Growing old gracefully sounds so idyllic. I see a beautiful, silver-haired woman riding on a bike trail with an equally handsome silver- haired George Clooney look-a-like. Of course they both look like they are about 40! Has anyone ever seen this couple? I don’t think so! I am not sure that graceful and growing old should be in the same sentence. And I think the word “young” should be changed to “non-old”, it puts a whole different perspective on things.
Spider veins that are like rivers with hundreds of tributaries, wrinkles like a Sharpei, bat wings and jello butt—that is what I see in the mirror every morning, if I remember to put on my glasses. If George Clooney ever shows up I am hallucinating. The truth hurts. When the reality of aging and the fantasy of aging are on opposite rims of the Grand Canyon we all know it is really, really far down to the canyon floor. Would you rather look young and feel old, or look old and feel young? I am not sure how I would answer this question, but I am pretty sure the question is one of those conundrums that may never be solved. I prefer simple yes or no choices. Chocolate or Caramel Swirl ice cream? Yes, both please!
Making my way through a mine field, very slowly and carefully I am learning who I am with the miles adding up. I hear myself saying “I’m not as young as I used to be” and questioning my choices. Should I be using a ladder to change a lightbulb or do I really want to keep weeding and mowing? I can make coffee, a necessity and a very safe activity, but too much cleaning, dusting and re-arranging gives me a rash. I have almost no patience for bullshit and more patience with my flawed self on good days. This is good because I seem to move a little slower and my thinking is a bit slower too. My boundless energy from childhood now has boundaries; I try to use my energy for joyful activities. Falling asleep at a stoplight is not a joyful activity.
“I used to be_____.” fill in the blank. Whoever I used to be is so yesterday, who I am now is today. Ram Dass said Be. Here. Now. I realize it is not important for me to know how I got here and where I am going to be comfortable in my own skin, no matter how wrinkled it is. How can the Past and the Future fit in a moment that is full of Now?
It has been brought to my attention by more than a few people, I am very passionate, consumed with righting a wrong, determined to rescue the “shit upon” (people or animals) and a crusader for justice. I have also been told that I am very opinionated, judgmental (I’m right, you’re wrong), and let’s not forget, quite impatient. The truth I think, is I am all of these.
It seems obvious that being opinionated, judgmental and impatient are not good qualities, but what gets me in the most trouble and is messy, is my lack of self-awareness of my behaviors and attitudes. Where is the line between opinionated and passionate, or can I be opinionated and passionate at the same time? I get things done when I am passionate and/or opinionated, but sometimes I pay a cost for my consuming passion to right a wrong; I may alienate the rest of the human race or forget to care for myself. The problem must be solved before I can rest!
Determination is usually a good quality, and my determination to get help for a wounded animal, or get help for a troubled person serves me well. There is one pelican alive today because I wouldn’t give up until he was in the hands of wildlife rescue who could cut the fishing line wrapped around his leg. A neighbor who is mentally ill and was living in filth got help because I called Adult Protective Services, my HOA and the City Council.
I am a problem solver, it’s part of my personality . There is, of course, the occasional attempt to fix a person who declines my “help”. I am surprised others don’t always agree with me! Finding resources and circling the wagons is what I do best and I don’t take no for an answer. I can negotiate, refuse to budge or simply demand my way. Please remind me as gently as you can that life is not an obstacle course, I am not always right, and you will ask for help if you need it.
Festina, Iowa isn’t even an official town, it’s an unincorporated area without a mayor or City Council to govern it. The unofficial mayor is my brother so he is the de facto Grand Marshall of what my niece refers to as the “epic” Fourth of July Parade. What began as a procession of kids pulling wagons down Main Street has grown into a bona fire parade. This year I was fortunate to be able to attend the parade because I was home to Iowa for a wedding. Festina is very tiny so the parade loop is not long, but the sidelines were filled with cheering bystanders and I was one of them.
Tractors were the vehicle of choice for many of the parade entries, there were no flower covered floats or convertibles carrying parade royalty. The colors were John Deere green, orange Allis-Chalmers and red Farmalls. These are the work horses of the Iowa farm and tractor loyalties are usually carried down from generation to generation. My father had John Deere tractors and my brothers have John Deere tractors. There were several restored vintage tractors in the parade and one very loud 1971 shiny orange Chevy Nova driven by my nephew who loved to rev the engine. Candy was thrown along the parade route and kids
scooped it up. My favorite were the cheese sticks thrown by a local dairy entry.
What surprised me the most was I really loved the parade! I was born and raised on a farm, but the city has been my home for almost 40 years. As I watched the parade and waved at each entry I realized the farm and rural Iowa still pull at my heart. I like the basic colors of the tractors, there is no Passion Fruit or Sky Blue tractor. I like the red barns set in green rolling fields and farmhouses surrounded by perfect green lawns, so big they need to be mowed with a lawn tractor. As I walked around a pond, I laughed out loud as many frogs hopped off the shore and ker-plunked into the water. If the algae was thick enough they could hop on water! On the farm, nature is so immediate, right there for the experiencing. Barefoot on hot concrete is no comparison to barefoot on the farm.
But of course it’s the people of Iowa who put the love in Iowa. Solid, authentic and compassionate people who love a good laugh, Iowans are able to cut through the cow, pig and sheep shit and get to the point. Talking about the weather is more that just small talk, the Weather with a capital “W” is a primary concern for the farmer. Sharing family stories while sitting on the porch with morning coffee or watching lightning bugs and 4th of July Fireworks on a clear Iowa night is pretty close to heaven.
With love to my family in Iowa, July 8, 2017.