gray hair, bare feet and salty tears

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When I am old I will take long walks on a beach. I will stop dying my hair even if it ages me, as my sister says. I will be aged, I will stop trying to hide it. To be near a beach, is a lifelong dream. But it may not happen. I am okay with that.

When I am old I’ll need sunshine. I will take up a camera and I’ll play more, especially with words. And in general I think I will try to have fun.

When I am old, I will want my family around, daughters and sons and others, grandchildren. And if they aren’t near, I will travel to them frequently. All of this is obvious I would think, when I retire.

There will be a convertible, because — it is a life long dream.

I have always thought Holly and I would end up living together when we are old women; both of our husbands being older than us.

What a hurtful thought now. It drags me down. I feel the familiar ache, a dread. When I am old there will be gray hair, bare feet, and salty tears.

My Crazy Slow Surrender to Life’s Beauty

1-DSC_0038-001Life is worn and tearing, and this makes me profanely angry.

I hear a baby cry in the distance, just a simple need for succor and in an instant, I’m filled with Memory—Grief for What’s Lost. For when it was my breast, feeding the cry, when mine were young, I did not understand The Wonder.  A baby cries in the distance for its mother’s breast, and then quiets down, a need met.

For me, I gave, and gave to three babies, nursing for what seemed like years. Those moments, now a memory, I could not take them in, not fully, I was not wholly there. It’s Long Gone, that feeding.  I can never do again.

Sitting here, a decade later, there’s a grieving inside me, even here in this public place with a stranger’s baby crying, my heart tears apart, breaks with the memories—it is worn and tearing, rending.

I sit in a library waiting for my teen child, and appreciate the people getting old slowly before my eyes.

I think hard. I want to take in this Moment of Solitude, receive the slowing of time.

Be here, In This Moment.  Breathe it in.  I sense that I am becoming a better person, sitting amongst these Saints, the tomes and verses—Wisdom is everywhere to be found if you are listening.

I wonder at it all.

Why do we appreciate what is Magnificent and Beautiful, only when it’s Too Late? What is happening now that I need to Take In, Understand and Catch before it is too late? Before I am one of the aging, Watching Time Ticking, like them.

Life, is worn. I hear it tearing apart—Or is it my heart breaking.  Can I hear callouses accumulating on my soul?

Life is worn and tearing, I see the Zigzag of Age on my skin. I’m Breathing In my Life,

Its Beauty

Passing Quickly,

Knowing Suddenly

I’m here. I’m—still—here.

Grateful for a second chance, to Know Things Differently, Again.

Be Here, Be Here. Breathe in, I whisper to myself, to the Aging, to the Baby, to the Mother, to them all.

All isn’t all lost yet.

I Read.

I am the lily, beautiful. You are the lily
Life is the lily, consider it.
Full
Of the One
Who Made Us All.

I am worn. I am tearing.

But I am going to stop worrying, if I impossibly can.

Consider the lilies how they grow: they toil not, they spin not; and yet I say unto you, that Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. — Luke 12:2 7

 

 

the middle years (a poem about aging and knowing that you don’t know…much of anything)

The middle years
of middle age come without fair warning.
Raising the young
who think they know everything.
And those of us solidly wedged into midlife know
with confidence, that we know next to nothing.

The middle years are half way to a certain death,
while breathing in a life we did not pick.  For
life happens even as you make plans, dream dreams, and pray.

The middle years
when the body betrays,
the heart is crushed
by what actually happened,
not our plans.
The mind with every strong conviction
is suddenly even more
uncertain.
Oh, for the days of knowing everything!
But then going back there to certainty
would mean doing this
all over again.

Long and Winding [a poem about aging and perspective]

long and winding

I am glad that life
is a long and winding road.
This gives me space enough
to live and breathe in the Grace of God.
This gives me time.

Time is there, if you want it.
For you to experience change and healing
and then change again.  Growth
and knowledge and then more growth.
Time is there, if you want it.

I feel the fragility of life as it is ever moving forward.
Turning forty-five feels like I’m dying.  I am ever aware
that I am not young, not any more. I can never again be young.
‘We are celebrating my being closer to death,”
I joked with my family. I was struck by the fact that I am half done.

