Sunday, July 14, 2024

Possibilities, opportunities and choosing our path

by CAROL SHIRK KNAPP Contributing Writer
| July 10, 2024 1:00 AM

For the past 10 years, July recalls my mother's end-of-life journey. That's the way it is when you lose someone. The calendar is forever changed. Last January, our daughter's family simply moved. But it was far enough that we wouldn't be seeing each other like we had when they lived local. For me, it felt like a chain of “mini deaths.” 

I will never forget a friend saying — when I moved from Alaska — “We've squandered the time.” Squander can mean to “waste in a reckless and foolish manner.” It can also mean “allowing an opportunity to pass or be lost.” She and I had not gotten together as much as we might have. We could meet up — and that substituted for actually doing so. 

She chose the right word, “squandered.” I was going to be living 3,500 miles away — and the opportunity was gone. I can honestly say I tried to maximize time with our family who moved over the winter. My problem was they were here for nine years and I never thought it would end. Suddenly, two months from learning they might relocate, they were gone. I followed their cross-country trip in the atlas, but my heart was way behind. I'm not sure it had left their front porch. 

I remember thinking, “We never opened the trunk.” Grace, presently 15, had asked multiple times when she was over if we could open the old steamer trunk. I didn't remember what all was in there. I always put her off, and now she was in Kentucky. I had squandered the time. 

God gave me a second chance. Grace earned her own money and bought a plane ticket to see friends and visit us in June. We were absolutely going to lift the lid on that trunk. We cut it close. It didn't happen until her last night here. I'd always thought it was my grandmother's — but inside I found a scrap of shipping label that had my grandfather's unquestionably Norwegian name, along with “Oakland, 1947.” 

I'd packed that bulky dark green thing in 1984. It had traveled from Spokane to Alaska to Minnesota to Priest River. It was certainly a conversation piece, but anything it had to say stayed silent. Grace and I took a wonderful dive into family history discovering what was in that trunk.

She carried a few things home — her suitcase decidedly heavier — while my grandma regret was a whole trunk lighter. I had not squandered our opportunity. Finally, the treasures in the trunk belonged to us. 

I hope this has all taught me something. I can think possibilities and opportunities are going to be there until I get around to them. Or that the people in my life will conveniently stay where they are. I can set them in the background — stuff them in the trunk — of — squandered — time. Or I can treat them like the treasure they are — enjoy them, spend the time, get together, make the memories. They are my people. It is my choice.