When I’m 64 ~ 3


On the plus side: I had a great birthday!  My family arrived and, picnic gear assembled, we headed to our city’s outdoor ampitheatre for dinner on the lawn and an Apollo’s Fire concert of music by Vivaldi.  Apollo’s Fire plays baroque music using period instruments, and Vivaldi is often my favorite composer, so it was a wonderful evening for me.  The last time I heard The Four Seasons performed live,  we were in St. Chappelle in Paris on a simmering summer evening; Saturday evening was as delightful, and a good deal more pleasant insofar as temperatures were concerned.

On the downside, no sooner I had resolved, as I described in my last post, that the future would hold more time for family and friends than . . . it didn’t.  As I opened gifts on Saturday evening before our picnic, I learned that my daughter had spent the previous several days organizing a surprise birthday party for me for the night before!  A party that had been cancelled because I was conducting a funeral that evening. I was crushed when the surprise was inadvertently revealed by my son (who assumed that I must have known by then) ~ I had had NO idea and have always wished that someone would plan a surprise party for me!  Well, as a friend pointed out, I did get my wish  . . .  someone did plan a party.

A few nights later, I missed my book club, a bi-monthly gathering of women friends, because I was en route home from an out-of-state training event.  I am so often flummoxed in my efforts to spend more time on my own relationships, and so disappointed when that happens; I am beginning to see retirement as a necessity more for creating time with those I love than for anything else!


When I’m Sixty-Four . . . 2


. . . tomorrow!  Four things to which I am looking forward, to accompany yesterday’s six for which I am grateful:

  1. A better balance in life, meaning more time with friends, more time getting to know people new in my life, more time outdoors, more time for photography.  That’s a lot of more, which means that there also has to be some less.  It’s so easy, in a life of ministry, to allow the demands of the work to consume all waking hours and then some, which is not healthy for any of us.
  2. Changes in physical space.  I know, I know, I’ve been talking about downsizing for years, but really . . . all this stuff has got to go!  Our kitchen is an antique and I’d really like to remodel that, enjoy the house for a few more years, and then move to our retirement bungalow.  (Or perhaps sell the house as is and move for a new adventure?)
  3. Better health.  I am indeed grateful for what I have, but there is plenty of room for improvement.  It’s all a crapshoot, but if I’m still around at 74, I’d like to be facing the following decade with less weight and more strength and more flexibility (that means any) than I have now.
  4. And, of course, travel.  Last night at a party, a few of us talked about our bucket lists.  Mine increasingly include a desire to spend a substantial amount of time in a few places and get to know them a little, including Alaska, Vancouver and BC, Quebec and the Maritimes, the Cinque Terre, more Utah, more PNW, more Paris, more Scotland.  My grandmother and I spent my 13th birthday in Copenhagen and my 15th in Florence ~ maybe I should be working on future birthday plans!

When I’m Sixty-Four . . . 1


. . . which I will be in two days, I am hoping to look back and forward with gratitude and hope.  So, today, six things for which I am grateful and, tomorrow, four to which I look forward!

