Fathers’ Day Memories


I wasn’t the daughter my father would have chosen.  My first memory of him is the disapproval in his face as my mother tried to rock me to sleep as a young toddler — I remember the squeaking of the old rocking chair, my sweat and my mothers mingling in her neck as I tried so desperately to go to sleep, but couldn’t, and my father looking on with stern eyes, shaking his head as he walked past.

I knew I often annoyed him with my endless chatter and my need to please.  Even as I grew into a young woman, I was aware that he felt a stronger bond with my much quieter, more introspective younger sister, who didn’t demand as much attention.

My father was a good man.  He was a WWII veteran who, like most vets, was unwilling to share many of his war experiences.  He worked extremely long hours at a physically demanding job to support his family.  I will always remember him for his honesty, strict moral values, his strength of character and his smile.  He loved my mother deeply — as he suffered through the last years of his life with emphysema, they often sat side by side, holding hands as they watched TV together.   I grew up with a feeling of complete safety when my father was home — he was my rock.  

When I reached adulthood and started my own family, he was proud of his first grandson, and enjoyed spending time with him.  However, as my family grew, he didn’t have the energy left for three busy grandchildren.  We drifted apart — me struggling in a difficult marriage, with no one to lean on for help, and he unable to help.   However, my father had passed on his strength to me, and I managed to hold my life together and rely on my own inner resources.

Shortly after he retired, my father began having serious problems with his emphysema.  By the time he was in his mid 60’s, he needed more care than my mother was able to provide, so I spent time with him in those brief years — time which I think of as “mending” time.  He was grateful for the meals I cooked, and I like to think I helped to ease his way a bit by dealing with doctors and breathing equipment and making him as comfortable as possible.  As always, he was not much of a talker, so we never really discussed our feelings together, but we did finally form a bond in those last months, as I watched him slowly pass from my life.

I see much of my father in myself — my emotional strength, my love of nature and solitude, my inner peace, my pleasure in my gardens, and my ability to smile in the midst of adversity.  I remember him today with love, and with thankfulness for the gifts he gave me in his own quiet way.

The Reality of Being 65


The air is still and a bit humid this morning as I write by the open window, with birds singing and sunshine highlighting the countless shades of greenery filling the neighborhood.  I am home at last, after a fast-paced morning of getting my grandson to the school bus on time, one granddaughter to elementary school, and the youngest to preschool.  I am free now until preschool pickup at 12:30. Being available to help out with our grandchildren is only one of the wonderful perks of being retired.  We are finally able to spend time on hobbies that were set aside during our years of working, raising families, and taking care of the myriad chores required of homeowners.  While I have been caring for my grandchildren for the past 8-1/2 years, next year my little Emma will be in full-day kindergarten, and a whole new world will open for me.  I will have six hours a day between school drop-offs and pick-ups.  Just imagine — six hours to fill any way I please.  I have so many plans — to continue the genealogy project I began ten years ago, to tend my gardens more carefully, to devote more time to writing, to enjoy lunch and day trips with friends and family — the list goes on and on.

Of course, as is always true in life, there is a downside to aging.  My husband was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis several years ago and seems to be in a decline.  I developed atrial fibrillation last fall and have osteoporosis.  However, even this has led us to a new emphasis on healthier eating and exercise.  I was always so busy, taking the time for exercising was seldom an option.  Now, I will be able to walk whenever I please, join the local YMCA and take Yoga classes (always a dream of mine) and cardio classes.

I am looking forward to renewing old friendships that I have let slide during the busy years, and perhaps joining a book club.  I am anxious to sew again, and to work on other projects that speak to my heart.  I love being able to stay up until the wee hours, enjoying the deep quiet of my old house, and the gentle sounds of a spring night seeping through the window.  Early morning is also a favorite of mine, with birdsong and a lovely sunrise peeking through the pine trees, as I sit with a cup of coffee and feel blessed.

With many of us at this age, there are money issues.  While we saved for retirement, inflation far outpaced what we had put away, and Social Security provides a very minimal income.  Any dreams of travel or dinners at fancy restaurants must be replaced with short day trips, take-out meals, and quiet times with friends.  There are always worries — what if the car breaks down, repairs are expensive, and a new car is out of the question; what if food prices keep rising, or heating costs become unbearable when winters are long and bitter?  For those of us with meager monthly incomes, life can be tougher than we expected, and envy of those more secure can be depressing, but we manage to struggle through.

 I look into the eyes of my friends and acquaintances who have reached the milestone age of 65, and I see a childlike joy.  We are no longer the ones responsible for the running of the world.  We can sit back and enjoy the fruits of our labors — our children and grandchildren, our friends, our homes, our hobbies, and our freedom.  We greet old friends with love — we are happy to be alive and in touch again.  We do our best to stay healthy so we can truly enjoy these years.  Life is unpredictable, and many of our loved ones and friends never reached 65.  And so, we live in the moment, savoring every bit of pleasure that comes our way, and thankful for this time in our lives when we can shed some of the responsibilities of life and enjoy each moment of the day instead.