Finding Agreeable Things

Serendipity: the faculty or phenomenon of finding valuable or agreeable things not sought for…
– Merriam-Webster

I love when serendipity happens.

Last week there was a luncheon in Tacoma to honor folks who have been members of the Mountaineers for more than 25 years. Dad has been a member of the Mountaineers for more than 70 years and we thought it would be cool if he could attend this event. But Tacoma is two hours to the south of us and Dad no longer drives – so Scott took the day off, and he and I escorted Dad to the luncheon.

Mom wanted to come, too, but decided it would be too difficult to make the journey right now. I was concerned about leaving her alone, but she assured me she’d be fine – she had plans to go for a walk with one of her friends and then she planned on spending a quiet day with the cats.

Mom got Dad all polished and ready to go and the two of them were waiting for us outside their retirement home when we arrived. We loaded Dad and his walker into the car and off we went on our grand adventure, waving good bye to Mom as she stood on the sidewalk, blowing us kisses.

***

A film-maker named Nils contacted me a couple weeks ago to tell me he was making a documentary on Mount Rainier, and wondering if he could somehow include a clip of Dad in the documentary. I suggested to him that he meet us at the Mountaineer clubhouse before the luncheon, and get a clip of Dad then, and he thought this was a fine idea. When we arrived at the clubhouse Nils was there with his cameraman, Eric, and they’d already talked to the other Mountaineers members and had invited them to be included in the clip with Dad. It was great! There was Dad – front and center – surrounded by friends he’s known for decades, hugging and shaking hands and re-connecting. And yodeling. All captured on camera for future generations.

***

When we got into the clubhouse I turned around and there was our friend, Perky – a woman we’d climbed Rainier with 40 years ago – standing in front of me with a big grin on her face. Perky had wanted to come to Dad’s 98th birthday party the Saturday before, but hadn’t been able to make it. But today – in a city two hours to the south of where the party had been – Perky happened to glance over at the Mountaineers clubhouse while she was driving through town, and saw me standing on the sidewalk! Perky said she’d been planning to leave earlier for her drive, but something had delayed her – and now she realized she’d been MEANT to leave her home and pass in front of the Mountaineers clubhouse at the exact moment she did.

I love when serendipity happens.

***

It was nice meeting Dad’s old chums. There was Helen – who’d been a member of the Mountaineers for 60-some years. Helen asked about Mom and told me to give Mom her love. There was Geoff, the president of the Mountaineers – who told me to give Mom a hug and said Mom is one of the sweetest, most even-tempered people he’s ever met. There was Mary – who gave Dad a big hug, and told me she loves Mom and wants to come up and visit her soon.

By this time I’d come to realize Mom is as much a part of the Mountaineers as Dad is – and that her presence is hugely missed when she’s not there.

***

Sitting at our table was another gentleman who looked like he might be about Dad’s age. Dad and he got into conversation about their birth years. “I was born in September, 1918,” Worth Gurley told Pop. Pop’s eyes crinkled up in delight at finding another chap of the same vintage – and he told Worth he was born in 1918, too! Dad told Worth that he’d been born in Los Angeles, and Worth, as it turns out, had also been born in Los Angeles! Soon the two were involved in lively conversation with each other, proving that it is never too late to make a new friend.

I looked around and found the woman who had brought Worth to the luncheon. I asked if she was Worth’s daughter, and she affirmed she was. Heather and I both turned to watch our dads conversing with each other – their hands cupping their ears to hear each other better – and smiled at the enjoyment we could see on their faces. Heather and I exchanged some of the details of our lives. It turns out she lives in Bellingham – only 20 minutes to the north of where I live! (Have I mentioned that I love when serendipity happens?) She said she has routinely been making the trek to Tacoma to help her father – just as I did until my parents moved up near me a couple months ago. Heather and I exchanged email addresses, with hopes that we’ll be able to get together for a walk on the Bellingham boardwalk with our dads someday soon.

We all had a wonderful time at the luncheon.

***

When we got back to Mom and Dad’s retirement place I let Mom know about all the well wishes and hugs that had been sent her way, and she smiled up at me and nodded her head. I asked her how her day had been. She said she’d been feeling lonely for Dad, but then she turned on the television and there was a movie with one of their favorite actors – Nelson Eddy! (I love when serendipity happens.) That movie cheered her all up. “Nelson Eddy was fighting for workers’ rights in this movie – he put out a newspaper called The Wasp which showed all the corruption that was going on – and they (the bad guys) were trying to find out who was putting out this paper!” she said, all excited. “And he sang! He has such a beautiful voice!”

I asked if the good guys had won in this movie, and she said, “Of course!”

And that’s the thing, you know: We would appear to be living, right now, in troubling times – there’s corruption in politics and business; there are threats to our safety and well-being; there seem to be a lot of “bad guys” out to get us. But there is nothing we aren’t experiencing right now that my parents haven’t already experienced before in some form – they’ve seen it all. They’ve also lived long enough and seen enough to know that there’s always hope. They’ve lived long enough to see good win, in the end. They’ve lived long enough to experience a lot of serendipity in their lives.

Through many years my parents have developed the “faculty of finding… valuable or agreeable things not sought for.” Perhaps that is why they have lived such long and full lives. They are open to whatever good comes their way, and they recognize it when they see it. They appreciate all the simple, beautiful, joyous moments that have filled their lives, and know how to be grateful for them.

