“Where’re you from?”

That question always make me sigh. You see, I lived in 5 towns and 4 states by the time I was 15. My dad kept getting better jobs in new places so off we’d go. As I read recently in a book by Tracy K. Smith, we’d “throw ourselves into new schools with blind hope.”

I usually answer that question with “We moved a lot, all over the Midwest.” Sometimes that just confuses people. If I’m feeling a bit ornery, I’ll give them the line about “4 elementary schools, 1 junior high, and 2 high schools.” That usually gets a pitying “Wow.”  I find a weird satisfaction in that.

When I had kids of my own, I wanted them to have a Home to come home to. I wanted for them what the retired man I live with had growing up in Munhall, right outside Pittburgh. We couldn’t recreate the huge extended family nearby (my parents were in Ohio and my mother-in-law was in Munhall), but we could give them Home right here in NC.

For part of their childhood, their dad traveled all of NC and SC as a salesman of surgical instruments. He was gone at least a couple of nights a week for most of their elementary years. He spent so much time in Columbia, SC, that I joked about his other family in SC. (The girls still don’t think that’s funny.) It would have made sense for us to move to Columbia or Greenville, SC, but I said no. I didn’t want to uproot our kids and make them leave Home. We all paid the price for staying Home.

He made up for being gone with “quests” and many outings like the Science Center zoo on the weekends. He gave them unconditional love and doting attention. I appreciated him taking them away on Saturdays! Maybe he tried harder to be a good dad because he was gone so much.

Now the girls are gone, married with kids of their own. The retired man I live with and I have started having the The Conversation about downsizing. We moved across town into this big house when our kids were 11 and 13, 25 years ago. It has served us well, but it’s more house than we need now.

Just in the last few days, I’ve realized our house is Home to only two of us. Our kids each have a Home of their own. Our house is Mom and Dad’s house or Amma and Grandpa’s house for our daughters.

It’s okay for us to give up this house, our Home, and find a smaller, all-on-level, less-expensive-to-maintain Home. Do I look forward to the sorting and purging process? Of course not. But I do like the idea of having less stuff. It’s time.

The main challenge of aging, it seems, is to feel and accept all the change and losses along the way. Leaving Home will be a challenge and a loss for all of us.

Maybe it can be an adventure, too.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements
Published in: on June 23, 2016 at 11:13 am  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Brave Heart

Adaline, my 6-year-old granddaughter, jumped off the diving board at their neighborhood pool for the first time last Saturday, paddled to the ladder by herself, got out and said “That was awesome! Can I do it again?” And she did, many times. (Her mother was in the water close by.)

She also tried diving a couple of times and, of course, belly flopped. We adults all flinched, but she thought that was awesome, too.

Do you remember that feeling of accomplishment when you tried something new and did it? Maybe riding a bike or roller skating? Hitting a baseball or kicking a soccer goal for the first time? Playing a song on the piano or the the violin?

When was the last time you tried something new? When was the last time you were that excited and proud of yourself?

When was the last time you tried something new, belly flopped, and still thought it was fun?

At what point in life do we begin to censor ourselves? To protect ourselves from embarrassment or judgment? To care more about what other people think than about the thrill of just trying?

Who decides what is success and what is failure?

I don’t have all those answers.

What I do know is that as I’ve gotten older, I care less about what other people think and more about figuring out what feels right for me.

I was the “good girl,” the responsible kid, the rule-follower most of my life. I was teacher’s pet in 5th grade. (Please teachers, don’t ever do that to a kid.) I started to move out of that role in my 40’s and 50’s. I developed a smart-ass sense of humor that not everyone gets to hear. I found a faith that gives me confidence to be my real self. I try new things that feel a bit risky.

When I decided to stop coloring my gray hair in my 50’s, I felt daring and different in a good way. Then a few years later, I got purple and red glasses. They go with my hair. I like to to shake things up occasionally, do the unexpected.

My next challenge to myself is starting a writing group at the local day center for the homeless. I’m nervous, but excited. My friend, Shana, who works there, says I’ll be fine. What I know now that I didn’t 20 years ago is if I’m not fine, I can stop. It’s a volunteer job, my choice.

There is freedom in knowing I have choices in my life. I can take care of myself and be available for others, too.

I like being older these days. I like being a “wise elder” with younger people. After church yesterday, a young dad told me he still uses a suggestion I made at a Parents of Teens workshop a couple of years ago. That feels wonderful!

I hope Adaline always remembers that glow of accomplishment, especially when hard things come along, like multiplication and fractions and fickle friends. If she can jump off a diving board into water where she can’t touch the bottom at 6 years old, she can do anything!

I want to be like Adaline when I grow up.

 

 

 

Published in: on June 6, 2016 at 3:12 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Snapshot

I forget sometimes that other people read what I write on this blog. Or maybe I underestimate the impact of my words.

My cousin lives in Minneapolis. We’re not particularly close, although we care about each other. We talk a few times a year. I talk to his mother, my aunt, more often and she keeps us up-to-date on each other.

He texted my husband recently to find out if I was okay. He and my aunt saw my last blog post about being depressed and isolated (see it here) and were worried about me.

