The Sound of Silence

The Sound of Silence

person-731423__340.jpg

There was something about my new neighbors Genevieve and Elmer that I didn’t comprehend. They were nice enough in all other respects. But they had this odd little quirk or two. It would be about thirty years later, long after they’d both passed, before I understood.

When my oldest son was three months old, we moved into a new (to us) house. It was at the end of a cul-de-sac, and at a lower level than the street up above us. One day, shortly after we moved in, I heard sirens on the street above, so I grabbed Christopher and dashed up the flight of steps between the two houses at the end of the block that led up to the higher street. An older house was directly across the street and the empty, grassy lot west of them had a grass fire at the far corner.

As we watched the firemen quickly dowse the flames, an elderly man walked over from the house and began chatting. “Would you mind bringing the baby over to meet my wife? She had a bee sting and she’s allergic, so she can’t walk over this far.”

I followed him back to his driveway, where his wife sat in a chair with an ice pack on her leg, watching the action from afar. That was the day I met Genevieve and Elmer and it was the start of a friendship that lasted until their deaths almost twenty years later.

Some people thought it strange, a 26-year-old whippersnapper being friends with this couple in their late 60’s. But it wasn’t odd to me. I’ve always had a soft spot for the elderly. It was like gaining a new set of grandparents late in life.

But there’s two things that I never understood at the time. First, was when Genevieve mentioned making an appointment at the nail salon to go get their toe nails trimmed. That seemed really weird to me. Especially if you’re on a tight budget and being very frugal in every other aspect of living. Why on earth would someone pay someone else to simply trim their nails? All you do is plop your foot up on the sink and cut them. It’s only been in the last year or two, as I’m discovering that it’s not quite as easy to just plop that foot up there anymore, that I comprehended exactly why Genevieve and Elmer treated themselves to the nail salon for this cumbersome procedure.

The other thing that was a mystery to me was the early dinners and the no driving after dark. They always ate supper around four in the afternoon. And on the rare occasions that they would treat themselves to a hamburger out, or a meal at Denny’s (usually with a coupon), they always went that early, or earlier, so that they’d be home well before dark.

I admit it. I secretly thought they were just being scardey-cats. After all, driving in the dark is no different than driving any other time of the day. Fortunately, I never confided how I thought they were being needlessly overly cautious. Because about five years ago, before I even hit the 60-years milestone, I had to make a trip to the airport after dark and had a startling realization. I hit a stretch that was under construction. There were barrels out, restricting the number of lanes, and they all had flashing red lights going and my eyes couldn’t make any of it out. It all blended together and I literally couldn’t tell where I needed to go, nor where I needed to stay away from. I almost just pulled over, stopped the car, and waited for daylight. But that wasn’t an option, so I kept inching along at barely a crawl and finally got through.

I thought of Genevieve and Elmer that night, and offered up profuse, silent apologies for the thoughts I’d had so many years earlier.

And time marched on – and night vision didn’t improve any. It kept getting worse. I found by the time I hit my 60th birthday that I was trying to avoid night driving as much as possible. It wasn’t as bad if I were on a familiar road, so if I had to come home after work in the dark, it was possible. I knew the twists and turns in the road and what to expect. It was the strange areas, where I couldn’t read the street signs at night and didn’t know where I was that was next to impossible.

One of my local libraries scheduled three presentations this year. One in September, October, and November. All from 7 pm to 8 pm. Although this wasn’t a route I frequently took, I was familiar enough with the area that coming home after dark didn’t concern me. It was the trip going that was full of craziness. At six o’clock in the evening the stream of cars headed west was bumper to bumper. All three lanes were full and it was a congested nightmare. But that was alright. It was daylight, and while it was an aggravating journey, I was comfortable making the trek.

Until November. A few days earlier, I realized that day light savings time had switched the time up an hour and at six o’clock it was now dark. Knowing how dealing with three solid lanes of red brake lights would affect my diminishing night vision, I knew that this wouldn’t be a drive I could make safely, not for the ten or so miles I needed to go.

What to do, what to do? I didn’t want to cancel at the last minute for such a seemingly insignificant reason. I also didn’t want to be an unsafe driver on the road – for my own good, and for the other drivers. So…I left an hour early and drove in the intense traffic during daylight – safely.

What surprised me is what happened when I got to the library – an hour early. I had a book in the car. I could have read. I was parked in front of a library filled with magnificent bound treasures. I could have gone inside and perused the volumes filling the shelves. I could have visited with the librarians inside. I had my phone. I could have checked email, browsed the internet, played games, or watched YouTube videos.

I did none of these things.

I sat.

In the dark.

For an hour.

Doing nothing.

It was amazing. I enjoyed the peace and solitude, spending time in reflection and thought instead of being in a rush of constant activity. I realized that even if I’m meditating or journaling, I’m still involved in an activity. I recognized how seldom I allow myself the luxury of just sitting.

I doubt when I was younger I could have simply sat in the dark for an hour and relished the stillness.

Ageing isn’t a bed of roses. There’s some prickly thorns in the process too. Diminished night vision and eyesight is one of them. But this unavoidable progression into years with increasingly higher numbers also brings with it the opportunity for growth and new appreciations. For this I am thankful.

Advertisements

The ‘R’ Word

The ‘R’ Word

An excerpt from Embracing 60, releasing Fall 2018

jeweled necklace.jpg

We were about four hours into our long-overdue lunch get-together when I noticed an odd occurrence. “Oh my goodness! Do you realize that in our thirty-plus year’s friendship, this is the first time ‘retirement’ has entered our conversation?”

To be fair, between two retail work schedules and family commitments, Bev and I don’t get together very often. It’s not uncommon for two years to pass before we can find all the stars aligned to give us a free afternoon to spend together and catch up.

