Monday, November 23, 2009

The gloaming time of life

Last evening, our daughter Kellie and her roommate Sue came over for a visit. My sister-in-law, Gail, being forewarned of their visit got busy preparing Chicken fillets, one of their favorite dishes. There was a side dish of packaged noodles and some creamed peas to boot. Simple but filling stuff.

We all ate with great gusto and then took Jenny (our dog) out back for a period of play.  Jenny loves those two young women. Going back inside when Jenny got tired and thirsty from chasing the ball the girls were tossing around, we settled in the living room for some relaxing conversation. The girls shared a little song they had composed while driving back home from church on Sunday. It was cute but I won’t reveal the subject matter.  We three older adults agreed that they need to get another hobby to occupy some of their idle time.

It’s funny how I was the only one to notice the changing light outside. Every window and door was open, anyone could have noticed; but no one else did. During a lull in the activities and conversations, I pointed out how this time of day was my favorite.  I explained why but hardly anyone understood what I was saying. Were they blind?  Could it be that my old eyes were perceiving something that didn’t exist for everyone?  I call it the “gloaming.”  That’s a word that some old, Irish Poet must have come up with.  It’s a magical time.  A time when Leprechauns come out of hiding and dare one to try and catch them. There’s a pot of gold waiting as a ransom for those who are successful.

I seem to recall that it wasn’t until I had achieved the ripe, old age of fifty-five years that I myself was able to appreciate the gloaming time of day. I was parked on a hilltop in my golfcart that day.  Working on a golf course as a Player’s Assistant had it rewards.  This one aspect of it was very unexpected.  The sun had dropped below the horizon but its influence was still very powerful. The light took on a golden hue. I thought to myself at the time that it must be the result of fall’s natural tendency to bring about changes in the color of the trees leaves that was responsible for the sparkling gold radiance that was all around me. The leaves had soaked up the sun’s rays all day and only now were they releasing the stored up energy. 

From that day till this, I have been especially alert, looking for and expecting to enjoy the phenomenon at every opportunity. But this was the Spring of the year. There were no golden leaves on the trees.  It’s so strange how that golden hue in the air has the power to amplify all the other colors.  The grass outside was greener. I didn’t think that was possible.  Even the color of the cars parked along the street out front was more vivid than usual. It had been raining for most of the day. The air was as clean as it would ever be.  Every leaf on every tree and every blade of grass could be seen in a higher definition.  I found myself wishing that my old eyes could always see this sharply.

It is said that it is the darkest just before the dawn of a new day.  Could it also be said that it is lighter just before the night sets in? 

It was about that time that my mind made its own segue into another realm of thought. Seems that everyone was commenting on the golden years of life. One diarist would write about it, another would read their words and expound further upon the subject and I was taking it all in and contemplating their meaning.

Oh! What we MIGHT be able to accomplish if we older folk had the energy of youth. Combine that energy with the knowledge and wisdom we have accumulated over the passing years and the potential would be awesome.

In the back of my mind I can hear Frank Sinatra crooning one of his hit songs. “MY WAY.”  The words ring so true for myself.  See if you too can find something familiar in them.

And now, the end is near;
And so I face the final curtain.
My friend, I'll say it clear,
I'll state my case, of which I'm certain.

I've lived a life that's full.
I've traveled each and ev'ry highway;
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Regrets, I've had a few;
But then again, too few to mention.
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course;
Each careful step along the byway,
But more, much more than this,
I did it my way.

Yes, there were times, I'm sure you knew
When I bit off more than I could chew.
But through it all, when there was doubt,
I ate it up and spit it out.
I faced it all and I stood tall;
And did it my way.

I've loved, I've laughed and cried.
I've had my fill; my share of losing.
And now, as tears subside,
I find it all so amusing.

To think I did all that;
And may I say - not in a shy way,
"No, oh no not me,
I did it my way".

For what is a man, what has he got?
If not himself, then he has naught.
To say the things he truly feels;
And not the words of one who kneels.
The record shows I took the blows -
And did it my way!

REGRETS – I’ve had a few.  I wish I could continue on with the following line and nod in agreement, but alas! I fear that my own regrets are many and yet I care not to mention them to another. 

Certainly I did it my way, but that doesn’t mean that it couldn’t have been done better.  Life presents choices to us all and we must pick one and go with it. It’s only after it all played out that we can see clearly whether the choice we made was the right one. Which one of us can say that we always made the right choice?

If we older folk are not careful, a bad case of the “IF ONLY’s” could overpower us and steal away what little joy we are able to find in our waning life.

What would any life be without that risk?  SAFE! Perhaps.  But empty also. Sterilized by the fear of loving someone so much and risking losing them.

I know about that kind of fear.  It overcomes me at times as I wander about the house in the wee hours of the morning.  I pass by the wife’s bedroom door and I cannot hear her snoring. I pause and listen intently, hoping to hear her faintly breathing.  If I cannot, I MUST go in and lean over the bed and listen again until I CAN hear her breathing.   Failing that, I feel that I MUST touch her and cause her to stir but not awaken.  I reach out and then freeze in mid-reach.  What if I touch her and her body is cold?  OH GOD! What would I do?  It’s only after I force myself to touch her and feel that reassuring warmth that the paralyzing fear subsides.

I tell myself that I would not want to awaken her fully to the point of having her ask, “Are you okay?  What’s wrong?”  You see; she believes she is the only one who finds it necessary to creep into a bedroom and bend over someone she loves to make sure they are still breathing. She has done that for most of her life she tells me. She did it with her mother and she does it today with me and Gail or Jenny and Lucy, the dog and the cat.

I believe, if she had her way, she would sleep in this gigantic bed and everyone she loves would be in it with her, where she could wake at any time of the night and listen or feel for signs of life and then fall asleep once more, reassured that all is right in her world.

Maureen is the one who has taught me what it means to love another that deeply. She is also the one who taught me what her kind of compassionate concern is like. She has this habit of going around the house at the weirdest times, asking each individual if they are all right.  After she gets the desired response from each one, she explains; “It’s my job.”  I’ve often wondered who gave her that work assignment?  It’s a tough job but somebody has to do it.

As Ellen, a friend of mine wrote one day long ago:
“If I’m allowed to wish for others I would wish that everyone’s life ends up full of great holes.  Holes that are the result of losing someone we were able to love with the kind of depth that caused their absence to leave that kind of hole in our life. Those holes are not empty holes.  They are reservoirs of treasures that we can draw from when the need arises. They are deep wells, covered with lids of grief.  Lift the lid and draw from any one of them, a refreshing drink of cherished memories.  Drink deeply and draw strength from shared love. Like dust, floating on the surface of a freshly drawn bucket of water, sorrow may be found, but tilt the bucket and blow the breath of thankfulness across its surface and underneath is revealed the purity of life’s pleasures.”

What beautiful words.  I will be forever grateful that she shared them with us.

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