Since we live in the city and not the new suburbs, there are few sidewalks and few parks. We have about 3 routes we take when we walk, but sometimes we stay closer to home. Then, for me, the most notable place is Will Rogers High School. It is a beautiful Art Deco building constructed in the 1930s. I have been inside a couple of times and it is stunning in décor as well. We don't build school buildings like that any more. They are so much more utilitarian. Next to the school is the athletic field where they are constructing a new field house and bleachers. There is someone there who checks temperatures before the men can actually go to work.
Some of the more interesting people or things we see are beautiful crepe myrtles or immaculate yards. There is one elderly man on one route who sits in his yard some mornings. There is not a blade of grass out of place and the shrubs are so neat. Most mornings when we see him, he is doing something in the yard, edging, trimming, or sitting in his chair which is a permanent fixture in his front yard. One house has a sign that says “A woman's place is in the resistance.” Yeah! For her. We keep thinking we will see someone at that house and ask them about that. So far, no luck! One house has a beautiful tile mosaic on the side. You can hardly see it for all the plants and other things in the yard.
Whether it is wooded, or nature filled, I like walking and it is my favorite way to get some exercise. I really enjoy being outside and stretching my legs and feeling the power of that. I really can't describe the sensation, but it is so satisfying! I am with Jan on this one. My pulled muscle appears to have resolved itself after two weeks off and I am very grateful for the opportunity to return to a favorite pastime.
I walk in the neighborhood most every morning except Sunday. Most days I walk with our dog Bella, and a couple of days a week I walk by myself on wooded park trails. When Bella walks with me, I let her choose the route, which means we could be headed anywhere her nose leads us. This morning, she pulled me up the cement trail behind our house and veered out onto some neighborhood streets for a large loop around several blocks before heading back toward the mulch trail that adjoins the large regional park a short distance from our house.
Most of our neighbors are Indian, and in the mornings I meet several groups of two or three women walking together. I notice this morning that most are wearing masks, but I am not, as our state mask mandate does not apply when exercising. I also have noticed that most of these women wear leggings, some capri-length and some ankle-length. A few wear simple saris over their capris, but most wear T-shirts. This morning I wonder how long these women have been in the U.S. and how many other American customs they now observe. They smile and wave or say "Good morning," when I meet them, but they usually wait for me to greet them first--I wonder why. When I meet an older Indian couple, as I often do, the woman always wears traditional clothing, walks behind the man, and neither looks my direction. If I say hello, they usually ignore me.
This morning, Bella and I meet an Indian man with a dog--a Shih Tzu, I think--named Toby. Bella is excited to greet Toby, and his owner stops to chat a moment and let them sniff each other. Very few Indian families have dogs, but I'm beginning to see more and more of them. I wonder about this also. Our next-door neighbors just got a puppy for their 6-year-old daughter Isabel, and they don't seem to know what to do with it. Keeping pets is an American custom that the parents adopt when their children beg for them, I think. Most of their children were born in the U.S., so they will be American. I often wonder about the tensions this will lead to.
Just as Bella and I approach the mulch trail on our way back home, I notice a young deer standing near the edge of a wooded Karst area, one of many that dot our neighborhood. Karst areas feature sinkholes basically, and I recall the sinkhole not far from where the deer stands in which Tim found a sleeping skunk last fall. (Hint: Let sleeping skunks lie!). The deer freezes and watches us for a moment; Bella doesn't see him at first. I stop as well and we stare at each other until he decides I'm not a threat and begins to eat again. Bella notices the movement and sits down on the grass to watch. He soon moves into the trees and Bella pulls at her leash and whines a little--I'm not sure what she thinks, but she loves seeing deer. I do too! A few feet further, I see there are two more deer among the trees. Bella is busy sniffing the trail and the air and doesn't see them. They watch as we walk by, without calling more attention to themselves. Bella soon forgets and we continue on our way.
After more than a year now in our new home, these streets, the trails, and the nearby park are almost as familiar for our twice-daily walks as the interior features of our home. Yet every day there is something or someone new to see, and always new thoughts to accompany them.
It’s raining this morning and we go out on our bike ride anyway. It feels cool and refreshing. We need the rain badly. The swans and the ducks are swimming in the lake, not hiding from the hot sun. But dog walkers and joggers are nowhere present. I recall the Wizard of Oz story, where the witch melted away when she got wet, and I think of my middle years when I avoided the rain because it would ruin my hairdo. Now I just let it run off me and enjoy it.
