A memoir about the journey of a woman aging and her call to other women to claim their voice and power
I am a woman navigating the journey of aging and all that this involves. I am a writer, and am looking to share the ups and downs and challenges and joys of this journey and time of life, and also wanting to call other women (and men who may relate) to fully claim their voice, passion and life!
I woke up with tears this morning. They come when they like. I have learned to simply be with them. And learn from them. And talk with them.
I just got back from a lovely week in Oregon. I traveled with a friend whose daughter lives up there. This sweet friend usually has full time grandmother duties when she visits Oregon. She loves her two grandsons, but also never really has had the time to see this beautiful state. This time she played tourist with me.
Lush green breathtaking views greeted us everywhere. Oregon gets rain, so waterfalls are abundant. Living in California, rain has become more and more of a precious and rare gift.
So the voices in my head tell me that I should feel nothing but happy after a lovely time away. They criticize and judge me for my sadness. I talk with those voices as well, continually.
We feel what we feel.
Yes, I had a lovely time.
And I am sad this morning.
Both are true. Both these feelings and experiences can and do co-exist.
I am sad and mourning my youth. Traveling and noticing that I feel so much more invisible than I used to. Two older women on an adventure, but older women. Looked at differently, if looked at all. There can be advantages to this, and there is also a sense of loss.
Traveling and feeling the sand in the hourglass moving ever more quickly. How many more trips might I have left in me? How many more adventures? Getting ready for a trip seems to take more energy these days. Negotiating a new place seems to bring a bit more anxiety. The self confidence of my youth seems to have decreased.
I think about where I want to spend whatever time that I have left. Oregon has called to me for quite some time. Yet I wonder if I have the energy to move, with all that this involves, at my age and stage of life. To start over again somewhere new.
This is such a bittersweet time of life.
I appreciate the bitter as well as the sweet. It is all important. It is all part of the experience of life. It all adds richness and depth.
I am grateful for it all. Even the tears. I couldn’t have tears if I wasn’t still so very much alive and still didn’t have the capacity to feel. What a gift that is, to feel. All of it, all part of this human journey that we are on.
Lessons on being in the moment from my elephant friend
We talk about the elephant in the room. Things that are there that no one is talking about.
That may be for another post.
This post is about the elephant in my heart.
I observe the elephants at our local zoo as part of the Behavior Observation Team. I have been doing this for at least 9 years. I spend two hour shifts simply watching them, recording their behaviors, being with them.
I have had much on my mind and in my heart lately, as have we all. Today is the anniversary of 9–11. A day that we can never forget. And Queen Elizabeth died this week. The end of an era, the end of this constant presence for my entire life. A presence of quiet calm and grace. Another piece of the world that I grew up in gone. Gone.
The news full of stories of war, crime, shootings, sadness, climate change, and more things than my heart feels like it can possibly hold at once. I find that I need to stop listening to it all after a period of time. It’s too much. Too much.
I remember all my own losses as the anniversaries of them come up. Family, friends, pets, my own youth. Also more pain at times than I feel that my heart can possibly hold. Each new loss brings up memories of all the others.
Yesterday, my usual day at the zoo, I got to watch our male elephant. A young male who I absolutely love. I watch him as he goes about his life. And for those several hours, I am simply being with him. Right then and there. In that precious moment of time that we share together.
It’s been really hot lately. The elephants have a pool, and this young male decided to make full use of that yesterday. He walked in and began to splash and play and frolic. I got to observe pure joy in the moment. The guests that were lucky enough to be there in that moment were as mesmerized and delighted as I. To watch him simply take pure delight in the water, playing, submerging himself, splashing, carrying a small tire (a toy of sorts ) and playing with that in the water. Smiles and awe and delight were all around as we watched and played along with him in our hearts.
The zookeepers came out and had some treats. It’s not hard to see who has trained whom, as he knows how to request those treats in the most endearing way. If you’ve ever had a pet look at you with that look of “please?” and found that you could not resist, you can imagine what having a 13,500 pound elephant looking at you with that same look can do to your heart. There were treats galore.
Then back into the pool he went for more splashing and play. Play and delight simply for its own purpose. Pure simple beautiful joy in living life at that moment.
