The Joy of Aging

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The second cup of coffee sipped quietly as the morning light strengthens
and we stretch out the stiffness.

A leisurely decision about how to spend the day in creative pursuits
nary a worrying about time-clocks and meetings.

Freedom to choose when mundane tasks are done
anytime between now and never.

Shared memories with loved ones only to discover that we lived different
lives together at the same time and place.

Comfort within ourselves as days flow from solitude to companionship
with friends who fill us for more solitude.

Laughter over things gone wrong when once
we were filled with blame and shame.

Comfort in being mortal as faith promises that a worn out body will be
replaced with a new non-titanium being.

Favorite places and times indexed in our brain to visit when current
place and time become too complicated.

Bitter-sweet memories of people who influenced our minds and our lives
but who are no longer walking the earth.

Being who we always have been even as we are different in so many ways.

I’ve been a bit morose as of late. Maybe the noise from the condo above has rattled loose my brighter side. Whatever is going on, I’ve been fretting about roads I wasn’t able to travel, opportunities I couldn’t seek out… and time has run out. Last Sunday in church, the phrase that stuck from our public prayer of confession was, “We look back with regret, rather than with gratitude.” I tried writing an essay from the depth of my morose — hoping to write my way out. It didn’t work. This is my attempt at gratitude because I really do enjoy who I am and where I’m at. If I like where I’m at, the path here couldn’t have been that bad.

Patch, Patch, Patch

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A few years ago, friend Barb said that old age is a process of “patch, patch, patch.” We weren’t that old when she said this but I laughed because I was old enough to begin feeling it. Now I really get it.

In my younger years I went to the doctor with the expectation that whatever was wrong would be fixed. I didn’t have any chronic conditions so with some pills, ointment or a scalpel my acting up body could be made good as new. In the past few years the goal of my medical treatment has shifted. First I am sent for an x-ray or some other more sinister test to make sure there isn’t something “serious” going on. Then the work begins. Patch, patch, patch.

They call it life-style changes – until there isn’t any style left to my life. Maybe I could keep a food diary to find out what is irritating my digestive system – although I already know what foods don’t agree with me. They are the foods I enjoy eating, that I eat when I am with friends or for date night. I’m flexible and can compromise by ordering something different – I suppose. But research says that, after good health, having a strong, caring social network is most import for graceful, happy aging. Sitting around a table, laughing with friends who love me, and sharing food that is good (but not good for me) is just what the researcher ordered. Trumps my doc, although I do a good job of eating healthy foods when I do the cooking.

Another life-style change I have been urged to make is exercising. Now this is even harder for me than changing my eating habits. It is a whole new concept; there is nothing to change because exercise was never a part of my life. I hated gym class. If I hadn’t loved math and English and government classes, I would have quit school because of gym class. Now I am working to embrace exercise as a life-style. I have my feet taped to decrease heal pain so I can walk. I go to a gym to keep my core and legs strong so I don’t fall. I climb stairs to… well, to keep my titanium knees working so I can climb stairs. I carry a step counter in my pocket to motivate me to take a few more every day to keep my bones from breaking. Patch, patch, patch.

I think I’ve accepted the fact that my body is wearing out, meaning that I will face deterioration for the rest of my life. Put like that, it hits hard. It is scary. But I have also felt something close to relief since I accepted this fact. I am no longer fighting a losing battle of trying to get back the body I had 20 years ago. It has helped me focus on what I can do to maintain as much functioning as I can while realizing that I can also relax with the flow of time. There is real joy in taking a guilt-free nap on those days when I need one.

I’ve never been happier. I think this a lot but hesitate to say it out loud. There is a part of me that says that can’t be. How can a person be happiest at 70 when her body is falling apart and death is right around the corner? Wasn’t I happier as a newly wed, as a young mother, when I went back to school, when I was having a successful career? I was very happy then, but this is where I am, and my life is the best I can make it for who I am, what I am, and where I am. I can’t be who I was, and don’t want to be. To add to the lyrics that inspired me in another decade, “I am woman. I am now.”

A Post For My Husband; The Father of Our Children

Some things work better with two.

Some things work better with two.

Yesterday we celebrated Father’s Day by having dinner with our son, his soon-to-be wife, and her two young-adult children from a previous marriage. We had a great time talking and laughing, and the food they prepared was delicious. I have been thinking about the intent of the day, with my thoughts traveling along two different lines. My next post will about my thoughts of how these special days can be painful, but today’s post will feature the memories I have of sharing parenthood with JB. Having him as a co-parent made my work so much easier.

We became parents when work was still divided into men’s work (as in paid jobs, taking care of the cars, and mowing the lawn) and women’s work (all things inside the home if hubby made enough to support her). Women were suppose to take care of babies, but you snuggled our newborns and changed lots of diapers. Even in infancy they knew you were special because you shared your afternoon naps, with them comfortably lying on your chest.

