Summing up a life

Nancy,  Age 81
I just found your blog accidentally, and am delighted! Just read a story, and feel as if I am with good friends, even though you all are somewhat younger than I….as I am 81. But am in decent health, actually biked 18 (flat) miles the other day, and go to a trainer once a week. Music is my delight, and this afternoon I played quartets (viola da gamba….a Renaissance cello-like instrument) with old friends for the afternoon. Lucky me!

My husband is at a basketball game right now, and we go to U of A games during the season. He’s a sports nut. Married 58 years… 1958 actually. Both from a little town on Long Island, met in 7th grade. But it hasn’t been all bliss….whose life has? But we soldiered onward, despite many years leading quite independent lives. We still do, but have come to terms with our differences and have come to depend on each other as time goes on, giving thanks for decent health and a love of books, movies and talking with each other early in the morning. We both like to think about things.

So much in life is luck, I think. You don’t realize you are balancing on a tightrope: you think you’re safe and on flat ground, until something upends you. We lost a baby many years ago,and soon after our marriage both fathers died suddenly. The suddenness was what still surprises me. I was so absolutely (fill in the blank): innocent, stupid, unthinking. I had no idea when I heard the phrase: “the inherent sadness of life”, that death and death of loved ones looms. Oh, so that’s the secret! That’s what it’s all about? I still have trouble realizing that I am one step away….for example (if my bike tips over, or I fall,) from a walker. Don’t be so cocky, I say to myself. Just enjoy your present good fortune and give thanks.

What makes me very happy though is connections to others… kids, grandkids, friends. I’m an only child, spoiled rotten by two devoted parents. So lucky, but also very ill equipped to handle obstacles in life… house cleaning!
Doesn’t that seem crazy? I never had to do “chores”, growing up. I sent my soiled clothes from college home to have them washed, pressed and returned! (That was really before washing machines were available at college, I do believe though.) Fortunately, I have learned a little, I like to make things pretty and that way I seem to force myself to do unpleasant tasks, with the “pretty” in mind.

I did accidentally get a neat job….as a radio announcer for a classical music station……and became, in a small way, sort of famous (briefly) with picture on billboards etc. It was good for my ego, which needed some help at that time in my life, and brought me into a community of supportive music lovers. My Mother was dying (again, I didn’t realize the end was coming… that stupid, or what?) and I was arranging round the clock nurses, thinking she would recover. The job helped with the pain, but I feel guilt that I kept the job as this all was happening. But I was so so stupid. I still don’t understand why I didn’t realize my Mother’s death wasn’t far away. If I could relive that time of my life, I’d give anything to do it, and better.

Yes, if had my life to live over again, knowing things I now know, I would do many things differently. But even with my mistakes, it seems to have turned out pretty amazingly. I find I am always for the underdog, am a political junkie, want to change the world so that there aren’t so many wealthy people, and many more helped. A different and more equitable tax code for starters. My husband volunteers for Mobile Meals and his “clients” are so often isolated, impoverished and helpless to change their lives. I wish our society somehow could embrace and help these people better than it’s set up to do right now and try to do small things to effect that change.

Thanks for giving me a chance to think about the summing up of my life.

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5 Responses to Summing up a life

  1. Blog Mavens says:

    You ask, “Can I be part of you all at my age?” and the answer is a resounding, “Yes!”

    Your “summing up” is indeed inspirational, and will be appreciated by our 70Candles! Women, for you demonstrate ‘resilience,’ and beyond ‘luck, you have created the breadth and depth of your interesting life.

    Thank you for sharing this,
    Jane and Ellen

  2. Ellen says:

    And I, Ellen, want to add my personal two cents. THANK YOU for your beautiful story. I’ve now re-read it several times. What strikes me most is your confirmation of what women have told us over and over again–the meaningfulness of our connections with family and friends. My two favorite quotes these days are: “Other people matter” (Chris Peterson) and “Old is the most beautiful word in the English language” (I may have made that up myself). Warm wishes, Ellen

  3. Mary Lou says:

    Nancy, It’s such a joy to read of the vitality of those who have reached the 80 mark and still moving forward with hope and resilience. I’m turning 75 this month and here I am …….. feeling similar and enjoying the ride. Life is beautiful even with the struggles. 🙂 Thank you! Mary Lou

  4. Diana Joubert says:

    Nancy, I didn’t see my mother’s death coming either. Perhaps such a fundamental change in our lives is one that our conscious minds just refuse to accept.

    I suppose that the takeaway from this is to understand that our own children may love us, but that they too will be reluctant to accept this particular reality.

    At seventy-two, I well understand your healthy-yet-fragile state. One misstep and our independence is threatened. I stay as fit in part to make that recovery as fast as possible. (I tell myself that even if my bones are fragile, my muscles are strong.)

    btw, I’m impressed by your bike ride. I did seven miles today and was pleased enough with myself!

  5. Pam kieffer says:

    I am now in the middle of 85. Health is the only thing keeping me from hiking the beautiful mountains here in the Shenandoah valley where I live. Round to say I feel much more mentally sharp than some of my friends ten, fifteen younger than me….oh how I envy their mobility. Life still holds many happy days and wonderful memories.

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