This is one of my lessons from him. To be here, now, in the pool of life. Splashing and submerging and playing when I can. Remembering the joy of pure pleasure. Letting my heart hold that for a moment and set aside the pain and sadness and grief that is also part of life. Grief that is also necessary, I believe, to fully appreciate the moments of joy.
And I realize, that though my heart feels so very heavy at times with things that feel hard to contain and hold there, I now have an elephant in there. And, I have found, that if my heart is big enough to hold an elephant inside of it, it can hold it all. This heart can hold it all. This heart can feel it all.
Remembering, Seeing, and Appreciating all the Pieces of Ourselves
When I look into the mirror these days, I see an older face. Lined, sagging, dimpled (and not in a cute way). And I see how it may be easy to put myself into a category. Older woman, Aging woman And how easy it may be to forget all the other pieces and parts of me that are still there inside me.
If I can fall into this, how much more easily can others fall into this trap? I too, when younger especially, have not always seen all that is contained in another’s face, another’s body. Especially when they were older. I would see an older man or woman and fit them into that category in my mind. And not wonder about the pieces of them that might not be so visible initially. Who they might have been earlier. What and who that they might have loved. What their life and passions have been. Who they are in totality.
And here I am now, also perhaps easily categorized by others.
I have the little girl that I was inside me still. She who loved to draw, to go on the carousel, who learned to find solace in her room alone as an only child. She who was the young daughter of immigrants who would sometimes serve as a translator. She who felt like she had to prove her worth along with all the generations before her.
I have the adolescent inside me still. She who didn’t know where to put all the conflicting feelings and emotions bubbling up inside of her at times. She who was unable to truly participate in much of after school social life, as her parents were very old world, strict, protective. She who was shy and felt unattractive and not good enough. She who felt like she never really belonged.
I have the young woman inside me. She who fought to go to college, to get some freedom. She who said “no” to her father announcing that they would be moving to Sicily and that she could go to school there, and that he had, in fact, begun inquiries into that without even talking with her. She who learned to survive and managed to take care of herself when her parents no longer supported her financially.
I have the young woman inside me who walked down the aisle to get married, having reconciled enough with her parents at that point, so they both walked her down together. She who had dreams of eternal love. She who looked forward to a future of having someone by her side.
I have the somewhat older, but still young, woman inside me going through a divorce and the pain of that. Not really understanding what happened. Not really understanding relationships and how to make them work. Still trying to define herself without having to use someone else to do that.
I have the social worker retired now, who worked from her heart as much as possible, until that was no longer really valued in the medical field where her job for the last 15 years of her career was, where it became all about numbers and productivity.
I have the artist inside me, finally able to come out and paint now that I have time to devote to that which has been dormant and set aside all these years.
I have the writer inside me that longs to express herself, also having been quieted all these years while trying to make a living and support myself.
I have the sensual part of me still here, although perhaps not recognized or validated, but still very much here.
I have the retired person, retired from work, but not from my life.
I see others around me who are also on the aging path and can better hear their stories now that I am among them. The cafe owner who used to be in the Navy for years and proudly displays photos of herself during that time in her life. The gentleman who sits outside the cafe daily socializing. His strong body still shows the hard work that he has done in his life. His features still show the beauty of his face, now and as it was then.
I have, in my career, (the most recent job as a social worker in a nursing facility) also been graced enough to learn to see the totality of patients who were now paralyzed, perhaps disfigured from life tragedies. To hear their stories of who they have been. To see photos of what they may have looked like before. To hear the parts of them that were still there inside of them that others no longer could see.
I even observe how we don’t see the totality of other beings, of creatures that we share this planet with. As a volunteer at our local zoo, I see how most guests spend perhaps two minutes at each exhibit, hurriedly trying to see all the animals in whatever time that they are there. I can understand wanting to see it all, and yet am so aware of how much can be missed in being with these fellow creatures for only a few minutes. I spend several hours each week observing the elephants, and that has become a sacred time for me. I have learned, and am still learning, to quiet myself and simply be with them , there in that momen in time. To share that moment together with these majestic creatures.
