What Is The Greatest Gift This Life Can Bring?

Cora, Dante, Kelley, Sienna, Tony, Cheryl, and Audrey (Larry is the photographer)

Like any published memoir, our own life stories should also come with a disclaimer: “This story that I tell about myself is only based on a true story. I am in large part a figment of my own yearning imagination.” And it’s a good thing, too. As we will see, a life story is an intensely useful fiction. ~ Jonathan Gottschall

I’m ruthlessly seized by the irrational fear that the sand in my hourglass is slipping away at a torrential pace, and there is no way to stop this relentless progress. It’s pooling at the base of my container, which is ironically familiar, and standing on my head for long periods of time is not helping.

Birthdays do this to me. I get delusional, okay untenable, some would say irrational, with a disposition that is unflattering at best. Even Dante Alighieri agrees. He says, “The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.”

I blame all this Post Traumatic Stress on the birthing process I endured 63 years ago. No doubt my mom was a pro by the time I came along, but I still don’t like crawling in or out of small dark spaces. Clearly, contractions are the problem, both physical and mathematical, but the general population remains astoundingly naive to this revelation.

Now you know.

Did you know if I were a chemical element, I would be Europium at 63. Europium is a silvery-white (how telling) metal that reacts readily with air. Don’t we all? It is the least dense, soft enough to be cut with a knife, and extraordinarily rare. EU, its nickname, makes the television screen brighter. How apropos.

At 82, you’re lead, and it goes downhill from there.

The day I was born is simply a blatant reminder on the calendar of life that I am aging, like it or not, and I will continue to wrinkle despite the copious amounts of sunscreen I slather on my readily reactive Scandinavian skin. 

But I have good news to counter all these banal revelations. 

This year is an anomaly of all anomalies, and I imagine that hourglass got turned upside down, if only temporarily. For one, my daughter Julie and her husband Nic have flown the coup. They are traveling in Italy for several weeks (17 days to be exact, not that I’m counting) to celebrate their 10th anniversary. We’re in charge of their three foundlings while they are away. 

My daughter Kelley, who lives in New York with her husband Tim, has come into town to salvage the precarious situation of parentless children, although solo as Tim is covering the Eastern Conference Finals. Which is a hoot because our friends keep sending us screenshots of Tim Bontemps live, apparently, he’s everywhere.

My son Dante is working locally this week which only happens a few times a year, so we are gifted with his presence every night. And my other son Tony, who lives in Portugal, is going to be in the United States for six weeks (without Thalita, but she’ll be here soon) to attend a program/course in San Mateo for entrepreneurs. 

All of this is occurring simultaneously as Larry, and I continue to combat a severe case of jet lag and vacation slideitus (the need to show two hundred and fifty vacation slides to every person who innocently comes into contact with us). And from a quick AI search, there is no cure. 

The first to succumb to a case of vacation slideitus was poor Dante. He was the only one home, forced into close proximity with parents that missed him fiercely. At the conclusion of a lovely dinner, he was promptly corralled into the living room and ruthlessly presented with an endless array of slides and detailed DESCRIPTIONS of our trip to Japan. 

All I can say is Dante never wants to see another shrine as long as he lives. 

The very next evening, while everyone else was avoiding us, we gathered our equipment and walked over to our unsuspecting neighbors, Jim and Sue, who graciously let us through the door. We led with a nice bottle of GiaDomella Zinfindal. After imbibing a few glasses of wine, Larry said, “Hey, we have a few pictures of our trip if you’re interested.”

Sue (bless her heart) says, “Sure, we love to see your vacation pictures.” Trust me, she will never utter those words again.

Larry gets all set up, we start with the horrendous tale of packing up our bike and a well-rehearsed monologue on the flight snafus. By the time we got to the palaces of Kyoto, they were fast asleep.  We tip-toed out of the house with our equipment after covering their slumbering bodies with a blanket. No need to wake them up! It’s well after midnight.

In the meantime, single-handedly, Kelley is trying to help me combat the aging process. One day she cleared all the obstacles from the living room, threw a couple of mats on the floor, and instructed me to sit Indian style facing the large screen television. She has signed into her Pelaton app, a secret source of anti-aging programs and tortuous tutorials. 

They call this one yoga. 

