Auld Lang Syne, My Dear

Charley and I went for a walk on the bike path Friday afternoon. I needed to take some photos for illustrations in a book I’m writing and the lighting was perfect. Bruised, dark clouds covered much of the sky. Grays and blacks, blues and purples with a bit of light shining through the cracks at times. I wanted to get some pictures before the first snows arrived and covered the woodlands bordering the path.

No wildlife was to be heard or seen and  very few people were about. Those who happened to be out strolling, bike riding or skate boarding, made eye contact, smiled and wished us a Happy New Year. Strangers passing by,  sincerely  wishing us that elusive thing everyone longs for – a year of happiness.

And for Charley and me, it was a Happy New Year. We were holding hands and enjoying an early winter day together. An incredible gift had been bestowed on us and we couldn’t have been more grateful. We’ve been married fifteen years, but in that short span of time, many of our January firsts together were times we could best forget.IMG_0246

January 1, 2000, sitting in the hospital , holding my mother’s hand as she lay dying. Ensuing January’s with financial and family issues and then those  January’s from 2007  to 20013 after Charley had been diagnosed with cancer.  Interminable years of uncertainty, of operations, radiation and  treatments to stay ahead of the aggressive cells that were intent on separating us forever. And through it all, the loved ones, the entitled ones, the ones who should have been there for us, beside us, selfishly chose instead to make our days all the more difficult with their casual cruelties – just because they could. Our fragile marriage weathered many Unhappy New Years and then a respite – 2014, a year filled with hope, followed by 2015, a year to remember and to savor.

2015!  Advanced clinical trials and drugs finally bringing Charley’s cancer into remission. A Berkshire Tale  written and published! Long-planned trips joyfully  taken. Grandchildren being allowed to share adventures with Grandpa and their Grandpa cherishing every moment, knowing it could selfishly be wrested from him on a whim.  We had no need to exchange presents this Christmas. The year itself had been our present and we rejoiced.

During the past few years, we created a tradition; at first, from necessity, now from choice. Although the season is busy with family, friends and festivities, Christmas Day we share together, just the two of us. We  wake and unwrap our gifts of books we’ve wanted and not bought for ourselves. We place them in a pile, to be read throughout the cold winter months ahead with a cup of tea, nestled on our couch, in our living room, with our two cats. Later in the afternoon, we go out to dinner. This Christmas, we sat in front of a fireplace at an inn by the ocean, and ate and drank and laughed and talked about how kind the year had been to us. We knew this for certain because of all the unkind years in our past. So many yings for a bit of yang.

IMG_0244On New Years Eve, we called our family and friends. Later in the evening, we cooked a favorite meal together to enjoy in our home at our table, neither of us wanting to go out into the cold.

But on this New Year’s Day, 2016, we did step outside for a while. We began a new tradition – venturing out for a stroll on the first day of the new year. We made plans for doing projects around the house. We talked of trips we would take, friends we wanted to see. We discussed the characters, local settings and plot of my newest book and the article Charley had written about his journey with cancer. We made plans for our future. As we strolled along, we held hands (we always hold hands),  knowing this time together was the best gift we could ever hope to receive.

And there’s a hand, my trusty friend!

And give me a hand o’ thine!

We’ll take a cup o’ kindness yet,

for auld lang syne.*

IMG_0247

*the last verse of Robert Burn’s 1788 Scots poem (English translation)

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80 thoughts on “Auld Lang Syne, My Dear

      1. I’m fine, Clare, thanks for asking. What a good idea to take photos of the settings.
        I just wanted to say that I do believe attitude is everything. You and Charley’s attitude have been positive which must surely have helped. I’m so glad things are looking up for you guys!

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      2. Thanks, Yvette. I really don’t think it was all that positive at the beginning, but I took all the fear that was roiling inside of me at the time, churned it into a strange kind of “Oh, yeah? I’ll show you!” anger, and then used it to steamroll our way through the system. And, believe it or not, it’s worked so far. (The fear was paralyzing at first and I had to do something instead of sitting in a chair crying. Sitting still has never been my forte, anyway.)I really hope everything good is coming your way…Clare

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  1. Beautiful, serene pictures and very heartwarming post. A lot of marriages go through cycles of ups and downs and ups and I am glad that this is the leg of up for yours henceforth. I like the positive vibes you bring forth Claremary, closing it on one of my favourite New year hits Auld Lang Syne. To many bright and beautiful moments of 2016 to you and Charley.

