Everyday Generalizations

My Holiday Letter to You

My Holiday Letter to You

Holiday Letter from me

This year did not start auspiciously for me. My younger brother died suddenly but peacefully in January in Michigan without spouse or children or last will and testament. So, the probate court appointed me the personal representative of his estate. 

My brother had incredible neighbors whose side door of their house was directly across from the side door of his house. They not only found him, but contacted me and the proper authorities.

No one will notice when I have passed. I thought of asking the local funeral home if I could pay them to check on me periodically since, as one neighbor pointed out to me in a typed single-spaced message after I refused to talk with him about selling my property to a friend of his, I am a terrible person.

My year was spent working part time and traveling back and forth to Detroit cleaning out my brother’s house and figuring out his finances. Fortunately, his computer was not password protected and I possess superior research and management skills. And Patrick was a brilliant CPA, so his records were in order.

The estate attorney provided helpful advice from the start and the Realtor who helped me sell the property was wonderful, but Pat’s neighbors were my best resources. With their help, I was able to recycle, donate and redistribute everything usable from his house and garage. And they listened to me and fed me, and their dog Stewie served as my emotional support animal.

I will add without detail that my only remaining sibling experienced major life crises at the same time all this was going on. Juggling both sibs’ issues occupied most of my time, and I continued to work part time in Atlanta.

I retired from full time teaching in 2017 and was almost immediately hired to work part time in the thrift store of the Atlanta Episcopal Cathedral. The store is a superior, one-of-a-kind business with a superior, one-of-a-kind manager who subscribes to the philosophy that it is easier to retrain a current employee than it is to find a new employee. I was that person when I was juggling travel and work in two states. But another employee was even higher maintenance than I.

I am not skilled at negotiating or setting boundaries. I had a meltdown over another employee who is an old person. (I know that I am an old person, too, but I am amazingly healthy and I go silent instead of sharing my problems with everyone). I covered many days for this person while he was in and out of the hospital and then tolerated his almost constant complaints about his life not going well since he lost his partner. I know many people like this, and none of them are easy to deal with. Most annoying is the fact that he reverts to childish behaviors. Somebody said someplace that we are all basically in middle school.

For example, when I seemed frustrated, he would jut out his lower lip and say, in a childish voice, “Are you mad at me?” Of course, because I am bad at expressing myself (Crazy, huh? I have a master’s degree in speech communication.), I did not answer, which was wrong. You need to set boundaries and tell people when to stop sharing. But the task at hand is not the main reason people come to the workplace; socializing is the reason.

In group theory, we talk about process and content when it comes to groups. Process refers to the communication and interpersonal behaviors people need to get stuff done and content is the stuff, or the task. I am task-oriented and usually refuse to listen to people narrate their life stories.

My meltdown got me sent home and, in a week, I knew it was time for me to leave..

I started substitute teaching more regularly.

I also started winding down the work on my brother’s estate. I started my website.

A few weeks after leaving the thrift store, I developed the worst pain I have ever experienced. I had had kidney stones before, but never excruciating pain.

I was negotiating the sale of my brother’s property in Michigan from my home in Atlanta. I was in agony from left-sided pain. Two Uber trips to my regular health care provider’s emergency room resulted in NO RELIEF.

Finally, two doctor friends took me to Piedmont Hospital, where the ER doctor said, “We are going to resolve this,” and the wonderful people at Piedmont did. In less than 24 hours a kidney stone lodged in the ureter was removed under anesthesia and I was on my way home.

I believe I understand the value of memoirs, even short ones like Christmas letters. We look back at what has happened to us and put the information in perspective to move on.

People willingly believe what they want to believe, and people see and hear what they expect to see and hear. People’s recollections may not be a video recording of what actually transpired but their response is all that counts. We can manage our responses to life’s issues.

My brother’s neighbor asked me what I was going to do after I settled my brother’s estate. It took me about 10 months to complete all the work required by the probate court.

The truth is that I had no idea what to do before I learned my brother had died. Covid isolation never affected me; I didn’t get sick. I don’t have to take any prescription drugs. But I was overwhelmed by lack of purpose and prayed to go to sleep and not wake up. I am not going to hurt myself and I will not end my life. I wonder constantly about what is “on the other side.” It could be worse.

If I wake up and have a new day, I can make new decisions. 

This week a vehicle ran over one of my Roughneck garbage cans that was at the curb and flattened it. I thought it was a goner but I tipped it on its side and stood on the dents and pushed them out.

I am more fond of my squirrel metaphor, but I felt like the garbage can. I got all bent out of shape this year by family and work issues and and politics.

But I pushed out most of my dents, and I am ready to change perspectives and behaviors in 2024. My purpose going forward will become more evident. As I like to remind myself, God didn’t bring me this far to abandon me. Or, I did not come this far just to come this far.

People say that “you have made your bed and you must lie in it.” Someone added, “if I do not like the way my bed is made, let me remake the bed.”

Or, as Robert Frost wrote, “I have miles to go before I sleep.”