Thursday, September 06, 2007

Safe Harbor


I have been in my hometown of Douglas, Alaska for more than a week now. During this week, I have helped my 90 years young father with household chores, cooking and cleaning and celebrated my mother's 82nd birthday.

I have visited with my four younger brothers, their wives and the children that have not yet gone off to college or new lives in other Alaskan towns. I am the only child, the oldest and only daughter, who left home to go down to the 'lower 48' as we always called 'the States' to go to college in 1968, marry and raise my own three children.

Living in Salem, Oregon has been a good life, and Oregon is an undeniably beautiful state. Unfortunately, even that beauty pales in comparison to that of my 'home land'. The mountains here in the Juneau-Douglas area are like lower lying bridges that cross from one world to another. On the Juneau side they shelter the town of Juneau in both directions.

Here, on Douglas Island, which was incorporated into the "Greater Borough of Juneau-Douglas", we have a small but increasingly growing town that has stretched along part of its 20 mile length and 5 mile width. Most of it is covered by Mt. Bradley, which all of my life I only knew as "Mt. Jumbo."

The Douglas Boat Harbor, shown here, has sheltered the boats of all of my commercial fisherman uncles through the 50's, 60's and 70's. It shelters the smaller boats of my remaining family members as recreational vehicles, now.

Behind the boats you can see 'Juneau Island', again my entire life we knew it only as "Mayflower Island'. Growing up and returning home again is my 'safe harbor'. It is also a place of constant change and transition...both for the town, my family and myself. But even through transition and turmoil, even through challenges and loss, there still exists a peacefulness, a tranquility that I feel no where else, as I can here sheltered by my own parents' love and the beauty that still lives so deeply within me.

For days now, my family has struggled with issues of family responsibilities and extended care options. We have debated the pros and cons of 'Living Wills' and 'Living Trusts' and how to combat the inevitability of impending memory loss and the wall of Alzheimer's symptoms which seem to increasingly surround my beloved mother.

I am grateful that my 90 year old father is a seemingly indefatigable 'work horse'. His energy and endurance is almost unbelievable. He cooks, cleans, does laundry and care takes with the energy and strength of a 50 year old man. But time takes its toll on all of us. And each of us seeks respite and rest. Each of us needs and yearns for that safe harbor...for security and trust, acceptance and aid. A place to seek shelter within a storm. A place to give comfort and peace and even joy, when one cannot find it alone. I feel that here in my childhood home and reach out with my open arms to offer it now to those that I love, so dearly.

4 comments:

  1. You are sucha a beautiful writer. How wonderful that you have a safe harbor in your home and your parents have one in your love. I hope my family will feel that their home is their safe harbor also.

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  2. Your writtings on Alaska are wonderful. It is one place I want to visit before I die. Thanks for taking the time from your family to share with us.

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  3. What a gift you have for dealing with the difficult, complicated and emotionally charged issues in your family, while at the same time still able to appreciate everything else around you. Good on you -- I'm sending up light to you.

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  4. That is a beautiful place, and very smart of you to get financial affairs in order. I agree with su bee, what a special person you are to be able to continue to see the beauty as you go through a difficult time.

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.