Actually, it’s a miracle that we can even meet up for lunch as seldom as we do, considering the thousands of miles that could be between us. Bev’s an old friend from California. Okay – she’s not an ‘old’ friend. Two years younger than me, she’s technically a ‘younger’ friend. But since I’ve known her for over half of my life, let’s call her a ‘long-time’ friend, then.

I met Bev back in my much younger days, at the young whipper-snapper age of about twenty-four. I attended a small neighborhood church and Bev was the pastor’s daughter-in-law. She and Nick had a little girl first, Lynette. When I followed a year or so later with a little boy, Christopher, Bev filled me in on all the parenting snafus I’d run up against.

I still remember as we chatted one Sunday morning and I bemoaned the terrible-two’s that Christopher was just starting. “Just wait,” she warned me. “The three’s are even worse.”

She was right.

She and Nick added another little girl to their family, Danielle, and I added another little boy, Justin. After Justin was born, I went back to college two days a week. Chris went to preschool, but Justin was too young for day care so Bev watched him those two days. We couldn’t count how the number of times that Bev and I got together in southern California to commiserate with each other.

And now…our grandchildren are older than our kids were when we’d get together for some ‘Mommy friend time’ and let the four kids play together.

In 1993, Bev and Nick changed up the equation and added another little boy to their family. When Curtis was about six months old, they departed from The Golden State and moved to the Lone Star State. For many years, between working and raising families, occasional Christmas cards and birthday cards were our only communication.

Then in 2008, a new relationship moved me to Texas also. Now I don’t live very far from Fort Worth. I’m far enough away that it’s not that easy to get together, but its close enough that it’s not impossible.

Now, when we do manage to fit in an afternoon of lunch and wandering the shops, we don’t discuss potty training, or breaking up sibling disagreements. We don’t talk about fighting with children about getting homework done or cleaning their rooms. Now our children are in the midst of those struggles. Bev and I share stories about the grandkids. (And maybe chuckle a little at the paybacks our children are getting now.) We wander the shops and slather our arms with various scented lotions. We find goodies to drop in our basket – usually more things for our grandkids, sisters, or mothers than for ourselves. We chatter mile-a-minute, stepping right back into our friendship as if we’d never had any lapses.

But today was the first time that retirement entered our conversation. More than once. Not that we’re quite there yet. But we’re close enough that’s we see it approaching on the horizon. And, we’re both realizing that we’re not prepared for it yet. (Can we have another 20 years, please, pretty please?) We talk of insurance and whether Medicare will still be around when we reach that point in the next five to seven years. We touch on arthritis and how diet affects it, and my friend Connie who had bilateral knee replacements this past year. And this subtle, yet there, shift in our topics seems a little odd.

Would I step back in time thirty years to when we were getting to know each other and muddling through the years of young motherhood? Those years when we felt like we’d set adrift with our only compass being the friends we had that were in the same place in life? Not a chance.

It’s the cycle of life. We slowly slide into the next spot, the one our mothers before us filled, and our grandmothers before them. Although we’re further along the road on this journey than we were thirty years ago, we still have moments of joy and elation, and find there are still a few potholes that threaten to momentarily derail us. But I determined that as long as I can traipse through this journey wearing a necklace composed of the jewels of good and treasured friends, all is good. Even on those days when the unexpected ‘R’ word enters our conversations and catches us by surprise.

 

 

The Baby of the Geritol Group

B

April is the A to Z Blog Challenge. We’ll be posting to a different letter as we work our way through the alphabet. I’m posting snippets from a Work in Progress, Embracing 60, scheduled for release this June. Thanks for joining us! Come back tomorrow for thoughts on the joys, delights, and sometimes aggravations about reaching milestone birthdays!

pills-3114366__340_pixaby

The Baby of the Geritol Group

Last year, through my part-time job as a retail merchandiser, I was filling in for a co-worker that needed some time off. I’d been working in the large retailer for about four months, working six to ten hours a week, and had started getting to know some of the employees at this large chain.

One day, George, in Electronics, and I got in a conversation. As he had to get up from the floor, nursing a bum knee, he commented on his age and how getting older was starting to tell on his body. “But you wouldn’t know about that, being such a young lady yourself.”

I laughed. “I don’t know about the young part. I’ll be turning the big 6-0 in a little over a year. A year and a few months…but who’s counting?”

It turned out that George was a little younger. I was 58 and he was 56. And like me, staring in the eyes of the upcoming 60, he was not looking forward to it and had decided to celebrate this milestone birthday instead of dread it. He was saving for an Alaskan cruise and planned to commemorate this big year in a big way.

A few weeks later, my co-worker Paul came back. We ended up at the store on an overlap visit as I filled him in on what had transpired over the past few months. George wandered through the back stock room and stopped to chat, excited to see Paul back again.

And somehow, the conversation turned to age again. Paul commented about not being able to get up and down the ladders as easily any more.

“But you’re just a young pup,” I said.

“Young pup? I’m 54!”

I chuckled. “Fifty-four? George and I have already compared notes and we’re ahead of you. I turn 59 in two months.”

George piped in. “And I’m 56. I’ve got you beat.”

I turned to Paul and swatted at his arm. “Why, you’re just the baby of the group.”

Lines furrowed in Paul’s brow. “Yeah, maybe so, but being the baby of the Geritol Group certainly isn’t any consolation.”

Laughter bubbled up as I turned to leave. In my book, a good dose of laughter is just as good as a dose of any vitamin supplement any day.

 

March 2019
M T W T F S S
« Feb    
 123
45678910
11121314151617
18192021222324
25262728293031