We each carry so many pieces of ourselves. Our history. All that we have been, have learned. All that we still desire and feel. We are more than the individual pieces that may be evident at first glance. We contain a world and lifetime of experience. We can learn to see each other, to hear each other’s stories.
And, more importantly, I remind myself to look in the mirror and see more than the current reflection that is there. I am so much more than that. I want to remember the whole mosaic of who I am. Appreciate all that I have been, am now, and may be in the future, however long that I am graced enough to live.
Clearing my computer and praying for a working memory in my head
My laptop is on hospice, and they tell me that it could die at anytime.
The problem started with the keyboard beginning to come apart at the seam and curling up toward me. Then the screen began displaying psychedelic colors and became hard to read. Not good.
I am not tech savvy. I have no ego around this, just fear. Lots of fear. I appreciate being able to use my laptop to write, pay bills, check emails, save photos, and more. I’m sure it’s capable of much more uses than I know about. Same thing with my cell phone. They are both smarter than I am. I can live with that.
Here comes the issue. I have hired someone who can help me buy a new laptop and help me with the whole process of backing things up, setting it up, transferring over things. None of which I know how to do. I just use it, but I really don’t understand how it works. Never have. That’s ok with me too.
Tomorrow is the day when this computer guy, referred to me by a friend that I trust, will come over and the process of getting me attached and working with the new laptop will begin.
I am anxious about this. What if we lose everything? What if I can’t learn how to work the new one, with the updated Microsoft and Windows? What if I end up in the in between place, the limbo of no computer to use for a while? What if I can’t do this?
My laptop has been a lifeline for me. I live alone. I enjoy my solitude, and also find that my writing has become a vital connection for me. A connection to what is going on inside, a connection to those that may read what I write and perhaps relate. A way to remember to pay bills on time, check accounts, be more organized. (I used to be a list maker, having paper lists everywhere. I still make paper lists, but do use the laptop to help me out with things. A lot. )
So I wait with anticipation and anxiety for tomorrow morning. I will be relieved when I can write a post on the new laptop. Hopefully this will be soon.
I do notice that I get more anxious as I age. Less confident about things that I used to not have so much fear about. Less sure of myself. More doubt and more dread. More overwhelmed (although computers have always been a force for me to reckon with any time that anything out of the ordinary was needed).
It’s an interesting phenomena, this anxiety about new things, about my ability to learn. I can see where this fear and anxiety could hold me back from doing things, from trying things, from taking risks, from engaging in life as fully as I might.
What I find that seems to help is for me to slow down, step back, take a breath, and remind myself that I seem to have made it in life this far. That I have learned more about using the laptop than I thought I could. That I can learn new things, albeit a bit slower sometimes. That I can make it through scary things. That I have always been stronger than I allowed myself to think or acknowledge.
Perhaps that strength may look a little different at this older age. And perhaps it also brings some wisdom along with it, and patience. Maybe things may take a bit longer, and that’s ok. I have rushed through too much in my life, so now life is teaching me to slow down. To be in the moment more. To breathe and take the time that I need. And maybe I have to use more memory aids, have to write things down more. That’s ok. I’m still here, still writing, still thinking, still breathing, still wanting to learn, still living.
So, new laptop, let’s do this. I will face this, walk through it, and I’ll write to you all from the other side…I hope!
Lindsay, a juvenile peregrine falcon that many of us had been following via a webcam at UC Berkeley, was found dead yesterday. They think that another hawk got her, as she was found close to the nest of another hawk. Perhaps she got too close to their nest.
I have watched Lindsay grow from being a tiny chick to the day that she fledged. Watching her and her brother, Grinnel Jr., brought me such joy and delight. They settled into a place in my heart.
Juvenile peregrine falcons survive maybe 50% of the time during the first year of their life. They have to learn to hunt for themselves, avoid smashing into windows, and are vulnerable to predators.
That fact doesn’t make this loss any easier.
I grieve for this feathered creature that I came to love. I was mesmerized by the fierceness of the species as her mother and father (stepfather in this case, since the first male falcon died, and another stepped in to help raise these chicks) would bring in all the birds that they had captured to feed their young. The circle of life. Fierce predators that can fly 200 mph. Intense.
