Grandmama turned 90 on 12/12/12 and died the next day.

I’ve not been home to my New Mexico family since my beloved former babysitter’s funeral, so it’s high time I make the trek again.

My stepdad who lives there has endured 23 surgeries and has twice been revived with defibrillators. I’ve not seen him since he visited here two years ago and he won’t be coming for my daughter’s graduation. Indeed, it’s high time that I high tail it home.

“You need to see him while he’s alive,” Mom warned this week.

We joked that the tough, leathery-skinned cowboy is not physically able to pass away and that an “Age of Adaline” type movie will be made about The Immortal Man.

But what are the odds?

He gets around fine enough now, but will not travel again.

Three other family members have had life-threatening health issues this past year, so those matters coupled with an empty nest breathing down the back of my neck, impel me to do more living.

Less carpet. More grass.

Less carbs. More protein.

Less watching scripted TV lives. More living mine.

However, that can be tough to do since one of my life’s passions is telling other people’s real-life stories. I love my job!

There’s the account of the southwest Iowa German woman whose father was a KGB agent under Hitler. She feared him and avoided him like the plague. Thankfully, another man in her life positively impacted her. Her tender-loving grandfather hid with her and her siblings in the woods behind their home every evening to read the Bible to them.

Did you hear the one about the other foreign woman in our area who painstakingly went through the naturalization process to become an American citizen?

Then there’s the one of the Shenandoah man who worked as a Hollywood script writer.

I’ve been truly blessed to know such zesty people and have monolithic memories of my own. But I want more.

More memories with more people.

Many more memories with my people.

People, like I said, are truly my greatest passion on the planet and I’m of the persuasion that everyone should be friends with each other despite differences.

I’ll not die like one family member did — toxic bitterness will not be allowed into corners of conversations. I’ll not let things go unsaid or undone.

If we differ on a topic, know that it’s the issue being taken to task, not any human in particular. Anyone who’s been married for more than a minute can likely attest: differing opinions can even be had with those we love and respect most.

So before any of my health-threatened loved ones pass on to the other realm, they’re going to know full-well how much I care and we’re making fresh memories. I refuse to hang only on to the stale past.

We’re going to uncover treasures and ride bikes. We’re taking adventures and tasting fine foods. And if another human and I still disagree when I’m 103, at least they’ll know I genuinely loved them.

One more thing … where are the Midwest’s best geocaching sites, and can someone please tell me what the best kayak is to buy?


Kristan Gray is a staff writer for

The Valley News.

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