Aging Grace

Each year, my kiddo is with her dad the first half of winter break, so I have more than usual time to reflect.  I apologize in advance to my audience for so much reflecting.

Today’s theme is aging.  My dear German grandmother taught me to knit when I was 6 years old, and somehow this made me view aging as something to aspire to, to enjoy.  As a kid, I even dressed up as an “old woman” for several Halloweens and found a friend in 5th grade to knit with at school recess.  What 10-year-old does that on the playground?  I also spent a year knitting sweaters at home for a yarn company nights as a second job when I was 25.  Just another way that who I am seems to be a bit off the mainstream.

Thanks to my hospital job, I am well aware of all the medical conditions that can accompany aging in our society and I agree aging is not for sissies, but I still have a sense that when I reach the place where the urgency of the struggle to find love and money is absent, I will be in a state of grace.  Doesn’t it seem that the hunger for those 2 things consumes the majority of our life energy until we are older and wiser and our happiness is in the day to day appreciation of what is directly in our field of vision and pleasant memories?

In mid life, I tell myself I’m done struggling to find love of the romantic kind, but that usually lasts until I tire of trying really hard to embrace everything I have now and seek no more.  Why struggle?  I mean working with love once it finds you, that something different, but I’ve had it with the struggle to find it.  I don’t even want to start with the online dating stories.  That’s where I dream of being older and grayer than I am.  There’s always a part of me that wagers, with every other oddball sequence of my life seeming out of sync with those around me, I’ll meet the person who not only wants to be with me but has time to be with me when we’re in the nursing home, and we’ll have 10 good years together, enjoying one another and accompanying each other to doctor appointments before the end.  I figure 10 good years is more than many have.

As far as money, my lack of it for the past decade has made me appreciate day by day, bill by bill, and helped me learn to trust that I will get by even when I barely think I can.  I expect I will always be someone who will give away money during times I have more than I need to those I know who don’t, so I will definitely not be leaving a fortune to my heir (sorry kiddo).  But the struggle for money consumes most of mid life for, oh say, 99% of us,  especially those of us mid-lifers post a divorce when the court tells us we are responsible for all but $3600/year for supporting a child, and many I know who receive nada from the coparent.  I know I don’t need much to be content, but I also appreciate my great-great-grandmother’s saying, “Money is not important, but it sure is good for the nerves.”

A state of grace, where money and love are cherished but not essential for a state of well-being because the struggle is no longer our primary task.  Bring on the gray hairs, and hallelujah for completing my first knitting project this month in years!

Knitting

I wish I could knit you a poem

like the sweaters that fly

from my hands remembering

the silk of your fingers

embrace as you pulled me through

stiff motion unlearned

until the yarn could wrap around,

under and through

its own loops.

Each loop replays

your hands’ grace

the angle of gulls’ wings open;

your long hands that knew

the shapes of years

of Birthday cakes, plum tarts, and surprise

cookies just warm like the storybooks said.

You wove stories of war, of leaving

Germany, of surviving growing;

giving as if to compensate

for what you also shared with me

and no one else:  a curve in the spine.

You were cased in plaster one summer for this,

and hung from doorways while brothers teased

your dangling feet.

I acquired a plastic shell to keep the world out

for four years breaking

free one hour each day.

The last stitches your hands

held the week you stopped living

with cancer, are a patchwork of saved colors:

Squares that cover me in winter

and help remind me whose fingers

pressed into mine, leaving

the gift of keeping

others warm.

(ew – 1990)

About Erin W

A sensitive plant, bamboo strong.
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