Two lines from a song we sang in grade school. I wonder whether my mood is called to answer that of the velocity of the wind or does the wind match my thoughts and feelings?
We were on summer vacation and I was feeling restless. Though there were occasional patches of blue sky, the clouds in the west looked increasingly ominous. As the wind began to rise, so did my exhilarating need to out race the buffeting gusts of air, so I ran straight into the now-howling turbulence. Sensations of fear to joy took over. As the branches of apple, pear, and maple trees were writhing in wild abandon, I joined them in their dance. Being young and of average size for my age, about six or seven, it wasn’t long before I was securely wind-pinned, lying against a stone wall. Out of breath, I watched as the fury slowly subsided to a gentle summer breeze. The sun reappeared. No longer restless, the lingering sense of excited fear and joy in the whole experience soon settled back to the calmer feelings of my ordinary way of life.
I think the last time I ever made a big to-do list was when I was 17 and a freshman in college. The items on my list were largely professional ambitions and within three or four months I had forgotten everything on the list. I doubt I ever accomplished any of them, as I kind of reacted my way through life. I wasn’t anything like Lou Holtz who made a very ambitious list at an early stage in his football coaching career. When he retired from his lifetime appointment as head coach at Notre Dame about 15 years ago, he claimed to have achieved all but five or six of the 107 items on the list. His list included things like being invited to the White House for dinner, winning a national championship in football and being head coach at Notre Dame. It was an impressive list and I think it was published in the Wall Street Journal. He’s gone on to write a lot of motivational books and has received many accolades as a motivational speaker. He’s even coached for two or three years since then. About the only things we have in common is that we’re both old, and we’ve been married to our wives for a long time.
No, I wasn’t much like Holtz. Looking back over my life I see that though I started off with some ambition, I wavered and changed my mind a lot. John Kerry was criticized for his votes on the latest Iraq war. He admitted that “first he voted for it before he voted against it.” They called it a flip-flop. That willingness to reexamine an issue doesn’t go over well in politics, and it probably cost him the election in 2004, when he ran against a man who bragged of never changing his mind. I guess I like John Kerry, especially after they criticized him for windsurfing. He was a very good windsurfer, and I admire that. I also admire his courage in speaking out against the Vietnam war as a highly decorated veteran.
The bucket list created by the old men in the movie didn’t really make sense to me. Why would they want to run all over the world, when they were dying and they still had important relationships that needed healing? Why not just work on their relationships and watch some great movies that could surely entertain, while they enjoyed the comforts of home?
When I read the weekly column by the Yoder family in the Springfield Republican newspaper, I see that like the previous writer of this family finance column, they like to travel a lot. They call it an investment in building memories. I think it is good to have memories, but the ones that are most important to me are of things that happened, little stories of unexpected things, that might have occurred anywhere. It’s the human interactions that I remember, the things that fill out my knowledge of people I know or have known. I’m not an artist or a very good photographer, so when I’m at a famous place, I don’t know how to remember it. I need a story line, and just describing a hotel or a dinner doesn’t do it for me. Now that I’m trying to learn how to write, I’m learning that you need some description, so that’s something I will need to add to my repertoire if I’m to make much progress. At this point I don’t feel the need to visit famous places. When I look back on where I’ve been, my best memories are of those times when I’ve kind of surprised myself, doing things that were outside my expectations, changing myself or the way I view the world.