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    1. When we think of “family”, I’m sure everyone takes it for granted that family will be the ones who are there in the hardest of times. Sometimes,(unfortunately, many times), it just does not happen. This was a terrible disappointment for Charley and sometimes very stressful for me. I became his chief advocate and that decision has made all the difference. I realize now, from this experience, how many other people are going through illnesses without the help of their children. I’ve written an essay entitled “The Giving Tree Generation” which I may never publish. But for those who have experienced this, I wanted them to know that if you have just one person for an advocate, you can both make it through the hardest of times together and gain strength from each other. Thank you, Jacqueline.

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    1. Charley and I agree not to get caught up in what has become the “Holiday Crazies”. We shake our heads when Black Friday rears its ugly little head. Having married later in life, we’ve been able to shape our own traditions based on our past experiences. And placing the emphasis on quiet moments together works well for us. It makes dealing with all of things the world throws at you a bit easier.Thank you.

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    1. Peg. I’m still blogging and haven’t had that techie breakdown I thought I was destined to have. Again, thank you from the bottom of my heart for helping me through the initial stress of getting Around ZuZu’s Barn up and running.The blog is doing well, and I think I’ll keep at it for a while longer. Yes, it finally has been a good year for Charley and me. We were due! Looks like all is well at your house. (I do check in to Face Book every so often.) I would love to chat with you some time. Perhaps on a snowy, January morning? But never when Brady’s on the field! Go Pats!

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      1. Thank you so much for appreciating my posts.. makes me really happy! and don’t say that you are getting older.. when the mind is young, what else do you want 😉 Btw.. sometimes even I choose comfort over crowds.. it is much more relaxing 🙂

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    1. Having been a strong “advocate” for your dad, you truly understand what that word entails. Your posts on the Goldfish were very meaningful for me. Thank you for all of the tweets and your words of support during my first year in “Social Media.” I still have much to learn! Happy New Year, Mary.

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  2. Happily New Year to both of you.
    May the year ahead be full of all things wonderful- health,friends,and good times!
    Beautiful pictures and great message.
    Love and happiness, always,Jean

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    1. Jean, I wasn’t going to post this week, but after our walk, I had some things to say to start the New Year off right.
      You and Jack have been our best friends throughout the years. You’ve always been there for us in the best and in the worst of times, when family was nowhere to be found. You became our family. You are in our hearts and we cannot thank you enough for the kindness and love you’ve given through those years. We’ll see you soon to celebrate the New Year together. Love, health, happiness and good friends are wished for you in 2016.

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    1. I wanted my first post of the year to be a hopeful one. Sometimes, when you are writing about travels, and books, and crazy, self-absorbed cats, you can give the impression that you live in an alternate universe. There are so many facets to a life worth living and one of those facets is learning from and surviving the hard times. You can understand this, I’m sure. But there’s always hope that things will change and even get better. I wish you love, health,joy and hope in the coming year. Your friend, Clare

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    1. I live in the southern part of the smallest state, Rhode Island. It is a coastal town. We have a bike path which was built along old railroad tracks bordering the Great Swamp,which was the sight of a very important battle during King Philip’s War (involving local indian tribes and settlers). I’ll be writing about it and some other interesting places in my town in a future post. Right now I am writing a mystery book set here in South Kingstown and I will be including photos of these historic places within the book. I think it will make it more interesting. And I love taking pictures of interesting places.

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  3. Claremary, What a beautiful, heartwarming post. I can totally relate to enjoying the little moments , of being there for each other and how much more we appreciate them after going through hardships.
    You have captured such gorgeous pictures on your walk! Happy new Year to you and Charley!