I see that the neighborhood flowers I watch on my morning rides are bent over from the storm, but I can almost hear them saying, “Don’t worry about me, this is just what I need. I’ll straighten up tomorrow.” Some of the blossoms will be gone, but there will be new buds arriving soon, including on my two Mother’s Day rose bushes alongside my garage. The roses on those bushes start out as bright red buds, open as dark rose, and over the days fade into the soft pink of wild roses, whose old petals fall into the soil and become compost for the future.
Organizing my thoughts about aging was very difficult this week, and I had decided not to contribute until I came across this quote from, of all people, Sophia Loren: “There is a fountain of youth: it is your mind, your talents, the creativity you bring to your life and the lives of people you love. When you learn to tap this source, you will truly have defeated age.” Beautifully said!
I have a lot of feelings about aging. I don’t want to get older. I feel like I’ve finally figured out some things that I wish I’d known earlier and now it’s too late to use them. It’s frustrating. And I don’t want to stop living. Death feels so much closer now (well, actually it is so much closer now) and I’m not ready. I like my life and there are things I want to do. And I’m not 100% sure there’s anything after death, so that’s a terrible thought---that I could actually cease to exist at all. And I don’t like the gradual loss of physical abilities that I took for granted at a younger age.
There’s another piece of this, however, that I think is much more important. Perhaps our experiences over time have made us ready for a new stage in our spiritual development. I’ve been reading a book by Henri Nouwen about the prodigal son parable, and I saw some things in a new light, some of which relate to aging. He says that we can all see ourselves in both of the sons, one who is irresponsible and callous, and one who is self-righteous and resentful. I’ve inhabited both of those roles many times and if I let myself I can start down the path of self-condemnation pretty easily. But Nouwen says the parable isn’t really about the sons. Rather, it should be titled “The Parable of the Compassionate Father.” The father’s love is open and forgiving, even joyful. It doesn’t judge and it calls everyone to “come home.” Nouwen suggests that this is the role we should move toward as we get older. We are to show God’s love to others, “every single other,” as my church says every week. This includes ourselves, but mostly it’s about others. Of course everyone at every age should strive to be compassionate. However, I believe that all of the experiences of our lives and the hard-won wisdom we have acquired make us uniquely suited for this task.
We're now the seniors, the ignored and the irrelevant in American society. Our experiences, however vast and however edifying, aren't afforded much value. During the pandemic, we're the generation most expendable. The Corona virus is downplayed as "only killing the elderly." which means younger folk needn't take precautions--either for themselves or for the protection of their elderly friends and family. My own state's Lieutenant Governor even suggested that older folks should be eager to sacrifice themselves for the benefit of the economy we leave our children and grandchildren. Just die already! Presumably so everyone else can just resume the capitalistic, consumeristic lives they lived before. Oh my.
In spite of reasons for bitterness, I'm really just grateful to be in the position I'm in. Now retired, I don't have to worry about losing a job. I don't have to worry about child care or panic about the upcoming school year (though I'm concerned for my grandchildren, I don't have control over those decisions). I'm in good health, thank God, and am actually not all that anxious about contracting the virus. Reading and writing have always been my favorite pastimes, and it's glorious to have more time for both now. I'm also less concerned about the appearances that used to consume so much of my energy. I recently decided to let my hair go gray and grow as long as it wants to. I may work up the nerve to let Tim trim the ends at some point, but there's no need for desperate measures yet. I'd already given up makeup (although I admit to still powdering my nose for the occasional Zoom meeting). I can even wear ratty shorts to Zoom church if I choose to!
While I may sometimes chafe at being part of the discounted generation, there is freedom in not attracting attention, and I'm learning to embrace that. It's part of the process of letting go. Letting go of intense responsibilities, and letting go of the need to plan seriously beyond the next year or two. I'll continue efforts to make the world a better place where I can, but I'm letting go of the pressure to usher in Utopia all on my own and in my lifetime. I still have one vote, and I'll use it to express my values; I'll try to approach each day and each person with kindness and mercy. I'll never be too old for that.
What was I thinking when I suggested that idea??
Winter, Spring, Summer, Fall. Usually the last of the Seasons and Time for everything to be winding down.
But it has been suggested to me, that the Fall, instead of the "going dormant" season, is the Harvest season. Celebrations come with the Harvest. It is not the bright renewal of Spring, but it can be a time for new things in my life. A renaissance time: as responsibilities are let go, time opens for different ideas, new people, daring to think new ways about old ideas.
