Tag Archives: getting older

I’m Getting Sentimental Over You!

Jane On a recent visit with my three sisters (our annual get-together), we got to talking about all sorts of things, including, of course, our children and how quickly they have all grown up.  One sister said the hardest thing for her about having her children grow up is that, in the process, she lost the little people they were at age 2, 4, 6, etc., as if someone came and spirited them away.

I’ve been thinking about this a lot since I got back from the trip and realizing that there is always a part of me that is half expecting those little ones to show back up, as if they are hiding somewhere in the house.  And thinking about them makes time compress and expand at the same time.

Lizzie and Parker in Roxbury, NY
Lizzie and Parker in Roxbury, NY

If I close my eyes, I can remember Lizzie, our first daughter, tromping into our kitchen in upstate New York in her favorite rubber boots and saying, “I ahna Goo-Koo,” (I want a cookie) or singing her way downstairs in the morning.  Same with Parker, next in line.  I can see him playing Power Rangers with his buddy Max or sitting at the kitchen table with his pirate ship and pirates and doing all the different voices for the various pirates and their enemies.  Becky is often sitting in her high chair (I think I must have left her in there a lot!), smiling at the thought of all the mischief she is cooking up to get her brother or sister to pay attention to her or standing at the bathroom mirror, cutting herself trying to shave her chin with her father’s razor.

Becky
Becky

Josie, the youngest, is always living in some story of her own making, like the millions of worlds she created for her dolls, or like the Madison Avenue world she inhabited one night in the bathroom, washing a hand towel over and over while singing out her version of the ad for OxyClean: “it gets your whites whiter and your bwights bwighter!”

Josie in Asheville
Josie in Asheville

 

So, the memories are vivid, but, if I think about it hard enough, they are not as fresh as I would like them to be.  And sometimes it’s hard to sort out what I really remember from what I have recorded in pictures and videos.  The hard part, I guess, about trying to hold onto memories of your children as little people is that, when they are actually little and getting bigger every day,  every memory is constantly getting replaced with a new one, each time the child does something new and different. (This is why I should have written things down in baby books!)  Before you even have a chance to catch your breath, the two-year-old version of your child is replaced with the three-year-old version, and you’re off and running on a whole new child!  Or, to state it more accurately in terms of how it feels, the two-year-old is replaced with the twenty-six year old version!

The "Men in Black" Christmas Card
The “Men in Black” Christmas Card

One great thing is that I still get glimpses of those earlier children in their new, larger bodies.  Every now and then, one of them will smile or laugh a certain way or turn their head at a certain angle, and there is the three-year-old version of themselves peeking out from behind their eyes or the six-year-old version looking worried and serious.  Same look, new source of worry!

Here’s to all the different versions of my children, in all their glory, including those little people who are hiding somewhere (maybe they will come back as grandchildren?) but especially these wonderful and strange grown-ups now inhabiting my world and saying they came from me and Tom!

Lizzie's Wedding!
Lizzie’s Wedding!

Capturing My Grandparents

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My grandfather, Surry Parker, was more of a myth than a man.  I never met him, since he died before I was born—even before my parents got married—so my only knowledge of him was from the stories people told.  And there were tons of stories—about, for instance, how he sped into Washington, NC in his Model A Ford, in the very earliest days of cars on the road and speed limits, and got stopped by a policeman, who said he would have to pay a fine for driving too fast.  My grandfather handed the policeman double the required amount and told him to keep the change because “I’ll be going out the same way I came in.”  Or there’s the one about the one or two times when my mother’s date might have stayed a little too long in the parlor, inspiring my grandfather to throw his shoes down the stairs, yelling, “Janie, tell that young rooster to go home!”  Or there’s the much earlier one about how he made my mother, five years old at the time, stand in the middle of a pile of dead-but-still-wriggling snakes in the Great Dismal Swamp (where the family lived in the early years of my mother’s life), so that he could get her picture, since he loved to take pictures.  My mother never questioned him; she did as she was told, but she remembered those snakes with terror to the day she died.  I was always proud to have Surry Parker as my grandfather, and all those stories played a useful role for me.  Whenever I was afraid of doing something bold and daring, or even just slightly out of the ordinary, I would think of one of those stories, and that would give me the courage to move forward.

