When the world falls apart, some things stay in place

Originally posted on the blog “Society of the Seasons”

In the fall of 2013, I decided to leave my 20-year career as a professional to care for my infant son and my aging father-in-law. It was a difficult choice that came in the midst of some hard times for our family. Although my wife and I had just welcomed a new baby into the fold, we’d also lost my mother-in-law to cancer just a couple of weeks after my son’s birth. The Chinese saying, “women hold up half the sky” rang especially true for us because when she passed away, half of our sky seemed to fall down around us.

With a flood of emotions and a host of competing demands, we had to quickly come up with a new way to care for those who needed the most care and attention. There’s a line in the Billy Bragg song “Levi Stubbs’ Tears” that seemed to sum up our current situation: “When the world falls apart, some things stay in place.” We had kids—three in all counting our recent arrival— and an elderly parent to consider, all of whom had their own unique, multifaceted and evolving needs.

My wife, my brother-in-law and I looked into a number of alternatives and at the end of it all, the three of us agreed that it made sense for me to be the one to leave the rat race behind and focus all of my efforts on keeping things safe and stable at home for our loved ones.

Since I am a storyteller at heart, I figured it’d be an enlightening project to keep a written record of this new phase in the life of my family. Given difficulties we’ve experienced over the course of the past several months, some of what I share here will be sad; I’m sure of that. But there are plenty of exciting and happy times to look forward to, as well and I hope to capture many such moments via the pages of this blog.

My son, my father-in-law and I make for an interesting cast of characters, indeed. As I write this, my son’s vocabulary is limited to gurgles, giggles and a good deal of crying. My father-in-law, almost an octogenarian at this point, is a Greek immigrant and a retired autoworker. He’s slowly adjusting to life as a widower…and barely adjusting to the physical and mental challenges of old age. As for me, I’m a long-haired pseudo intellectual with a lot of experiences and interests. Over the course of the past two decades, I’ve worked as an advocate, an activist, a teacher and a writer. I’m pretty sure that I’m still all of those things and probably more, given my host of new responsibilities here at home. Put succinctly, we’re three men in different seasons of our respective lives, looking ahead with cautious optimism and peace of mind.

Mike Bessler, November 2013

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