I watched them ride their bikes with such confidence as the sun set and the birds flew overhead. I listened to the laughter and challenges tossed back and forth. Each child was riding their bicycle showing off their skills.
I was sitting outside in my rocking chair before the official start of summer enjoying the cool breeze and lack of mosquitoes. Sitting next to me in the other rocking chair was Harlan. He was watching our trio as they rode ’round and ’round the yard.
I knew that it was a school night and the kids should be getting ready for bed. I knew that there was laundry, dishes, endless chores … Here is what I also knew: Kids need to make memories to keep them company when life gets hard. Kids with a chronically ill parent don’t always have the time to make all the happy memories that their friends might, so that night Harlan and I sat together watching our children laugh and play well after the stars came out to welcome another beautiful night.
Our family isn’t what anyone would call wealthy. We don’t go on exciting vacations or have a cabin in Maine. What my family does have are experiences and dreams. We have gone to baseball games scoring sunburns, smiling under baseball hats and finishing a scavenger hunt with mom and dad having just as much fun as the kids. Some nights the five Steuers can be found outside wrapped in warm PJs, way past bedtime gazing up trying to see the meteor showers, talking about constellations, what a light year is and what great facts Rebecca, Olivia and Benjamin learned at the MiSci planetarium. I am hoping that the kids will remember these good times we had together as a family.
We also talk about our big dream of having a cabin in Maine. We go into detail about our dream cabin, room by room. The living room has a fireplace with a large, sapphire sectional sofa and windows everywhere so we can see the stars from the inside and we are all together. Outside we have a fire pit, a wonderful dock for the kayaks and a screened in deck to keep the mosquitoes from eating us alive while we eat our supper. Of course, in this fantasy there is no need for a room looking over the water for Harlan’s dialysis supplies and machinery. In my fantasy, Harlan is no longer sick.
Summer nights usually mean that routines are relaxed and we can just breathe a little more deeply. School nights feel like an extension of school mornings, which feel like an extension of school nights, and that treadmill feels so fast, repetitive and never ending. Summer vacation means kids can read until 11 instead of 10 p.m., and if there is no place to be the next morning, they can sleep as late as they want.
I want Rebecca, Benjamin and Olivia keep having amazing experiences so that they have fun memories when they get older. For me, the memories I have of my father mean the world to me. I share those memories with his grandkids, and they love to hear about when I was a little girl.
Someday, my kids might share memories of riding bikes and showing off for their dad as the sun set and the birds flew home for the night. I hope Harlan can hold onto this memory when his treatments get him down. Memories, they can be wonderful things.