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My grandfather as a young man
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My grandmother

But there was also a problem with the stories, in that people in my family got so caught up in talking about Surry Parker that they never really talked about his wife, my grandmother, lovingly called “Dovie,” except to say that she was basically one of the best people that ever lived—and that she loved Surry Parker!  But I would like to have known her better.  I would like to be able to get a picture in my head of the real Dovie, not just the one on the tombstone with the engraving, “Her children shall rise up and call her blessed.”  Don’t get me wrong:  I loved those words, and I desperately wanted to be the kind of mother who would inspire that kind of saying on her grave.  But I also wanted to know more about my real grandmother.  I wanted to know what kinds of things excited her or irritated her or made her happy or sad.  I wanted to know what her vices were—she had to have at least one, didn’t she?

I’m thinking that kids nowadays are lucky because they have at least a decent shot of having videos of people who have died before them.  I would give a lot to have a video of my grandmother—one that included sound!  We do actually have one movie of her, since my grandfather also had one of the first movie cameras in his area (he loved technology!), but it’s a very jerky, very badly lighted 16 mm film, and it has no sound.  So, the only impression I have of her is of someone walking around like Charlie Chaplin and turning her face away from the camera.

Which makes me think this:  you should be careful to tell your children stories about the people who went before them, even the ones who weren’t extroverted or dramatic.  And you should take real pictures of people, real videos, of them doing the ordinary things that make up their lives, like cooking or telling a story or laughing.  You shouldn’t only take pictures of them on special occasions, all dressed up and stiff.  You should capture them in their natural habitat!  What I wouldn’t give to have a video of Surry Parker and Dovie not just looking good for the camera but having a real conversation together, maybe arguing about the wisdom of making their five-year-old daughter stand in the middle of a pile of snakes just to get a good picture!

Ten Things I Hate/Love About Being 59

JANEI’ll start with ten things I hate, but it might help to pair them up right away with the corresponding things I love!

1) I am turning 60 soon, and even though my dear friend, Nancy, tells me to stop whining about it, I’m having some trouble with that number.  It just sounds older than I think I should be at this point in my life.  I still feel like I’m 35 or, at the most, 40.

2) My knees hurt after I sit for any length of time.

3) I can’t read fine print.

4) My parents, and almost everyone in their generation–in other words, the people who inhabited most of my childhood and youth–are dead.  That’s what happens, I guess when you are the youngest in your family.

5) I’m finding most movies to be pretty disgusting nowadays, even when they are funny.  I worry (occasionally) that I’m turning into a fuddy-duddy, but I suspect it’s just that movies are running short on intelligent humor, high on the adolescent variety. But since I can’t stay awake for a whole movie anyhow, it doesn’t matter!

6) My children are grown.

7) I have lost a lot of the certainty I used to have that, no matter what, everything is going to be okay.

8) I am still working fulltime and see little hope of retiring any time soon.

9) It’s harder to lose weight than it used to be and much easier to gain it in all the unwanted places, where old ladies get fat!

10) Young people call me “Honey” and “Sweetie,” but they are not flirting with me.  (I am starting to be invisible.)

Isn't this a great image I found online?
Isn’t this a great image I found online?

BUT HERE IS WHAT I LOVE:

1) I am turning 60 soon, which I regard as a sign that I really am an adult now, and that excites me in a way that only people who were the youngest in their families of origin will understand.  Besides, I hope to have a big party to celebrate, if I can get up the energy to pull it off!

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My Great Aunt Milly and Childhood Misconceptions

JANE

I was thinking this morning about when I first got “the curse,” as my family so fondly named it, and what a huge, huge relief that was to me, and that got me thinking about my Great Aunt Milly.  To understand why the two are permanently mixed in my head, you need to know my family history.  When we would drive to Pennsylvania to see my grandmother, we would go visit Aunt Milly, my grandmother’s sister.  Aunt Milly lived in a nursing home.  She was a tiny woman, with a birdlike laugh, who sometimes wore her teeth, sometimes not, depending on her mood.  She loved postcards, which my father sent her from every place we visited during our travels with the Army.  She also liked to play cards with other nursing home inhabitants, although she often lost patience with her fellow card players.  Aunt Milly had the personality of an eleven-year-old girl:  joyful, mischievous, and a little moody when things didn’t go her way.