I felt for the birds that had become their prey. Yet I also felt for the chicks that needed food to survive and grow.
And grow they did. We held our breath, all of us who watched these beautiful creatures grow, as we prayed that they would be able to survive and go out into the world.
Not for Lindsay. Her time came to an end. And the tears flow for me. Tears for a creature that I never met, but that became part of my days. Tears for a life that was nurtured and sustained by hard working adults who would bring food for their chicks’ relentless hunger. Tears for the gorgeous feathered wings that would fly no longer.
I shed tears as well when I observe our aging elephants at the zoo where I volunteer as part of the Behavior Observation Team for these magnificent animals. I am sobered by discussions that I hear about the ongoing assessment that happens at the zoo about all of its aging or ailing creatures (that cannot be treated, for whatever reason) about the quality of life and when it may be time to end any possible suffering.
The circle of life is intense. I see my neighbors’ babies and feel such delight and hope for the future, and see my own eventual march out of this world as we make way for younger generations to keep things going, as our time comes to an end. As my time will come to an end.
I watched a piece of an interview done with Dr. Maya Angelou last evening. One of the things that she talked about , and I am paraphrasing here, is that she decided to fully acknowledge that indeed she would die. So why not try what she could. What a magnificent woman and life. She is one of my heroines. Her wisdom and voice bring me comfort as well as inspiration.
I am in grief for Lindsay. I miss her presence in my life and in the world. And I am once again having yet another discussion with grief, who as I have written before, becomes an ever more constant companion as I age.
The message becomes more and more clear. Take wing while you can. You will die, so why not fully experience this life, right here and right now? Do things that you want to that you may be afraid of. Why not? We never know when our time will come. Until then, let’s be present and as alive as we can. Love, be kind, connect, take time for solitude, be your own unique and glorious self.
Thank you, Lindsay, for having graced my life for a time. I will miss you.
I have a piano in my living room that I have moved with me for at least three decades. It sits there, waiting.
I used to dream of playing the piano when I was a child. It called to me. People would tell me that I had “piano hands”, long fingers that could span an octave.
My father thought it would be a much better choice for me to learn to play the accordion. The days of Lawrence Welk. He thought an accordion would help me bring joy to parties, given that I could by shy at times. Different times, different ideas, different values. He meant well. To him, music was music, no matter which instrument it came from.
I went to the accordion teacher. I asked, secretly, would it be easier to learn the piano later in life if I studied the accordion? He responded that he thought that it would be. So, accordion lessons it was.
I truly never fell in love with that instrument. My father would have me play it for company that came over, accompanying me on his guitar. He would laugh when I told him to change the chord during a song. He could not really hear music, was pretty tone deaf. So, I performed. And hated it.
I don’t mean to be ungrateful for the lessons and the chance to even take music lessons. My parents were immigrants and never had such a chance.
But, our inner dreams and longings are ours. And the piano was mine. Not the accordion.
I went to college. I finally gave myself permission to let go of this instrument, this accordion that never became a part of me, completely. I sold the one that I had. It was a relief. It was freeing.
Life took over. College, relationships, moves, jobs, marriage, divorce, trying to find my balance again as a divorced woman, parents dying, my advancing years.
I tried taking piano lessons once, but the teacher was more into jazz, which I have not up to this day ever really connected with. And my mother had moved in with me at that point, so things were challenging. We had some difficult dynamics between us. So I stopped the lessons.
Here I am now, this morning, looking at this piano. I find an ache in my heart about this. This piano was a gift to me, a loving parting gift from my ex-husband as we were divorcing. A lovely gesture and a nod to understanding some of the pain of my childhood. I have been divorced 33 years now. That’s a long time for a piano to be sitting there not making the music for which it was intended.
I may try and take lessons again. I have some beginner books that I can follow on my own. I may begin with that first.
It makes me think about our lives, our dreams unfulfilled, the directions we take and the distractions that we follow.
I have let myself get lost in relationships and become focused on the other, to the exclusion of myself. It’s a behavior that I learned early on helped me to feel safer in the world. But it came with a cost.
I focused on whatever job I was doing and would let myself be consumed by that. It seemed to be the right thing to do. I don’t regret my career and feel good about the work that I did (social worker, therapist). But focusing exclusively on that and whatever relationship that I was in at the time also came with a cost.
