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This Craziness Called Life

By: Olivia Puffer

Chapter 1

Thirty, old to those in elementary school, yet young to those who've already passed this particular milestone; as far as I'm concerned, the years have flown by since high school and then college, it is just unreal… The world has changed, people have changed, and even I have changed, at what seems to be a surreal pace.

Here I am, the day of my thirtieth birthday, with such thoughts encompassing my mind, you must think I'm a little weird, huh? Well, I don't blame you… I've been feeling a little weird lately. My life has taken a total 360 in the last two years, well maybe just a 180, I don't know, anyways it's changed; it's changed a lot… A few years ago, I'd probably have been out at the bar with the guys about now celebrating another year, instead of standing here over the cribs of my two-month old twin sons, Aaron and Jordon, watching them sleep, captivated by the miracle that they are.

Ten years ago, like most any other college guy, I guess I figured I'd probably get married eventually and someday have kids of my own, but it was something at the back of my mind, nothing I focused on, that's for sure. A lot of guys I knew had girlfriends, but few of them were serious about a relationship, although they generally pretended to be in the presence of their girlfriends. At that time, I just wasn't interested. There were always girls I'd consider my friends, but I just had no interested in becoming exclusive with one, or playing the whole dating game. Although I was in college on football and baseball scholarships, I was also there on a prestigious academic scholarship. I have always been an intellectual, a thinker, maybe on the serious side, although at times I tried my best to hide it, trying to blend into the college scene. I'd have to say I was mostly successful in that, although I did end up graduating with a 4.0 GPA.

As the years went by, the single guys I hung out with in college and after, started to disappear as one by one they got married. Although there were fun times to be had after they were married, things weren't the same. I began to feel a little out of place, considering the possibility of following in their footsteps, but not coming across any sort of girl that I could envision becoming my future wife, and not real confident that I wanted to deal with what my friends were dealing with as a part of marriage. Honestly, I liked my freedom, I liked doing what I pleased, when I pleased, without having to have it approved by a woman.

Don't get me wrong, I'd had an interest in girls before, actually several, it just seemed like they were either already married or otherwise attached or at a stage in their life where I wasn't what they were looking for. I was just always a guy who was there, a guy who was fun to hang out with, someone who was a friend to everyone, but not one commonly sought out by the opposite sex. This didn't really bother me, well not often anyway. There were times the single life just wasn't all it was cracked up to be; the more years that went by, the more times there were like that.

Well, I eventually lived up to society's expectations and married; a year and a half ago from next month to be exact, but who I married, well ten or even five years ago, I would never have believed it, not many people who knew me would have… There was no way her and I would end up together, no possible way…

Chapter 2

October 7, 1977… the date I, Jason Michael, first made my appearance, the first child born to Dean and Ann Lansing. My parents and I lived in Michigan, on the Upper Peninsula, in a tan colored two-story house that overlooked the vast waters of Lake Superior, at the western edge of the community of Carter, population 1,500, less than a mile from where my dad's parents, Gene and Pearl Lansing, called home, and less than five miles from the home of my mother's parents, Ben and Nell Preston. I remember very little about my early years although I've seen a great deal of pictures and heard even more stories, some I choose to repeat, others I'd rather forget. I grew up in close proximity of several of my cousins and relatives, so there was rarely a time where there wasn't someone my age or close to my age to play or hang out with, this fact is evidenced by the overstuffed photo albums collecting dust in the back of my parents' walk-in bedroom closet.

On May 28, 1981, my brother, Matthew Dean, was born, and a little over a year later, on September 2, 1982, Stephanie Ann joined the family. I remember going to the hospital with my dad to greet both of them. It was tough to share mom and dad's attention; I had to learn to do a lot more on my own, a realization that was quite unsettling at first, although I eventually realized that being the "big brother" had its advantages. I got privileges that my brother and sister did not and had the opportunity to teach them all I knew, good and bad. Playing teacher became quite a pastime for me; little did I know that it would lead to future career. When I started kindergarten, I brought back everything I had absorbed each day and passed it along to Matt and Steph, who were, on most occasions, eager for new knowledge. They felt important when they would let mom, dad, grandpa, grandma, or anyone else willing to listen that they knew "big kid stuff". I, of course, had to announce that it was me who taught them what they knew, to validate my own pride.

