It’s been, so far, such an interesting life. My heart is full of gratitude for the six decades of my life. I am happy for parents who loved me, who fed me and clothed me, and not only did their best to keep me safe and warm, but who had fun with me, and honestly seemed to enjoy spending time with me and making my childhood fun. There were things that happened that were not right, and I had a long and terrible struggle to make sense of all that, to understand it, to name it, to talk about it, to bring it to the surface and to the light. At sixty, I am going to say goodbye to that struggle, to forgive the wrongdoing, to forget it – not talk about it or think about it anymore.
First of all, I enjoyed being a female. It was a lovely life, being a girl and getting to love boys and have babies and wear pretty dresses and have long hair and go through all the stages of life that brought me to who I am today. Of course I got to have periods and cramps and bloat. I endured the agony of childbirth. I loved the wrong boys, and blundered through my teens and early adulthood in a blur of longing for that which I could not name. I had babies that I didn’t plan for and stood in line for free blocks of the hardest cheese imaginable. I waited tables, sold gas, typed memos, recruited foster parents, taught English, wrote a novel, gave Safe Touch lessons, and cleaned houses for a living. I loved. I hated. I plotted and connived. I gave and I took.
I am thankful to be a wife. I was born to be married. I was born to be married to James. I would have loved for James to be the father of my children and the first and only man that I ever loved or had sex with, but that is not the way my story goes. It is not the way his story goes, but this is the way our story goes now, and I am more in love today than I was 21 years ago when we got married at 37 and 43. James loves me in the way I need to be loved, he cherishes me. He supports me. With James I can be all that I was meant to be – a published writer, a college graduate, a teacher with a master’s degree. Without him, I am a thwarted, lackluster, slaphappy version of myself.
I am happy to be born an American. Being white and being born in America I have privileges that personally I did not earn but privileges that I am happy to have anyway. I have all sorts of privileges that I have not necessarily earned, such as intelligence, good looks, crooked teeth, and lumpy thighs – and I am still grateful.
I am happy to be a mother – and a grandmother. If I found fulfillment in being a wife, triple and quadruple that many times over in being a mother and grandmother. There’s nothing compares to the memory of holding my firstborn for the first time, overlooking his cone head and crabby countenance and sighing with rapture over his perfection. The joy of breastfeeding my babies and hanging clean diapers out on the clothesline in a long, straight row, and reading Golden Books cuddled up together in our flannel pajamas. The joy of the grown son and daughters, who turned out to be such great parents and interesting individuals. People I would choose to have for my friends, even if they weren’t our kids. The joy of the grandchildren growing up right before our eyes. The joy of family game nights and country walks and Sunday drives. Getting invited to play cards at the grown grandson’s place! The kidding around and the crying on each other’s shoulders.
I am happy for family and friends. I am blessed with two brothers and a sister, dozens of cousins, aunts and uncles, and friends from all over the world. We have our ups and downs, our times when we draw close, and our times when we don’t talk much at all. Although I am going through a time of solitude and isolation to honor my need to be alone and quiet, I am thankful to have people to love and care for, to have fun with, to share memories.
I am happy to have traveled. My parents were not afraid to get in the car and go places. So we visited, we vacationed, we went here and we went there. After my dad died, my mother heeded her voices and things got a bit bizarre. We went all over the place – even got on the Queen II and sailed to Southampton, England and ended up in South Wales, a magical place that still calls me today with its fanciful hills and valleys. I never knew where we were going to go next or what was going to happen next. A psychologist once told me that this has effectually splintered my personality – all that trauma of moving and never knowing. But things continued that way throughout every decade of my life – whether it was moving to get away from something or moving toward something, going on cruises with well-off boyfriends or going on camping vacations with not-so-well-off ones, and even after I met the love of my life and got married it was like that – moving from state to state, to Asia, to Canada, to France, well not to France after all. I saw and continue to see a lot of the world. Not as much as some, but still an awful lot for someone who loves to curl up at home.
I am happy to have the gift of reading. This year I decided to re-read every book I own, just for the fun of it, just to help me remember why I held on to the story, and to write about it and let other people know what I thought was so special about the story, how it touched me, what I remembered from the first time I read it and what is coming back to me now. I have read so many books, and the thought of only reading what I have already read, deflated me – there are so many wonderful books in the world, so many wonderful stories, and how could I limit myself to only the ones that I have already read? I love them all – the kind that make me afraid to turn off the lights at night, the kind that make me happy to be in love, the kind of books that thrill me, the books that inspire me, the stories that remind me why it is such a privilege to grow old.
I am happy that I wrote a book. Luella’s Calling showed me that I could do it, I could make up an entire cast of characters and give them an interesting life and put it all together in a book and get it published and have people tell me that it was the best thing that they ever read. Now that brings me joy and meaning.
There are so many things that I am grateful for this day before I turn sixty and enter into my young old age. My husband took me out to dinner tonight, because he said, it was so close to my sixtieth birthday and I shouldn’t even have to think about cooking, but here’s the thing: I love to cook! There are those who remember when I didn’t know a thing about it and made each meal an ordeal of dread – had to bribe the kids into eating what I put on the table, no kidding. But that has all changed. I still have an occasional flop, but I have turned into such a great cook. I love being in my kitchen and now since I have the new one, big and roomy and beautifully appointed, I can hardly stay out of it. So that’s another thing I am thankful for – that I have mastered cooking and make nearly every meal we have a joy and pleasure.
I will end this blog post because soon it will not be the day before I turn sixty anymore. My hope and prayer is that the rest of my days will be even more joyous and full of love, life, and laughter as the first sixty years of my life. I hope to spend each day with a heart full of wonder, gratitude, and awe and continue to find a way to deal with this experience of the world with the strong, stout spirit that has guided me thus far.