Seasons

(Christian Courier column, August 25th, 2014)

Emily Cramer’s funny, candid column, “three year revolution” (CC, August 11, 2014), brought me back 30 years. Teaching, raising children, swept up by the surging busyness. Derek Schuurman’s column in the same issue about his 25th wedding anniversary was another wistful read. When I got married, I, too, was still in school. Their reflections galvanized some further thoughts of my own about the seasons of life.

Let my start by apologizing to retirees everywhere for some unkind remarks I made, oh, about 10 or 15 years ago. Harried, I was juggling marriage, kids and a demanding profession. At the Christian school where I taught, we depended on volunteers to supplement the programming, trying to offer top-notch education on a stringent budget. Driven to excel, frustrated by inadequate resources, I got cranky. I complained about the generation ahead of me. Why weren’t the retirees helping more? They had time. Surely more of them could lend a hand! Yep. I said it. Out loud.

Now I’m retired. Fast approaching 60. A different wave is curling in, a new ride with a fresh perspective. Poised to surf this last third of my earthly life, here are some things I wish my irate younger self would have considered.

  1. Physical decline. Many seniors are commendably fit. More power to them. Others experience a gradual lessening of health and energy. I certainly can’t function at the frenetic pace I maintained for years. Somewhere in an old daybook is an entry detailing a day that started at 6:00 am, included driving students to Windsor in my own car, leading two workshops at a Fine Arts event, racing back to school for a staff meeting from 3:30 to 6:00 pm, heading home for a quick bite to eat and then returning to school for an Education Committee meeting that lasted until 11:00 pm. Now I wonder, How did I ever do that? Aches and pains, diabetes and joint replacements become all too real after 50. For the first time in my life, I’m experiencing stiffness in the morning. The creaky slowness dumbfounds me.
  2.  There is more loss in the later stages of life. The passage of time inevitably results in an accretion of hurts and disappointments. Sometimes people arrive at the threshold of their golden years pummelled and exhausted from broken marriages, the challenges of raising children, financial worries, bereavement. Yes, there are those who can rise above even a lifetime of trouble, sustaining an optimistic outlook and steady faith. Others struggle to adjust. I wish my impatient younger self had been more aware of the toll of fatigue and heartache.
  3.  Retirement offers new opportunity. Many of the retirees I grumbled about had already given decades of support to churches and Christian schools. My former uncharitable self could have chosen to rejoice graciously with these older folks for their chance to broaden their horizons, to explore God-given gifts and passions in novel ways, to serve God and neighbour at a different pace.

I’ve written often about my church participation — teaching catechism, editing the bulletin, mentoring the pastor. I’ve been a strong proponent of “doing,” conscious that my walk should match my talk, especially for the sake of the students I’ve taught.

But, suddenly, I’m doing less. Some of that is due to pressing needs within my family and some of it, frankly, is due to wintering in Florida. I’m still rather defensive, particularly in light of my opinionated past (grin). But this perfect little poem by Erica Jong inspires me to be less so. And eager to embrace what’s still to come.

raspberries

 

 

 

The Raspberries in My Driveway

Nature will bear the closest inspection. She Invites us to lay our eyes level with her Smallest leaf, and take an insect view of its Plain.                    —Thoreau

The raspberries

in my driveway

have always

been here

(for the whole eleven years

I have owned

but have not owned

this house),

yet

I have never

tasted them

before.

 

Always on a plane.

Always in the arms

of man, not God,

always too busy,

too fretful,

too worried

to see

that all along

my

driveway

are red, red raspberries

for me to taste.

 

Shiny and red,

without hairs—

unlike the berries

from the market.

Little jewels—

I share them

with the birds!

 

On one perches

a tiny green insect.

I blow her off.

She flies!

I burst the raspberry

upon my tongue.

 

In my solitude

I commune

with raspberries,

with grasses,

with the world.

 

The world was always

there before,

but where

was I?

 

Ah raspberry—

if you are so beautiful

upon my ready tongue,

imagine

what wonders

lie in store

for me!