I spent a great deal of time with my grandparents as a child; their homes' were as home to me as was my own home. I loved being around them, learning a great deal during every visit and having so much fun. Grandpa Preston loved to build things. He could create anything, without blueprints, models, or any other sort of guide. If he could imagine it, he could build it, and when he built his new inventions, grandma was waiting with her paint can and paint brush to beautify them, in her words; us kids loved watching her "decorate", she brought grandpa's creations to life with her wide array of creativity. The large sprawling yard to the north of their two-story, white mansion-like residence, was filled with the most unique playground equipment that would satisfy even the most easily bored child. There were days that grandpa's yard resembled a park, more than a residence with all of the children running around; grandpa never turned anyone away, he welcomed everyone to try out his newest inventions. His "park" was his pride and joy; it was kept up better than most any city park, and was featured in a great variety of newspapers over the years, and also on a couple of local TV stations. It was mentioned to him several times, that he should fence it in and charge admission, but he always dismissed the idea as if it was the silliest thing he'd ever heard. He built his inventions for children's enjoyment, not to make money. In elementary school, there wasn't a kid in my class that hadn't been to grandpa's "park" at least once. I felt proud to be his grandson, time after time as my friends and classmates talked about the cool new stuff to play on and their fun experiences at Grandpa's place. There were times my cousins and I just wanted to kick everyone out and have the place to ourselves because we thought the place should be ours and just ours, but these feelings never lasted long. It was so fun having a place where practically all the kids hung out any time there was no school and mostly every day in the summer. As I grew older, I watched grandpa in the shop creating his inventions and learned a great deal about wood and metal working, and also learned to weld, finding the skill to come quite naturally to me. Grandpa and I, and later my cousin, Will, worked side by side creating new inventions to either sell or add to the park.

While most people are lucky to have just one or two living grandparents, I was blessed with four. Although I spent a lot of time during my growing up years with Grandpa and Grandma Preston, I spent most of the rest of my time with Grandpa and Grandma Lansing. Grandpa loved to grow things; his garden contained most any fruit and vegetable that would grow on the Upper Peninsula of Michigan. He lived for Spring and Summer times when his garden would consume all of his time and energy; I loved learning about all of the plants and how to take care of them. In the late summer and early fall, I helped grandpa with his roadside stand, where he sold his produce. People would come from miles in every direction to buy his fruits and vegetables; they were a hundred times more appealing than what was found in the average grocery store. While grandpa lived up to his acclaimed title of Marshall County Gardner of the Year, grandma maintained the most spectacular flower garden in our community. She grew most every flower she could coax to grow and took care of them like they were her own children. People would stop by just to view the majesty of the colorful tulips, carnations, zinnias, petunias, and every other flower that showed up year after year. Sometimes if people were lucky, grandma would give away a flower or two here and there to a passerby, she actually did this quite often, kind-hearted as she was. She also always took time each week in the summer to visit the local nursing home, delivering her flowers to the residents, some who had nothing to look forward to besides her weekly visits and beautiful floral creations.

It was quite obvious that Grandpa and Grandma Lansing lived for Spring and Summer, however the Fall and Winter months were not dormant times for them. Grandpa loved history, especially local and state history. He loved to learn about the past and how things came to be. He filled notebook after notebook with his findings and let me, my brother, and some of my cousins tag along on his weekend historical adventures on the weekends if we were so inclined. I probably went along the most of anyone; it was so cool, so much better than reading about the past in school year after year in social studies class. While grandpa compiled his history, grandma read. Grandma loved reading mystery books; she read books nearly as fast as they appeared on the local library's shelves. She even traveled to nearby towns and cities to explore their libraries, wanting to get her hands on all mystery books that existed.