I called him back the next day and assured him I was okay, though still somewhat depressed. I think I sounded kind of perky. I tried to. Was that dishonest? I don’t think so. I am okay and also depressed.

Or maybe my therapist is right–I’m grieving. My brother died July 12, 2013. Since he died two years ago, I’ve had one medical issue after another, barely healing from one surgery before needing the next. I told my therapist it feels like emotional PTSD. My friend, Kim, a grief counselor, tells me the symptoms of grief are the same as depression symptoms. Oh. How do I know the difference? Does it matter?

My grief is bigger than my brother dying. I miss having a body that I don’t have to think about. I miss being able to chase after my grandchildren. Adaline asked me to jump with her the other day. I told her I couldn’t really jump. “Oh, you can’t do that anymore, Amma?” she said. I wanted to cry. I was angry because I had to add jumping to my list of things I can’t do. I felt old.

I started this blog when I had one grandchild, Adaline. I wanted her to know me as a person with feelings and fears and hopes and problems. Now I have 2 more grandchildren–Maggie and Atticus. And I still write so they will have a way to know me when I’m not around anymore. I’m getting to know me better, too.

I’m sorry that I worried my aunt and my cousin. I write these posts as the spirit moves me and they reflect the moment that I’m in. Two hours after I finish, I might be far beyond those particular concerns and feelings. But my written words stay in that moment.

Each blog post is just a snapshot, a captured moment in my life.

I think I should write more on days I feel good!

Published in: on July 9, 2015 at 3:56 pm  Comments (9)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Be Careful, She’s Old

I warned my daughters about drivers like me.

When we moved into our home 24 years ago, our girls were 13 and 11.  It’s a neighborhood of houses built in the 1950’s. In 1991, original owners lived in many of them.  I was 40, they were in their 60’s and 70’s and often drove a Buick or a Mercury.

One of the worst tasks of parenting is riding with a 15-year-old who is quite sure she can drive just fine but really she can’t. She never starts braking soon enough for a stop light and the imaginary brake on your side does nothing to help. Neither does yelling, but it feels like it helps.  As the girls got their learner’s permits and began driving, I consistently warned them about cars where you could barely see the driver’s head over the headrest or drivers with grey hair. “They can be kind of unpredictable,” I’d say.  “They don’t always drive at a steady speed and sometimes they stop way far behind the car in front of them.”

Yesterday, I got the OK from my neurosurgeon to drive for the 1st time since my neck fusion surgery Dec 2.  I was thrilled.  He did suggest a co-pilot until I got used to not being able to turn my head like I used to.  I skipped that step and drove on not-busy streets yesterday and today.  The only problem I can see is when I back out of a parking place.  My car has a backup camera that helps a lot, but it’s still hard to tell if a car is coming.  Maybe you should be careful around bright blue Prius’s in parking lots for a while.

I used to be 5’3” tall.  Not tall, I know, but not totally shrimpy, either.  Unfortunately, I shrank to barely 5’1” at my last measuring.  I hope my neck fusion stretched me back up some, but I don’t know yet.  I doubt you can see the top of my head if you drive behind me.

So here I am: the driver I warned my daughters about.  Short. Grey hair. Driving real carefully. With a foam collar around my neck.  (I don’t stop way back from the person in front of me and I don’t drive a Buick.  I guess for baby boomers, it’s a hybrid. We have 2–a Prius or a Camry.)

So, you young whippersnappers, someday you, too, will become the old people you warn your kids about.

You won’t feel old, though.

It helps if you can laugh about it.

Published in: on January 21, 2015 at 5:34 pm  Comments (6)  
Tags: , , ,

From My Slightly ADD Brain

1.  My new antidepressant and my not-quite-as-new drug for rheumatoid arthritis are working together to get me back to “ME.”  I feel like Robin again and I’m very grateful.  A friend told me yesterday she was glad I was back.  I said, “Me, too.”  I told my therapist I thought I might be on a “pink cloud” and she asked if I meant euphoria.  I said, “Yes!” and that I was afraid it wouldn’t last.  She said she thought maybe I just felt good and I said, “Oh, you mean I’ve reached a level like normal?” She said, “Yes” and we both laughed really hard.  I look back now at how I felt in December and January and recognize I have an illness that, untreated, depresses my spirit and takes away all joy.  I choose today to do all I can not to live that way.  I choose to step fully into each unique day..

2.  My current book is “This Is The Story of A Happy Marriage” by Ann Patchett.  It’s a collection of essays by a novelist.  She writes some about writing and a lot about her life.  I love to read how she puts words together.  In the essay that gave the book its title, she describes the deterioration of one of her marriages.  A friend asked her, “Does your husband make you a better person?  Are you smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Does he make you better?”

3.  As I get some older–I’m 62 today–I have less physical and emotional energy.  I treasure my energy on any given day.  I had none when my depression was at its worst.  It varies now from day to day.   I think I will use the questions below when I need to choose how to use my time and energy:

Will _____ make you a better person?  Will you be smarter, kinder, more generous, more compassionate, a better writer?  Will ______ make you better?

