I used to live in a 9 room house and when it was sold, I moved to a three room apartment. There was a LOT of downsizing going on. Still, when I moved from that apartment to a two room garage apartment, I cleaned out some more. When I left there and came to my one room cottage, a goodly portion of my worldly goods had found homes elsewhere. Even so, because the cottage has very little storage room I had some things that just wouldn't fit. My landlord, B, graciously offered me space in his garage attic. There I store tubs of Christmas and other holiday decorations and a few odds and sods that I don't want to part with.
When Daughter moved from her single occupancy apartment to share a place with her boyfriend (a man who has a LOT of his own stuff), some of her belongings made their way into my attic space. I told her I'd hold them until she had a house and storage space of her own. This weekend the two of them are moving into their newly purchased house and I had to move her tubs and boxes and bags from the attic to my car. Sounds so easy when I type it out like that but I know from reading one too many do-it-yourself books that the written word makes any job sound deceptively simple.
The attic space is reached by a ladder. Any box or plastic storage tub that made its way up there did so with the help of two people, one kneeling on the attic floor and reaching down through the hole while the other hefted said box or tub up the ladder to meet the waiting hand. Taking things down was just as precarious. Because I have limited upper body strength, when anything needed to be moved up or down I have been the person at the bottom of the ladder. Using my knees for leverage, my shoulders for support and the ladder rungs as a ramp, I could slide things up. B, whose upper body strength is augmented by youth and constant exercise as he goes about his farm chores, would reach down and with one hand haul up whatever I was pushing on with all my might.
Today B was unavailable but his mother, J, whose own arm muscles allow her to toss around 40-lb. hay bales, offered to help. Up the ladder she went. Trouble was, I had to climb the ladder too, to help sort Daughter's boxes from my own. To my surprise, the ladder emerged through a hole just a tad smaller than the amount of space I take up. I had to put one knee on the attic floor and twist until I could ease my torso in sideways. Anyone with a garage attic knows there's only one place one can stand and that's directly under the ridge beam. All our boxes were stored under the eaves.
Armed with flashlights, we opened each box, sorting them out until all Daughter's belongings were moved close to the ladder hole and all mine were stored at the other end of the garage. Wet with sweat and back aching after bending over for half an hour, I crawled to the top of the ladder and knelt down. I felt with one foot for the top rung but when I moved to lower my second foot the leg was seized with a vicious cramp. I have a small reserve of words for just such occasions. I used every one before I reached the bottom of the ladder.
J dragged the first box to the hole and lowered it onto the top rungs of the ladder. I climbed back up half way and balancing the weight on my chest, I backed down slowly, letting the box slide until I could grab it with both hands. One after another the boxes came down until they were all lined up on the garage floor. J eased herself down, we loaded my car, then collapsed onto patio chairs with cups of tea, congratulating each other and breathing sighs of relief that we wouldn't have to brave that ladder again until Christmas (at which point I'll type the words, "piece of cake").
Getting older isn't much fun. I thought (I'd been told!) that being older meant being wiser but consider the events of the past week:
Sunday. I am washing the supper dishes. Suddenly the sink is bright with blood though I've felt nothing, no pain. I lift my hands from the suds and in the left is a broken glass. The middle finger on my right hand is pumping blood at an alarming rate. I wrap the finger tightly in a towel and run next door to beg a ride to the ER for the stitches I know I am going to need. The doctor unwraps the finger, peers at it and says nonchalantly, "Nothing to stitch here. You've taken off several layers of your skin nearly to the bone."
My stomach does a little dance. A gentle nurse washes the wound and bandages it, a big, white, bulky roll of a bandage. The next day at school one of the urchins exclaims, "Ms C! Were you being bad with your bad finger?"
What was I thinking, stuffing my hand along with a bulky sponge into a glass? Glass breaks! I've since bought a spongy brush on a long handle with which to wash the glasses.
Tuesday. Weekday mornings are always a rush. I get up early so I have time to shower and dress, pack a lunch, make the bed, feed the cat, and check my email before leaving, but inevitably I am flying around at the last minute. On this morning, I rush out the door into the rain juggling my school bag, keys, tea mug and umbrella. I set the travel mug on the top of the car, close the umbrella, toss the bag into the car and climb in after it. As I'm pulling out of the driveway something dark goes flying by my left side. Startled, I step on the brakes and peer out the rain spattered window. There, leaking all my lovely hot tea into the drive, is my travel mug. Sigh.
Friday. An official looking letter arrives in the mail from the motor vehicle department. Inside are instructions for renewing my license. I'm flummoxed. My license is not up for renewal until 2015. It's only 2011. I've heard of efficiency, but this? Hell's bells! I look at the clock - too late to call and get it straightened out today. It will have to wait until Monday. Halfway through supper, after mentally muttering harsh words about the incompetency of officialdom, I grab up the paper and look again. It's not for renewing my license - it's for renewing my car registration! How had I missed that? There it says, in blaring blue capital letters at the top of the page, VEHICLE REGISTRATION RENEWAL. I'd fussed fruitlessly for at least an hour and wasted some very choice vocabulary words because I'd misread the paper. I've been with second graders too long. They never read instructions thoroughly either!
Saturday. Laundry day. I don't own a dryer though I do have a small, apartment-sized portable washing machine that hooks by hose to the kitchen sink. Because I'm always in a hurry on weekday mornings, I usually save the laundry chores for the weekend, hoping for at least one sunny day for line drying. This morning the sun popped up over the horizon quite early and the day promised heaps of sunshine and warm temperatures. I roll the washer into place, hook up the hose, turn on the water and put the clothes in the machine.