This is the practice where you bend and stretch, twist up as if a pretzel, and then hold a plank (which is right up there with waterboarding) for as long as you can stand it. But! At the end of the session, you get to lay on your back, close your eyes, cover yourself with a warm blanket and rest while listening to elevator music. 

It’s divine. 

She set me up on a thirty-day program, and my stomach muscles are so sore I can barely laugh. If you were to interrogate me, I would readilly admit I don’t look a day younger, but I’ll let you know if anything changes after the prescribed sentence.

As my birthday is banging on the front door, so is my son Tony, who flew in a few days early so that he would be with me on my birthday. I know, tissues, please. He just endured a ten-hour flight from Lisbon to San Francisco. I really don’t care if he’s jet-lagged. He’s mine for the rest of the night and a good part of the weekend. 

I’ve already done the food shopping for three days. I have refreshed his linens, placed a new bar of soap in his shower, and I’ll admit to spraying his pillows with a little lavender so he sleeps well. 

After dressing the patio table with a bright Italian cloth, we gather around the small table (I’ve yet to convince Larry of the need for a larger one) to celebrate the birthday girl woman and Tony’s homecoming. The patio happens to be the most used space on the property, but it gets the least amount of attention. I plan to rectify that by summer’s end. 

Larry thoughtfully bought a bottle of champagne for a toast which went gloriously with the fresh shrimp appetizer. 

I know what you’re thinking. How long before Larry brings out the slides?

But we were having so much fun that we lingered around the small table long after the food was consumed and caught up on each other’s lives in and around the dripping grandchildren who wanted us to join them on the slip-and-slide. Eventually, I shepherd them all into the tub (the children, not the adults) like an old English sheepdog, allowing for massive amounts of bubbles before washing three heads of hair and three adorable bodies. 

I hand them off to Kelley at the end of the night. She’s living across the street so the kids can sleep in their own beds and keep their regular routines. Which means our sleep continues uninterrupted.

We only have Tony for a few days, the program he’s enrolled in is intense, and he’ll be off the grid for a week. There are field trips to San Francisco, camping trips in the wilderness, and a lot of networking, from what I’ve gathered. It’s hard to have him so close and not be able to see him, but we have three distractions that are keeping us pretty occupied. 

If I’ve learned anything these last few weeks, it’s that every day is truly a gift, although some are packaged better than others, each one is unique and comes with its own revelations and surprises. 

We’ve had a couple of missteps during our tenure with the grandkids. The tooth fairy was a day late when Cora lost her front tooth, Sienna’s is hanging on by a thread, I’m worried it’ll fall out in her sleep, and she’ll swallow it. Then Kelley tied Cora’s other loose tooth to a string of dental floss, tied it to the door, and shut it. There was blood but the tooth remained attached. Total fail. Then we missed the twins’ soccer banquet, lunches got put in the wrong backpacks one morning (in my defense, I did not have my full cup of coffee), and we forgot a few important permission slips. 

The days are passing quickly, Julie and Nic will be home soon, Tony has started his program, Dante is back on the job site, and our exclusive time with Kelley and the grandkids is coming to an end. 

Birthdays remind us to cherish all those grains of sand because time passes through the hourglass so quickly, and it can not be retrieved by standing on my head, doing hours of yoga, or slathering on sunscreen. 

What is the greatest gift this life can bring?

I’ve discovered that time is pooling in our memories, contained in the core of our most profound relationships, and its purpose is simply to allow us to love from the day we are born. 

Happy birthday 63…

I’m Living in the Gap, aging swiftly, I’d love to hear what’s pooling in your memories.

Grow Damn It is available at Amazon. If you want to give me a birthday surprise ~ write a review! It gives me something to read after the kids go to bed.

There are signed copies at Books Inc. in the Pruneyard. Only one left!

Black Rose Writing will sell you a copy, no questions asked.

And Barnes and Nobel have copies on hand for those of you trying to put Jeff out of business!

Join me on Twitter

Find me on Goodreads

About me on my Blog


Leave a Comment

  1. Oh my goodness – this is so beautiful, Cheryl. I have so many lines and things that made me giggle to list them all. But I love, love, love, “it’s that every day is truly a gift, although some are packaged better than others, ”

    Some days are packaged better than others. And some have all the wrapping all torn off and require all hands on deck to clean up.

