Brothers

It’s sad when family relationships – even the rockiest – are stunted, cut short.  My own life is much happier for having kept doors open,  even when a better something seemed an impossible hope.

Been thinking about brothers a lot over the past 24 hours, about mine & how different our relationships have turned out than I would have guessed just a shade over ten years ago.

In 2007, I didn’t feel like I had any deep connection to any of my three brothers.

That changed first with the most improbable of the trio – with Ian, who died almost 60 years ago, when he was eleven & I was seven. Ten years ago this past spring.  – when I was 55 – we bonded.  Seriously!  I’d always assumed that Ian was as different from me as the rest of my sibs, but thanks to a combination of discoveries & fresh aha moments I made that spring, for the first time it clicked that “B-Boy” & I had similar natures & mutual  interests.

For years, a family joke has been that I married my brother, because my John seemed so much like Ian, but it took stumbling across those report cards & befriending a litter of feral kittens for the light to dawn that Ian & I were more alike than I’d ever imagined.

Ian was just four years older, while brother Mike (#2 🔆) was a long-stretch ten.  Mike joined the Navy straight out of high school, a couple years after Ian’s death, then bopped off on world travels between stints working for our father at Lockhart Lumber & Millwork.  I never really connected with my brother in his footloose & fancy-free days.

Alas, he married someone who – unbeknownst to me – experienced her younger s-i-l  as beyond irksome.  Took me 27 years to discover (the hard way)  what Mom knew since the early ’70s – that I stirred such deep dislike, as soon as I entered the same room, Kerry wanted to walk out.  OUCH!

When Kerry is not in the picture – when she  returned home to Australia a week before Mike after an early ’90s Christmas visit & when he visited solo several years ago for his 50th high school reunion – we connect.  Who knows where we will be ten years down the road?  Like MOTEL 6 , John & I will leave the light on.

Which leads to Peter.  Fourteen years older, it would be easy to assume we had the least contact over the years.  If only!  Peter has been a more or less constant presence throughout my life, weaving in & out of stays as his life circumstances ebbed & flowed, but always letting it be known  innate superiority put him on a different plain from us lesser lights  Peter talked big, but his life – to his baby sis – seemed… meager.  We had our share of dust ups – he expected to treated like a guest instead of a member of the family & I expected him to pull a fair share – but they’re back in the past.  Too little time left to waste any acting mingy.

While my relationship with Ian has improbably strengthened & deepened, am resigned to the possibility Mike & I might never connect as bro & sis.  As for Peter… It doesn’t matter to me that he still strikes his “kiss the ring” attitudes – if he wants or even just needs my support, it will be my sisterly pleasure to do what I can.

At 65, having lost more immediate family than remain, I’ve come to a place where just being a sisterly presence is enough- in fact, it is way more than I’ve expected over the years.  This mellower me is content with ALL that is, holding a sister’s love for near, far & in lofty realms beloved brothers.

Reaffirmation – PRL

John & I took my oldest brother out to lunch – he wanted to hear all the juiciest bits from the IAGG Conference.  Reaffirmed for both of us the benefit WE get from making regular time for Peter in our lives.

It’s a good thing such contact is important on more than a “pleasant times” basis, because the outing was more strained than expected.

Peter seemed less interested in catching up with us than he did in picking up some typing that had been done for him.  He’d had a large breakfast & still wasn’t hungry at 12:30 for lunch, which he took home with him for supper.  The car seats were too low, the table at the diner too high.  He made nasty cracks about someone who matters a lot to me & seemed stuck in once-but-no-longer characteristically mean spirits.

And I am happy to report that NONE of it fazed me! ☮️

One of the JOYS of creeping up there in years is having the blessed long view.  Instead of  jumping to the defense of the person he thoughtlessly maligned, I just told a story that gave my bro more information, context; no idea if it changed his opinion, but at least it deepened his knowledge.  When he slammed the very candidate HE voted for, I defended POTUS by noting he’s no different now than on 11/08/16 – shared in an unsnarky way.  Not once did I take exception to what he said – just commented, honestly, “Interesting…” ~or~ “I never considered that possibility.”

The fact is, we haven’t a clue what might be eating at my oldest bro.  Age & experience shows that what we know is about .000000000000000001% compared to what we don’t, so any hypothesis I come up with for PRL’s gnarly mood is guaranteed to be off-kilter or flagrantly wrong.

