The Beginning of the End

I’m getting scared. I mean, really, really scared. My body is laughing at me, my eyes see things that aren’t there, and my brain plays tricks on me telling me it’s Monday when it’s Sunday or that it’s Monday when it’s Tuesday, making me forget where I put things and if I took one pill or two pills, and if it’s September or October.

Not funny guys!

Hubby and I sit and laugh at each other. Sometimes we cry, too. We’re both frustrated with our decaying bodies and absent-minded brains and wonder what a year from now is going to look like. I fear that some day my son will visit my sunken shell in the nursing home and wonder who that old woman is and what she did with his mother. I fear that his heart will rupture and bleed and I can’t kiss away his pain.

When we enter that brand new world where old people go to die, no one rolls out the red carpet for us to walk on. No one stands at the golden portals handing out pamphlets telling us what to expect. No welcome committee, no happy smiles no pats on the back. Just a big fat royal kick in the butt. A learn as you go, cold and cruel, sink or swim, everyone else’s world keeps spinning but your’s kick in the butt. It’s the beginning of the end and only those of us who are  there can know the grueling struggle it takes to survive in it.

But it’s not all cloudy and rainy. I love not having to get up and go to work every day. I enjoy lounging in my pajamas, cutting up with my husband, and doing nothing all day. I like cleaning when I want to. I like putting things off till tomorrow or the next day or dooms day. I like not having to follow a set of rules that no longer apply to me. I don’t have to dress up, put on a pretty face, paint my nails or even shave my legs if I don’t want to. I’m retired! I’m free! I can still do stuff! I’m happy and well and strong . . . kinda sorta.

So yes, I’ve entered the twilight zone, the beginning of the end of my life here on earth. It’s spooky, it’s scary, it’s clouded with uncertainties. But it is what it is. I can’t do a darned thing to change it. I can either dry up and blow away or I can continue to live until God calls me home. I can be scared to death or I can trust God. I can cry and moan and groan or I can praise God and thank Him for the blessings He has provided and continues providing every single day of my dwindling life.

I can’t do this without Him. I won’t do this without Him. It’s just too freaking dark and lonely and scary.

 

 

 

 

 

Are You Still Looking for the Golden Years?

We lost our jobs. We struggled from month to month on our skimpy Social Security checks. We battled depression, frustration, and feelings of hopelessness. We beat cancer and survived the seemingly worst years of our lives together.

It wasn’t until my husband started receiving disability benefits from the VA that we were finally able to come up for air and break free from the financial monster we faced every waking moment of every single day for three long, stressful years.

We planned many things before reaching retirement, those golden years we looked forward to spending debt free in splendid bliss traveling and cruising and collecting seashells on a sunny beach. But owing a mortgage wasn’t one of them. Nor did we plan on the tiny trees we planted to get so big and messy, and the lawn to get so bare and sparse, and the driveway to start cracking and growing weeds. Sure we occasionally stained the cedar siding and created flower beds bordered with tons of field rock we collected from a neighbor’s farm. But like a nagging shrew, a house is constantly demanding special attention and could care less if you’re old or sick or broke or if it’s too hot or too cold or if you throw up your hands and bawl your eyes out.

In a dream world, our hard-earned golden years would be having a bottomless money pit, hiring professionals to renovate the house and manicure the lawn, Molly Maid and Chief Ramsey to cook and clean and the Dog Whisperer to teach our wannabe, four-legged queens to behave.

But those are someone else’s golden-years, certainly not ours.

So, here we are, a pair of dried up bones, our house falling apart, feeling too hopeless and frustrated to do anything about it.

Still, more than the dead trees in the yard, weeds in the flower beds, and saplings growing in the gutters, we wanted that dirty, stinking, pee-stained carpet gone!

So, with a glimmer of hope, we convinced ourselves that we’re only half as old as we look, and if we want that carpet gone, we’re gonna have to get off the pot and make it happen. So, we watched a few how-to videos, high-fived each other, and with the adrenaline of a pair of goofy teens drunk on energy drinks, we decided to renovate the house.

Easy breezy, like sipping lemonade on a warm summer day by the pool.

NOT!

It’s been more like crawling across a hot desert with our shriveled tongues hanging out and furrowing the sand beneath the blazing sun.

On May 27, 2019, we began moving furniture and pulling up carpet, staples, nails, and carpet strips. Two days later while we were out, a woman ran the red light and plowed into us causing over two thousand dollars in car damages and six weeks in the body shop for repairs. Thankfully, other than being shook up and mad as a hornet, no one was hurt. It did, however, throw us off track for a few weeks dealing with insurance agents, numerous phone calls, and the rental car breaking down.

