Age, loss & JOY

Joy in the age of loss, an article in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer, went straight to my heart – there was a picture of an older man in a wheelchair having breakfast alone at  sitting, alone, at a table that sits six.  A breakfast setting well-known to John & myself, in Rydal Park’s café; until John his current Wednesday morning commitment, we were there regularly, enjoying breakfast with resident-friends.

I remember even further back, two years plus, when Anne, who lived at Rydal Park for years, & I would breakfast at a table in front of the pictured set up – – back then, there would have been at least one more table, making enough settings for eight or more friends to gather.  Every morning, there was the same group of friends, men & women, having a grand time carousing over eggs & pancakes, waffles or whatever.  The laughter, the high times, the great & grand spirits.  John & Ramie were the group’s Trivial Pursuit masters – – sometimes I’d butt in with an answer!

Over the past few years, first this person then that moved or had health issues that kept them from being part of the breakfast bunch, or died.  John & I know people who now sit – by themselves – in the same place they did back then.

Reading the lengthy & terrific article is a a goad to get back in the groove, to swing by – solo – on Wednesday morning’s for breakfast with dear friends I dearly miss.

And it’s a kick in the butt to get Cyber Access for the Technically Timid FINALLY up & running, because many elders let their social world contract,” too many shrink down when they could open up.  Unlikely?  Not to my mother, who marveled at 88 that – thanks to unimagined Internet connections – her circle of friends & friendly acquaintances was growing larger, not smaller.

My determination is not just for the olders’ sake – Mom’s online circle showed how youngers of all ages benefitted from connecting to her, learning first hand, real time, of her unabashed attitude toward & appetite for LIVE, her zest for living in spite of being considerably slowed down, her approach to dealing with life & family challenges, her value as a resource of “she was there” history & culture-rooting stories…  The reciprocal advantages between Mom & her devoted online followers, many of whom never met her but were among her most devoted friends, went on & on.

Perhaps what Mom showed more than told was the power of purpose, at any age, and the importance of flexibility, of living within THIS moment instead of bemoaning life is not as it was.

Whether twenty-something youngsters or readers inching well into their sixties, Mom’s honesty & humor blew preconceptions about aging out of the water, exemplifying what the article says about how it helps when olders believe life has meaning & purpose, whatever their age.  That life is fuller & infinitely richer through a well-cultivated spirit of gratitude, curiosity, continual personal growth.

Smiling, thinking of how much Mom would have LOVED today’s article by the always spot-on Stacey Burling.  Looking forward to printing out this treasure & sharing it with friends & family.  Even more, looking forward to heading to Rydal Park next week for Wednesday breakfast with David & Rob & John.

And, hopefully, Jerry, too!

 

 

RELATED LINKS:  http://www.philly.com/philly/news/special_packages/493160931.html ;  http://mindwalker1910.blogspot.com/2010/05/velveteen-grammie-by-krl.html ; http://thegrannielistener.blogspot.com/2016/05/in-nutshell-cyber-access-for_19.html

 

Sage-ing Inter’l Conference ~ ~ a dream is a wish your heart makes

The best of times, the worst of times – – heartbroken that the National Center for Creative Aging Conference, scheduled to be held in Philadelphia the last weekend in October, is cancelled.  DETERMINED to get myself out to Sage-ing International’s conference that weekend, out in Minnesota!  Crazy dream, but am going for it!!  Sharing over this coming week my reasons why.

Day One, Session 1 – pick ONE:

1) Spiritual Eldering in Action through Intergenerational Play 

2) The Circle Way: A Transformative Process for Deepening Sacred Experience

3) Empowered Elders Reconnecting for the Earth

4) Reviewing Your Unlived Life

5) Listening is an Act of Love: Senior Voices and Legacy Creation

6) The Divine Human in a Divine World: The Final Transformation of Sacred

7) Finding Peace: Healing Your Family Soul

8) Family Conversations: Giving Elders a Voice at the Table

 

Pick ONE?  How will I choose between 1, 2, 5, 7,8 ?!!

Need a cadre of Bryn Athyn care partners with me!

Olders & risk – go for it!

What delight to find an article I missed over on NextAvenue.com featured on MarketWatch.com.  Amen & hallelujah!