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  4. The pictures are beautiful, your descriptions even more so. But what moves me in this piece is through the years of sadness and uncertainty your love for one another grows and you have honed a most wonderful tradition of spending precious time together and exchanging books and eating and drinking and BEING. Long may you ride, lovely lady. Long may you ride 🙂 x

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    1. When I look back, I realize, now, that our biggest mistake when we first married, was dedicating all of our time and much of our finances to taking care of others and less to taking care of us. It took many years and a terminal illness to understand we needed to put ourselves first. This actually worked! Once this happened and we both focused on the battle against Charley’s cancer, everything changed (except for the attitude of the “entitled ones”). Charley and I became a team.I can’t say it was sadness as much as gripping fear that followed me around every minute of every day during those years. It’s been such a relief not to feel that fear during the last year. I know everything can change in an instant, and that’s why I live in each moment. And that’s why even holding hands on a New Years Day walk is something to celebrate. Thank you, Osyth. I’m glad you’re enjoying time with The Brain and Bean and I wish you the brightest of days here in Boston. Take care. Love, Clare

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  5. Love your stories, knew you guys were a special couple when we met 2 years ago on the French river cruise without knowing the background stuff that we do know now. Faith and hope have gotten you thru the worst part, so enjoy this good time in your life!

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    1. Becky & Bill – A Very Happy 2016! We love hearing from you and think of you often. This might be the year we return to Europe. You must be getting ready for Costa Rica and that lovely warm weather. We really did have a great year and are hoping for a repeat in 2016. We’ll do whatever we can to make that happen! Take care and share all the hugs we’re sending your way! Love, Clare & Charley

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    1. Russ! Thank you! I hope the holidays with your family was fantastic. I’ve been thinking about you this week and wondering how you’re doing. I loved talking with you before Christmas and I thank you so much for answering all my questions. I’ve still been doing my own photos for illustrating the mystery, but will need an illustrator for the individual ZuZu Stories. I wish I could draw! How are all your projects coming along? I’m heading over to your blog now. Take care. your friend, Clare

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  6. Oh Clare! What a gift this post was for me. I loved the serene pictures and your evocative pictures but more than that I loved your honesty about difficult family relations; never more pronounced than at Christmas time. To have made your own traditions with which to honour and celebrate your relationship with Charlie is inspired. I will think of you curled up with a cup of tea and a great book while we swelter here through our summer months : )

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    1. It snowed today and is already too cold for these old bones! Yes, the ocean that makes up family relationships is so difficult to navigate. When my dad died of prostate cancer, my mom, sister and I took care of him and he died in his own bed in his own home. I just took for granted the belief that your parents are there for you in your early years and you are there for them in their later years. I married late in life and early on in our marriage, Charley was diagnosed with the disease that had taken my dad from me. I was bound he would win this war and when the battle began, we stormed the hill. When I looked behind us, we were alone. We had spent so much time and money early in our marriage getting his son and daughter educated, married, set in their own homes.I couldn’t believe what was happening. I referred to his children’s behavior as “callous cruelty”. They were totally self-absorbed. Entitled people too busy in jobs and the minutiae of their daily lives their football games, parties, yoga classes,video games, shopping, dating, vacations… to even make a phone call, let alone visit. (We live close by.) And how dare we even expect anything from them! When the shock of this finally passed, Charley and I moved on and found out that we were a great team. We relied on each other through the years and fought even harder. It strengthened our marriage. But it’s been such a terrible wake-up call; more so for Charley than me. So,our victory is especially sweet for us. And that is why when you see us together, we’re always holding hands, to remind us we are not alone. I hope the post was a gift for others, too, because I know how difficult it is at this time of year for so many people.The grass is never greener on the other side of the fence.Thank you, Robyn, for all of your caring comments. And a Happy 2016 to you in your garden. Clare

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      1. I have been reading about the sense of entitlement we are engendering in generations of our children simply because we believe giving unselfishly is how to raise them. According to some research this is not helpful in developing resilience and gratitude in our kids who must learn to weather disappointment and adversity. I see my own daughter making the same mistakes I made by giving too much of material things and not enough of the things that matter like time, discipline and a sense of appreciation and respect for others. I’m not suggesting this was the case with you and Charlie, simply that I see the dilemma we face as a privileged society.
        Wishing you and Charlie all you deserve in 2016.

