I am gazing out the window at my serviceberry tree, which is turning the prettiest shade of burnt orange. Autumn is here. The sun is shining. It’s a good day.
And we have some catching up to do. Let’s take a virtual coffee break, near the serviceberry. I’ll bring the French press if you bring the treats.
100+ and still kicking it. I’ll begin by telling you the story of two centenarians who will make you rethink any bellyaching you want to do on any given day. The first is a neighbor of mine. Ruthanna is 103 years old, and she’ll tell you that proudly. I’ve seen her, over the past year, tooling around the block with her walker. It has a little seat built in so she can rest whenever she needs to. A tiny slip of a thing with barrettes placed just so in her immaculately kept hair, Ruthanna and I were officially introduced recently by another neighbor (who is a spry 80-something).
Looking at her, I’m sure she has her age wrong. She could pass for 80, easily. And yet, she tells me her son is 77 years old, so 103 is not out of the question. Sharp and articulate, she tells me of her husband, who she says was in Normandy with U.S forces on D-day. He commanded the ship that served as backup for Dwight D. Eisenhower, in case anything happened to Ike’s ship. “My Ray didn’t talk about it much,” she says. And then muses: “Men just got things done in those days and didn’t have to caw about it.” I agree and bemoan with her that more men don’t do the same today.
Ruthanna is on her second time around the block that day—and is pondering a third. She lives in her own house and by her own rules. And my dog—90 pounds of crazy—is so very gentle with her. Bailey has a soft spot for Ruthanna–for the very old and the very young, really. Ruthanna is now part of Bailey’s pack, officially adopted with excessive sniffing and a lick of the hand.
The second 100+ maven I saw recently on a stage in a small Minnesota town, just a few weeks ago. I cannot remember her name, so we’ll call her Lettie. Lettie was being interviewed on tips for living a long life. I thought for sure she’d wax eloquent about love or purpose, but instead she launched into a lecture on—of all things—antioxidants. The long and short of it, according to Lettie, is to take in a lot of antioxidants and stay away from sugar. I found this ironic, as her interview followed a pie-eating contest.
Honestly, I don’t want to live to 100 years old. Do you? I don’t want to be the last of my friends and family to turn the lights out.
The next gen. As I refill your cup, let’s move from the well-seasoned in life to the young and green. My eldest has given me more than my fair share of sleepless nights over the years, but after a brief stint in the military, I’m seeing more of a man and less of a boy at 19 years of age. He is attending college and training with a local fire department. He is dating his high school sweetheart, a truly sweet girl. I am not only relieved to see him finding his way, I am thrilled to hear how happy he sounds.
Both of my sons are showing a wonderful sense of humor and finding their own ways in life—albeit very different ways. We recently sat at dinner and I thoroughly enjoyed the back-and-forth between them. Parents: isn’t it fun to see the people we bring into the world? To think about the myriad ways 50 trillion single cells can form to create a human being? It’s an amazing, humbling thing, being a part of that.
The dating game. You’d ask me about dating and I’d roll my eyes. A phenomenal first date that reminded me how fun it is to unwrap the gift of another person—that was nice. And a lot of men who are anything but inspiring—purporting to look for the love of their life while really searching for “friends with benefits.” Except they want to skip right to the benefits and forego the becoming friends part.
I’m focusing on my sons, my work, the small joys of life. I’m tired of coming face to face with the most unenlightened aspects of men. Especially when I still believe there are so many interesting, funny, smart, passionate men out there. I just think many of them, like me, don’t like the muck that comes with the online dating swim. Maybe I should ask Ruthanna for advice. Yes, that last bit comes with a wink.
Finding the good. I’m trying to balance between being aware of what’s going on in our world and keeping my spirits up. Despite the ugliness in my country right now, every day I see hope and goodness. Today, the phlebotomist who drew my blood asked me to stay a few extra minutes to talk to him about whether he should write the book he has in mind. He was super sincere in his desire to share what he’s learned in a certain area of life—taking care of an aging parent–with others who might be going through a similar situation. He said he’d like to help people’s lives become easier by learning on him. I walk out smiling.
And then an old woman with crazed eyes flips me off in traffic, as she runs a red light.
But then I have wonderful conversations with a couple of my son’s teachers at parent/teacher conferences and I realize they’re the best kind of educator—super competent, jazzed about what they teach, and they care. They know my son, as a teacher should. And they’re male role models I’m so glad he has. I feel inspired as I walked to my car after our meetings.
And then the grocery clerk is rude and cranky.
And so it goes. I must be getting something right because I give zero energy to the ugly now. It doesn’t usually faze me anymore. And I relish in the good.
There’s still a lot of good. Let’s clink our coffee cups, toasting to that.
“Here’s to a lot of good in the world,” I say. And you nod sagely, as you begin to tell me of your recent adventures.