Besides the obviously huge things a person is grateful for, such as not living in a war zone or losing my whole family to a disaster there are many small things that make up the life of a widow/widower that make me realize I have much to be grateful for in my life. The thing I'm most grateful for is the life Rickie and I shared. But even now I have much to be grateful for, both materially and in my spirit.
I have a roof over my head and it's paid for. I had a little money when Rick died, not a lot but what I thought was enough. I'm sure it's not what other people would consider enough and many would probably lose sleep on what I have. But measuring my success by money has never been the way I live my life. I gave a lot of it away. I felt a need I can't quite explain to do that. Some to the kids and grandkids, some to others, a little to a couple of small charities I like, and some to strangers on the street corner. It's never been a goal of mine to die with money in the bank. I feel like Jeff Bridges singing "Maybe I Missed the Point" if I go through life not making things a bit easier for others when I have the power to do so.
I was able to make some arrangements in case something happens to me down the line. If I get too frail to stay out here, if I break a leg, if I live long enough to get the Alzheimer's that took both my mother and her mother. I entered into a joint venture with my daughter and my son-in-law and had a tiny - 280 sq ft - house built in their backyard. We rent in out on Airbnb and it's there if I live long enough to need it. For being able to do this, for the kids allowing me to have their residence as my fall-back safety net, and for the city of Austin regulations allowing tiny houses in some backyards, I am grateful.
I'm grateful I'm an independent person and that I have my health. I'm grateful I can do most of the things that need done around here. I've had to hire someone to do some things I can't. And I'm grateful that each and every contractor that came out has treated me with respect and kindness. There hasn't been hardly a one that hasn't offered to help me if I need it on projects other than what they came out to do. They've heard my story, they've looked around at how I've kept it together on my own, and they've said call me if you need help with that ceiling, if you need help burning some of this cedar, if you can't get that plumbing connection done. They've told me how to do some of the things I was going to do on my own. I've felt from them a respect and at the risk of sounding too proud, an admiration for how I've carried on and stayed here on my own. They've sometimes shared stories of other strong women they know such as their aunt who at 95 changed the blade on her riding mower. And they've told me of others they know who've also been left alone and I've seen the empathy in their eyes. Sometimes sorrow shared is sorrow eased, if only a little bit.
I've had family and friends that have supported and stood by me. Some that have come out and offered their help and just made a point to stop by have surprised me, as I haven't been in touch for a while. They can't know the love I feel for them doing that. Or maybe they do. I'm the second of my siblings to lose their spouse and the first of my long-time friends. It's somewhat new territory for most people I know. I've made some new friends, one who faced this same nightmare a few months before I did and she helps me as she shares her story and her friendship with me.
Some of my friends are also neighbors and they have stood firm in their kindness to me. They've offered help much more than I've taken it and I know I can call on them. They've proven it, but I knew by the type of people they are even without the proof.
My family, in both big ways and small, has been the rock on which I stand. The kids both helping me, and encouraging me on when they sense I want to do something on my own. In the immediate aftermath of the event that shook my world my family dropped everything and circled around me in the way some wild animals do when one of their own has been injured. They carried me when I couldn't walk through it on my own. I know still that if I need them, I have but to turn on the Bat-Signal and someone will be here.
We've all been affected by Rickie's death, naturally both the kids and I, but others in ways they sometimes may not even see. One I wanted to mention because it touches my heart. My sister Kathy has always shown her love for her husband Derald, always talking about what a great guy he is. Which he is, by the way. I've noticed the last year and a half that she does this even more than she used to. Her Facebook photos of him are always accompanied with words like "my love, my best buddy, my life". At our age and with the knowledge that it could all be lost in the blink of an eye, she makes an extra effort, unconsciously I'm sure, to express her love. May we all do that in this time we have together.