I look into the sad, ancient eyes
of my neighbor. She is turning eighty-five
this year.  She is home bound, pain bound, stricken with the limitations
of her life and yet she must resolve hard within herself, because
she never complains. I need that Holy perspective to remind me
that she is the one that feels like she’s dying, because she is.
Her life is all about limitations and simply what she cannot do.

I am more aware of it today than I ever have been.
I am still alive and, this is for you too my friends,
The road is long and winding for a reason.
And time is there if you want it.

by MELODY HARRISON HANSON, September 27, 2011

Other poetry I have written.

Aging, Legacies and more Time with our Family

my parents did as well as they could

I often wonder if I am too hard on the memory of my father.  As the years go by the memories fade good and bad ones.   A couple of things happened this weekend that made me think of my father.  He died in his early sixties.  He should have had another thirty years.

92-year old Billy Graham was interviewed recently.   He has come to the time of his life when he spends a lot of time alone, requiring the care of others.  I suppose that stage of things makes one reflective.

When asked to give advice to those who are aging he said “Accept itAnd thank God every day for the gift of that day.”

I do dread getting old.  And yet I have this idea that I will just sort of live on in perpetuity with my body and mind falling apart.  I have joked that I want to be euthanized to save everyone the misery of my madness gone out of control.

My father wouldn’t accept that he was sick or was going to die, so much so that he refused to talk about when he was gone.   Even when he was diagnosed with brain tumors in regions of his brain that would leave him without speech and would impact his ability to sort out emotion.  And yet as he slowly left us, his body breaking down from the chemotherapy and his mind  slowly slipping away from us, he became meaner. And more confused about reality.  And eventually he couldn’t form words.  One or two here and there in the week that he died were like small gifts to those who received them.

His very last words to me, when I told him I loved him, were “I love you more.”

When he was still cognizant and before the surgery he did to his credit want to clear the air. Those last conversations differed for each of us daughters.  In mine, I spoke more than he did.  Fearful, I told him his anger and disappointment with me over the years had shaped my life.  He listened and accepted.  He spoke the words of apology.  It would have been miraculous and life changing had he not then gone on to spend an hour with my sister berating and criticizing her for how she managed money.  He wanted some money my parents had loaned her.

I felt responsible for that.  My conversation had been unexpectedly positive and though a lifetime of experiences told her not to she trusted him and met with him.  He crushed her as he had each of us so many times over the years.

That’s what he left us.  He left no letters for us.  He left without any parting advice or even the last word.  Ironically, the man who always had the last word in life refused to believe he was going to die.  He was going to get back out there to continue God’s work.  He believed he had time.

When asked of his regrets Graham said “he would spend more time at home with his family, study more and preach less.”  Wow! I think every MK and PK alive today longs to hear those words from their parents.  He wished he had spent more time with his family.  My dad prayed for healing to get back out there, not a few more months of life so that he could treasure his family and say his goodbyes.  He wanted to get back out there and reach our world for Christ. (At that time it was his work in China.)

Graham continued:

“God has a reason for keeping us here (even if we don’t always understand it), and we need to recover the Bible’s understanding of life and longevity as gifts from God—and therefore as something good. Several times the Bible mentions people who died “at a good old age”—an interesting phrase (emphasis added). So part of my advice is to learn to be content, and that only comes as we accept each day as a gift from God and commit it into his hands. Paul’s words are true at every stage of life, but especially as we grow older: “Godliness with contentment is great gain” (1 Tim. 6:6).

I miss my dad.  He was never content.  And I’ve concluded that he had to die for the rest of us to live.  I know those are harsh thoughts.  Do I really believe that God “took him” or did his life finally just end?  I will never know and it doesn’t really matter does it?  What I do know is the result of his death.  I could not break free from the chains of my experiences with him and my mother.  I did not have the strength or the knowledge of how to do that.   In the end, he left and I became free.

Could I have experienced the growth of the last eight years with him still alive?  Not so quickly.  Or intentionally.  Or in the same way.  He was such a force.  He was IRON in my life, but as iron sharpens iron, iron on something weak shapes it in the ways it wants.

So why so much talk of legacy and more time and regrets?  Because it is a bittersweet thing to lose a parent when they were a coercive fury in your life.  Choking.  Compelling.  And yet all that you knew of love.

Yeah, it’s mixed up.

MH

PK: Preacher’s Kid and MK: Missionary’s Kid

Good Dad, Bad Dad (A poem I wrote in 2004)

Growing Old is so Uncool!