At a young age, I discovered that my dad and my sister had a lot of similar interests and habits and that my mom and my brother were very similar as well as they were both talkative and constantly dividing their time amongst social functions and always doing what it took to be the life of the party, so to speak. I really didn't have much in common with either of my parents, except I looked like my dad, and, like my sister, had inherited his thick, wavy, dark brown hair, dark brown eyes, and tall, lanky build. However, our similarities ended there, while my dad and sister demonstrated obstinate and serious personalities and were more interested in keeping to themselves and living by their own principles than being active in the social circuit, I loved learning, trying new things, and meeting new people although not at the level of my mom and brother.

By appearance, one would never guess that Matt and I were brothers, with his curly blonde hair, bright blue eyes, and muscular build. He had a girlfriend by the age of eight, and many others in line at the chance that he might notice them, this trend continued into high school, and well into college. I just never understood it…

Although I knew my parents loved me, there were times I seriously doubted their commitment to me. My dad was always one to be in control of each and every situation; he wouldn't accept not being without a fight. His way was always the only way, the "right" way; there was no room to compromise, not ever. Being easygoing by nature and one who learned by trial and error, he and I rarely meshed. It seemed to upset him, that I was not like him; that I did not share his worldviews. Although Matt did not exactly see eye to eye with him either, they seemed to both judge people and the world as a whole the same way, in a way totally opposite of the way I saw things. If it weren't for my inheriting his outstanding athletic ability, I'm not sure we would've been able to co-exist. Matt's forte' was obviously football and Steph's was basketball, but I was more of an all-around athlete, like my dad had been in his high school years. I played wide-receiver on the football team, shooting guard on the basketball team, specialized in hurdles on the track team and dominated the shortstop position on the baseball field throughout middle and high school. I loved sports, but they weren't my life, although my dad wanted them to be.

My mom worked as a secretary and bookkeeper at a local law office and often worked overtime, so she wasn't around a great deal of the time. When she wasn't working, she was usually organizing or participating in a community, school, or social event of some sort. She was very popular and well-liked by the general population, totally opposite of my father. How they were ever attracted to one another, I'll never understand.

Chapter 3

Attraction to the opposite sex… a complete mystery to me for a great number of years… Yeah, there were definitely girls out there who were drop-dead gorgeous and who definitely caught my eye in my middle and high school years, but it wasn't like I wanted to be around them all the time. I led such a busy and varied life with my advanced studies, participation in four sports, and time spent with my grandparents, that the dating and partying of my peers seemed so trivial and pointless. I never tried drinking or smoking, like most everyone else my age, although the opportunities were there over and over again. Oh I heard a lot of flack for it, but I guess I really didn't care, I wasn't going to do anything I saw no point in, and I didn't need it socially. Although my life didn't revolve around the social sector, I hung with lots of people and was quite popular due to my athletic talent and knowledge and understanding of so many subjects. By the time I was in high school, it was common for classmates, and even adults sometimes to ask my opinion on most anything and even turn to me for advice when the need arose.

Although, I don't remember a lot of specific details about my childhood, I do remember a lot from my teen years, almost like the events happened yesterday, and when I sit down and think about it, it's likely that I wouldn't be where I am today if some of these events had not happened. It's funny I remember them in such detail now, after really not considering them for a great number of years.

When I was around the age of thirteen, my family and I started attending a new church in Superior City, I can't remember my parents reasoning for the switch. However, I really didn't care one way or another, I knew it was somewhere I'd be every Sunday. The one thing my parents had in common was their view of the importance of attending church every Sunday, unless we were away somewhere as a family over the weekend, which was an extremely rare occurrence.

This was the year I was to complete the process of confirmation into the church, something I was less than excited about, and a little frustrated that the only two kids I knew in my class of seventeen were my cousin, Brad, and his friend, Russ. Most of the other kids, including Brad and Russ, all went to school together, so I really didn't fit in, but my interest in sports and knowledge that helped my team come out on top in most any game or quiz as a part of class seemed to get me by. Out of a total of seventeen, there were only four girls in the class; none of us guys really paid much attention to them, they were just there, and usually annoying.