I am retired now. And intentionally not in a relationship. And I live alone. And, I can breathe. And stop. And think, feel, and be.
I have taken up painting. Drawing was also something that I loved as a child, but felt the focus had to be on what I would do to make a living. And during the times that I was in college, you could not enroll in an art course unless that was your major. So now I paint. I lose hours doing this. It is meditative.
I am writing now, which I have always loved to do. Primarily I would journal, and keep the writing to myself. Now I write here, and I am grateful. I actually feel an ache inside at times when I feel the need to write about something that has bubbled up. Like this morning.
So, I am slowly coming back to who I was as a child. What I dreamed of and naturally gravitated to.
Will I learn piano? Time will tell.
I can say this, however. There is time to be who you were originally drawn to be. There is time to play your own music. There is time to paint your own canvas. There is time to write your own story.
We are still alive. We are still here. And we have parts of ourselves that we can still reconnect with.
I seem to reach a point with every painting where I get discouraged, frustrated, and want to cover the whole canvas with black paint and just start over on a fresh canvas. I talk myself down from this ledge every time, as experience tells me things will look differently in a bit.
So I step away and leave the canvas for a while . A few hours. A day. A few days. And lo and behold, it doesn’t look so bad when I come back to it. In fact, I can see where I can pick up the brushes again and carry on. And I complete the painting, satisfied with being able to do so and usually pleased enough with the result. This would not have been the case had I not stepped back from it for a while.
I also find that I need to step back from the canvas during the actual process of painting. It is too easy to get lost in a detail of the painting when up close to it and lose a sense of the big picture and the whole scene. I used to laugh at cartoons of artists, with their French berets tilted just so on their head, thumbs held up, standing back and surveying their paintings in progress.
These caricatures of artists were onto something.
Stepping back during the process is necessary to keep sight of what you are working on, where you are going, and if you are going in the direction that you intended or want.
Ah, the metaphors for life are everywhere, yes?
Sometimes I get so caught up in the day to day details of life so much that I can lose sight of the bigger picture of my life. Paying attention to details is important. Getting lost in them is dangerous. So, I remind myself to step back, pause, look. Walk away for a bit. Come back later with a fresh mind and rested spirit and renewed vision. Stop. Breathe.
I can look back at different times in my life from my older, and sometimes wiser, perspective now. What seemed like huge tragedies do not seem so anymore. And what were challenges, I somehow managed to get through, and to carry on. To get to where I am now.
I can look at old photos of myself and see so much more than I could see at the time. All I focused on were what I saw as deficiencies and faults. Now I see a l young woman who was doing the best that she could. Who deserved compassion and not relentless criticism.
I look at photos of myself now and remind myself of this. Stop, breathe, take in the whole picture. Imagine what my future self might feel while looking at these photos. The whole canvas of my life.
I see paintings that I have completed, articles that I have written. I see possible improvements in them all.
I see friends that I have unintentionally hurt. Relationships that I could have done and been better with. I observe habits that may not be so healthy for me that I could have worked harder on to change.
Yes, there are flaws. Yes, there could be improvement. Of course.
I work on what I can, without having to destroy and tear everything down in the process. If I can forgive others and step back, then maybe it’s time to really do that for myself.
As time grows short, which aging seems to remind me of more and more, I see the importance of stopping, stepping back, seeing the whole and not just the parts.
The canvas is still unfinished. We are still alive. There is more color to add, more to experience, more of the painting to fill in. Stop. Breathe. You don’t need to rush through. Enjoy the process and the journey. Step back. See the beauty, the possibility still there. Pausing is part of the process of completing your painting. Stopping to breathe, notice, observe, change direction if necessary, is all part of your life. Your canvas is not done yet.
The gift of of genuine human contact can happen anywhere
I received such a tender gift this morning. At the grocery store.
Not exactly where one expects to get a lovely moment in time. On the other hand, if we are open to it, these moments can happen in the most interesting of places.
