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In the Suburbs / Farewell to the roller coaster that was 2013

Published 7:38 am, Sunday, January 5, 2014
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It's New Year's Eve as a write this, and my feelings about the end of a roller-coaster 2013 are a mix of happiness and wistfulness. So much has happened -- mostly good but some bad -- that we're kind of sliding into 2014 on auto pilot. Frankly, that's not all bad, I've concluded.

I won't bore you with that dull recap of significant national happenings -- celebrities who have died and political changes -- just to show how I keep up with current events. Instead, I'll focus closer to home on family milestones, housing challenges and job adjustments in the past year -- a 2013 reality check, you might say.

At the top of our list of wonderful things in 2013 was the surprise wedding of our younger daughter, Jeri, in Ann Arbor, Mich., on Valentine's Day to her long-time significant other, Gervasio. It happened so quickly that we had barely enough time to make a hotel reservation.

Wisely, they made their ceremony a small, family event, but in August we had an absolutely beautiful reception of more than 100 family and friends from all over the country and Mexico in Ann Arbor. We still hear about that special weekend.

Our older daughter, Stacey, finally connected with a new special-education teaching job at a high school in Waterbury. She is the happiest we've seen her in 11 years and has finally hit her stride in the classroom.

And she told us she is closer to adopting a baby and should be on a one-year waiting list sometime in 2014. The thought of grandparenting is finally pointing toward reality.

My wife -- still beautiful after our nearly five decades together -- and I celebrated our 47th anniversary in August with a quiet dinner and lots of reflection. The memories are still wonderful.

Part of my wistfulness as we end this year stems from the woes we have had trying to sell our house. After two failed deals earlier in the year, we were euphoric on the Friday before Christmas when a third buyer actually signed contracts.

But on Monday, the buyers backed out, unable to obtain a mortgage, and ended our hopes for a move to a new home. Devastated, we reluctantly returned to living in a goldfish bowl and hoping for the right people to walk through the door -- again.

I was also disappointed in June when my job at the Fairfield Museum was eliminated, and I faced the prospect of a possible long financial drought. But thanks to our older daughter, who referred me to a Bridgeport charter school where she had subbed briefly, my unemployment was short lived and my future was back on track within a few weeks.

I am so happy to be in this school. While I am multi-tasking through long days as a building sub, paraprofessional and writing/reading coach, I feel such satisfaction working with these high schoolers. They are great kids, and they appreciate what I am doing for them. And the faculty is the same. It's just a great environment.

Balancing my education work with part-time work at the local bookstore and public relations consulting work has given me a very well rounded and fulfilling work life. For that, I have been very grateful in 2013.

This past year was also an opportunity to reconnect with an old friend in Chicago, who found us on Facebook. She was one of my wife's closest high school friends and one of our first friends as a couple. Our two-hour catch up lunch in Chicago in September could have easily been a 22-hour marathon of conversation. My wife is just finishing a quilt for our friend's granddaughter, who was born soon after our visit.

And as always when a year ends, I've been able to call or text friends from all over the country just to wish them a happy new year and tell them how grateful we are that they are part of our lives. I did that this year mostly because we were so caught up in the possible move that I barely sent out any holiday cards.

As we move into 2014, we hope the house will finally sell and we can downsize. In August, I will celebrate my 70th birthday -- yikes, what a scary thought. I certainly don't think I look that old in the mirror.

But mostly I look forward to a good year, a healthy year and a peaceful year. And I wish all of you the same.

Steven Gaynes is a Fairfield writer, and his "In the Suburbs" appears each Friday. He can be reached at: steven.gaynes@yahoo.com.