And the cat's in the cradle

It's October. It's autumn so it should be time to draw a deep breath and release it. Summer is behind us and winter remains ahead. Fall has long been my favorite season but these days I'm feeling more than a little as if life is rushing past me at full speed.

October is a month of beginnings and endings. I was born in October and so were many of my cousins as well as my younger brother. There are few days in the month that are not someone's birthday or anniversary. Those are the beginnings, including my brother and cousin who were born hours apart the same year, one on the 9th, the other on the 10th. My birthday falls just a few days shy of Halloween and when I was born, my cousin followed. If you get deep into family history, technically she's my second cousin twice removed — I think. My grandmother and her dad are cousins so we're cousins, one way or another. We shared space in the hospital nursery and had the same crowd cooing over our bassinets.

But October is also about endings. When I was born, in the same short span of time, my grandmother's aunt departed this life. In more recent years, both my maternal grandmother and my favorite aunt died in October.

As twilight comes earlier and a chill settles into the air, it's good weather for football games or a walk in the park or woods. It's a pleasant season to star gaze when skies are clear. It's the season for chili and stew and chicken and dumplings. It's the time of year I bake apple cakes and pies. I bake with pumpkin as well — bread, pie and cake. Although I bake bread any time of the year, it somehow tastes better when the days are cooler.

Last October, my husband's health took a downturn which culminated in unplanned surgery during Thanksgiving week. Three more surgeries later, our lives have changed drastically. But we continue on, one day at a time because it is what is.

This year, my daughters will both graduate from college in December which marks another beginning. My son is a senior and graduation looms closer and closer with each passing day. I've noted his "last" football homecoming and after May, it will seem strange not to have a kid in school. I've had at least one child in school since the fall of 2001.

My days are hurried and my nights are long. When I'm not working, I'm reading or snatching precious moments with my family. My fiction writing has slowed to a crawl because I'm so busy, always going or doing, always with somewhere that I need to be.

I'm reminded of an old favorite song, one that many will also remember. "Cat's in the cradle" was a hit for Harry Chapin. Although Chapin was a prolific and popular song writer, he's best remembered for this song because it touches a common chord with many.

I was a stay at home mom from the time my daughters were born until my son was in the second grade. I returned to work and so that my hours would match the kids', I was a substitute teacher for eight years, more than I ever intended. So I was there for many of the parties and programs. I had summers with them and more time than I do now.

Autumn is a glorious season but it's always a little bittersweet because we know winter is coming. It's a time of changes but there's always a new season on the way. I'm enjoying October but I am all too aware that the cat's in the cradle, Chapin style.

— Lee Ann Sontheimer Murphy is a writer and an author as well as a reporter for the Neosho Daily News. She writes a weekly column.