We have never laid flooring before and will never ever in a trillion years do it again. I’d rather kill a grizzly bear with my bear hands!

Being a perfectionist, having my house torn asunder with nothing in its place for weeks and weeks on end, hubby working an hour and resting four, the dogs acting stupid, and me going stark raving mad conjured up evil that would have made Charles Manson tremble in fear.

I’ve screamed, I’ve yelled, I’ve cried, I’ve threatened divorce, running away, pitching a tent in the woods, signing myself into a nursing home, seeking refuge with the homeless and hearing what they have to say about the golden years.

And as if it couldn’t get any worse, we ran into water damage and huge pee stained circles . . . lots and lots of circles like stepping stones zigzagging across the sub floor. Replacing one of those boards became a crumbled mess of sawdust like a box of Nilla Wafers smashed to smithereens with a sledgehammer.

Several grueling hours later we finally cleaned up the mess and nailed down a new sheet of ply board only to discover it was too thick. By now, we’re threatening to black each others eyes and I’m thinking of sticking a For Sale sign in the yard and moving to another planet where I’m sure the golden years must be hiding.

Then, to my husband’s dismay, I do the unthinkable. I caved in to my impulsive personality and stopped everything in midstream to refinish my grandmother’s cedar chest. I got tired of moving furniture, straining my back, and crawling on my hands and knees snapping vinyl planks together. I needed a change, a creative boost. I wanted to see instant results. After all, these are my golden years, right? I don’t have to abide by a set of rules telling me I’ll drop dead if I don’t finish everything by Christmas.

Besides, it’ll only take a few days.

Ha!

That little project took three long weeks of stripping paint and sanding and re-sanding and sanding again before it was ready to be stained. Then we did the blanket chest. Then I painted hubby’s computer desk. TWICE! I didn’t like the first color choice; it didn’t go with the furniture.

Obviously, we charged into this renovation with our eyes squeezed shut. We knew it wouldn’t be easy, but we didn’t know it would be like wrestling a thousand pound bull to the ground. And we had no experience or help from anyone other than Almighty God. I’ve fallen, banged my head, bruised my knee, scraped my elbow and bled on our new vinyl floor. I’ve questioned God, fought with my husband, hated the grimacing old woman in the mirror, and feared that I’ve gone totally mad. I’ve crumpled to the floor sobbing and feeling sorry for myself, envying those enjoying the golden years with their manicured homes and lawns and long, luxurious vacations. I’ve cursed myself for not planning ahead for the future and succumbed to feelings of shame and regret, and wishing for someone else’s golden years.

And here we are, at the end of August, celebrating our seventy-third birthday’s still pulling up carpet, counting the weeks when we’ll finally get finished and wondering when the golden years will suddenly appear.

Yet, through it all, God is teaching me more about Him and reminding me that life spent in His love and care and protection are the golden years. We don’t have to wait till a certain age to lounge in His comforting arms, travel the heights of joyful bliss, and sip the nectar of His eternal love, peace and comfort. Life is never gonna be what we expected it would be and many never live to get a mere glimpse of the golden years and those who do often feel cheated and disappointed. So, I’ve decide to paint each precious moment, each precious day, each precious year with gleaming joy and love and happiness and claim them as the golden years.

 

 

 

 

Letter to Mom

Hi mom,

Been thinking a lot about you lately. And because I’m much older now, I have a better understanding of the sacrifices you made for me; the hours you poured into making my pretty dresses, cooking my favourite meals, and buying my first accordion. When you bought me a brand new one several years later, I never realized the real price you paid. How you hated that job. But for three long years, you worked scrubbing and cleaning that dreary hotel to pay for my brand new Pearl White, 120 Base accordion. And by often reminding me of that, you must have thought I was a selfish, ungrateful brat.

The truth is I appreciated everything you did for me; I just didn’t know how to say it. It seems I was dumb-struck when it came to communicating my feelings. And when I tried, you judged and criticized me and we’d end up fighting and I’d run to my room bawling and slamming the door shut. So to keep from being hurt, I stuffed my feelings deep inside. And you have to admit, that you didn’t know how to communicate either. But I don’t blame you considering the horrible, abusive childhood you had. It’s a wonder you even survived let alone become a nurturing mother when all you ever received was abuse.