    You make 63 look wonderful and I’m so glad that your beautiful family is there to help you remember how so many of those days were spent – full of love, lift and laughter.

    Happy birthday, my friend! ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Wynne, it’s been a crazy couple of weeks, but so far we’re thriving. I have a whole new appreciation for all the time, care, and effort it takes to raise kids. I know I did it a few decades ago but you forget how much emotional energy it takes to get through an entire day. No wonder I slept so good in my 30s and 40s, the minute the kids moved out, I was wandering the halls at 2:00 am, and aside from menopause, now I know why. I’ve been sleeping like a baby since Julie and Nic left. It could be my life has become a little too cushy! Much love and hugs to you my friend, C


  2. A belated (or early?) Happy Birthday, my good friend.
    I am 8 years older than you, and my life is proceeding like fast-forward on an old VHS tape. (8 X Speed) Weeks are like days, months like weeks, and so on…
    Do it all, while you can. I can’t even mow the lawn any longer since Arthritis kicked in big-time on my hands.
    I have seen the man with a black cloak and scythe wandering around the village. I gave him a flat hand, and told him “Not yet. One day, but not yet”.
    Take care, dear Cheryl.
    Best wishes, Pete. xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Pete, my birthday was on the 19th, and I appreciate your sweet happy birthday wishes my dear friend. That is the perfect description, “life is proceeding like fast-forward on an old VHS tape.” Every year it goes faster and faster. I am trying to do as much as possible in my 60s because I already feel the difference in my strength and endurance. You keep that man with the black cloak at bay, it is not your time by a long shot! I’m still trying to convince you to publish your short stories! It would be a mega hit! Thanks again Pete for your generous support through the years and your lovely friendship, much love and hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Happy birthday! What a precious experience to live it with you through your writing. I beat you to 63 by a little less than three months 😅 Your post made me understand why I have a sudden desire to swim, add to my walk, stretch, crunch and watch what I eat! You’re so lucky to have your family with you. Enjoy every moment!

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you Elizabeth! I marvel at the similarities in our lives and the stages we are now experiencing together including our age. We’ll see if I keep up with the yoga, the walking, the intentional eating! I think at our age it’s okay to slip up once in a while and enjoy a little ice cream, wine, and total relaxation especially when watching ones grandchildren. I dropped Kelley at the airport this morning. She’s been a really big help, meaning she’s done all the heavy lifting. Julie and Nic return on Saturday, let’s hope Larry and I can keep it together until then. Thanks for the sweet birthday wished, much love and hugs to you, C


      1. We were in the same class, with the same clothes, music, etc. I marvel at your lovely family. I keep trying to push my son to buy a ring and get going on their family — but it’s really not my place 😁 A few little hints here and there….

        Liked by 1 person

        1. Julie’s mother-in-law used to buy Julie baby clothes for Christmas every year. She’d buy two outfits, one for a boy, and one for a girl. I thought it was adorable, Julie not so much, but damn if her wish didn’t come true!

          Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Dorothy, it is “all so very good,” as you say! I’ve been dancing on cloud nine with so many of my children sitting around my birthday table. It was surreal! I’ll have all of them and their spouses together this 4th of July and I can hardly wait! Thank you for the sweet birthday wishes my friend, much love and hugs to you, C

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I have to admit when I read the title my first thought was ‘a Hasselblad 500CM with an 80mm lens and a lifetime supply of film please’, and then I read your lovely post and realised what a bad person I am. 😁

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Bahaha, you crack me up Fraggle! You absolutely deserve that Hasselbald camera with the special lens and endless film because you are so damn talented! A bad person would want fame, fortune and a limitless visa! Well, maybe not a really bad person :))) Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much Carol! It was a good one! It’s so rare to have even a majority of us together as our lives have spread out across the world. I love all the technology that keeps us connected but it’s not the same as a hug and kiss, or sitting on the couch arm to arm sharing a bowl of buttery popcorn, or enjoying a nice glass of wine on the patio together as the sun is setting. Time…it’s truly a gift. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I love this, Cheryl: “The wisest are the most annoyed at the loss of time.” What a terrific quote…and I agree — where DOES the time go? I’d like to sign a petition or stage a protest. Can we get an investigative reporter (or blogger) on the case to help us understand? 😉 Send out a search party for ‘lost time’? Sigh, sigh, sigh! Truly, though…thank you for sharing all the birthday joy and the giggles. Your family is beautiful! 🥰