I always ran out of energy right after supper so I had little patience for putting children to bed. You eagerly (most nights) read the bedtime stories to the kids after baths had been taken and they had curled up around you on one of their beds. I was soothed by your gentle voice as I listened from another room.

Thank you for recognizing when they were growing in ability so you changed your method of story telling. You paused at critical times in the stories so they could rewrite the characters and action. I would giggle as I listened to the kids’ giggles and yelps of laughter as they worked to make up wild, nonsensical stories – and this was before Ad Libs were published.

I love remembering the games you played with the kids every night after supper. No, they weren’t quiet board games. Every night you would lie on the living room floor after supper – an invitation to all three kids to tumble and bounce and walk on you. The mayhem would build to crescendo until you would yell for Mommy to come and save you. Long after the kids were too big to play the silly floor games you made up, you played the same games with our grandchildren. And our son was soon romping on the floor with his two little sons after supper every night. I wonder if our oldest grandson is romping with Kaden tonight.

Thanks for those times you stepped in when you heard me loosing my cool because I was unable to comfort a distressed child. I can still hear the words, “I’ll take over.” as you took the sobbing child into your arms and they immediately settled on your shoulder. What a blessing you were.

I am so proud when I think of how you put the needs of our children before your concern about being ridiculed. Remember when Carol’s first grade teacher invited Mommies (and maybe Grandmas) to have lunch with their child. You took extra time off work to be there with Carol because I had a class in East Lansing. You must have been the only Daddy to attend.

I am also grateful that you attended the after school Girl Scout meeting when Sharon was awarded the Gold merit star. It was an event I wanted to attend but couldn’t because I was taking university classes. You were sensitive and gracious enough to take care of both of our needs..

I know you always take care of your things and like your work bench to be in order – at least the order that lets you find things. How amazing that you were generous in letting Michael use your tools and helped him find stashed away lumber so he could build a fort in our back yard. You were always willing to help our children with projects and even when they became adults you continued to teach them how to fix things so that now they are handy and resourceful in keeping their homes and cars well maintained. Now that’s a great dad.

Although we tease you about it now, we all appreciated the hot dogs and canned beans (or grilled cheese and tomato soup) you served up to the kids on all those nights that I wasn’t able to be home because of late night classes.

I am amazed that you took our three kids and two of their friends camping in Canada all by yourself so I could have a week home alone to complete some papers for classes. What a wonderful experience that was for all of you. I know because the kids came home with lots of exciting stories and you came home tired but without battle scars.

Although parenting teens isn’t easy, you hit the mark by driving them to high school, and stopping at Hinkley’s Bakery for a breakfast of doughnuts and chocolate milk. You thought to take them out on country roads on early Sunday mornings in summer to give them driving practice before they began driver training. You knew they wouldn’t be as scared getting behind the wheel when they started class. And then you helped them get cars and taught them how to maintain them so they had wheels to get where they needed to go.

I am so thankful I had the good sense to pick you to be my life partner. There was something I saw in you when we were dating that told me that you would be a great dad. Having a good dad for the children I wanted to have was very important to me and you didn’t let me down. Now, after 50 years of marriage and co-parenting, we can look back and say it wasn’t always easy, and sometimes we made mistakes, but overall it was very, very good.

And now all three of our children are good friends and a source of joy for us. Most important, they respect and love you deeply. Thank you, Sweetheart, for sharing it all with me.

Beach Remembered

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photographing

strangers on the beach

i remember

when morning light danced in the surf

cool air freshness gently touched skin

quiet words need not be spoken

treasures held

stashed in unformed corner

for future retrieving

i remember

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Sunday Post – Simple

Eunice posted on her trip to Churchill’s about a free talk on growing orchids. I have never tried to grow orchids because it seems like they take a lot of care – at least where I have always lived in the northern US where the winters are cold and the inside air is dry.

I have been walking around our neighborhood here in southern Florida, where it is semi-tropical, and one of the simple pleasures are orchids growing wild. Maybe wild isn’t the right word because my neighborhood isn’t wild – by any stretch of the imagination. Better wording would be growing naturally.

I had stopped to take a photo of what I think are ferns that were growing on the side of a tree in a front yard.

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I happened to look up and saw this simple, little orchid – growing out of the crotch of the tree.

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It amazes me how I have worked so hard to make things grow, to make things pretty, when I took them out of their natural environment. My daughter would argue that I failed miserably at the pretty part as she rescued my plants from my care. Scientists have worked hard to learn what makes thing grow so we can replicate the natural in the unnatural environment. Sometimes the result is more pure and beautiful, we have protected against blemish.

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Nature doesn’t grow perfect. Instead bugs eat holes and weather can batter. But when I see them in their natural environment, they seem to grow effortlessly. How simple is that!

This post was inspired by Jake at Jakesprinter. It is part of Sunday Post – Simplicity that you can learn more about here.