Though my communication skills seemed to be paralyzed, my intuitive brain told me, even at a very young age, that you couldn’t help your sudden outbursts of anger and rage. That you couldn’t stop the tears; the screaming and yelling at me. Something was broken inside you and I was determined to fix it.

You and I both know how that turned out. I ended up more broken than you were; hating myself for being such a failure; punishing myself for fighting against you so hard, feeling guilty that I was not everything you wanted me to be. I just got so tangled up in your pain and sadness that I got lost and angry and bitter and confused. And yes, I blamed you. I blamed you for not getting help. I blamed you for using me as your scapegoat. I blamed you for turning me against daddy. I was so blinded by your suffering and my determination to protect you that I blamed him for everything that was wrong at home. Between the two of us, he didn’t stand a chance, so he became distant and no help to anyone.

Still, you taught me many good things. Every time I hung clothes on the line I remembered to hang the towels together and the underwear, and sheets and pillowcases because you said it looked neater. I remember you teaching me to clean the windows with vinegar and newspaper to keep the windows from streaking, and taking down the blinds and soaking them in the bathtub for easier cleaning. And remember suggesting that, when I can’t iron them right away, to sprinkle the clothes, roll them up in a towel and put them in the refrigerator? Well, one time I left them in there so long they got mildewed and I had to wash them again!

And you encouraged me to draw and paint by supplying me with paper and charcoal pencils and number paints. You encouraged me to learn to play the accordion, organ and piano, which I did. And since you couldn’t afford lessons for me, I taught myself. But you taught me how to sing. You had the most beautiful voice in the world!  My favourite part of the day was sitting beside you at the sewing machine and hearing you sing. I believe the angels listened in awe too.

And you taught me about Jesus and living a truthful, honest life and staying out of trouble. You taught me to pray and read my Bible. You taught me to respect my elders. But when it came to boys and dating, you forgot to teach me to relax. I was so bashful about eating in front of a guy that I’d rather starve than let him know I was hungry. But they knew to keep their wandering hands to themselves!

Oh, and before I forget, when you saw how much I loved to roller-skate you made sure I had a pair of skates. I didn’t care that they weren’t brand new. They fit and they rolled and that’s all that mattered to me. I have to confess something, though. I snuck my little skating skirt in my skate case and changed into it in the dressing room at the roller rink. Sorry. But you were so strict about some things!

So, mom, even though our relationship was never what we both longed for, I’ve always loved you, it just wasn’t the way you wanted me to love you. But I couldn’t fill the holes in your soul. I couldn’t be the loving mom and dad you deserved as a child. I couldn’t be the supportive husband, the perfect child; everything you needed to make you whole. I just wish you could have understood that and not leaned on me so hard and expected me to make up for everyone else’s failures.

Though it took a long time for my recovery from such a hurtful and confusing relationship, I forgive you and I forgive myself. Many times I wished God had given me a different family, one that wasn’t so messed up. More than anything I wish you and me were more loving and understanding toward one another. I especially wish I hadn’t lashed out so angrily at you and I can’t think of one good excuse why I did. I can only say, with tears streaming down my face, I am so very sorry.

I miss you so much, mom. I wish I could hear your laughter, your silly jokes, and your happy whistle. I wish we could go out for breakfast and then do a little shopping like we used to do each week. I wish I could eat one more of your delicious meals and your homemade bread and sticky buns. I wish I could see your face, your busy hands, your peppy walk just one more time.

It doesn’t seem fair, does it mom that we were both victims of your abusive childhood. That we both became painfully and emotionally handicapped. But I got my strength and determination from you. Though our wings were broken, we flew as high as we could and never gave up.

So, I’ll close by saying, thank you, mom, for doing your best to raise me right in spite of the many boulders across the path. Thank you for being faithful, honest and true. Thank you for the only love you knew how to give. I guess, without my realizing it, God thought it was enough because He’s been supplying the rest.

Good-bye, mom. I’ll see you in heaven one day.

Your loving daughter,
Sandi

 

Quit, and You’ll Pay for it!

A committed jogger for seventeen years, I decided to quit one day. Dumbest thing I ever did. That was thirteen years ago and I’ve been falling apart ever since. I’ve gained weight, become a sugar junky, and can barely walk a flight of stairs without getting out of breath and my legs feeling like spaghetti. I can blame it on my age and aches and pains; even use my ailments as excuses for not doing better. But I can only blame myself. I’m the type of person that if a doctor ever told me I’d never walk again, I’d not only walk, I’d run straight into his office wearing an “I told you so” sign around my neck.