My sister, Mim, had gotten tight with Peter over her last 30 years.  Her 07/03/15 death left him without an irreplaceable phone pal – per PRL, they talked almost daily.  At 65, I find myself ready willing & able to leave ancient perceived slights & unresolved family mish-mashes in the dark dim past.  How ridiculous if, after a lifetime craving stronger family ties, I dissed this opportunity to be a sis!

How wondrous that John & I had the pleasure of listening to LAURA CARSTENSEN  on the drive home, talking on The Ted Radio Hour about how we experience time.  It seems that as grow seriously upward, we SAVOR our time more than when we were youngsters of 40 or 50.

Today, Peter was apparently feeling very mortal – not in a good way.  At 65, I can APPRECIATE & savor that this afternoon presented an opportunity to lend a hand & be present for someone who, inspite of having a bitterly checkered past with his baby sis, needed me.  He challenged my patience, stretched the limits of my good nature, dredged up feelings I’d rather not feel – and reaffirmed that all those things are part of being a sibling, are all part of something wonderful…  if I have the wisdom to let it just be whatever it is.

 

added the next morning,  5:28 a.m. ~ ~ Woke up pondering how powerful my experience of yesterday’s outing would be if I could know Peter’s experience of the morning, before we arrived, of our time together, about HIS feelings as & after we dropped him off back at his residence.  My guess is it would be more different than similar, yet I feel as if what I sensed was bedrock reality.  Ha!  Not that simple.

 

Laura ❤️ Blake ❤️ Kaitlyn ❤️ Elise

One of the vey best things about growing significantly older is the unexpected resounding joy of special events like weddings & baptisms, where I can see from deep personal experience, friendship & the seemingly infinite layers of vibrant relationships interwoven into the moment.

My 65-year old self glories in a cascade of people connected to the three past present future weddings ~ teaching Brent, drawing Laura & Blake & Kaitlyn & Elise into my heart, being family friends with Hilary since our earliest days & amigos over the past few decades, teaching Bruce & loving Molly since the moment we met, memories from Erland & June’s move to the USA, the Glenns arriving from Pittsburgh, Norbert & Judy… and more, much more.

The older I get, the more special moments like Laura’s wedding last month, Kaitlyn & Blake’s tonight, Elise’s on the fairly-distant rhorizon feel like an exquisite tapestry of loving connection commitment community, the threads a variety of shades texture intensity.

In my younger years, I’d be psyched to celebrate the young couples, their heartfelt love & promising futures.  As a deepened broadened expanded older, I flat-out wallow in all the levels – seen & unseen, past present future – of delight joy pleasure!

Ain’t life – and ❤️ – grand!!!

BELIEVE ~ APPLY ~ COMPLETE ~ REPEAT

Early this morning, sitting in The Retreat, pondering a day that would be filled with friends & capped with the wedding of two young folks who have been dear to my heart since they were in primary school (&, Kaitlyn, before!), the father of the groom a former 6th grade student of mine, whose grandparents I know & hold tenderly in my heart – – on THIS day of days, I spotted a tiny card fallen on the floor with just one word, lower caps:  believe.

If I were asked – as a pseudo-auntie of the young couple – to say a few words of wisdom, I’d share the four (4) legs of my life skills platform – believe, apply, complete, repeat.

It’s not enough to really & truly believe – we have to apply; it’s not enough to apply – we must complete – and – complete in a timely fashion; it’s not enough to do that process once – we must repeat & repeat & repeat.

Blake & Kaitlyn have great parents (& grandparents), who probably shared that message many eons ago, but I’ve found it bears repeating. (Sure took me a long time  to learn its truth.)

Been thinking a lot today about the importance of building strong life platforms that can double as rafts when the storms bear down on us.  They must be constructed for individual use -and- to interlock with others,  with a nod to both present & future, capable of restructuring as circumstances crop up, built from resilient materials that are both tender & tough.

Believe ~ Apply ~ Complete ~ Repeat might not sound high-fallutin’ or deep or soulful, but those four words are the best this pseudo-auntie can give the bride (“my” Class of ’11) & groom (“my” Class of 2010).

Kaitkyn & Blake are not related to me by blood or connected through deep friendship ties, but both have been in my heart since what feels like forever.  Blessings on them, on their families, always & forever!

ME is enough

The #1 thing that I learned at the IAGG World Congress is that I am enough.  That my perceptions of aging across the life span are more than enough to light a fire in putting down on paper the book inside of me.