In a world that has been traumatized by pandemic, social unrest, divisiveness, suspicion, masks covering our faces but not our fears. In this world there are human beings who are hungry for genuine contact, even for a brief moment. If real and genuine enough, these moments can nourish and help sustain us. They can touch our hearts and fill them, at least for a while.
I am a woman of solitude, yet realize I also need human contact and a tribe that I can feel a part of. The tribe of my friends, the tribe of my neighborhood. the tribe of fellow writers, fellow artists.
I usually go to the same grocery store, as it is conveniently located fairly close to my home. I have been going there for years, so faces become familiar and greetings are exchanged. To a woman living alone with no family nearby, these greetings can feel like a lifeline at times. Those times when I may simply need the acknowledgment from another human being on this earth at this moment. To share that moment with someone.
This morning, I had just finished checking out with my cart ready to go to my car. There had been smiles from some of the staff, and I felt included. Seen. There is one particular clerk, whose name if I knew it at one point, I do not remember. But I remember this friendly outgoing young man. This young man who had at one point shared some photos of his new puppy.
There he was, coming to help at the checkout line. He smiled, said a big hello. I asked how his puppy was doing. He made eye contact, sighed, and told me that he no longer had this sweet young dog. The puppy had exhibited some medical issues, and after taking him to the emergency vet, this poor young man realized that he could not afford the huge bill that they quoted him that it would take to help his beloved pet. He had to give the puppy up, hoping someone else would be able to give it a home and the care that it needed.
I felt so badly for him. He talked about how much he had come to love this dog, how painful it was to let him go. And he began to cry. And then he apologized for crying. I asked him to please never apologize for crying, to please let himself express those feelings and let them out, that I understood how this kind of loss can tear a part of your heart out, having lost several pets myself within the last several years. He continued to cry, and I began to shed a few tears myself.
He continued to talk about this sweet companion.
We shared our frustrations with some of the experiences that we have had at various vet emergency clinics during this pandemic. Waiting in our cars all night long, not able to hold or see our pets while we waited for them to be examined, sometimes for many hours.
We talked a bit more. I gently touched his shoulder, told him how very sorry that I was, and that I understood what that kind of pain feels like. That these sweet beings come into our hearts and become our families.
He nodded, said that he had to go to the break room for a while then, to compose himself for work. I again told him how very sorry that I was, and told him to please take extra good care of himself.
I came home.
I feel such empathy for him and for myself, remembering my own losses, my own sweet furry companions. Gone too soon. Holes in my heart. Lump in my throat. Grief that is not soothed, but must be honored as it takes the time that it needs.
And I felt like this gentle man and I had connected in such a genuine, heartfelt way. In a way that is a sacred gift. A gift that we humans can give to each other. And it can happen at the most random moments. In the most random of places.
It simply took slowing down and noticing what is around me. The stopping to see someone else at a moment in time, ask them how they are, and really listen. And be there with them.
As I listen to their pain, I also validate my own. And I connect.
And I left the store this morning, feeling a bit more open, nourished, grateful, and a little less alone in this world.
I love a tree that shares the land with me, a giant sequoia. It is majestic, calming, powerful, steadfast, a solace and comfort to me. I touch it frequently, making contact with this incredible life form. I feel its roots that reach deeply into the earth, as I feel my own connection to this troubled, beautiful earth.
This tree has a condition. Some type of issue that causes it to have dead brown leaves on it, more than usually are seen. The arborist and I are working together on it. Special treatments twice a year, and trying to give it enough water to quench and satisfy and sustain it. And standing near it, touching it, sending it love and gratitude.
It’s August, the time we usually see brown leaves on our sequoias and redwoods here in California. I watch the leaves. I feel the stages of life, and of letting go. I worry each August, and each August the arborist reminds me that I contact them every year at this time with my concerns.
So far this precious tree is doing ok. Its condition is not one that can be cured, but can be maintained. Pretty much like life, yes?
I seem to be at the stage in life where everything becomes a metaphor for something deeper, yet another life lesson. I am so grateful to be able to write about these. That is such a gift, to be able to put words to some of these lessons. For myself. Maybe also for some others who may resonate with some of my words.
This tree lets go of many of its leaves/ needles every year this time. Each time I pray that we get through this and that we see growth again and more green again.