Over the moon to devour the well-crafted article talking about women putting themselves out there after 50, taking MORE risks as they age upward, rather than drawing back.  Am dancing in the streets that the financial site is introducing more people across the age spectrum to the wonderfulness of both NextAvenue & to Next Tribe.

As the article describes, Jeannine Ralston, who founded Next Tribe with a longtime friend, set out from home with her husband & children to travel the world.  Let’s acknowledge up front that as a previously published author whose written travel pieces for a host of publications including the NY Times & National Geographic, it was a no-brainer that Jeannine had the experience, material & contacts to end up with a slew of related articles & at least one book.

Few of us are so graced with talent & opportunity.  Which is not to discount all that Jeannine has risked & done.  But let me introduce you to a woman who epitomizes a 50+ woman who embraced risk – at every level of experience – without any semblance of a safety net.  My mother, Katharine Reynolds Lockhart.

When Mom was suddenly widowed at 64, she had experience as a dutiful daughter to a demanding mother, a devoted wife & life partner to my adoring Dad, a committed parent.  The farthest she’d been was a trip with Dad to London, a year before his unexpected death.  Up to 1974, her life revolved around home, church, community.

Mom’s unforeseen loss lefter her emotionally crumpled, but circumstances set in that got her OUT of her grief & opened up a previously unimagined life.  At 65, she was off to Australia to help a son & his wife welcome their first child, breaking her trip with a couple days visiting Pasadena, two in Hawaii & one in Tahiti.   At 67, we discovered that the person she’d put in charge of her finances had done her dirt, losing every penny of the money Dad had left.

Suddenly, in an age when anything in the 60s was considered O-L-D, Mom had to create money streams tailored to her non-driving reality.  She hit that out of the park AND had a powerful influence on the families & individuals she touched through family care, meal making, laundry folding & travel companionship.  At 85, Mom had clocked in numerous trips to Florida, several to Bermuda, a couple to Texas & seven (7) multi-month stays with Mike & Kerry in Australia.

I imagine Mom reading the article & whooping with agreement that in her mid-60s, she was just hitting stride.

Not that she knew that, sitting almost catatonic in Dad’s big chair in our living room.  In July 1974, she felt life, as she knew it, was over.   She was spot on – life as she knew it was over.

A life that she had never envisioned, rooted in all that came before but now sprouting exotic blossoms, was about to begin.

Right up to her last breath, Mom never held back.  While she didn’t write articles for Time or Smithsonian, she never held back. Not when it came to flying to the other side of the world.  Not when it came, in her 70s, to walking six nights a week the half mile from our Woodland Road house up & over to Alwick to make “Aunt” Benita’s dinner – come rain sleet or ice.  Not when it came to tackling, in her late 80s, the most daunting challenge of her life – being upfront & honest with her adult children about who she was & what SHE needed.

Near the end, the article notes, “It’s OK to take a few risks.  There’s absolutely nothing wrong with getting out of your comfort zone.”  Readers at NextAvenue or MarketWatch might look at Jeannine Ralston’s honor roll of accomplishments, her deep well of recognized talent & the bedrock of opportunities that she’ll use as a freelancer to the end of her days & brush off her message, thinking, “Easy for her to write – my talents are less defined, let alone developed, & my opportunities feel like their zilch.

To them, I give my mother, with no money, limited resources, great loss & more family who needed her than ones able to offer financial or even emotional support.  My mother, who never saw risk as risky – it’s just what comes with full caps LIVING.

I can imagine Mom reinforcing Jeannine’s message about squeezing every moment, holding onto every day, not dwelling on separation from loved ones, just accepting when it finally arrives.  Jeannine wrote that about appreciating time with her growing sons.  Mom lived that every day of her life, right up to the last, particularly with what always mattered most to her – home, church, community.

Mom took to heart, especially over the last few years of her life, the crucial importance of taking risks, of venturing into scary dark corners that called to be left alone, of traveling to new places & chalking up new experiences.  Of striving every day to be awake & aware of all that was around & within her.

One thing I am sure of – Mom & Jeannine would have recognized in each other a kindred spirit, would have banded together to get out the message clearly at the core of their being:  Life is meant to be embraced, engaged in, experienced.  That whatever our age – especially as we age ever upward – we need to keep grooving, traveling, developing & deepening interests, always looking for ways to celebrate our knowledge, insights & full-throttle LIVING.

