My father lost his dad in World War II. My grandfather was part of the greatest generation and while I never got to know him, I did get to know my step grandfather. He was also part of the greatest generation but to my dad, uncle and aunt he wasn't always great. What he lacked in parenting patience and ability, he desperately tried to make up for in grandparenting lovabilty. So the grandfather I knew and love was funny with a quirky little laugh, lots of teasing and a jolly belly just like Saint Nick.
He and my grandmother only came to Colorado one time that I recall. They drove from Phoenix, where he was a salesman door-to-door and apartment complex maintenance man, and she sold cosmetics and shoes and all sort of glamorous things at Goldwaters. Vacations were rare for them. I realize as I look back on their lives with my adult eyes how hard they worked and how rarely they stopped for life's pleasures. So having them in Colorado that summer was extra special. Like good Coloradans we took them on a scenic drive through the Rockies on a grand hunt for the allusive spotting of an elk or deer. I sat in the back seat with some people. Most of whom are faceless in my memory. But I remember I could see grandpa. He was driving. And next to him was the beautiful woman who mothered my father and gave me my first hero. She was beautiful. Not just because she was my grandmother, no, she was the WOW kind of pretty. People stopped to look at Ruth Curby. I had my portrait done in a 1920's style throwback one time and I looked a lot like her. It was an eye-opener for me, as I had never realized I had so much of her in me. But I digress, this blog is about my grandfather and his now infamous rear view mirror stunt not the strength that was bred in my by the Reeves women.
As I said we were driving through the mountains and for an eight year old who lives in Colorado the drive is never the best part. As I was getting a bit restless, or maybe more than restless, my grandfather in his jovial way called out, "Did you see that Angela, there's a monkey in my rear view mirror!"
Leaning forward to look into the mirror, I replied, "Grandpa don't be silly Grandma's not a monkey." While grandpa thought I would see myself in that mirror, I instead saw the beauty of my Grandmother. Even though I had missed the joke, everyone in the car chuckled.
I think the reason this comes to mind now is that in my current life, I've spent a lot of time looking in the rear view mirror. And let's be real, rear view mirrors are the bomb. How many times would my car have wound up in a ditch, bumping the car parked to close behind me or making sure I don't pull out into traffic from my driveway. Rear view mirrors show us what is behind us to hinder us. And well let's be real here ladies and gentlemen, I am the poster child of what is behind you might trip you up. I have been through trauma and my life's rear view is full of wreckage. I've been tied up and bound by shame and guilt. There is a ton of debris back there in my life that could easily cause me to crash.
Currently I make an hour long trek through traffic each way on my way to and from work daily - in Houston! And what the has taught me is that while my rear view mirror is great for backing out of the driveway and getting started it is really much less important as I'm moving forward. Yes, I glance at it from time to time to make sure nothing is zooming up from behind me to try to occupy the same piece of interstate where I am currently driving, or make certain that I can clearly change lanes. And in life, I need to practice the same glance and go philosophy.
I have a degree in counseling and fully understand the power of looking back and understanding what caused the wreckage in the first place as there is where healing begins. But there is a reason your rear view mirror is a fraction of the size that your windshield is. Because sister you are moving forward. Your progress is ahead not behind. I can't imagine the number of accidents on our Houston freeways each day if drivers spent as much time watching their rear view mirrors as I have looking back at my mistakes. Well actually I can imagine. Our infrastructure would slam to a stop. Forward progress toward home would halt and tempers would flare and road rage would occur.
Isn't it that way\: when we spend all our time in regret and sorrow. I could spend the rest of my life wishing I had made better decisions or that my decisions hadn't impact the lives of others. I can live in sorrow and regret but all it will do is halt my forward progress and leave me angry. If I'm looking behind, I'm missing before. If I'm stuck in the past, the present can't be and the future doesn't exist. Want to look forward? Want freedom? Try looking through the windshield. Start by forgiving yourself. Determine that you aren't going to rehearse all the bad things you did or were done to you. Find something in front of you to concentrate on and start driving. Look out that windshield and realize that the whole world is there for you to see and enjoy Drive somewhere you have never been and do something you think you can't. Let go. And if you feel like you might be headed toward disaster - quickly glance in the rear view and see how far you've come from the wreckage that once was and relish in the fact that present is better than past and future is up ahead. And the joke is on Grandpa because you really do get to choose what you see in the mirror.