Fall takes on new meaning as we age – the thought of the approaching cold, final winter of our being. Not a depressing thought, just part of the journey.
We have seen many changes over the decades, especially the relationships between men and women. As a liberal woman championing the women’s movement over the decades, I am pleased with the changes. My husband Ken, a conservative libertarian, defends a man’s liberties and finds himself in conflict with a woman’s rightful discernment/definition in a relationship.
This morning over a hotel breakfast, Ken and I listened to the news. The “Me Too” movement is celebrating their first anniversary today.
I said, “The problem with men is that they see everything as ‘all about me’ rather than listening.”
Ken looked at me with that you-have-two-talking-heads-and-neither-one-makes-much-sense side glance.
“For example,” I said as I added syrup to my waffle, “My hip hurt last night, so I rolled over about 3:30 a.m. to sleep on the other hip. You decided to cuddle. By 4:00 a.m. I am unable to sleep and lose an hour playing Sudoku while you continue your blissful rest.”
“You nudged my back twice. You wanted to be held.” Ken looked hurt.
“At 3:30 a.m. I am not thinking about you or being held. If I were thinking at all, it would be about sleep. Which proves my point. You thought when I rolled over in bed it was about YOU! Really?”
“What does this have to do with the Me Too movement?” Ken asked.
“Everything. I remember working when I was young and attractive. I was busy with office work all morning – filing, typing a report, preparing for a meeting. About noon a man in the office said, ‘I love the way you flirted with me all morning. What a turn-on!’ I barely knew he was present because I was focused on my work. It was all about him. Idiot!!!”
“Maybe you were not aware of the vibes you were giving off,” Ken insinuated.
I snapped back, “I win. I have the blog.”
Ken said, “Yeah, SHE who writes the history wins.”
Ken reached over and stroked my chin. We both started laughing.
Fall is in the air. Change seems to be slower to reach fruition than the winter of my days. Understanding may never be fully achieved, but surely we can continue to love good men and good women throughout the journey.
For younger women, seek justice as I once did through organizations, politics and personal conviction; but do not lose patience with kind men who only want to hold you on a cold night in October.
who I am and all I’ve known,
engraved experience on a fleshy pallet,
those bylines ᾽round my eyes
Ownership of and living happily with our aging process is existential. Either we have done our character homework over the years or we struggle to find joy and maintain relationships.
I have given this a great deal of thought with the political campaigns. Hillary Clinton was born 10-26-47 and Donald Trump on 6-14-46. They are not going to evolve into anything more than who they are. Character set. Game on. The best they have to offer us are their flamboyant examples of what happens to people who choose certain paths early in life and become exactly what they wanted to be. Goals accomplished. In the petri dish of life, we are viewing specimens who prove how set character is by this age.
I worked for a gerontologist years ago. He said the elderly are extremes—the happiest or saddest, angriest or kindest, most generous or stingiest, most judgmental or forgiving, absolutely honest or dishonest, loudest or softest, etc. When our beauty fades, intellect dulls a little, and the power afforded us by work or community involvement is lessened, all that is left is our personhood—the real us.
I have worried since my 20’s about who I was going to be as a grown-up at age 75 or 80. Some of my work has been successful and some of my character flaws were baked into my DNA. I’ve arrived at this senior status with gray hair and extra pounds—far from the 20-something in a bikini and shag haircut. I like this older me better.
My friends are present with wisdom, creativity and an interest in leaving the best world possible for the next generation. They understand we have two responsibilities: mentoring and expression.
The past cannot be rewritten. The future is short compared to where we were a couple decades ago.
Be joyful. It is good for who you are becoming.
My morbid thoughts as I face surgery next week.
IF I WERE TO WRITE ONE LAST POEM
If I were to write one last poem before I die,
what theme would thread the needle’s eye?
Oh, that needle carved from bone, year by year—
the head bone that opened my mother’s womb,
the marrow muddied by deaths and heartbreak,
and the needle’s eye forged by purpose.
The bone—the strength of a needle—fabricated a life.
Look for the signature stitched on the hem of a full life! Look closer!
How foolish to write a memoir; I know the plot twists.
Few would care about honey dripping down wallpaper long ago,
the first time I was caught in the Atlantic’s undertow,
horrid and heavenly marriages, my footsteps on other continents,
sailing ancient seas, caregiving, clubs, schools,
riding motorbikes, failed perfection at keyboards,
climbing the mulberry tree, my hammer marks on a DIY deck,
and feeding chipmunks by the lake.
Perhaps my story has been written in ink and paint.
Why stress over abuses still living in my nightmares?
Why boast of obscure achievements
(wins time has erased in other’s minds)?
What fun it would be to leave shocking secrets of lovers
never shared with the judgmental—such good stories!
I could pen letters to those I have loved all their lives;
my profound conclusion: the reward for loving the entitled
has never been predicated on reciprocation. My joy. Their loss.
To be honest, I do not care much about anyone’s opinion of me.
I have known great passion and lived with integrity.
My life. My way.
My mistakes were not malicious, just lessons learned at great cost.
I am the freedom of flesh and the strength of bone. I am the needle.
My ramblings settle on this theme for my poem—my life:
celebrate humanity (flesh) threaded through boney, messy wisdom.
When young, I believed wisdom was shiny like Olympic gold.
Wisdom rises from the muck calloused and dirty
like a warrior returning from the front lines—
bone stitching gratitude to memories of love, beauty and hope.
The reward of wisdom follows the sacrifice of innocence. Always.
Embrace the needle. Be creative. Live without regret.