When I was young, I liked having friends who were just like me. That’s what I liked about MIT: we were a very homogeneous lot back then, nearly all male, nearly all left brained, not very athletic, with not very good social skills, with not much interest in writing or arts, but pretty good at math. Somehow, late in my first year, I seemed to change. I looked at the other side, and by spring of sophomore year I was out and on my way to some small adventures. I went back too soon, and was back on the trail of a physics degree. I worked on missiles and briefly Apollo before going off to grad school in physics to get away from the war machine. Now I’m finding that I want to meet and know people different from me. Two weeks ago I went to a Sunday church service, one of my very few in the last 50 years. I’ve got two ministers in my family, but I’ve never heard either of them preach, although we’ve had some interesting discussions. I’m especially interested in people who write. That’s one of the things I like about Greenfield. There are so many writers in the area. I took three courses in memoir writing at GCC, and I’ve been in a writing group since then, and I go to the once a month open mic meetings at Bart’s and at Greenfield Spoken Word. Sometimes I go to Shelburne Falls, or Millers Falls, or Northampton to read. I’m developing a passion for writing.
I was inspired by a book written by Helen Hills, a woman from Warwick in Franklin county, who volunteers as a visitor to elders. She came many times to visit my mother-in-law who was often depressed. Helen always cheered her up. Helen’s in her 80s with a husband in his 90s. She wrote a book based on 15 years of volunteer work with the elderly. Her book is called “Aging Well.” It’s full of wonderful wisdom about successful aging. She provides many pages of references to professional and popular articles on the subject. She points out the benefits as well as the downside of aging. Her main advice is to have a passion. That seems the main difference between those who are happy and those who aren’t, as they age.
If you ask me what my aims are now, I could make a short list.
- Do a lot more writing. Try to make it a passion. Learn to appreciate it and work to get better. Read it, and send it out to the on-line publishers, and make more friends who are writers.
- Be nice to my family, especially my wife. I know I need a best friend. I’m probably more in love than ever before. That’s a big plus.
- Make lots of new friends in all walks of life. I need to remind myself that I don’t know it all. I’ve still got a lot to learn. That’s something to look forward to.
If it was my last year of life, I would probably do it differently. I would look up all my old friends. I would write out a message for each. I’d try to visit or have them come, one by one. I’d give each a nice gift and I’d thank them for being my friend.
Several years ago The National Embroiderers Guild had a chapter here in Greenfield. Anyone could belong as long as their handwork was accomplished with the use of a needle with an eye. Individuals with all skill levels were encouraged to join the group with an eye toward improving methods and learning new crafts, as well as using the latest techniques and tools in accomplishing our own specialties.
Our original members comprised a wide spectrum in needle artistry, but there was no one person with an all-encompassing knowledge of the subject. We learned new skills from each other each month by designating one of our members, who was skilled in the process the majority wanted to learn, as the next month’s teacher. Many of us found a great teaching tool in small, pre-assembled sampler kits. In this way we learned basic and Crewel embroidery, Needlepoint, Bargello, Black and white, Shisha, Kogin, Brazillian, Continue reading
I don’t really care the shape I’m in
I don’t really care that my hair is thin
I’ve got wrinkles on my face. Is that a crime?
It just means I’ve been here for a long, long time.
I could get a face lift and have a boob job done
But I don’t think that sounds like a lot of fun!
And if I had that face lift, I think all you’d see
Is the only one I’m fooling is most likely me!
His inner voice kept nagging as he stood ankle-deep in the cooling water at the shore of Goose Pond.
“Don’t do it! It’s too far and puts too much at risk,” the voice warned.
Recently honorably discharged from service in the Navy, Allen was used to following orders, but, realizing these commands were self-inflicted fears, he took a shallow dive and started to swim for the eastern shore of the pond a quarter-mile away.
The water temperature changed from refreshing to icy cold, quite often. The cold areas were numbing, fed by springs in the bottom of the pond. Much like the ups and downs of his life, lately.
His high school diploma and Navy experience took him nowhere in the post-war job market, but with his savings and financial help from his parents, they now owned a sizable piece of shore-front property, with cabins.
Though he had reached the eastern shore, his doubts and anxieties came back to plague him in full force: No experience in renting out the cabins to summer vacationers or hunting parties in the fall and a very slim budget to repair and up-grade the property. Boats, such as they were, that came with the property, could be made to hold together for a while. Was the whole venture worth the up-coming struggle?