Over the last five years

my life story has been full of tension and some might say tragedy.  The process has been grueling and traumatic.  My parents have made a problematic imprint on my life.  I am working toward the days when I can celebrate again the good people that they are, but I must work through our family legacy, parts of which I must reject.

Often, I have found myself focused on the negative ways that my father especially has affected me.  I rarely talk about my mother, in part because she is still alive and that story is not complete.    Something happened recently between us that I feel is worth remembering here.

My mother

is a strange mix of strength and weakness that constantly perplexes me.  I have been devastated at times by our relationship, which is strange and erratic.  Both emotionally and  mentally agonizing, but at times we have moments of tremendous truthfulness.  I do not trust her and yet I deeply wish for her understanding.    I love her and yet I want to live my life without her (at times) because she has an uncanny way of being able to hurt me.  This frightens me.  It would be easier to walk away.  So far, I haven’t chosen that path.

My mother, seventy-two years old,  is the daughter of a southern philanderer for a father and a mother who raised five children by herself washing and ironing clothes.  She grew up in poverty, but my mother is bright, with a photographic memory to compensate for her dyslexia.  She was the first in her family to go to college where she trained to be teacher and supported my father through college and graduate studies.  They went to the mission field in 1966 to be teachers.

Today, sitting in her condo with the air conditioner running and the Red Sox playing, she is a far cry from the woman who trekked through the jungles of Papua New Guinea pregnant with me and holding a toddler.  She is a complicated person.

So Mom showed up the other day,

sitting, chatting about nothing important (something she hasn’t done for at least a year.)   I said “Stay and hang out while I feed the kids lunch.”  She was on a fast of some sort, or I would have offered her the PB&J I was feeding the children.

And she blurted out that she wanted to be my friend.

… Heavy    silence    ensued …

I felt in a moment, as she threw out those words, that time stood still.  And as she waited for my response it took

f o r e v e r.

She threw down her wishes as if everything, the past, had just magically disappeared.

A whirlwind of panic blew into my kitchen and was swirling around in my stomach, and heart, and head.   Many things were going through my head.  I am afraid of my mother —  that she’ll need me too much.  And I am afraid that she will reject me.  I am frightened by her power over me.  Should I be ecstatic that she wants to be my friend?  Remember the not small part of the equation where she is constantly forgetting important things?  Not telling me about a mother’s day lunch out with my sister.  Her calling and turning me down on one of the kid’s concerts at the last-minute.  Feeling too tired to come to my photography exhibit.  Forgetting the Artist Showcase at my church where I had things on display.  There are hundreds of occasions like these which I try to forget because it hurts.  Over and over it hurts and I tell myself  “Do not care.  Again.”  These things are unimportant in the larger scheme of life and yet they are a part of why I am so afraid of her.

I’m afraid and I somehow convey this to her as we sit there at my kitchen table.  Then tears slowly begin to slip down her face.  And as they start to really flow she says something that utterly blows me away.

“It is so difficult to get old.”  She continues that it’s frightening.  It’s unpredictable.  It’s simply hard to face going places alone, not knowing if she’ll find handicapped parking and be forced to walk a long distance.  And at times this completely overwhelms her and she can’t face it.  So she cancels.

I cannot express adequately to you now how huge this is for me. I have taken her actions as personal rejection of me, as her daughter.  Her absences.  Cancellations and no shows.  And rather than tell me the truth she’s used sickness and fatigue as the excuse.   Why?  Why do these things ever happen?  We are all a strange mixture of motives, fears and desires.   She hates that she’s getting old.  She’s afraid.  She lives alone and what if we decide she can’t handle that any more.  What if she decides she can’t?  What will it mean for her independence?  For all of us?  As she sits in her condo, comfortable and safe it’s just easier to not go out.

Growing old is hard on one’s ego.  And so uncool don’t you think?  The loss of privacy.  Dignity.  Independence.  God help us all as we walk toward this with our parents.  May we love them and listen well.  Take enough time to ask the right questions and have discernment as we move ahead.

I have felt that my mom doesn’t want to me in her life, not really.  This comes out of my dysfunction certainly but has been based on actual events.

And it turns out that she just needs a ride. This is a  new place for us to travel to in our relationship — a place of dependence and fragility — but a step closer to one another.