That Spring, when track season rolled around, I was at the first track meet of the year over at Campton, a town about a half hour away from my own, just sitting around with some guys on my team between events over by the high jump pit, when these two giggly girls approached us. I didn't recognize either of them, so I figured they must know one of my teammates, somehow. I looked at my friends, but none of them seemed to greet the girls, they all just looked at them curiously, especially when the walked right up to me and stood by my feet. You have to understand, a girl or in this case, girls paying sole attention to me was a rare occurrence. I was extremely confused, but decided it was alright, these girls weren't exactly bad looking, whoever they were. The tall, skinny one, with the blonde, curly hair finally spoke up…

"You're Jason, aren't you?" she quizzed. "Uh, yeah" I replied still a bit on the uncertain side.

"We've heard a lot about you," piped up the shorter, dark-haired girl. "Our friend, Elizabeth, has the biggest crush on you."

Just as she uttered that last word, the other girl jabbed her in the ribs with her elbow and exclaimed, "Oh God, I can't believe you said that, Elizabeth is gonna kill us!" Then she looked at me and exclaimed "Bye!" as she grabbed the hand of the other girl and ran off toward the bleachers on the far side of the track.

The guys didn't let me live that one down for a long, long time. They thought there was something I wasn't telling them I guess. I had no idea how those two girls from Campton knew me; or who in the world this Elizabeth could be. I knew no one by that name, well no one close to my age anyway.

Whenever those girls happened to be at a track meet we were, the guys always made sure I noticed them, it got a little annoying. Those girls seemed to keep their eye on me and stay in fairly close proximity of me, something that started to make me feel uncomfortable. Although I have to admit, it was slightly flattering to consider the idea that a girl somewhere was interested in me, but I never, ever let that on to anyone, not even my best friends or cousins.

Then the day came in confirmation class when the teacher decided it was time she paired some of us guys up with the girls for an activity, something we openly objected to but did not win. I was paired up with this fairly tall, auburn-haired girl I knew nothing about, because she didn't go to school with Brad and Russ, like the other three girls in the class.

She didn't look exactly thrilled to work with me, so until the teacher called her Elizabeth, I had no idea that this could be the girl who had made me popular with those mysterious Campton girls. We completed the activity, but when we were done, we both just went back to original seats, and didn't pay any further attention to each other; at least that's how I perceived it… until I happened to notice her put on a blue Campton Cougars jacket on as she left the class.

For some reason, a slight bit of anger built up inside of me, so this was the girl, who was causing me trouble, it had to be. Her friends had gotten more and more annoying each time I saw them. It was odd to me though that I never saw Elizabeth herself at the track meets, especially the ones at Campton, I mean if she supposedly had a crush on me, as her friends claimed. This was really weird… I tried to just forget about her and this whole situation, but for some reason it proved to be impossible. I now had noticed her looking at me occasionally in class and in church, a little more than probably what would be considered normal, but whenever she caught my eye, she immediately focused her attention elsewhere to mask the fact. What exactly was going on here?

Chapter 4

Well, I made it through confirmation and the rest of the track season, basically putting this all in the back of my mind since nothing significant in regards to this situation really happened. I didn't forget about it, but there were hundreds of other things that were more important.

With summer came baseball; I played on two teams, the Superior Select and the Carter Teeners; so there was rarely a day that went by where I didn't have a practice or a game. I was by far the star of the Carter squad, although I tried my best to not let it get to my head. Honestly, I preferred playing on the Superior team because the competition was tougher and we are all equally talented which seemed to bring us more together as a team, in my perspective anyway. But, don't get me wrong, I enjoyed playing on the Carter team, as well, it was more laid back, and probably more fun. Also, all my friends from school were on the team, which made it all the better. Although I'd gotten to know a lot of the guys on the Superior team since I was invited to play on it last year as well, none of them went to my school; we were from all of the towns surrounding Superior City. One of the coaches, Coach Jenners was from Carter, so I always rode to practices and games with him. He played college baseball, and was a lot of fun to hang around. I learned a lot from him and got it in my head that I wanted to play college baseball too, after going to a few of his games with some of my teammates and getting the chance to watch a few practices, and meet some of his teammates.