But, today I’ve thought: am I angry with myself for getting old? So angry that I’m punishing my body by giving up on it and thinking who the heck cares anyway? Is it self-pity? Loneliness? Depression? Or have I just gotten too fat and lazy to care anymore?

Feeling discouraged, I messaged my son on Facebook this morning. This is what he wrote back:

“I know for myself when I’m out running and training I feel alive, free, and have internal peace. There is a sense of accomplishment each and every time. Not so much in the training but in overcoming all the mental thoughts about why I don’t have to today, or I’m too busy, or my body needs a break and so forth. Once I’m at Hobby Park I look around, and I see the trees, I hear nature, I feel the elements, and I say to myself, “I did it. I’m here.” No one made me, no one encouraged me, no one else had anything to do with me being there, but me. I’ve learned, not in a narcissistic mindset, that really so much that happens in my life is the result of choices I make; good, bad, or ugly. I’m not being anti-dependent upon God, I’m fully dependent upon Him, but even He does not overcome my “flesh” for me. I have to exercise authority over it. Every time I go to Hobby Park I rejoice for overcoming my flesh because I know how difficult the workout is going to be because I control the workout and they SUCK every time, but the sense of accomplishment is awesome. I finish, I look around and it’s just me. No fans cheering me on, no designated finish line and a medal waiting to be placed around my neck; no one even really knowing how difficult the training is I just completed and how I had to push through my body shutting down. But I know!!! God knows!!! The birds, trees, and elements know because they cheer me on! They smile down at me like a father takes pleasure in seeing his son overcome a difficult challenge and not quit. God, His heavenly host, and creation cheer me on and that’s enough for me. Love ya mommy dearest!!!!”

I got off my lazy, fat butt and went for a thirty-minute walk. My body hated me for it, but my mind was grinning like a Cheshire cat.

Hopefully, this is the beginning of a long, over-due relationship with walking and feeling strong again.

I’m Old But I Ain’t Dead!

Sometimes I wish I were still that little girl, sitting on the kitchen counter, feeling moms firm touch as she slides my socks and shoes over my chubby feet. I wish I could run through the woods with my brothers, chase butterflies, and walk along the banks of the clear, trickling streams. I wish I could turn over one more rock, one more time with my brothers, looking for lizards and taking our precious treasures to the creek and watch them swim away. I wish I could see the bullfrogs plopping through the thick, green grass near the spring house. I wish I could swing beneath the limbs of the old giant oak tree, feel my long red hair blowing in the breeze; my feet nearly touching the sky.

Childhood memories; enthralling interludes between the confusing times of trying to figure things out for myself and having a real sense of belonging in a world so big and mean.

In school, I felt so out-of-place that I might as well have been on the moon. Had I not been so afraid of the consequences, I would have run away every single day. Like the chainsaw massacre, a cloud of doom hung over my head, causing my heart to tremble with fear. And as a shy, insecure six-year-old, nothing was more fearful than a shrew for a teacher and a classroom full of Einstein’s and social butterflies.

It seems that from my first gulp of polluted air in this chaotic world I’ve been plagued with this never-good-enough-something-is-wrong with me feeling. I didn’t ask for it, I don’t want it, and I’ve spent nearly my entire life getting rid of it. But it’s stuck like superglue inside my brain.

I guess that’s why being old is so difficult for me. The bigger everyone else’s world gets the smaller mine shrinks. Like a withering flower, old people are viewed by many as losing their charm and beauty and usefulness. We’re too slow, too forgetful, too out of touch with young people’s lingo and technology. It’s as if being old means our feelings are dried up, our ears are deaf, and our physical and emotional desires are dead.

And I wonder: is this how my mother felt when she was seventy-one? What about my dad? They didn’t share their feelings with me; especially not my dad. And the feelings my mother shared were always negative and meant to make me feel responsible for all her woes. So I have no gauge to go by, only my gut telling me that old age just ain’t fair.

The only consolation I have is that all young people if they live long enough, will be old one day. They’ll experience aches and pains, grief and loneliness like never before. They’ll say more good-byes to their family and friends than they ever thought possible. They’ll look in the mirror and not recognize the person looking back at them. They’ll feel forgotten, neglected, at the bottom of the totem pole where old people just don’t fit in. I guess only then will they understand that as long as people have air in their lungs their feelings, needs and desires are still alive and worthy of love and respect. Only then will they scream from the top of their lungs to a cold and heartless world, “I’m old, but I ain’t dead!”