My mother told me that I arrived in this world on my due date and with little effort on her part. I have, as a general rule, been on time ever since my effortless arrival but I cannot say that my life has been as simple as my birth.
Yet here I am: On the eve of my sixty-fifth birthday, about to turn another page and walk into the next chapter without fanfare or commotion. I’m just stepping forward and embracing this particular milestone.
Being this old does not upset me, though being six years older than my mother ever got to be causes no end of dismay. My fashion sense tends to skew young and I color my hair, so I get a lot of wrong guesses. But the crows feet and the grey of my eyebrows give me away to the more careful observers. Perhaps my tendency towards a certain strictness of grammar and my one-fingered text-messaging adds to the conviction that I belong in the retirement bracket.
Yet I still work; I still put my best foot forward such as it is. The thirteen-year-old who lives with her parents in our marina loves my clothes. You’ve got a great sense of style, she told me a few weeks ago. I’m not sure that Stacy and Clinton would approve but their show got cancelled, didn’t it? I pull on bright leggings, cotton dresses, and my pale-blue Duckfeet nearly every day. I suppose it’s my uniform. I’ve hid behind worse in my time — a size 00 body; deep cleavage; baggy pants.
Sixty-five does not feel old to me. When my son was six, I spent weeks at a time in the hospital. He asked me once if I would die before he got big. No, Buddy, I assured him. I’m going to live to be 103, and I’m going to nag you every day of your life. He thought a minute and replied, Then I’m going to annoy YOU every day of YOUR life.
He hasn’t, though. He’s made me proud; he’s stuck by me in difficult times; and he’s supported all of my crazy decisions. And as I promised my mother, I keep walking. I’ve walked myself to the western edge of everywhere and the gorgeous sunsets of the California Delta. I’ve walked myself out of the blues and the shakes and the doldrums. I’ve walked myself in circles and straight up the mountain. I keep waking to each dawn.
I do not know what life holds for me. Every notion that I ever embraced of what my existence should resemble has been shattered into a thousand glittering pieces. I never expected to live this long or come this far from home. When I married, I thought it was forever; when I divorced, I thought my life would end. I surrendered any thought of parenthood just months before I conceived my son. I expected my mother to give me advice about parenting; I thought I would watch as she aged. I thought I would have published my book by now.
The world keeps shocking me. Graceful birds span the sky above my astonished gaze. Fairy dust falls from the swaying crowns of the towering oaks in our meadow. Egrets raise their graceful necks and flutter glorious wings. I have not yet seen everything that I crave, nor have I uttered all of the words brewing in my soul. So I will not yet surrender. I will take each day that I am blessed to see. I will embrace whatever hours remain and fill them with enduring goodness and a sweet glory.
And If this year brings my twilight, then I will spin the rays of the setting sun into gossamer yarn. I will weave a fine length of cloth. In its beauty will I wrap myself, and lay down by the river to rest.
It’s the fourth day of the ninety-first month of My Year Without Complaining. Life continues.
As you know, most years I have held a fundraiser on my birthday to benefit Rose Brooks Center. I posted one on Facebook; and I ask that you take yourself over there and make a donation to that amazing and important agency. If you are not on Facebook, you can go directly to Rose Brooks Center‘s website and make a donation. Thank you.
If you or someone you know needs help with family violence, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-7233. There is always a way.