Allen tried to blank out thoughts of the huge burden he had assumed, by diving back into the pond to complete his half mile swim. Half way across, a cramp struck in his right leg. Floating on his back, he watched the evening star appear, a large sun dog was suddenly pierced by shining shafts of light from the disappearing sun. An owl hooted, its mate answered. Allen’s mind, body, and soul felt the peace and quiet of this place.
Gaining his own shore, he thought, “We will make this work!”
When I really take the time to sit and think about my father, one thing that comes to mind about him is that he never, ever, raised his voice at me even if I probably deserved it. My mom was more the disciplinarian and Dad was the one who thought up the fun things to do. He taught me how to fish in the little brook near our home, and he even had me baiting my own hook at a very early age. And while Mom was more the academic, Dad is the one who encouraged me to tell stories about things we’d see or talk about. These subjects ranged from the deer we’d see in the woods near our home, to the tree fort we were planning to build.
Another image that comes up when I think of my dad is orange popsicles and beer! Sounds like a strange combination, I know. But Continue reading
“Hmm – write about a leaving or a departure or some such – that’s a broad subject to be sure”, she thought. As a young person, I thought a lot about leaving – or others leaving. When my sister and I were young, we worried that our parents might die and we’d have to go and live with our aunt and uncle. It wasn’t that we didn’t love them dearly and we knew they loved us in return – but – our aunt had some very conservative ideas about how children should dress and act and we amused ourselves sometimes, dreaming up various scenarios on that theme. We’d laugh and laugh -and shudder a bit also. (Boring shoes and no lipstick seemed to feature in these visions.)
Later on, it seemed we all wanted to leave for something – we wanted to move on to the next grade, on to high school. In high school we dropped, changed, left, boyfriends, girlfriends, hobbies, activities; changed course subjects, even. Life seemed always to be fluid in some ways, although we never actually strayed far from the familiar. Teenagers talk a good game, but are less courageous than you’d think.
Adult life found us all moving on in various ways. The armed forces found many of my generation traveling to far places; we went off to college; married, “settled down” – and many of us never ventured too far from what we knew as home territory. And now, she mused, I am older and find that I have never ‘left home’. Although I dreamed once upon a time of travelling to exotic places (I read the National Geographic Magazine all through my childhood) and have managed some trips to new places, I find that I am now the one left behind – or call me the ‘core’ person; the one who stays and is comfortable sending children out to their lives in the wider world. Although this particular apple never fell far from her New England tree (a Baldwin, perhaps?), it has produced sturdy branches in other places.
“And, she added – there is one leave-taking that will take place eventually, that affects everyone – and it’s one that no one wants to discuss – ever. No matter how practical and pragmatic one’s children may seem, talk of that final leaving they prefer to leave in limbo until they must face it. And we won’t be around to tell them how we want that last leaving to be carried out!”
I grew up in Springfield, Massachusetts. My mother remarried in January 1966, when I was 13 years old. For their honeymoon, the three of us cruised across the Atlantic Ocean to Gothenburg Sweden. My brother came to New York to see us off. My mother decided to give him her new cranberry Ford Fairlane. They had shipped my stepfather’s black Mercury Comet by freighter the previous week, so the car was waiting for us when we disembarked. Two of my stepfather’s nephews owned a funeral parlor. They purchased the Comet as a status symbol. Continue reading
Charlie and I will soon be celebrating our 48th anniversary. And they said it wouldn’t last! No, really they did! Charlie was two months away from his 19th birthday and I had just turned 19, nine days earlier. Does that make me the “older woman?” I’ll have to say this, it wasn’t always easy. Big surprise, huh? But I will also say I wouldn’t trade a second of it for a billion dollars. I used to say a million dollars, but what with inflation and all.
Can I tell you about our big fight? Doesn’t every couple have at least one of those? Well, here’s ours, laid bare Continue reading