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Victoria, you ask, “where does the time go?” I couldn’t agree more, days have passed since I posted and I haven’t had a minute to respond to these lovely comments. My apologies. My daughter and son-in-law return tomorrow, not that I’m excited or anything, but I have one nerve left and it’s weakening. I so appreciate you joining me on my little rant on time and laughing with me at the family shenanigans! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  6. I use the hourglass analogy all the time now too. The best part of aging (haha, this implies there are several good things about aging) is that because I no longer feel the luxury of time, I don’t waste time working up my courage. Oh, sure, I still fall completely on my face, but I do so without fear. That is a pretty good feeling. I wish I could have gotten here about five decades ago.

    In the meantime, I’m heading down to the hardware store. I hear duct tape is on sale, and it feels like that’s what’s keeping my aching body together these days.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Pete, sorry for the delayed response, I have one more day in which I’m responsible for the well being, dressing, feeding, and entertaining of the grand kids and I’m not managing my time well. And by the way, I could use some of that duct tape! That gave me a laugh. Thank you so much for joining me in the comments. My daughter and husband return tomorrow, then Larry and I are off to the lake, to sleep and restore! And yes, I’m already packed! Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  7. I woke up reading this beautiful piece of work. It touched my heart so much. Happy belated dear, C. You know what the greatest gift is all about. Look at the amazing humans surrounding you in love. Look at how you’ve touched the lives of your family members and others. Your words hit straight to the heart and soul. Truly, you will always be one of my favorite writers~and humans, for that matter. Always, I understand. I giggle, nod my head and heart, and smile as I read your words of wisdom and life! Here’s to year 63! Even though I’m a decade behind you, I feel I’m your little sister and you’re “bringing me up right!” Abe said, “it’s not about the years in your life, but the life in your years.” You’re the perfect example of a well-lived and well-loved life! I love you so much! My kids and little grands are coming. I could squeal! My back aches, the grill is cleaned, tons of food, art projects, blow up pool, water fun,…I hid gnomes around the yard. Literally I’m about to burst. Happy Memorial Day big sis. 🇺🇸💙❤️🤍🥰🤗🙏🏻🙏🏻 I thank God for you!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Well, hello sweet Karla, my little sis! So glad you enjoyed this piece. I went back to writing in the early morning like I used to when I had small kids. I’ve been thrown back in time, feeling much like that young mother with lots of responsibilities and no time for herself. I didn’t realize how easy it has become to just worry about Larry and myself. It’s been a blast hanging out with the kids but Larry and I are ready for mom and dad to return tomorrow. And then we head to the lake for a little relaxation. I’m so excited for you! The kids and little grands are coming to you! What a treat. That is wonderful news. I’m assuming the littles are out of school and ready to enjoy their summer with Grammie. It’s sounds like you have thought of every detail to make their stay enjoyable! I love you and I love that you hid gnomes around the yard. You are too much. Happy Memorial Day little sis, love you bunches, hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Big sis~you two enjoy every well-deserved minute at the lake! No need to respond, it’s hard keeping up with comments, I know! Thank you for inspiring me! Love you oodles and noodles!

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Oh you are right LA, slides, it’s a dead giveaway! I’m running on empty here, my daughter and son-in-law return tomorrow, and we’re off to the lake for a little restoration. Thanks for the birthday wishes. Hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

  8. This is beautiful, Cheryl. I love your sense of humor, as well as your serious side. But let me tell you, I don’t stand on my head anymore. I ended that last week. 😂 Cheers to living, loving, adventuring, and reveling in all good things. Happy birthday! (P.S. I’m one year behind you.) 🩷🤗🎉🥂💐

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Lauren, what kind words, music to my ears. Let’s agree that standing on our heads has been counter productive and we’re ready for the advanced plan…more sleep, more time with dear friends, and more heart stopping moments with family. Oh, and, more reservations at our favorite restaurants! Thanks for the birthday wishes! Much love and hugs, C

      Liked by 1 person

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s