For many of my decades I discounted birthdays as just another day. Today, I am not discounting. I’m staring down the barrels of age, contemplating my ability to roll with the early years of my seventh decade, but not as certain about the last few years of it.
In this decade I experienced cancer. That was not on my bucket list. But honing my skills at helping to care for the physicalities that afflict women, across thirty five years, I navigated my own challenge in that realm with relative acceptance and while wearing my warrior countenance and my deep-knowledge armor. Nonetheless, in my five-year follow-up, cancer is always on my mind, with short periods of forgetting, but not for long.
We all live out on this craggy precipice, balancing strength with fragility, tilting at windmills and slaying personal dragons. My blade, still held firm in my hand, however dull now seems its edge, gleams in the corner, prepared for whatever lays beyond my waning vision if called upon.
My faculties remain acute, though in the past month my vision is a bit whacky. I prayed my way through my eye exam when renewing my drivers’ license. My patience, never sturdy, is a bit more ragged. I have never suffered fools. I’m losing more ground there. I need more sleep. And more bourbon. I pray with greater fervency, knowing the clock ticks itself down to final hours somewhere on the distant horizon.
Not everyone goes the distance to evaluate the life lived, the goals scored, the disappointments overcome. The risks taken. I’ll spend the day counting my many blessings. Naming the friends I love among them. The huge pieces of the world I’ve seen. The people unexpected who lead me down paths where all is unfamiliar to me, but that have been accomplishments for them. Good people who believe in those things I have set about to do and boost me up when the step is too high.
I can tick off on my fingers the men who molded me, some of them gone now, but who have left huge imprints on my life. Three of them were physicians. Two of them remain. Two were pastors, gone. One of them left such a stamp that it is as if he is still with me, though he’d be in his nineties by now. I discovered, long after he lived in my world, how much impact he made. The last invaluable man was a carpenter and all around handyman. John, who transformed a high Victorian house of prime importance in an obscure Pennsylvania to its former glory, and let me help. Three years with him on a nearly daily basis introduced me to a deep thinker, a world-aware man who’d never been out of his town but once. I often thought that had he been the standard pattern for what a man should be, the world would be a better place by far, and I was far better a person for knowing him.
Last but not least is the man with whom I have shared 57 years of my life. We are real people with real experience at living together and know that such an accomplishment is won with daily forgiveness and endless grace. Full time commitment each to the other is a given and an absolute. It is the piton that has allowed the conquering of the mountain, to get us to the pinnacle of the challenge and reward of marriage. I am a people person and he is not. For him, a limit of two occupying the same living space can often be one too many. We have helped each other through cancer and stroke. We have celebrated the birth of a child, nurtured her, educated her, enjoy who she has become and know she is the best of us combined. We have mourned the loss of two pairs of parents and know that we are orphans without them. We have enjoyed the world together, in near and far places.
I am on the downside of this journey, marveling at how seasoned I am, only a little mellowed and still looking forward to more future. Eternity is a long time to rest. I’m not yet sleepy. There is still more to be done, to experience, to say. Stay tuned.