing. I mean, they’re really not my thing.

Starting in elementary school, math was the bane of my existence. My medical records, in fact, list algebra as my only allergy. I think I may hold the record for the least amount of algebra taken by any Kansas graduate in recent history.

This summer, my brain is reeling from two really big numbers – 25 and 43. It was 25 years ago that Mr. Schrock and I graduated from high school as proud members of the class of 1985. He and 10 of his contemporaries graduated from Clinton Christian High School while I and 10 of mine finished with a whoop and a holler at Pilgrim Christian School in Hutchinson, Kansas.

That number alone is enough to cause my synapses to overheat and shut down. Adding the other one in nearly has me comatose. If Mr. Schrock wants dinner tonight, he’d better rush me to the nearest Starbucks, prop me up against the espresso machine, and dribble in a white chocolate mocha with a straw. It’s the only way to make those kinds of numbers palatable.

For a girl who’s an admittedly slow transitioner (read “perpetually two seasons in arrears”), this does not compute. Why, it was only yesterday that I was a mere schoolgirl. The world was my oyster. Possibilities abounded, including a handsome, blue-eyed one from Northern Indiana. The calender, however, doesn’t lie, and it tells me that on Wednesday, I will, indeed, be 43. Rats.

While I feel far too young to have much wisdom, there are a few things I’ve learned along the way. My first observation is that life seldom turns out like you think it will. In my experience, very little of it has.

For starters, I naively assumed that our family composition would include a nice, even mix of pink and blue. When the Good Lord got done laughing at such naivete, he threw in a beagle just to mix things up. Who, of course, was also a boy. Nice? Very. Even? Not at all.

Another thing I didn’t expect was a college degree. For Mr. Schrock. After the wedding. In another state. With one toddler and one car. My plans, you see, included a nice job right out of the gate, nice babies in a nice house, and a nice retirement somewhere down the flower-strewn pathway. By the time the Good Lord finished laughing once again at my youthful naivete, we had one degree, a mortgage, a car payment, four lively sons, a business, and an old farmhouse. The path hasn’t always been “nice,” exactly, but it hasn’t been boring, either.

I didn’t expect, when I was setting the school record on my old manual typewriter, that one day I’d help support the family with that very skill. I didn’t expect my little brother to come along and break my record, either. Double rats.

To my surprise, I’ve learned that peer pressure isn’t limited to adolescents. As a mother, I would willingly die for my boys. I care deeply about their happiness. I want them to fit in, to be accepted. I want them to be successful in every way.

However. Their character and spiritual formation are more important to me (to us) than their popularity. This means that sometimes we make decisions that are at odds with the culture. This is hard. It’s not easy, asking them to be different. I feel pressure to give in, to go with the flow. No, I didn’t expect this.

Something else I’ve learned in my short 43 years is that kindred spirit friends are rare. As a sanguine, I’ve always found it easy to make friends. My mother told me once that I’ve “never met a stranger.”

It wasn’t until I experienced profound loneliness as an adult that I discovered how unusual those relationships are and how seldom they come along. I no longer take them for granted. Life has taught me that if you have such a friend, it’s a gift to you. If you are one, it’s a gift to someone else.

I’ve learned that humor helps. It adds quality and quantity to one’s years. Quality because laughter enriches. It connects us. It relieves heaviness of heart and mind. One of my extended family’s great gifts to me has been the gift of laughter. My immediate family has blessed me with the same.

Laughter adds quantity to your life, especially if you’re a boy that lies awake at night, plotting his next misdemeanor. If mom starts laughing, you’re home free, and you’ll live to see another day.

Humor has been a strengthening factor in our marriage as well. There are times, when the aforementioned misdemeanors are being executed, say, or the walls are shaking, that we look at each other and say, “What have we done?!” And we laugh.

And those are my reflections on the eve of my birthday. If you call this week, you’ll get my answering machine. I’m visiting my friends at Starbucks. Those numbers are going down sideways, and I think a mocha will help.

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