One morning, when I actually had nothing I had to do, I ventured out to get the mail, something I never did; my sister usually dashed for it, like she was sure she'd be receiving a million dollars in the mail, that day or something. I was surprised I beat her to it actually. Then, I remembered that mom had mentioned to me before she left that morning that Steph and Matt were starting day camp that day at Blake Cove.

As I took the mail from the mailbox, I was surprised to see an envelope addressed to me, with no return address on me. As I felt the envelope, it was obviously not a card, and there was no reason I'd be getting a card from anyone anyway; my birthday was four months away. I tore open the envelope to find a neatly folded piece of stationery. The letter took up all of one page. Before, I read it; I looked at the signature… Elizabeth Briggs. Although a brief; and I mean a very brief smile crossed my face, when I first saw that, I wasn't exactly thrilled by the words in that letter, although deep down I knew it had probably taken her a great deal of courage to write them. You have to understand, Elizabeth wasn't exactly a girl all the guys were interested in; she wasn't what they would call girlfriend material. It wasn't that she repulsed me or anything; I just wasn't interested in girls pursuing me at that time. The whole thing scared me; it stirred up emotions inside of me that I'd never dealt with before. I came to the conclusion then and there that I didn't have to deal with this and I wasn't going to, I never asked for this. I crumpled the letter up and tossed it in the small wastebasket in the living room; probably not the wisest move on my part…

I was at baseball practice when mom got home from work that day. When she got home, she frantically all but tore the house apart looking for the key to the file cabinet in my dad's office where she kept some important papers she needed for something or other when she tipped over the wastebasket. Although, she normally would've just put everything back in it and continued with her search, the light blue piece of stationery with the gold border caught her eye for some reason and she was soon reading the words on the paper with a look of interest on her face and a great deal of curiosity in her mind. Now, looking for the key had suddenly become unimportant. Just then, my sister and brother came home, and mom just couldn't help but share what she found with them. Just what a guy wants; his ten year old sister and eleven year old brother seeing a letter of that sort. Needless to say, I heard all about it when I got home… and the next day, and the day after that, and…

As the days went by, my mom wouldn't leave me alone. She kept asking me who this Elizabeth was and how I knew her. I got real sick of it fast, and started snapping at her more than usual, it seems silly now, but I didn't even know this girl she was trying to find out more about; I just didn't want the hassle. Baseball season was my favorite time of the year and I wasn't going to let a girl ruin it for me.

After a few weeks, mom laid off and hardly spoke of it again, until she came home from a work day at church with what she called some big news. Not thinking it could be anything that would concern me; I politely let her tell me about it. It turns out she spent all day working with a lady named Patti Briggs and her daughter Elizabeth, who mom claimed was just as sweet as can be. That was it; I mumbled to mom that I was going over to Grandpa and Grandma Lansing's and sprinted out the door into the garage, where I hopped on my ten-speed and took off down the road like lightning.

I found grandpa out in the garden, digging up potatoes, without saying a word; I picked up a shovel and helped out. Grandpa smiled and greeted me, promising me some of grandma's famous meatloaf and mashed potatoes for supper. As we worked side by side; I started feeling a lot better, all but forgetting about what troubled me.

That's the thing about grandparents, they seem to always know when you are out of sorts, even if it's just a little, or not noticeable to anyone else. Later, after supper, while grandma worked her daily crossword puzzle and watched Wheel of Fortune in the living room, grandpa and I played a game of dominos in the kitchen, a game we'd played since I first understood it, around the age of four or five. It was our tradition, you could say.

I suppose I was a little less talkative than usual, although I'm not really sure what tipped grandpa off when he said, "You know Jason if you ever want to talk, you know I'm always here." I smiled and nodded, we finished our game without another word, I said my good-byes, and took off on my bike towards home, seriously contemplating the thought of talking to grandpa to try and sort out this confusion. I could always count on what I said to him to stay between us, something I really respected and appreciated about him.


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