Were you like me then? Did you grow up watching tv shows and movies that wrapped things up all nice and tidy, with a big, pretty bow and uplifting music while the credits rolled? Are you like me now? Have you come to the realization that life is not a freaking movie???? I think I figured it out a long time ago……way before I became the single mom of a special needs kiddo. Possibly when I came to the realization about how very human my parents were….maybe when I was a teenager and got my heart crushed and it wasn’t put back together for a really, long time…….maybe when….well, maybe when I grew up and life started happening. The problem was that, even though I was well aware that I didn’t live in a movie, I used to wish for a happy ending.
Yesterday, I was reading a FB post written by a teenager that said “where is my happy ending?”. My immediate thought was to respond “Why search for a happy ending when you are just at the beginning?”. I didn’t…..I kept my mouth shut and my fingers still. Reading it made me think about happy endings, though…… and it made me think about when I stopped searching for them.
Some people might think I stopped looking for happy endings when I met a great man who loved me and my son unconditionally. Nope….I don’t think a happy ending happens when you fall in love. Some people might think that I stopped looking when we moved into our beautiful home and started living the life we struggled for years to achieve. Nope…..I don’t think a happy ending comes with a proverbial white picket fence. I think I stopped wondering about happy endings at my grandfather’s funeral.
My grandfather was not an easy man to love. He was grumpy and strict and proud and stubborn. Sometimes it seemed like his life stopped in the 1940’s and he simply couldn’t get beyond the war. Like many people of his generation, he lived in the past and expected everyone around him to adhere to his out-dated rules and regulations. My grandmother brought a calm to their home and softened his rough edges. When we were children, my sister and I would sometimes spend a Saturday night with our grandparents, eat cooked chocolate pudding out of crystal dessert dishes and watch The Muppet Show. We would then get up and go to church with them on Sunday and listen to them brag about their beautiful granddaughters. As long as my grandmother was around, he was like any other grandfather….with a little bit of a gruff side.
When I was 20, my grandmother died of pancreatic cancer. That gruff, grumpy man became down-right mean at times. When I would come home for a visit, he would give me a hug and comment on my recent weight gain or tell me that good children don’t live so far from their family (I had moved 2 hours away). Very rarely would anything positive come out of his mouth. This got worse as he got older. For a lot of us grandkids, we would make ‘required’ visits, but keep them short and sweet. Even at my last visit with him, in a rehab center following a hospital stint, I had no idea what to say to him or what to expect him to say to me. He was always a bit of a wild card.
After he passed away, at the viewing, a group of us sat in a corner reminiscing and laughing about his stubbornness and retelling awful things he said to us….almost in a fond way. That was what changed my mind about happy endings. I remember thinking about my grandfather’s ending…..was it happy? We weren’t sitting there talking about the loving way he hugged us or his strong sense of family, we were remembering all of the negative things about him and the ways he made us feel bad.
It was then I realized that happy endings have nothing to do with the things we obtain in life….. love, career, possessions…..it has everything to do with how we live our lives. I hope my ending will be happy….that after I am gone from this earth, people will remember me fondly. I hope they will talk about my love for my family and my efforts to make this world a better place for my kiddo and others like him.
My grandfather lived to be 93…..he had 93 years to create a happy ending that just didn’t happen. I think we need to stop searching for happy endings and simply start trying living happier lives before the ending comes.