I think about my own life and its stages. I shed layers as well. Layers that involve letting go of youth, of all that youth promises and seduces us with. Letting go of trying to meet the expectations of others. Time grows short so I don’t have enough time to worry about that as much as I have in my life. Letting go of the illusion of immortality. Having to accept, if not embrace, the reality of mortality. Letting go of the illusion that there is enough time to do it all, have it all, be it all.
I shed these parts of me, albeit reluctantly at times. And I wait to see if there is growth that happens. Will there be new growth?
When will be the time that this tree, and I, finally have to let go completely and return to the earth? When will an August be the final one? When will my breath be the final one?
And so we carry on. We do what we can, arborists and doctors, and this tree and me. Until it is time.
Until then, I celebrate and enjoy this sacred being that shares life with me, that towers above me, gives me shade, brings me comfort and some peace.
I celebrate this life of mine. That fills me with emotions. All emotions, both happy and sad, bitter and sweet. All poignant. All part of me, of this life, of this gift of whatever time we have on this earth. Whatever time I may be blessed enough to have left.
So I stand with this sacred being, this tree. We stand together, holding on, shedding what we need to, surviving and thriving where we can. Living and being who and what we are in this brief, precious, wonderful moment in time.
I had an idea recently. My mother has been dead for 12 years, my father for 27. I have kept their wedding rings stored in a safe place. I could not wear either ring, my mother’s being way too small, my father’s being way too big. I am a different size, a different person than either of them.
Off to the jewelry store I went. I brought out both rings, placed them on the counter, talked about them, what they meant, how I wanted to be able to wear them in some fashion.
So, the jeweler and I thought about ideas. Why not combine them into one ring? Yes, this seemed like the perfect solution.
I also had a delicate gold necklace that belonged to my father’s mother repaired, as the clasp was loose and I didn’t wear it for risk of losing it. I never met her, as she died when my father was 7. I was named after her, so there was a deep connection that I always felt. I wanted to acknowledge that more, claim that more.
I picked up the items yesterday.
The necklace is repaired. I wear it around my neck and feel the presence of the grandmother that I never met, but whose namesake I was. It’s interesting to note that I find some comfort in that, some connection to my roots.
The ring is on my finger. My parents loved each other deeply, so it is right that the rings are melded into one. After my mother died, I remember asking for some sign in my grief. At that moment, a beam of sunlight came through the window and landed directly on their wedding photo. A message that they were together again.
The diamonds sparkle. I remember playing with that ring on my mother’s hand to see the lights and sparkles reflected on the wall. I remember my father wearing his ring on special occasions, as his work of being a plasterer and bricklayer was labor that would be damaging to a ring.
I look at the ring now. I see my own aging hands, and also then remember seeing the aging hands of my parents that I noticed as the years went by. Aging, worn, loving hands that wore these jewels. Father’s hands that worked so hard to give his family all that he could. Mother’s hands that cooked and sewed and soothed and comforted.
I see this symbol of the bond and love between them, and feel gratitude for that, and for them as my parents. Of course we had issues. Who doesn’t? They worked hard to give me what they didn’t have, being immigrants from Sicily. But, we all have some pain that we carry from our past.
I do not minimize any of the suffering that childhood can bring, being that we are human and are raised by humans. Fallible. Vulnerable. Fragile at times, strong at others. Human. Some suffer terribly at the hands of very wounded parents. Some are graced with loving homes that build foundations for life.
As I continue on this aging journey, I find the desire to connect back to my past, to my parents, to my ancestors, to my family’s history. To try and make more sense of the story, of my story. To blend into and with that story while still continuing to work on my own unique chapter.
I am simply one of a long line of people before me. I am connected to them. I am part of that group, that family. For an only child with no relatives that I am close to or that are nearby, this feels important. To feel somehow a part of something bigger than me feels important. To appreciate all who came before me. To appreciate their gems, their gifts, their presence in my life and their presence inside me.
To appreciate my own gems, my own value, my own self. Connected to my ancestors, and yet my own unique being. Linked yet apart. Together yet alone. Still here on this earth, for however long. Still alive. Carrying on the line. Carrying on and continuting to write my chapter of the story, here, now, in each moment.