The challenge of aging

I yelped with joy, reading Connie Goldman‘s sense of what we’re, each & everyone,  called to do  ~ ~ “The challenge of aging isn’t to stay young;  it’s not only to grow old, but to grow whole – to come into your own.

That is a great quote because it is as true when we are twenty as when we’re inching up to ninety.  ALL of our life is about being all thoroughly all that we are as possible, whatever our situation or circumstances.

What too often blocks our way is having our aging ever upward woven into a cultural fabric that seems to disengage from grasping the importance & power of true elderhood, that puts barriers in the way of continued growth – in the name of convenience.

Life was never meant to be convenient.  It’s SUPPOSED to be challenging & messy, enriching & inconvenient, expansive & exasperating.  From first breath to last.

Older people need advocates, people who help brush aside physical, emotional, even mental barriers.  Every step these essentials take, every action, helps them grow whole, helps them come more fully into their own.

The life they enrich, that they help give the space to grow whole, may be their own!

 

 

OUCH! Age discrimination bites Ohio State in butt

Yes, the university claims “But we did nothing wrong.”  However, the facts speak for themselves.  To quote from the NY Times’ always meaty The New Old Age – –

The university denied that it had acted unlawfully and took no action against any employee.

But the university has rehired both women and agreed to back pay and retroactive benefits totaling about $203,000 for Ms. Taaffe and $237,000 for Ms. Moon. It also paid $325,000 in attorneys’ fees to the Gittes Law Group, the  firm representing the women, and the AARP Foundation lawyers who joined their suit. 

More important, the plaintiffs won “prospective injunctive relief,” actions to avert illegal policies in the future. Ohio State has agreed to train human resources staff to recognize, investigate and prevent age discrimination. 

AMEN & HALLELUJAH!  And by having more seasoned minds on staff rather than put out to pasture, the university will benefit more than short-sighted administrators can imagine!

 

Improbable beginning – WBUR & WQED

Listening last night with my hubster to Are We There Yet?, an episode of NPR’s On Point (we are big radio fans), it hit me that two of the most influential public television stations – WBUR/Boston (where On Point originates) & WQED/Pittsburgh – are rooted in wildly improbable beginnings.  In a large-boned, effusive woman with a singular way of addressing her audience & a duck ~and~ a soft-spoken, kindly man who conversed with a king & kids.

Yes, it’s a bit of a flip from radio to television, but my mind managed it nicely, thank you.

Julia Child & Fred Rogers were beyond improbably, “Are you kidding me?” television stars.  Speaking to them at a party, the term “paradigm shifter” would probably not have crossed your mind.  Yet both were.  And both took their respective television & affiliated radio stations into BIG time broadcasting.

That touches me deeply, inspires & gives hope.  At this moment in time, I am excitedly diving into wondrous new projects, taking me in directions that have beckoned for years.  (One of the great advantages about being 66 rather than 33 & certainly younger is the ever-present thought, “If not now, when?“)

It’s a good time for me to ponder Mr. Rogers & Mrs. Child.

Consider the incomparable Julia.  Last year’s book, The Gourmands’ Way: Six Americans in Paris and the Birth of a New Gastronomy, is a marvelous meander through post-war Paris & how a “ragtag band of passionate epicureans  (with an assist from a certain Francophile First Lady) transformed American cooking.”  Hands down, the greatest transforming factor was Julia Child, who entranced & inspired the masses to master the art of French cooking.

The current film about Fred Rogers vehemently underscores the amazing fact that this man not only had/has an astonishing impact on our American culture, but that he was successful from the very first, not in spite of, but due to his modest demeanor & soft-spoken ways.

Both Julia Child & Fred Rogers became the most super of super stars by just being themselves.  WBUR & WQED, both of which achieved fame prominence power thanks to their marquee stars, were founded on a woman & a man committed to quality integrity authenticity.

Quality integrity authenticity – as improbable as it may sound in today’s slap-dash, short shelf life, helter skelter culture, those three qualities are still the basis for genuine, long-lasting, satisfying accomplishment.

My thanks to Mr. Rogers & Mrs. Child for the well-timed reminder to carve out my own path, to set whatever it is I serve on the table with confidence & verve, telling all & sundry, “Isn’t it lovely?  It’s JUST the way I like it – dig in!”