No researching or even deep diving into other’s experiences with parental relationships.  Just write about my own, my experience of how my parents seemed to relate to their respective pater & mater, of my sibs’, of best & worst practice friends’ relations & interactions.  With lined pages at the end of the book for readers to lay down their experience with parents and/or other significant elders.

As I see it in my mind heart spirit, THAT YOUR DAYS MAY BE LONG… will start with a short-form listing of the Ten Commandments:

Hear O Israel!   You shall have no other god.  ~. ~ You shall not make idols of any kind. ~ ~ You shall not take the Lord’s name in vain. ~ ~ Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. ~ ~ HONOR YOUR FATHER & YOUR MOTHER, that your days may be long.  ~ ~  You shall not kill. ~ ~ You shall not commit adultery.  ~ ~ You shall not steal. ~ ~ You shall not bear false witness. ~ ~ You shall not covet.

What is meant by this “honoring” our parents that we are promised will lead US to drawing richness from all our days?  In my earlier years, I got the message that it meant “obey,” which never felt right.  At the ripe “young old” age of 65, I’ve come to understand it to be honoring our parents as fellow humans, as people, with histories influencing illuminating coloring  their judgement; as individuals & partners doing their best, given who they are – what they know the times in which they live(d); accepting frailties along with strengths, making tender allowance for poor judgement as well as valuing wise counsel.

To me, honoring my parents includes permission for them to be flawed humans rather than fallen gods.

It is allowing them to be the visible that I saw & experienced AND the unknown I can never know, to judge what I know of their actions, while always remembering their intentions are beyond my understanding, to strive for a combination of clarity compassion humility.  And to hold those same feelings for myself.

If it is enough to be me, it must be enough for my parents, too.

 

 

 

 

IMPROV’d Care Partners

Smiling, remembering my startled glee at finding a surprising number of sources the first time – many months ago – I did an online search of “improv & aging” & it was gone into at length at last week’s International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics (IAGG) World Congress, so I was not taken aback at seeing it was a presentation some weeks ago at the 2017 Aspen Ideas Festival.

What left me flabbergasted were two of the names associated with it – Adam Grant & Ai-Jen Poo, both revered book mentors of mine!  And a new name, now dear to my heart – KELLY LEONARD.

Kelly Leonard started his career at Chicago’s 2nd City improv troupe the way – he says – everyone does: as a dishwasher.  He worked his way up to key behind-the-scenes positions, including President of 2nd City Theatricals.  Today, he is the Executive Director of the company’s spanking new Insights & Applied Improvisation division.  It was in that position that his friend, Adam, connected Kelly with his friend, Ai-Jen. And the world shifted for the better.

“Three caregivers walk into a bar…”   is a must-listen podcast of the presentation Kelly, Ai-Jen & others gave less that six weeks ago as part of the Aspen Ideas Festival’s “Not Your Ordinary Health Conference” Spotlight.

Listening to it, realized for the first time that Mom’s final years went so remarkably well because the three of us – John, Mom, moi – worked together as an improv ensemble, with guest appearances by her best health care partners & my other sibs.  It’s how Anne Hyatt & her children interacted – an unaware yet inspired repertoire group.  We/they rolled with presenting circumstances, focused (without knowing it) on our “and, but” repartee, and always always always had each other’s backs.

Great listen, great things ahead!

 

Also check out – –  http://www.crossroadstoday.com/story/35494349/the-second-city-announces-the-creation-of-a-new-division-insights-and-applied-improvisation  & https://caringacross.org/caring-across-generations-second-city-2017-aspen-spotlight-health-festival/  &  http://www.startribune.com/what-s-so-funny-about-aging-minnesota-seniors-find-vitality-through-improv-comedy/419278934/#1

Affirmation

From my first National Center for  Creative Aging Conference & Leadership Exchange, back in 2014, whenever I’ve taken a workshop at Rowe or Omega ~ or ~ attended a conference, from the NCCA to Leading to Well-Being to Positive Aging, I’ve come home feeling significantly changed.

That did not happen after last week’s International Association of Gerontology & Geriatrics 21st (quadrennial) World Congress.  I do not feel changed, transformed or freshly morphed in any way.

I feel affirmed.  I feel complete within my skin.  I am me.

If you understand what I mean, then you get it.  If you don’t, then there is no way to explain it.  I am.

NOW the serious work begins;  there is no excuse for less.  I am ready, responsible for what is & isn’t done.  Be still & know.  Be affirmed – and get crackin’, ’cause time’s a wastin’!