Bill Stabosz & Cillian Gregg.
This experiment is not the result of some kind of "Benedict option" withdrawal into a small Catholic enclave. If we do wind up building a compound, the families involved are not all practicing the Faith. Rather this represents an organic growth in family dynamics since our children left the nest.
It all started with a meal.
"If you cook it, they will come." Bill started making homemade pizza for our adult children a decade or so ago. They brought themselves and their little ones over once a week. What young parent doesn't appreciate eating someone else's cooking? Eventually Bill added a weekly grilled cheese sandwich supper to his routine. More family togetherness, and more grandchildren. We started vacationing together.
Then we bought a small house in Alabama three doors down from daughter Gabe. Gabe is the child who flew furthest from the nest, moving south to work with the Edmundite Missions. There she met her true love; marriage and family followed. But we sure missed them. So we bought the house, and got to spend lots of time with our Alabama family. This also allowed more movement between the extended Stabosz family South and North. Cousins and adult siblings saw one another more often than Gabe's annual visits north with her kids.
So it seemed like a logical progression when the kids pitched the idea to us this spring of downsizing in Delaware, and finding a place with Em and Scott that had an in-law suite. No more maintenance of our big house in Delaware, or finding folks to watch it while we were away. No more wondering about decisions to be made as our health began to fail. A plan for the future.
So here we are. Em and Scott preparing their house for sale, they and their five kids living with Bill and me. Em's siblings researching the ins and outs of buying land and subdividing it into lots for family members wanting to join in. A daunting task. I may not live to see its end.
All of this is a big change in a little space of time. I've lost the luxury of free time that is the hallmark of retirement. Living in intimate quarters with Emily and her family, I am peeking behind the curtains of young family life. I am immersed in the minutiae of daily life with children. And I am changing a lot of diapers again.
I find this all quite unsettling. Living with children is the antithesis of the intellectual life. And I think somehow that I have come to think of my spiritual life as tied to my writing, editing, activism and other intellectual work of my years as an empty nester. Wrong, wrong, wrong, on so many levels.
My prayer is a lot more elemental these days. When I pray the rosary, my thoughts on the mysteries are not lofty but focus on the ordinariness of daily life contained therein. Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the Apostles were all just going about their daily lives like my extended family is going about theirs. I have a deep visceral realization lately that the mysteries of the rosary are no more or less than the history of one extended family cooperating with the grace of their individual callings. One very important family, it is true. One crucial to the salvation of humankind. But at its essence, the gospel is the story of women, men and children forming bonds and connections with one another and with God.
The Annunciation. The Agony in the Garden. The Wedding Feast of Cana. The Ascension. These are human events, experienced by flesh and blood mortal men and women for whom the curtains of the mystery of Eternal God were momentarily opened. We meditate on them because we too have access, in Christ the Divine Man, to those realms of mystery where every human moment incarnates a divine reality.
I find it meaningful that the Pope who introduced the new, Luminous Mysteries of the rosary is the same Pope--now Saint John Paul II--who gave us the set of talks on marriage that have become known as the Theology of the Body. The Luminous Mysteries focus on the Son of God going about his daily life and mission--seeking out John's baptism, attending a wedding with his mother and his disciples, his work as a teacher and healer, his glory revealed to his closest disciples, and the last religious feast he celebrated before his death. These snapshots of Jesus' daily life as a first century Jew have eternal meaning and resonance.
I am the grandmother of twenty, dying a little as I downsize my possessions and think of leaving my home to live with my younger, more vibrant daughter. You are the child of God encountering the divine in the present moments of your life.
We are children of ordinary life, made extraordinary because of the Son of Man who stooped to conquer. Jesus, Mary and Joseph, pray for us.
Rae Stabosz has been a member of the Association of Pauline Cooperators since 2003. She and Bill Stabosz, her husband of 49 years, have six sons, three daughters, twelve grandsons and eight granddaughters; these hold their hearts. Rae retired in 2007 from the University of Delaware, where she was a technology and media specialist for 27 years. She is co-founder and past president of The Society of Catholic Scholars of Delaware and proprietor, since 2004, of the Pious Ladies Bookmobile.