Think of these pages as graffiti maybe, and where I have scratched up in a public place my longings and loves, my grievances and indecencies, be reminded in private of your own. In that way, at least, we can hold a kind of converse.  –Frederick Buechner

I remember how excited I was when I got my first pair of reading glasses. I’d always wanted to wear glasses. In grade school I hoped the school nurse would send that note home with me, telling my parents I needed to have my eyes tested, when she checked them each year. Sometimes I would squeeze my eyes tight shut as I waited for my turn, hoping it would make the letters on the chart blurry. It didn’t. I hung those reading glasses around my neck on a gold chain, letting them rest on my chest at the ready as I taught high school English, thinking, “Oh, look at me . . . growing old. Aren’t I cute!” I was forty-five.

That’s kind of the way it is with aging. As we near the magic fifty-five we think, “This isn’t so bad.” Your kids are graduating from college, or marrying, building new lives . . . and your pockets of time begin stretching, making room for things you longed to do when you had a full house. Like read and nap. You are a grandma. You walk on the beach with your friend, sun on your shoulders, feet in the icy California surf, hair vibrant, cheeks round . . . like you used to the first day of school each fall when you were young mamas. You laugh about how you’d pictured yourselves back then. “We thought we’d be wearing skirted bathing suits . . . but look at us!” You go out deeper, you with your round hips, she with her thin legs and poochy tummy (her words) . . . and jump waves, chins just above water, talking about your kids, what you’ll cook for dinner, and what you’ll be like when you’re really old. You’re sure it will be just like it is now except your hair may be white . . . “if we let it.” You assume you’ll still be doing all of this . . . working, driving over to the beach on a Saturday, directing a choir or teaching at a retreat, looking in on your folks. Efficiency seems like a birthright. All of the complicated pieces of your life still shift easily, almost imperceptibly, into place, energy abounds. “Growing old isn’t so bad. I’m going to be pretty good at this.” You see subtle signs of aging in friends you haven’t seen for a length of time, but none in yourself, of course. You’ll be the exception.

Twenty years later you look back and think, “Weren’t they precious,” those girls with the polished nails and schedules, the “catch us if you can” smiles and laughter, jumping waves, warming up in a solar-heated car with their coffee. The idea of growing old was still a novelty . . . like those first reading glasses resting on my bosom.

I’ve certainly lived long enough to know that this growing old is a privilege, a gift. I’ve lost dear friends and family way too soon, fought my own battle with cancer. This is not a warning about the horrors of aging. Perhaps, instead, it’s a glimpse of life a bit further down the road . . . insights from a friend traveling just ahead of you, marking the curves. Things I’m learning:

Efficiency is overrated. What was once one of my hallmarks, I relinquish to others. I choose simply to find joy in the task at hand.

Physical changes are inevitable. I’m a comfort girl. Being comfortable is my goal. And I’ve had a guy who’s done all the heavy lifting through the years, his love gift to me. So sometimes I must tell myself to push through. “Toughen up, Buttercup!” Keep at it. Adjust, but don’t quit. Get the walking poles out. The less I do, the less I can do. My big sister Kathy doesn’t have to tell herself this. She’s always been tough. She’s my inspiration.

You don’t have to say everything you know, or say it all right. Life isn’t one big exam. Sometimes, most times, you don’t have to say anything at all. I’m fairly certain that everyone in my concentric circles knows exactly how I feel about most things. They don’t need my opinions or instructions. Give them room to hear God for themselves. I wasted a lot of time thinking I had to say it all right and do it all right. We became mamas in a day that touted “painless natural childbirth,” if you did it right. We went to the classes for weeks. Our husbands sat on the floor behind us, cradling us as we leaned back and practiced our breathing. I had three ten-pound babies in four years . . . and failed the painless childbirth test. I was the girl screaming at the end of the hall, sending doctors and nurses running. Then there was a right way to discipline, bake bread, make baby food, nurse and diaper your babies. What felt right was sitting on the floor cross-legged with a toddler in my lap for ladies’ Bible Study every week. Passing him to a friend if it was my turn to teach. Opening my home. Building relationships. Teaching someone how to bake bread or make gravy. Making beautiful things and a home. Enjoying my children. It took me years to trust what felt right. I can’t even wrap my head around all of the added instructions, admonitions, and intrusions you mamas have today. Trust yourself.

Dreams are still possible. Live your dreams. If not now, when? I’m talking about your deep longings, those visions you have of yourself living and doing what brings you joy. That’s how you know it is a dream. Maybe it’s finishing your book, seeing Vermont in the fall, learning to cross country ski, painting the fields of tulips in the wind outside of Seattle one spring, getting that short haircut, tourquoise jewelry, and long skirt and boots. And maybe it’s something as simple as living a favorite John Denver song . . .

There's a storm across the valley, clouds are rollin' in
The afternoon is heavy on your shoulders
There's a truck out on the four lane, a mile or more away
The whinin' of his wheels just makes it colder

He's an hour away from ridin' on your prayers up in the sky
Ten days on the road are barely gone
There's a fire softly burning, supper's on the stove
It's the light in your eyes that makes him warm

Hey, it's good to be back home again
Sometimes this old farm feels like a long lost friend
Yes, and hey, it's good to be back home again
–Back Home Again, John Denver

These words, this melody, take me back to a time when I dreamed of being exactly where I am today . . . in a cabin by the lake, wood stove burning, supper on the stove, living an extraordinary, ordinary life. The simple things that turn out to be everything. Let the songs, the scriptures, the poems, the beauty, the dreams, your prayers, continue to move you . . . nudge you, remind you to light the candle again, bake the pie, take the walk, make supper, love your crabby husband, believe that life is still worth living. It’s a choice. It still matters. Perhaps this truth more than any other is what I keep learning. It all still matters. Sometimes a song can preach to your soul as much as a sermon.

23 thoughts on “Back home again

  1. So right on! I am a child of the hippie days and now 72 and resonate deeply with your words, cabin granny! Sending love and peace, Nancy

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you for this. I need to start living differently, I’m trying to figure out how to live my dream. I hope I figure it out and write my book. Thank you for these words of encouragement.


  3. Oh the wisdom of aging, not painless, but amazing if one releases oneself. I love the John Denver song as well. Write your book, I can’t wait to read it.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Nothing better than living an “extraordinary, ordinary life” ! ( I too, had two ten pound plus baby boys…only ten years apart! You’re a gifted writer and I enjoy your writings immensely! Was happy to see your hubby was well enough to be outside tending the fire…have been praying for you both💕

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you Linda. It means the world, your prayers for us. How blessed we are. And thank you for your lovely, encouraging words about my writing. I guess we are sisters . . . with those ten pound babies! It feels every bit as overwhelming and hard looking back as it was in the moment. Lifechanging.


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