My values are changing and my emotional responses are more balanced. There are fewer people I would go out of my way for, and fewer things that really make me angry. I will always speak for justice, for love and compassion; the homeless on the streets will always be a burden on my heart.
There is no longer the need, in me, to serve on committees, and have a "voice in matters of importance". I really don't want to work that hard, but I will pray for justice and healthcare for everyone. I will vote to support those who appear to hold those values.
As I became later middle-aged I noticed that I became invisible to younger people, now that i am actually old, I've disappeared entirely. My wardrobe is not even noticed, and my hair color is the perfect disguise for having a working brain.
Now I am fee to nap in the afternoon if I choose with no deadlines being thrown off. I can take classes with no concern about picking someone up or being on time. I can start learning to paint without fear of doing it "right". And buy all the colors that I want and really good brushes!
The losses ahead of me will be no more painful than those behind. I know I stood back up after big blows and will be stronger when another comes. I am grateful for old friends who support me as I journey, and I want to be a caring friend to y'all also.
The Beatles sang out, “When I’m 64,” and we all thought we’d never get there. Now it seems young to me. People always say, “I feel young until I look into the mirror.” But I use wrinkle cream and keep the gray out of my hair. But this pandemic has me reevaluating my own prejudices about revealing my age. Why do I have to look younger? Why do I have to look beautiful in the way our culture sees beauty? I realize that I have “drunk the Kool-aid” when it comes to my appearance. Having had a mother who was a beautician, and a sister who taught me style has kept this cultural norm active in me.
So I am growing out my real hair color. I’m finding that it isn’t gray yet, but it is the same old dull dark blonde it always was, the same hair that doesn’t curl and doesn’t cooperate with any hairdo. I’m taking it one step at a time, and learning to live with the real me. I’m not tanning this summer either, since I only go outside once a day, for 40 minutes on my bike, usually early in the morning. And I haven’t worn make-up since March, not even to go to the mailbox!
If I can keep myself healthy, I do not mind getting older. The younger look was mostly to get younger people to listen or respect me, but I am retired, and I am tired of trying to tell others that I have some wisdom that could be shared if they gave me a chance. “When I am old I shall wear purple” or orange or large polka dots or dizzying patterns. I shall let my teeth get yellow, and watch my gray blue eyes fade into a truer blue.
When this topic was brought up, I thought about not participating this week. Sometimes I am okay with aging and sometimes I am not. I do know that I am a bit easier to get along with and have fewer fears than I used to. However, there are lots of things I would still like to do and I am not sure I have time or the physical stamina for some of them. My husband would like to hike the Appalachian Trail and that is supposed to take several months. I am not at all sure about that so we will see. What I do know is that our age difference can make for differing perspectives on a lot of things. Things I could do when I was his age I can't do anymore, not all but some.
I turned 75 during the pandemic and it hardly seems possible that I am that age. I don't like the wrinkles, the thinning hair, the sagging breasts, or the loss of muscle and strength. I can tell you I am still vain about my appearance. On the other hand, I have really felt fortunate that I am the age that I am so I did not have to be concerned about getting to work and staying safe. It is great not to have be concerned about dressing for a group everyday. With Zoom, all that can be seen is the head and shoulders so I can wear a t-shirt from a campaign or Thrivent that I wouldn't wear if I was leaving the house.
My hope is that I will continue to age well and not be constantly having to go to the doctor. I am so fortunate that I feel well and don't have lots of aches and pains. There is a lot to be thankful for and I believe that is what I will focus on. It will happen no matter what I do. Taking it one day at a time does work and I plan to keep at that.
There are two stories involving names in my family. One is touching, and the other funny. My dad died when I was 10 months pregnant with his first grandchild, so my husband and I decided that we would use my maiden name, which is Kirk, as a middle name if we had a son. We could not come up with a suitable first name, so he became Kirk Andrew. It gives me much joy to have honored my dad in this way and I know that he is proud to have such a fine man using his surname.
The other story involves the younger son and his wife. When they were married, she retained her maiden name, Sullivan, and his last name is Winkelman. After their daughter was born, they unofficially called themselves the Sulliwinks. I recently found out that my late husband’s 94 year old mother was upset because she thought that Joel had changed his last name to Sulliwink! And, truly, I would not care if that were actually the case because I believe it doesn’t really matter what you call yourself, as long as you retain your true identity. Besides, it was very clever of them and avoided a long hyphenated name.