When you look at Life in that way – expecting to find “valuable or agreeable things” every moment – every day is a treasure-packed adventure, isn’t it?

 

 

 

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The Saga of the Paper Clip and the Alternator

This morning I was rooting around for a little paper clip to attach one paper to another paper that I needed to send in to a very formal, officious organization. And alas! There were no little paper clips to be found. In the entire house. Anywhere. Trust me, one does not appreciate the value of paper clips until there are none to be found.

Skip forward a few hours: My car and I are now plodding our way through Bellingham in search of a parking space. My prospects do not look promising. I had not realized that I had made my semi-annual hair appointment in Bellingham on the day that Fairhaven celebrates Dirty Dan Day.

As I was just about to exit a parking lot my car’s power suddenly clicked off – no steering, no brakes, no anything – I managed to make it through the exit lane – I didn’t want to clog anyone up in the parking lot. I cranked the wheel hard to the right so I could move the car off to the side a little, and pulled up on the emergency brake to keep my car from rolling into cross traffic.

A gentleman named Jose and his wife were sitting in a car near by and he heard the sound my car made when I tried to start it up again. He recognized that telltale click. Jose and his wife came over to help. Jose suggested that I either had a bad battery or a bum alternator. After tinkering around under the hood for awhile, he was pretty sure my alternator had gone kapooey. He asked me if I had triple A. I said no. American Express? No. Then he asked me if my car insurance covered roadside service. We switched insurance companies just a couple months ago and I wasn’t sure if we had roadside service or not, but a quick look at my insurance card seemed to indicate we did. I called the insurance company and sure enough! – my car could be towed for free!

I thanked Jose and his wife for their support – gave his wife a hug – and settled in to wait for the tow truck. As I waited at least a dozen people stopped to ask me if I needed help or if they could do anything for me. Bellingham is full of the best kind of people. 🙂

A man named Sean, wearing a neck brace, came up to chat. I asked him about the brace. He said he wore it to pick up chicks, and asked me how it was working. I started cracking up. Then he told me what had actually happened – he’d been hanging upside down from the rafters at a party (“Of course you were,” I responded – duh, right?) and fell head-first into a metal box. The metal box broke his fall a little. He said he broke his neck and was thanking “the lord every day” that he could walk and was still alive. He called his experience “a miracle.”

When the tow truck arrived, little Riley came by with his folks and a fistful of balloons to watch the tow truck hoist my car onto its bed.. I got a picture of Riley posing with the tow truck. It was so fun to see him enjoying the show.

My little car looked so forlorn and embarrassed sitting on the bed of the tow truck. I felt kind of bad for it. But I would not be looking for a parking place for it, and that was kind of cool.

At the end of the day my husband and the sons drove up to eat dinner with me in Bellingham, and then to drop me off at the Shell Station (which actually still has a full service mechanic station – just like in the olden days!) to pick up my car. As I was getting in my car to drive it away I happened to look down on the pavement and guess what I saw?!!

Yup. A little paper clip. And you can bet your bippy that I picked it up!

A Cool Thing Happened Today

A really cool thing happened today. When I woke up this morning I woke up with a mission pinging around inside my noggin – and it was a really fine mission, too.  It came to me that I was supposed to get a Starbucks gift card for a teaching friend who had just passed the National Boards, and another for a teaching friend who was in the process of moving. The “how” I was going to get these cards to them, and the  “when” I was going to find time to get to a Starbucks I was not sure about, but…. details, details, right? I knew it would all work out somehow.

I hadn’t planned it, but I found I was running 15 minutes early this morning, so when I hit the freeway it occurred to me that I’d have time to stop by a Starbucks before work. I remembered, then, a Starbucks that sat off the freeway on a parallel road. Hah! I decided to give myself a little adventure before work – I’d stop off at the Starbucks, buy the gift cards, and buy myself one of those Starbucks holiday drinks, and then I’d take the parallel road for a while instead of getting back on the freeway and taking my usual route to work. I’d shake things up a little. 🙂 I’d worry about how I’d get the cards to my friends (who work at different schools) later.

And then the really cool thing happened: When I got to the Starbucks I saw another teaching friend coming out of it – someone I really enjoy and hadn’t seen for a long time – and as she smiled and raised her hand to wave at me, it occurred to me that she worked at the same school as the teacher who’s in the process of moving! I could give the card to her to give to my other friend!

Michele and I hugged and when I told her about my plan, she was ready and eager to help me get the card to our other friend. She came back into the Starbucks with me and we had a few minutes to chat and laugh and hug again and get caught up a little before we both headed off to our respective schools.

And THAT had all gone so well that I felt inspired to continue my morning adventure and make an effort to get the second Starbucks gift card to its proper place. The friend who had passed the National Boards teaches at a school along the road that runs parallel to the freeway – I could, I decided, simply take that road as far as her school and drop it off on my way to my own school. Which is exactly what I did. And when I stopped at that school I ran into ANOTHER friend – a young woman who had once worked side-by-side with me during a year that had challenged both of us as teachers. Teresa has one of those smiles that can light up a room and as soon as I saw her I felt the positive energy just radiating from her. We hugged and laughed and reminded each other how much we had appreciated each other’s support during our challenging year. Then, because I realized I was now running late, I gave her another quick hug and continued on to school.

Which brings me to the final really cool thing: I wasn’t late! I arrived at school just as my first student arrived – perfect!

And the rest of the day was good, too. 🙂