Tag Archives: Aging

The Lives We Live

When I was young, and even as I grew older, I believed we had one life to live. I suppose, in a literal sense, that’s still true, but I’ve come to understand that there is a difference between life, and the lives we live within that life.

The transitions are so gradual that we don’t always know they’re happening. But one day, when we choose to stop for more than a few moments and look back at the different phases our lives have visited , we realize the person in that photo may not think or act the same; may not believe what he or she once did when they were innocently smiling at the camera.

When we’re young we live a life of innocent freedoms. Days that never end, summers that last forever, years that we trust will always be there. School is a double decade that gradually introduces us to less freedom, some stress and relationships with family and friends that have the power to shape and influence our lives forever. We were born into these first twenty years and when the transition into “adulthood” happens, we head into it as a continuation of what we know, combined with changes to our daily life and schedules, but never really looking back. Well, maybe when loss rears its ugly head, when we find that we have to navigate the future without someone we always thought would be there for us. We may take a moment to look back then. To remember what was.

But there are things to do. A life to live. Or at least this part of our life. We have jobs, sometimes marry, sometimes begin families and for the next twenty or so years, become that person. We live that life of advancing our careers or attempting to keep our jobs. If we’re married and have children, we run as if the next event, game, concert, field trip, party, sleepover or dance is life altering.  Until it abruptly stops, and children go to college or find a job and hopefully move out.

And we transition again.

Sometimes this change is a little more noticeable. Sometimes we pause a little longer. Our families grow smaller before they get bigger. Family celebrations are different because some of the people at the center of those celebrations are no longer with us. So we sometimes move to other homes and begin different traditions. Our mornings are a little more quiet, our evenings require less running and we find more time for ourselves to enjoy this part of our lives. If we’re fortunate, our working lives begin to wind down and we find time to appreciate time.

If we’re lucky.

These lives we live change us in different ways. Our centers become different or altered at times. Our judgments, mindsets, and beliefs all find different ways or equations to the answers in front of us. Hopefully our core values remain the same but that’s never a given. We may want to believe we are the same person today as we were twenty or thirty years ago, but we aren’t. In truth, how can we be? We’ve lived and lost too much. We’ve gained new experiences, travelled, developed new friendships, learned new ways and came to appreciate the lives we live now, more than ever.

I look back at old photos now and wonder what that boy or young man was thinking of at the time, what his day was like and what he was looking forward to tomorrow. I wonder if he had a plan or dream that day. I wonder what was making him laugh in that moment, why he chose to buy that ugly shirt and when he was going to finally get a haircut.  I wonder if he would change anything if he knew everything.

Personally, I believe he wouldn’t change a thing.

P.S. I’ll be back soon.

 

 

Life Transitions

The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected
Robert Frost

We never really notice them, until we do.

We move through the early years of our lives almost seamlessly, understanding the changes that occur but viewing them as nothing more than another transition. Some are more dramatic than others, even life altering, at times. But we move on, knowing there is something up ahead, another phase in our lives. A transition from childhood to adulthood. For some it may include marriage and children. For others a career, a new business, a divorce, health issues, grandchildren, travel and even loss.

But while we’re young, or younger, there is always tomorrow. There is a confidence of tomorrow that is somewhat tempered as we age. We don’t live in fear because that type of life is not really living. We just understand the reality of life. I’m more aware of my mortality at 65 than I was at 35. That’s not morbid, it just is.

It’s the reality many people refuse to speak about. People think about it but can’t seem to verbalize their feelings. Even if they did, no one would want to hear it.

I was watching a baseball game the other day with my grandson and we were talking about this young player who is in his early 20’s. And it occurred to me that this player might have a career that lasts twenty years. It also occurred to me, though I hope to live a long healthy life, that I may not be around to see the end of his career. That’s not morbid, that a reality I never thought about before. I’ve watched sports my whole life and that single thought has never crossed my mind.

I’ve transitioned from from my youth to adulthood. I married, have raised a family and have been blessed to see my children begin their own families. I was fortunate to have a good career and I’m now retired. I’ve transitioned once again but I understand that what’s behind me is very different than what’s in front of me.

That being said, I know that I will never be any younger than I am today. In many ways, I am living the youth years of the rest of my life. I don’t know if that makes sense to everyone but it does to me. It has to. Because there is much more to see, much more to do. My mind understands the number and how many trips I’ve had around the sun but it continues to rage against the machine.

I don’t know where the next transition will take me, I only know my eyes are always open.

Just know that if I become famous in my still unknown second career, I will remember everyone who hits the like button on my posts.

 

 

 

 

The Art Of Simplicity

“Voluntary simplicity means going fewer places in one day rather than more, seeing less so I can see more, doing less so I can do more, acquiring less so I can have more.”
 John Kabat-Zinn

I was watching the Grammy Awards the other evening and aside from the fact that it seemed to be a requirement that all women wear an outfit that was cut open from neck to naval, the ceremony was pretty much as it has been for many years now; part talent, part extravagance and part freak show.

But what caught my attention the most was how simple it is for real talent to be expressed. If you possess the gift of a pure voice, you can captivate an audience without thirty-two dancers, extravagant costumes, pyrotechnics, gimmicks or relying on the shock factor.

If you can sing, people will stop and pay attention. It’s that simple. Everything else either detracts from the talent or attempts to cover up a lack of talent.

Then I thought about how that same principle applies to our lives. As Confucius once said, “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”

I think age sometimes allows us to understand that concept more clearly. Because at its core,  life really is simple. it’s our individual choices, decisions, influences, words and attitudes that complicate things. We just can’t seem to get out of our own way, even when someone hands us the directions.

We are infatuated with the accumulation of stuff. The brilliant mind of George Carlin did entire routines on this very subject. We laughed because we understood he was talking about us and yet we were incapable of stopping.
We think and over think. We accumulate and store. We find the easiest path and decide there must be a better one. We look out the window and want that color grass. We strive to achieve without considering the cost. We find peace in the simple beauty of a sunset on a quiet beach and decide it would look better if there were thirty-two dancers performing in extravagant costumes on a party boat just off the shore line.

Somewhere, Thoreau is dying a thousand deaths.

The most amazing moments we have all experienced in life; the ones that stay with us forever, are never planned and usually the most simple.

We each have a voice and a song to sing. How we choose to live that song, is entirely up to us.

On Growing Up

Whenever I’ve traded childhood stories with anyone or discussed what it was like growing up, I always tell them the same thing; if anyone had a better childhood than I did, I’ve never met them.

I always said it but never gave much thought as to why I felt that way. I suppose, as a child, you live life a certain way and take so much for granted that you never consider that others may not be as fortunate.
As I grew up  got older, the reasons didn’t seem important enough to spend time thinking about it. I was busy with work and helping to raise three daughters; living in the present. I never understood until years later what made growing up so special for me.

It was family.

But it was more than just family. It was having immediate and extended family around me all the time. I never realized how blessed I was as a child. Aside from having terrific parents who worked hard, respected and loved each other and set the right examples, my brother and I were surrounded by our grandfathers, aunts, uncles and cousins every day.
We lived in an Italian/Jewish neighborhood which was only a few blocks by a few blocks. My parents owned a small grocery/meat store and we lived behind the store in a small two bedroom apartment. It was the classic neighborhood corner store, where every one congregated. We didn’t have much monetarily but I never noticed or thought about it.
My aunt and uncle lived around the corner, my cousins up the block, another aunt who was like a grandmother to me and was always around, lived a few miles away. Both of my grandmothers had died but my mother’s father, who had originally owned the store, was there everyday. He came each morning and left before or after dinner. My friends and I would play cards with him, pitch pennies, play handball, listen to his stories and tell jokes.
My dad’s family lived in Brooklyn. They came to visit every other Sunday. Aunts, uncles and my other grandfather. That grandfather would take me to the park to hit baseballs, play basketball and stop at the candy store on the way back for an ice cream soda. Every other sunday.

Life was different then. Families didn’t move away as much as they do now. They remained a part of the neighborhood. They stayed close. They made memories. The kind you can only make when you can walk down the street to your aunt’s home and know there will always be something in the oven or candy dish for you. Where you can walk into their yard and help pick the figs or pears off the tree and leave with a bag of fruit and veggies. Where your grandfathers became two of your best friends.

It’s hard to explain to someone who’s never experienced those moments, all that they’ve missed. The weekly sunday dinners, the loud card games, the laughter, the knowledge that you can never wander too far without someone you love looking out for you. Someone right there in your backyard.

As you get older, you begin to lose those pieces of your life and childhood. Stories that only a select few people knew are not told as often. One day they will fade completely. Places you went for sunday dinners now have other families sitting in that same kitchen. Sometimes when I pass by, I want to knock on the door, just to peek in and imagine everyone again, as they once were.
Change is always part of life’s eternal equation. That’s just the way it is. But what made my childhood so special remains with me today. No amount of change can change that.

Because you can’t take away family.

 

 

 

Every Piece Has A Story

I’m not a person who walks into an antique store looking for something to buy. On occasion I have but our home is not filled with antiques. Instead I enjoy the nostalgia aspect of it; revisiting the past and seeing things that I grew up with on store shelves.

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I love opening or picking up pieces, imagining their history and where they began their journey. I know it sounds strange to say about inanimate objects but even they have a life. They were once new, bought by someone who was excited to have purchased that piece.

I wonder where that old suitcase has been. What trips it took and why it was originally purchased. A honeymoon perhaps? College? Did it fly when air travel was still in its infancy or did it cross the ocean on a three week voyage.

I try to imagine when that woman’s purse might have been purchased and what valuables it may have held. Did it go on dates? Was it held during a first kiss? Did it attend weddings?

That chest of drawers was new at one time and it held a wardrobe back then. How did it look new? How many addresses has it had?

The dining room table and chairs probably once had a family gathered around it. Who was that family? What holidays, birthdays and special occasions were celebrated around that table?

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Jewelry has always fascinated me the most because they are usually special pieces even if it’s only costume jewelry. Did someone purchase it for a special occasion or as a gift for someone special? I always believed the jewelry stories have to be the most interesting because they are not part of those items considered necessary or essential. So the meaning must have special significance.

I also always wonder how these pieces came to be where they are. Was it part of an estate sale or purchased at a flea market or garage sale? I once asked the owner of an antique store how he found some of these pieces and he said many people come in looking to sell them. I suppose they’re either cleaning out the homes of family members or in some cases, their own.

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That last thought always leads me to wonder what will happen to the items in our own home. Eventually, it will end up somewhere. Some things will be passed down, some sold, and some may even be thrown out. But every piece, like those I held in my hand in those antique stores, has a story attached to it. Every piece holds value, monetary or sentimental.

I wonder if one day someone will wander through one of these stores and pick up a piece that was once a part of our life. I wonder what they’ll think and if they’ll find it interesting enough to purchase.  If so, I wonder where in their home it might end up. I’d like to think it will bring someone happiness. I hope so anyway.

Because even inanimate objects can bring happiness.

Even inanimate objects have a life.

 

Excuse Me, Are You Stiff?

 

We were traveling recently through North Carolina with a side trip on the way home through Appomattox Virginia to visit the National Park and the site of Lee’s surrender to Grant. On the way out, about two miles from the parks entrance, I passed a building that looked like an airline hangar with this sign on the side of the driveway.

img_4606 Now if this were my business and someone suggested this name, I’d probably laugh at the marketing possibilities and then come to my senses. Besides the fact the building looked like a drive through for something I’m not sure of, this is just a bad idea.

Yes, people will take pictures and remember the name but do you want your deceased loved ones taken to a place whose name is a punchline? Suggestion….first names work, as do other more comforting forms of expression.

It actually makes me wonder if the owner’s name is Stiff Bruce and he thought the name might be too insensitive.

You think I’m crazy? Take another look at the photo. The angels seem to be turning away. It seems even heaven has difficulty with the name.

You can start with the punch lines at any time. The possibilities are endless.

Loneliness

There was a sad, yet heartwarming story that came out of Rome yesterday. Police responded to a call after someone reported crying and shouting coming from an apartment. When police arrived they were met by a couple, Jole who is 84 and her husband Michele who is 94. They have been married for 70 years.
The couple was not upset because a crime had been committed, but because they were overcome by loneliness and the depressing news they had been watching on television. Apparently they had not been visited by anyone in a while since much of the city empties out during the summer months and neighbors were on holiday.
In an attempt to make them feel better, the police stayed with them, cooked them a simple spaghetti meal and spent the evening listening to stories of their lives.

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Loneliness affects millions of people, especially the elderly who are homebound and unable to participate in society the way they once did. A recent study claims that while only 18% of the elderly live alone, 43% felt lonely. That’s a difficult statistic to read.
Whether someone has lost a spouse or has grown old together, the way this Italian couple has, advanced age can take a toll on your life, even if you are relatively healthy. We all know people in the 80’s and 90’s who remain very active but the majority of those who have lived that long have lost most, if not all of their friends, and what remains is a time in their lives that most people don’t remember.

While age alone does not corner the market on loneliness, there is an isolation for many older people which doesn’t offer them an opportunity to alter their lives. Phone calls and visits certainly help but much of their day involves little or no human contact. The difficult truth or realization for many is that life has moved on without them. They are no longer part of a working society, have given up their cars, and rarely leave their homes except for medical visits. The independence of living alone that many elderly people prefer to have, comes with a cost that most of us can’t imagine or prefer not to think about. Day after day, week after week, month after month, year after year. What they know and see is confined to the walls of the rooms that surround them and like this couple in Italy, those walls seem to get closer each day.

We celebrate age with parties and photos in the newspapers of people who have turned 90 or 100 and it is quite an accomplishment. The experts tell us that advances in the field of medicine will allow people to live longer. But there is a difference between living and being alive. All of these people were alive once. They lived active and full lives; had families, jobs, hobbies, and were most likely surrounded by people on a daily basis. I don’t think they ever thought about loneliness.

We all know people like Jole and Michele. Sometimes we see them out somewhere or sitting on a porch or at a window, watching life go by as we pass. Sometimes a wave turns into a smile, sometimes a smile into voice.

At the end of the day, we all need to believe that our lives have a voice.