Saturday, February 28, 2009


Falling away is the expression that Diana Athill, author of "Somewhere Towards The End", uses to describe her experience of growing old. She writes "There is not much on record about falling away. Being well advanced in that process...I say to myself, 'Why not have a go at it?' "

I finished reading the book. I cannot hope to emulate it, her experience is hers and mine is mine, her life history and mine are miles apart, her talent for writing far exceeds mine, but perhaps there is some value in sharing what I discover. So my blog will be my attempt at having "a go at it."

Yesterday I was walking through the aisles of my local grocery store. I was dressed very casually thinking I could get away with it since I was wearing a down coat. However it was warm in the store and I had unzipped it. The sweatshirt I was wearing was partially visible. I stopped to open the freezer door when a man diverted my attention by asking me what my sweatshirt said. I was startled but he was quite old and I had seen him earlier, a couple of aisles over, walking slowly with his wife. My sweatshirt announced the latest ad for the Army. He asked me who had served and I told him "my husband, my son and several grandchildren." He beamed and announced that he had "been in the big one." And I replied, "World War II." I told him that my father had fought in Italy until wounded. He then launched into his war story and I listened until his wife had finished her shopping and wanted to be escorted to the next aisle. He was so anxious to recount his experience and have an opportunity to talk to someone who was familiar with his jargon.

I knew why. My experience of spending fifty years on "active duty" as a dependent is still very much with me. I am still the mother of a son and grandmother to a granddaughter and two grandsons and two grandsons-in-law who are serving or have served. Now, I am separated from the life I once knew and I miss it. I miss it and am drawn to it--even by a sweatshirt.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Growing Older By Design

Dr. Maya Angelou, former Poet Laureate of the United States, pens a poem honoring the 50th Anniversary of AARP

When you see me
Sitting quietly like a sack
Left on a shelf
Don't think I need
Your chattering
I'm listening to myself.

At first the seasons arrive
Slowly dragging themselves
Over our wishes for a hasty departure
Ebbing slowly, staying, hovering
Above our lives
Like heavy clouds
Each threatening to remain
Past its appointed time
Giving way, grudgingly
To another year
Which promises to be even
Slower, more tedious

"Wait two months
Until summer"
Two whole months?
Then summer
Will never come
"Wait two months
Until Christmas"
Two whole months?
Then Christmas
Will never come
Childhood lasts a lifetime
Hear it dragging its drum
Across the floor
Then there is a subtle increase

In the march

We welcome the acceleration
We snap our fingersAnd match the tempo,
We are in joint,
This is our time,
Our muscles and bones
Our eyes and skin
Are at last one with
The space we are living in

The heart's steady hum
Quickly changes again
The tempo speeds ahead
Our efforts are vain
To slow down the train
Of life's racing ways
Taking our youth
And shortening our days

They remember our bright plumage
Now thinning and grey
Youth wags its heads
Sadly saying
We have had our day

When you see me walking slowly
And my feet won't find the stair
I will only ask one favor
Don't bring me a rocking chair

The pace has heightened again
And the blood slowsIn our veins
Slackened by age
We may stumble
And fumble and fall
We exchanged our place with time
For it races like light
Down a darkened hall

Please stop
Do not pity me
Please hold your sympathy
Understanding if you've got it
Otherwise I will do without it

When you see me moving slower
Don't study and get it wrong
Tired does not mean lazy
And each good bye is not gone

I am the same person
I was back then
A little less hair
A little less chin
Some less lung
And much less wind
I count myself lucky
I can still breathe in.
Hold, stop.
Don't pity me.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

May She Rest in Peace.

A close friend of mine died yesterday evening. She had undergone chemotherapy with good grace and I knew that Jeannie had come home from the hospital to die in the bed she had shared with her husband. Surrounded by their three daughters, she died at peace and with a smile. I suspect that the smile was for Bob who had succumbed to a heart attack 13 years ago. She looked forward to being buried above him at Arlington Cemetery.

She is the first of my close women friends to die. Several male acquaintances have died but Jeannie reminds me that time is of the essence.

I have so many wonderful memories of Jeannie and the times when we were together. I met her in Germany where she was teaching American children who were dependents of American military personnel. She was dating Bob, a Lieutenant who had recently graduated from West Point, a classmate of my husband's. They were married soon after and Chuck and I decorated a caisson (a horse drawn vehicle, usually two wheeled, once used to carry ammunition) for them to ride on to the Officer's Club for the reception. It was replete with wedding flowers and a bottle of champagne on ice! They loved it.

We were stationed together several times, especially in Washington, D.C. Chris and Jim, another classmate of 1954 were there also, and in addition to many memorable parties, we decided to celebrate Mother's Day picnics with our children, which we did for three years. Jeannie and Bob had three girls, Chris and Jim had three sons and two daughters and Chuck and I had two sons and two daughters. Those were happy days.

So many memories flood my mind. Bob, dressed up as a woman at Pam's costume party...being one of Bob's favorite redheads!...Jeannie was always cheerful and had a positive outlook on life. She was a serious thinker. And concerned about issues and causes. Bob adored her. When Chuck died Jeannie and Bob were there. A year later when Bob died I was there. And so were Chris and Jim. After the funeral we went to their beach house and spent a few days while Jeannie cried.

I did not have the opportunity to be near her and see her often but we called each other and talked. It is hard to explain but, when we were together or talked to each other, it was as if we had never been apart.
We were still friends. Always.

May she rest in peace.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

"There is not much on record about falling away."

The above quote is from the book "Somewhere Towards the End" that I am currently reading. It is a memoir by Diana Athill including her experience of growing old. She was born in 1917, worked for the BBC during the Second World War, and after that, helped Andre Deutsch establish his publishing house and worked as an editor. She has written four volumes of memoirs and a novel.

She describes one stage of her life: "Of course you have lost youth, you have moved on and stopped wanting what youth wants." I beg to differ! In my experience, our mirrors tell us that we are no longer young but somewhere deep in our conciousness there is a longing for youth and we never stop "wanting what youth wants." It is just that our bodies age and can no longer meet the demands that youth makes!