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      2. It is truly a dilemma. I may have mentioned I’ve written an essay entitled “The Giving Tree Generation” but I’m not sure I’ll ever publish it. The problem with Charley’s two kids is Charley gave too much and expected too little in return. And I came along way too late in their lives to teach them about gratitude and respect for a Dad who deserves so much better. (That’s such a lovely word) Maybe there’s still hope for them now that they are parents??? Thanks, Robyn

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      3. But the last year has been great and there is so much hope for us and for others. Serious illnesses can be treated effectively and entitled people can mature. I have no regrets and have only gratitude for what 2015 gave us. I’ll take it!
        I do wish we could have a cozy conversation by the fire. I’d make you a large cup of tea or coffee or hot chocolate and we could talk for hours. In the mean time, while I’m trying to stay warm I hope you are nice and cool.

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  7. Hi Clare, Thank you so much for your kind remarks on my posts. I appreciate all the feedback I get. I have enjoyed reading your post today and will be looking forward to reading here again.
    Happy New Year,
    Mollie

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    1. Mollie. I’m so glad you stopped by. Yes, I love your posts and will revisit often. Not all of my posts are as serious as the New Year one ended up being. Usually they’re pretty light and sometimes when Roxie AKA The Other Cat gets involved, they can be a bit zany. Your new follower, Clare

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  8. Happy New Year! I’m glad you had a good start. My mum’s in hospital since 2 January.So it’s going to be a difficult month for us all. i hope the worst is behind her and that she could start to recover. She’s already made progress:) But they still need to do a lot of tests. I must stay positive.

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  9. How wonderful that your lives have now become so so full of love and happiness. I knew nothing of your past situation before, but I am so glad you can now put it behind you. 2015 was such a successful year for you, and I truly hope things continue to be the same. Beautiful photos again – and lovely descriptions to go with them. Such an appropriate title, too.

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    1. Thank you, Millie. Charley and I really do appreciate this time we thought we might never have together. He’s still involved in clinical studies at Johns Hopkins and working toward a cure. He knows it can happen because I told him it will. I wanted to start this New Year on a note of hope.This past year I’ve read so many posts of people who are dealing with serious issues. They need to know it can work out well.They need to have hope. Speaking of hope- I hope that you keep visiting me because you make me smile and I’ll keep visiting you, too.

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    1. Thank you, Gina. We’ve come to realize how fortunate we are to have each other during the past 18 years. There is no room for taking anything for granted in our lives. Right now we are involved in a room remake and I seem to be always covered in stain and paint while he can paint in a tux and always look freshly pressed. We are so different but enjoy the spice that adds to life. Clare

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  10. Hiya Claremary > Phew you have been through the mill and so pleased that things have worked out for you and your other half. Wishing you all the luck in the world. It’s almost Chinese New year here so your the first person to wish Xinian Kuai le to. Be lucky 🙂

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    1. Andy, And a wish for Xinian Kuai Le to you. I Skype with some friends in Xiamen every Saturday morning (night time for them) and even wrote a post “Skyping With Milanda” about it. I was very happy to find someone following my blog from China and I will certainly follow you. Yes, this is a good year for us. The Year of the Monkey. And we will savor all the good fortune we find coming our way. Welcome, and the very best to you in all of your adventures. Clare

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    1. There is an area off the bike path (the path use to be railroad tracks)that leads to The Great Swamp, site of a major battle in King Phillip’s War. This is part of that swampy area. (Very historic place. I’ll write a blog about it in the summer and get more pics. Thanks!

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  11. Clare – I am so glad you and Charlie had an enjoyable New Year this year with a new tradition to share. (Such a shame that you have had to go through so much with so little family support.) But as long as you are walking together, hands still clasped, you twa, walking the slopes, this may be the best year yet. That is certainly my wish for you! Jo

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    1. Thanks, Jo. I put in the fact that family is not there for you some time because I realize so many people are experiencing it. They need to know that even the biggest hurdles can be surmounted with just an advocate. Charley enjoys lots of adventures with his young grandchildren now that he is doing so well.

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