4.  A week ago we had an ice storm.  Actually, we had a sleet-snow-freezing rain storm that took away the power of 143,000 in our county alone.  The retired man I live with and I lost our electricity for 34 hours, but we have gas logs and a small generator to power tv and lights and the microwave.  Our daughter, son-in-law and their chatty 4-year-old and their constantly moving almost-two year old endured 4 days.  My daughter sounded worse each day in the very brief conversations we had because she had to turn on the car to charge the phone.  She got excited about doing laundry when it finally came back on.

5.  Afterward, we talked about those days without tv, internet, iPad and readily available phone.  Besides the quiet, she noticed her kids playing together more.  She read.  And they all cuddled a lot because the house was colder inside than it was outside some of those days.  Maybe we should have national No Electricity Weekend each spring and fall, with a guarantee of a high temperature between 63 and 78 and no rain so we can go outside.  I bet we’d all read more, play together more, and cuddle more.

6.  I googled “how to be a friend” recently because I’ve been thinking about how I would like to be a better friend to some people I really like, like Kim and Lisa.  My google choices included: how to be friends with a guy, with a girl, with a friend who is sick, with a friend who is depressed and how to be a friend with benefits.  (Google that yourself if you’re not sure what that means, Aunt Nadine.)  I looked at the friends with benefits one, of course.  It was a slide show format that wouldn’t go past #4 (of 10) for me.  I’m not sure what that meant.  The 1st 5 links for “how to be a friend” were from wikihow.com, amazon, selfstairway.com (?), tinybuddha.com, and realsimple.com.  I clicked on tinybuddha.com (here’s the link) and got a list of 25 suggestions that were actually quite good, though not really anything I didn’t already know.

7.  I noticed a behavior pattern of mine while on my “how to be a friend” internet journey.  I’m quite good at finding sources of information about how and why to do stuff (meditate, exercise, pray, write, be a friend/parent/grandparent, eat more fruits and vegetables, not eat sugar) and I enjoy learning, but there is a disconnect in my brain between learning and doing.

8.  I’m going to read about motivation and procrastination.  I’ll get back to you.

Published in: on March 15, 2014 at 5:17 pm  Comments (13)  
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Young…Middle-Aged…(??)….Old!

Stephanie:  “Mom, great outfit! (turquoise t-shirt, jeans, bright coral cardigan)  “You look so young!  You need to dye your hair.”

My hair is gray.  Different shades of gray.  Whitish in the front, darker in the back.  But all gray.  I like it.

Me:  “No, actually I don’t need to.  This is me.”

Comfortable, mildly stylish clothes. At 61, not so young, but also not old.  Cool, definitely cool.

She stared at me for a few seconds and said, “I still think you should dye your hair.”

She is 35.  And already talking about Botox for wrinkles.  I tell her to just buy really good moisturizer and use it faithfully.  Especially on the neck and chest.

“I believe we older people risk wasting the second half of our lives in unconscious compliance with a youth-obsessed culture.”  (Lynne Morgan Spreen)  We need an alternative to the belief that maintaining the appearance of youth is an antidote to aging.

We don’t even have name for this time of life, 55-70!  At 61, there is no question I’m beyond middle age, though I stretched it out through my fifties. I don’t know when “old” starts.  I think it depends on which birthday you last celebrated.

Every morning, I walk down the driveway (actually, the retired man I live with walks down more than I do), get the newspaper and come in to have a cup of tea while I read words printed on newsprint that I hold in my hands.  No matter how many times they redesign the website, I will not cancel my subscription to the printed version.  We older folks like to turn paper pages.  Most days I just read the front page, the obituaries, the editorials, the letters to the editor, the comics, and horoscopes for me and my family.

I started reading the obituaries years ago when I worked as a volunteer coordinator at Hospice.  I learned you don’t have to be old to die, but back then they were usually older than I was.  Most still are, but not all.  A lot are in their 60’s.  A good day is when everyone who died is older than me.  Is that weird?

So, fellow boomers,  what stage of life is 55-70?  We need a name.  Got any ideas?

Published in: on September 18, 2013 at 3:59 am  Comments (22)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

What Comes After Middle Age?

I’m 59.  I doubt if I still get to claim middle-age.  I have crossed over from young to not-young.

Here’s how I know:

–At the Moses Cone Folk Art Craft Center on the Blue Ridge Parkway, I watched a potter work.  Her biographic information said she was born in 1960.  She didn’t look young (at all), but she was 8 years younger than I.

–At lunch on a beautiful day in the mountains, we sat outside.  More than one table held a couple with at least one head of gray hair.  It was a Tuesday.  They are probably retired.  So are we.  And my hair is gray.

–As we drove on the Blue Ridge Parkway, we listened to Crosby, Stills, Nash, and Young.  And knew all the words and even, sometimes, knew what the next song was before it started.  (Hey, it was on an iPod, not a CD.  That should help some.)

–After 39 years together, it’s hard not to repeat stories as they come to mind.  Sometimes we don’t even care if we’ve heard them on every other trip to Grandfather Mountain.  We still think we’re funny.

–39 years together??

Published in: on June 20, 2011 at 5:58 pm  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , , , , , ,