July 11, 2018
This is my 62nd birthday. No birthday has ever given me pause; no number has evoked a missed breath. But this one brought a few hours of very conscious awareness of my mortality. My son, daughter-in-law, and granddaughter came up on the 8th and 9th to celebrate Everette’s 2nd birthday early with her family here. It was a most delightful gathering. Everette is blossoming with mobility, agility, cognition, personality, and language. She is an absolute delight. When they left to return home I was flooded with wonderful emotions. Zach and Cindy are excellent parents. I am filled with joy and pride each time I see my baby with his own baby.
When they had returned home and Steve and I were back to our own routine I became a bit nostalgic. I found myself seeing Zach at two and reminiscing about all the wonder and magic the world held for him. I realized just how quickly those 32 years have moved on downstream… now he is the adult, the father enchanted by his own child. Thirty-two years passing so very quickly made me miss a breath.
On the evening of the 9th I lay in bed very conscious of the fact that I, at 62, have lived the better portion of my life already. I’ve never been in love with mathematics as I am with language, but I realize that I have lived over half my time on this earth. And knowing the average lifespan of a male is 75-80 years; well it is very clear…I’ve made it well beyond the half-way mark. I lay there thinking, “In 8 years when she is 10 I’ll be 70.” Somehow that idea jolted me.
The next morning, July 10, one day before my 62nd birthday, I decided to drive out to the little cottage on our property. It is a very small house built in the late 1930’s and in need of more work than we can do to save her. I keep the yard mowed and tend to the flowers and sometimes take my coffee and sit on her steps for a short while before going up to the office. On this morning I noticed an old Ford pick-up slowing down, then stopping at the drive. I walked out to meet the driver curious to see who would be stopping at an abandoned house. An old man with weathered skin and bright eyes emerged with a spring in his step. Two little dogs were with him, one in the bed and one in the cab. His cab companion jumped out and began exploring the property. I stepped up and extended my hand. He took it. We shook hands. “I hope it ain’t no bother that I stopped. My wife’s sister and her husband used to live here. I noticed somebody’s been a-mowing the grass and got the place looking nice. I just had to see it for myself. I hope you don’t mind.”
I told him that I welcomed his visit, that I loved the old house and had planned to restore it as a guest cottage. I had to admit that my contractor had advised me against that plan saying it would be more cost effective to burn it and replace it.
“I come down here often and sit on her steps. I’ve named her Grace, because I really want to save her and I know it will take the grace of God for me to do so,” I said. He smiled and began to tell me stories of the property. I learned about the garden spots, and which meadows they used for hay and which they used as pasture land for the cattle. I was warned that I’d need a chain saw to remove a couple of the portions of fencing because he and his son had sunk the posts deep in the ground and “made ‘em solid with concrete so them old bulls couldn’t knock ‘em down and get out.” He told me his brother-in-law and sister-in-law didn’t have children and had left the place to him and his wife. He had given it to his son who is now retired and sold it to the man who sold it to us. We stood there and chatted for the longest. “I don’t have the key to the house with me or I’d invite you in. But we can sit on her steps if you’d like.” He thanked me for that offer, smiled, and spoke. “I just went out to take the trash to the dump and I been gone a while now. I’m coming up on 92 soon and my wife will be worried if I don’t get back.” He extended his hand this time. I took it. He told me his name again and told me where he lived. “It’s just on the other side of that mountain there. Just dive around anytime if you want to know anything about this place.” We said out goodbyes and he drove away slowly like the fog burning off to reveal the light of day.
In that new light I breathed deeply filling my lungs with fresh air. I thought about that man and the stories and life that were part of this place I love so. I thought of his wife and her sister planting those flowers I’m trying to tend. I thought of all the plans I have to reclaim the meadows and pastures, to clean out the area around the creek so we can watch the water frolic through the streambed and over the stones. I thought of the joy we will share with visitors and family who come when our house is built.
My visitor that morning thought he was filling a need of his own, but he gave me a gift for my birthday. He gave me a bigger vision of what it means to follow the current of life downstream and to frolic in the streambed and over the rocks along the way. I am grateful.
(from my office)
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July 11, 2018