  1. 1. My parents.  I barely remember my mother, but those moments etched into the grooves of my mind confirm that she was a woman open to all, unfailingly generous, and patient with her ever inquisitive and persistent firstborn child.  I’ve recorded this before, but one of my favorite memories is one in which I was waiting for her to get off the telephone in the kitchen one afternoon, so that I could ask about a new word I had just overheard. “Mommy, Mommy, Mommy, what does ‘dammit’ mean?”  Definition: “That’s not a word for little girls.”  My father, on the other hand, lived until almost his 85th birthday last year.  As I prepared for his memorial, I realized that despite his lifetime of disappointments (three wives, one son, one stepson, and one grandson all died before he did) and his rejection of any traditional faith as a possible source of solace (a response I find completely understandable), he was a deeply spiritual man in his passions for nature, canoeing into the back country, and music.
  2. My education.  Each stage offered different gifts, some of them intellectual, but many much broader.  A small, rural elementary school. (Cows on the other side of the playground fence). A Catholic convent boarding school. (Vatican II).  A demanding New England boarding school. New England colleges.  Law school in Cleveland.  Jesuit training in spiritual direction.  A seminary education in Pittsburgh.  If I were younger (and richer), I’d go back for a D.Min.
  3. My family.  A long marriage.  Three beautiful, funny, inventive children.  Today, the prospect of a daughter-in-law and grandson.  More sorrow than anyone should have to swallow, but I guess I learned a few things (all of which I would trade in a nanosecond, along with everything else in my life excepting my surviving children, for one more day with my son).
  4. Good work to do.  It has been my privilege to accompany people through some of the roughest moments in their lives as they have negotiated divorces and custody decisions, to teach students of all ages, to do volunteer work that has mattered ~ in nature and in suicide prevention,and to serve God and, a little bit, the world, through ordained ministry.  (I also happen to know how to make GI Joe flashlights on an assembly line, how to serve endless rounds of hamburgers and beer, how to whip a hotel room into shape while watching soap operas (do the bathrooms during the commercials), and how to order and display drugstore cosmetics.)  The best thing about every job I have ever held has been the people ~ the ladies in the Hasbro factory, the folks who taught me about birds and about photography, the clients who shared their deepest fears and frustrations with me, the students who taught me about Orthodox Judaism,  the parishoners who have welcomed me on even my worst days, and the people who push for health, especially mental health, care, education, legislation, and funding.
  5. Some reasonable good health.  I have been careless and lazy and had some major stumbles along the way (and now, oh, those knees!), but I am grateful for a body which  has recovered again and again.   On the whole, I can walk a long way, paddle a canoe, and get through the day ~ no small things.
  6. Nature.  The skies and all that swirls through them, the mountains and beaches and lakes and rivers and canyons I’ve seen and those I haven’t, the hikes and paddles I’ve made, the animals and birds (including the ones who’ve lived in my house) who ignore us but make this world so much more than it would be were we here alone.  Most especially the owls and the hawks and the gannets.  If I have a theme poem, it’s Mary Oliver’s Wild Geese.  “The world offers itself to your imagination.”

It turns out that 64 means a lot of life. Not yet “Yours sincerely, wasting away!”


Being Sick


Well, that worked out well.


I’ve been down for now eleven days with the virus from hell.  Yesterday, the head nose ear throat pain finally gone, but feeling as if a relapse might be imminent, I spent the morning leading a group discussion and then returned home to crawl under a blanket and stay there, too exhausted even to ponder the piles of small tasks that remain undone.


The consequence was that I awoke at 4:30 this morning and, an hour later, unable to go back to sleep, began to stir.  I read for an hour, took care of a pile of laundry and ironing, and ate some cereal and berries for breakfast.  I had to throw out most of the blackberries that I had purchased so hopefully a few days ago, walking slowly through the grocery as I began to glimpse the promise of recovery.


What I have been pondering is this business of being so sick.  The last time it happened, over a year ago, I had just begun a new call as a pastor, and Lent had quickly arrived, which meant an additional service each week at a time when I was already challenged by getting to know new people and new ways.  No wonder I fell ill!  And, unwilling to take time off in my first month, I plowed through the weeks that lay before me, taking several more of them to recover, while trying to conceal how thoroughly miserable I was.


This year, no new roles lie before me ~ perhaps a great stress in itself.  But there is a disturbing commonality between last year and this.  In both cases, just before I was felled by illness, I had been feeling particularly energetic and content, and in both cases I had added  a slightly more demanding exercise regimen to my life ~ a bit more walking, and a few trips to the gym.  It seems that my immune system may have had, in both cases, all that it could do to handle the additional workouts, and succumbed quickly when presented by an unfamiliar virus.


It’s quite discouraging to discover that I may have reached a point at which my body will accept only the slightest increase in stress before it reaches a breaking point.  I know that the life of all-nighters and even frequent late evenings out is long gone, but I am stymied by bow quickly I can be ambushed by a simple virus.


I am resolved to begin walking as soon as possible, and to practice more in the way of healthy eating.  But for now . . .  more sleep!





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