When we would visit, Milly would whisper things to my father like, “These people act so old sometimes.”  It always seemed to me like she didn’t really belong there in the home and would love to run away with us.  When I asked my mother why Milly had to live there and what she had wrong with her, my mother answered, “Milly never got her period.”  The story was that, when it came time for Milly to go through puberty, it just didn’t happen, so Milly “got stuck” and never grew up.

Now, put yourself in my place.  I first heard this story when I was about seven or eight, the youngest of four girls.  My sisters all seemed totally normal, living their charmed lives, as older sisters always do in the eyes of younger sisters, so I knew, in my heart of hearts, that they would never get stuck, not one of them!  As for myself, that was a different story.  I worried about Milly—and her blood relationship to me—from then on, on a fairly regular basis.  I worried about her so much that I didn’t even have the nerve to ask my father, a doctor, if Milly’s disease was something that I might be able to inherit.  I worried about her so much that when we watched the filmstrip in the school gym called “Now that You’re a Woman,” the one with scientific drawings of ovaries and uterus’ and blood cells but also with a glamorous blond lady happily smiling through her womanhood, I felt sick to my stomach.  I looked at all the girls around me, in my fifth grade class, and thought, “All of them will go happily and smoothly along, living normal lives, filled with periods and bikinis and husbands and children, while I’m stuck somewhere in a nursing home, playing Canasta.”  I’m not sure how bikinis got in the mix, but you get my drift!

I Couldn't Find the 5th Grade Picture, but it's the Same Girls!

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Sadhvi Sez: I ♥ Las Vegas

I took a trip to see my parents last month soon after we figured out that it had been 3 years since we last saw each other in person. It was surprising when I thought back to figure out what had stopped me from visiting them and I couldn’t come up anything.

I normally have a routine here at home, and since I’m such a particular person in regards to the kind of organic coffee that I like to use, the food I eat, the way my computer and office is, etc., I shouldn’t have been so shocked at how freaked out I was that I going to TRAVEL!

I decided that since I was going to visit the woman who gave birth to me, and my Dad, that it would be fine to venture outside of my comfort zone.  I keep wanting to read the book, “Who Moved my Cheese” to find out if my behavior is a good thing or a bad thing.

The thing that I did find out is that there’s a certain comfort in just letting go of it all.

LAS VEGAS LIGHTS

For instance, I watched the shows that my Mom watches regularly (she tapes them so we are spared the insane amount of commercials) and they were REALLY good. I don’t have TV at home, and it made me think about maybe getting it again.  It’s been such a long time since I watched TV; maybe the last series was Gilligan’s Island?  I realize now why there is TV; it is just so darn relaxing to chill out on the couch and be entertained!
Just about everyone I know thinks Las Vegas is a weird place, and they think it’s strange when I tell them that I enjoy Las Vegas so much.  Well, it’s such a beautiful area to me…so much blue sky, the mountains, and the flatness of the ground which feels so good when I take my walk around their neighborhood.  And there are, of course, those fun and amazing things called, THE CASINOS!

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My Mom said she wasn’t going to gamble while I was visiting, but we found ourselves going out a lot and having a great time.  Being inside a casino is a bit like being in the state of meditation in that there is no time!  We spent hours gambling and having dinner and walking around.  And were surprised to see that we had gone in when it was still light out, but coming out it was after midnight!

People are so interesting to watch, and there is no shortage of them in Las Vegas.  There were more than a few women – older and younger – that looked like they were totally drunk.  But no!  It turned out that they were almost falling off their extremely high heels.  “Whore heels” is what I call them.  I just want to know, when did these become fashionable, and who wears them?

Who Wants to Wear These?

I really like the lights and colors that are in the casinos, too.

Our time here is so short.  This trip made me feel like nothing really matters except loving each other.  I am grateful and feel so much love for these two people, my Mom and Dad, who are simple, generous, and love each other so much after all these years.

They are from a generation before that value the art of conversation, that see no point in multi-tasking, that believe in doing the job right the first time.  They value what is fair, and still believe that customer service should be provided for by a company.
They are by no means the “Silent Generation” as they’ve been called;  they’ve seen so much and have so much wisdom in many areas that they should all be respected.  And loved.  And I can’t wait to see them again this year!

LAS VEGAS AIRPORT