I am the fourth of my parents’ five children. Our youngest sibling passed from this life at the age of 31 from cancer. That was an anomaly in our family longevity, except for our maternal grandmother who died at 36 from what I can never remember. My paternal grandmother died just before her 84th birthday; both my grandfathers were 73 at their deaths. My dad died in 2015, two months shy of his 98th birthday. Now that’s really something right there. My mom is currently 85 years young. As I tend to resemble my paternal grandmother and my dad in many ways, unless someone isn’t being careful on Hwy 212 one morning, I expect that I’ve got another 30 or 40 years left here. That was a lifetime for my younger brother and my maternal grandmother. So what is this dread I feel, and sorrow and insecurity over my age and accompanying white head? Why do I have this irrational feeling of shame when a student asks me how old I am? Like this is my fault. I was born in 1961, and I’m still alive in 2018, so……
Hey! I’m alive in 2018!
I was born a poor black share-cropper’s daughter. Okay, not really. [Click on ‘poor’ if you fail to get the reference.] I was born in 1961 in Moline (IL) Public Hospital and brought home to the first house my parents owned. I believe that prior to moving into their own home a few years before I was born, they had lived in 3 or so different rented places in a little less than a decade. Three children preceded me, as I noted above. My dad was a factory worker; my mom was a stay-at-home mom (at a time when many moms were getting the heck out of the house.) You might figure that we didn’t have a lot of money, with one factory income and, what would become in 1966, a 7 person family. And you would be right. But you also don’t know my dad. That man, oh, that man. I had everything I needed, and possibly most everything I wanted. He took such good care of us, all the way through college and beyond. Besides the peanut butter and syrup sandwiches and the fact that we didn’t belong to the country club that some of my classmates did, I never felt poor. I had my books. I had my piano. I had my very big yard. I had a warm home. I had security.
So, thanks to that dad (and, sadly, bank and government loans) I had the freedom to go to college and major in my beloved music. After 6+ years, I had my bachelor’s and master’s degrees. So what now? Time to stop playing around and pay the pipers. I moved to Alabama, where I could enjoy the security of having my older brother around as I began my post-college get-a-job and support yourself life. I temped, I worked in the finance office at a music store, and I taught piano in a studio upstairs. Then NYC called me, and I was off to spend my mid-20s to my mid-30s in the Big Apple. Still single. Seemingly, forever single. I worked in the finance office at a music school, and I taught piano not in a studio upstairs. July, 1998 my brother died; October, 1998 I moved back to the south.
I meet Jack Pelham in November, 1998. Not quite yet, but soon my single days would be over. At age 40.
So my life has not been ‘typical’ (whatever that means) nor has it been what I imagined in my big basement bedroom in Silvis, Illinois. And sometimes I feel weird about that. I feel weird sometimes that my same-age peers are grandparents, while I am the mother of a teen-ager. I feel weird sometimes when I’m with the parents of my son’s same-age peers, and those parents are 20 years younger than me. Sometimes people look at me cross-eyed when they learn I lived in NY for 11 years; they have, or would like to visit, but they’d never live there! What was I doing all those years? No husband. No children.
Well, I was living. And I was learning. Sometimes not fast enough. But I am stronger and wiser from the life I lived and choices (some I definitely regret) that I made. You haven’t heard about my church life and search (still) for truth. That’s another post. And another. And another.
As I wrote in a previous post, my word and goal this year is to Celebrate. To focus on the positive. To make myself see the good that I’ve accomplished in a day, as a teacher, a mother, a wife, a friend, a neighbor, a learner. And with this gloom that arises from embarrassment of age and what exactly I’ve been doing all these years, I choose to say, ‘Hey, I’m alive in 2018! I’ve been around for nearly 57 years on this planet. I’ve lived a lot of places. A lot of very different kinds of places. I’ve met and lived with a lot of people. A lot of very different kinds of people. I’ve read a lot of books. A lot of very different kinds of books. I’ve believed things and then after study decided those things are not right. I’ve trusted people and then after study decided those people aren’t worthy of my trust. I’ve packed my bags and moved to places and packed my bags to move away from places. I’ve watched a very dear brother die and come out on the other side with a stronger belief in our Creator. I’ve rejoiced at the conception and birth of a long dreamed-of daughter and then watched her die at 3 weeks old, and I’ve come out on the other side with a still stronger belief in the goodness and grace of our Creator. I have wrestled with Yahweh over many things. I have not just lain on the couch like a beached-whale (as one NYC roommate once described me). I suppose I have earned this white head. Not just because of chronology.’
I’m proud of where I’ve been and what I’ve learned. I will not waste these 57 years of struggle and learning. I didn’t waste the time while they were happening; I won’t waste it now. I know many things. I’m grateful for that. Not gonna keep it to myself. And I have much more to learn. I’m grateful for that, too.
Wisdom is with the aged,
and understanding in length of days. ~ Job 12:12
Gray hair is a crown of glory;
it is gained in a righteous life. ~Proverbs 16:31
I suffer from all the disadvantages of being a grown-up person, and I’m jolly well going to get some of the advantages too; ~Chesterton, “Manalive”