D Day +1 +1

D Day has come and gone once again, and we have remembered. It is a time to look forward as well as backward, as I wrote about this morning on my other blog, Musings.

I have another personal anniversary that I do not celebrate every year, but I do pause to remember and honor. My father died one year and one day after the fiftieth anniversary of D Day. Now, you might think this is an odd way to remember the date of your father’s death, but I love history, and the two just sort of go hand in hand for me.

My dad was sixty two when he died of a sudden cerebral aneurysm. He would have been sixty three on July 30th, had he lived. As I have previously written, I will celebrate my sixty second birthday this October 24th. Lord willing.

This year will prove to be a challenging one for me emotionally. It is hard to explain what it feels like to outlive one’s parent. (Again, I am being very optimistic and taking liberties here, assuming that I will!) I remember vividly seeing my grandmother sitting down at the funeral home at my dad’s service, making the statement that it was very unnatural to outlive one’s own child. There is a natural order to the world and to the greater universe that we all take for granted. You are born, you live, you may be blessed with children and grandchildren, you teach them to care for themselves and the planet, and then one day you make your exit in good time, as it should be. None of us, so far, has escaped that ultimate fate.

I fully expected to see my parents live to ripe old ages, well into their nineties and beyond. My mother is still working on that, thank God. She will be eighty four next month, and she is a young octogenarian at that! My father’s fate was different. He was cut down by a physical abnormality that no one saw coming, at a very early age. He had just retired, was trying to do other things to stay active and busy and was trying to find a “new groove”. It was not fair, of course, but what about life is, really?

I am happy, busy, working, writing, reading, hiking, traveling, driving, visiting with family and friends, planning vacations (Japan in October!) and assuming that life will go on, if not forever, then for a few decades to come. My wife adamantly and confidently predicts, no, commands, that I will live until I am ninety six. She also commands that she will exit this life first, but I think we both know that the odds of that are slim to none. I am reminded of that scene in the John Adams miniseries when President Adams is at his wife’s bedside in her last moments. “I can’t believe I am going first”, she says, resigned to the fact that she will leave her husband, who loved her dearly, behind.

I do not want to merely be somber and sad as I think on these things in this space in the coming year. No, I am realistic as I grow older, but I am also wishing with all my might that I might have the thirty four more years that my dear wife promises me (maybe she has God’s ear or some other inside track not known to me?) so that I can love her, my children and grandchildren and this life that I have been blessed with with all my heart and soul and mind and body.

Yes, that is the goal, my friends.

To live long, if that is possible.

To live and love well, as long as one is given to do so.

Faith, Hope and Love

I don’t usually crowd source my blog posts. As a matter of fact, I never do. First time for everything, right?

I published this status update in Facebook yesterday as I was having a late pre-fishing trip breakfast, and over sixty people have already liked it. There have been many good comments and personal takes on the situation that prompted the post. I would like to expand on my feelings in this blog post, and I would like to share some of what you said to me that made me think even more about the topic at hand (thank you for that!). Here is the post from yesterday:

Just saw a very sweet elderly couple quietly enjoy a large breakfast, smile at each other, and talk very respectfully with their nice waitress.
Then, he got up, unfolded her walker with the dayglo yellow tennis balls on the back legs, gently helped her up, steadied her, and slowly walked with her to the door and into the parking lot.
Love, real love, is patient and kind.
Respect only grows stronger with time. It does not see class, color or infirmity.
Devotion is dogged. When challenged, it only becomes more tenacious.
Well done, sir. Well done
.

First off, some of you might remember that I talked about another couple I saw in another setting, two people who looked tired and sad and said not a word to each other as they ate their meal. Watching them, I felt sad, defeated, worn down. The futility I felt while watching them felt very real to me.

This elderly couple was different. They had to be in their eighties, both a little feeble, he a little kyphotic but still tall and relatively strong for his advancing age. She, obviously post-stroke or some other event that necessitated the walker, but with a sweet face and a look in her eyes when she made eye contact with him that spoke love in a way that was unmistakeable. They enjoyed a hearty breakfast, eating more than I did! They didn’t say much to each other, but in this case I don’t believe they had to.

His attention to her was slow, measured, careful, loving and supportive. He never pushed her, never scowled at her, never hurried her at all. She made an obviously difficult effort to rise, balance herself and walk. He never wavered, supporting her arm at the elbow, guiding and letting her shift her weight onto him as she needed to.

I had no doubt that he was always that way with her, that he loved and cherished her, and that he would do anything to make her life easier. No words were needed. He didn’t need to explain himself. It was all so clear, so very clear in his actions.

One of you told me that what mattered was that this was their reality and their life. Sometimes, we don’t get to choose what happens to us. We do, however, choose who to spend our lives with, who to love and cherish and who to support. We also choose who to show our vulnerabilities to. This loving companionship, this caring and sharing and supporting, work both ways in a good relationship. A relationship cannot last, not in any meaningful way, when these bonds are not real, not strong.

Another reader told me that she had spent a lot of time “unfolding the walker” for her dear husband. She said more in that one little comment than I could ever write in a thousand words.

One reader asked if I thought this was the exception. I certainly hope not, though I think the world likes to hear more about the sensational, the negative, and the outlandish much more than it does about the quiet humbleness of a man acting out his humility and servitude in the context of love and devotion.

One of my friends commented that love and resilience are two qualities that must be present in a successful marriage, and she is so right.

Another friend reminded me that love and respect go hand in hand. The former is not real without the latter.

I was very humbled by the likes and responses and opinions shared on Facebook about this tiny little status update as I sat there drinking coffee and eating eggs. There is so much sensationalism in social media these days that sometimes we forget to sit quietly, observe our world, and allow ourselves to think, observe and learn.

For those of you who have this kind of relationship with someone, cherish it, please. Work on it. Nurture it. Feed it. Let it grow and grow as the years go by, so that when the inevitable storms come and the stresses mount up and you feel lost and unable to cope, you can look across the table at the love of your life and know that everything will be okay.

For those of you who have never had this, I hope you find it. At twenty or forty or sixty or eighty. I hope you find it and it knocks your socks off.

For those of you who have had it, or even a part of, and lost it, take heart. Never give up. Miracles, true miracles, happen. Love blossoms and grows in the most unlikely places. Old loves come back. New loves spring up.

Never stop looking.

“For there are these three things that endure: Faith, Hope and Love, but the greatest of these is Love.”

Aramaic Bible in Plain English