8/25/22

And so this week’s moment of happiness despite the news.

My 62nd birthday is almost a month gone now. As of this last weekend, I still hadn’t had a celebration with my family. It was difficult this year. On my actual birthday, I was gone, off to La Crosse, Wisconsin, to visit a book club, present at a bookstore, and teach a class called The Labyrinth & The Creative Spirit at the loveliest of sculpture gardens. Since coming home, I’ve been busy, my kids have been busy, we’ve all been busy, and I came to a realization.

I guess I’m at an age and my kids are at an age now where getting together for Mom’s birthday is a thing of the past.

It made me sad.

At one point, when I asked my oldest son, Christopher, if he and his wife and my granddaughter, Grandbaby Maya Mae, were available last weekend to come over for a cookout for my birthday, he told me they were going to be in Chicago. I begrudgingly muttered something like, “I’m finally going to make my own birthday celebration because no one else seems to be.”

“Wait…” he said. “We were supposed to do something?”

Well, yeah. Honestly, I do everyone else’s birthday celebrations, I didn’t really think I should be responsible for doing my own.

And there was something about this birthday. For my generation and those before it, 62 was a pretty heavy number. It was the expected age of retirement, and often, over the previous generations, retirement was forced on people who didn’t necessarily feel ready to retire. Now, it’s not uncommon to see people working well into their sixties, seventies, eighties, and so on. So maybe that’s why 62 didn’t ring any big bells for my children. Life would go on as usual for their mother.

One of my students, a retired ER doctor who is ten years older than I am, said to me this week, “You’re going to work until you drop dead.”

Well, as someone who is self-employed, yes, that is likely. There is no pension for me. But yikes.

I’ve been very introspective since turning 62 on July 29th. It’s been one of those self-assessment times. And while my overall conclusion is that I’m very happy where I am, I’m very happy with what I’ve done, I’d still have to admit that I’m not where I thought I’d be at 62. That’s a sobering thought when you obviously have less years to go than what you’ve already lived through. Some goals that I’ve held in front of me like a carrot in front of a donkey are likely to be unattainable. And somehow, at this age, you have to learn, or I have to learn, to accept that and be okay with it, or else settle into life as a bitter grumpy snarly person. Which, generally, isn’t who I am. But I don’t like carrots and the thought of swallowing this one is hard.

So back to my birthday. Despite busy schedules, I do have to cut my kids some slack. All four of them yelled a happy birthday to me in one form or another from across the miles while I was in La Crosse. When I got home, Olivia practically met me at the door, demanding that I open my present. It was a starfish Squishmallow (I love starfish – they are a part of my Oregon experience) and a new lovely pen in a blue the color of the ocean.

And then I had this cookout. I planned my favorite summer meal, because my birthday is a summer birthday and I totally love summer. I could live perpetually in summer. I drive a convertible for a reason. So I made brat patties and hot dogs and fresh corn on the cob from the farmer’s market. I made deviled eggs. My middle son Andy brought a peach pie, which is my absolute favorite. No cake for me, thank you, it’s always about the pie, and peach pie ranks at the top. There were only two of my kids in attendance, as one was off in Chicago with his family and one lives in Louisiana now.

But when Andy came in, he didn’t just carry a peach pie. He plunked a plant on my kitchen island. “This is for you,” he said. “It was on clearance.”

Which made me laugh. But what he brought me was a peace lily.

Which ultimately was what I was looking for, I think. Peace. Peace over turning 62. Peace over experiencing joy over the goals attained and not focusing so much on what hasn’t come to light. Peace over experiencing a different form of family, now that my kids are grown. Well, almost. The youngest is about to start her senior year in college, so she will be off on her own soon too. Peace over no longer hearing the news reported, but instead, it’s shouted, and it’s shouted over enemy lines where each side thinks of the other as the enemy even though we all live in the same place and so there is no meeting in the middle. There is no discussion. There is only noise.

Well…just some peace. And it was sitting on my kitchen counter, all green leaves and the beginnings of buds.

I brought it up to my office after dinner was done. It’s sitting on a shelf where I can see it every time I look up from my computer. If I look to my left, I see my deck garden, including the two hibiscus, Carla and Sydney, who are both blooming their hearts out.

During this week, the peace lily joined them and bloomed and bloomed. And I thought, well, that’s really it, isn’t it. Despite age, despite changes, despite it all, there are always blooms. And in this case, there is a very literal peace sitting right in front of me.

Thank you, Andy.

And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.

Peace lily blooms.
Look up from my computer (it’s this blog on the screen!) and see the peace lily.
Carla the hibiscus.
Sydney the hibiscus.

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