Something is amiss. The water stops filling half way up the tub and the agitator starts turning with half the clothes still sitting serenely (and quite dry) on the top of the pile. I stop the machine and put it on a different setting, thinking that perhaps the delicate setting I'd chosen requires only half a tub of water. The agitator starts up immediately no matter what setting I choose. Well, hellfire. I can afford neither a repair bill or a new washer. What is wrong with the foolish thing anyhow? And then, only after I pull half the clothes out of the washer, let it run on the small amount of water it will draw, and contemplating a day wasted standing in front of the washing machine, does it occur to me to check the water setting. One of the items I'd pulled from the unwashed clothes was a left behind baby sock and I have a sudden clear image of the Bean gleefully turning the dials on the front of the washer when she was here last weekend. Sure enough, the water setting is pointing to LOW.
I'm telling you, old age is a bother. Your brain (well mine, anyhow) just doesn't click along the way it used to. I'm feeling mighty foolish as I write this, knowing you're all shaking your heads and tut-tutting. But, if there's anything you've been meaning to ask some older, wiser person, you had better do it now while you're thinking of it. Chances are, if you put it off, you'll forget it and the older, wiser person will have done so as well!
In her comment, Tabor asked me to tell what went right this week. Hold onto your hats!
1. Three days of steady rain made my salad garden off the patio surge with new growth resulting in a spectacular salad containing fresh lettuce leaves, baby spinach, chives, basil, oregano, parsley and radishes, all picked, tossed with chopped egg, some pickled beets, a bit of shredded bacon left over from breakfast, sprinkled with balsamic vinegar and eaten within minutes of picking.
2. The kids at school were little bundles of sympathy and concern for my injured finger. The girls blew kisses at it and the boys offered to sort homework papers and clean the chalkboard so I could "rest' my hand.
3. The prescription reading glasses I had to break down and buy allow me to read fine print anywhere.
4. My daughter has asked me to make her wedding dress!
5. Sunshine is abundant now the rain has stopped, the local nursery is having a giant plant sale to which I am headed as soon as I press Update and the Transfer Station is holding bulky waste weekend so there are sure to be lots of treasures.
6. The irises in the front flower garden are making a fabulous showing.
7. The hummingbirds have found the new feeder I put up yesterday and have frequented it both last night and this morning.
8. I am wakened each morning by a cardinal's song. Much better than any alarm clock!
9. We have four (count them, four!) pairs of Baltimore Orioles nesting around the yard and the meadow. They are such beautiful birds.
10. I may have lost my knuckle; my neighbor lost his entire arm to cancer. I may have broken a glass; one child's family in my second grade lost her home to bankruptcy. I may have misread and fretted over my registration renewal; a friend lost her life in a car accident. I am blessed beyond measure every day.
The natural world has always been my milieu. I was forever out of doors as a child, coming in only to forage for something to eat and to sleep. My little Bean was here with me this weekend and when she wasn't out of doors with one of us, she was at the door asking to go out.
She and her Ma and Da and I went for a hike in the warm spring sunshine. She walked nearly half a mile on her own, stopping often to examine rocks and bugs and puddles. We followed a carefully mowed path through the Cobble where I take my write/hike groups, but the lure of the tall grasses was too much for Bean. She deliberately walked among them, her face open with delight, and could hardly be coaxed back to the open path. She is surely a child of my heart!
Three years ago I wrote a post about aging and all that has and hasn't changed for me over the years. I also mentioned (in a subsequent response to a comment) that retirement was three years in the offing. Now I'm three years older and retirement is a mere five weeks away. I am tremendously excited about having free time, about not having to get up every morning and hurry off to work, about spending more time with my grandchildren without having to rush home at the beginning of the work week. I have a bucket list three miles long and can't wait to get started on it. There are some things about working (besides the regular paycheck) I will miss, though.
First and foremost I will miss daily contact with children. I've been working in the public school system for almost twenty years and find that being around young people is both immensely satisfying and outright challenging. Though they can be as opinionated as the adults that surround them, most children are more willing to open up to new ideas, to be fascinated by conflicting information, to make an attempt to learn a new skill or be beguiled by a new concept. They are quick to dispense hugs and they love to share.
It's a lesson in human resilience to watch these little beings grow and change over the course of a school year. I've worked at every grade level but the last few years have been focused on second grade. Second graders arrive in September at age seven little, scared, and excited, still carrying first grade anxieties about being full time students but ready to be "big kids" if given half the chance. They come equipped with already strong personalities that suggest nature
as well as nurture plays a huge part in who and what they will become. By the end of second grade they read more confidently, write in complete sentences (hopefully), have mastered addition and subtraction, swagger a bit on the playground and speak up more in the classroom.
Their takes on life are often much more concrete than mine. They restate with confidence the things they hear at home or church or from other teachers and sometimes older schoolmates. I'm impressed with what they understand of modern technology and often amazed at what they think they understand about politics. A brash young fellow told me he would vote Republican in November if he could because the Democrats were taking soda out of schools and, as he liked to drink soda every day, he would be forced to drink "plain old water, yuk!" if President Obama were to be reelected. Another little tyke asked me if I thought her "ass was sexy. My mother said it is."
I will miss the insider camaraderie that exists between my co-workers though I will not miss the frustrations that come with the job. I will most definitely not miss supervising 48 of someone else's little darlings in the cafeteria or the cacophony of slamming lockers and end of day confusion as I herd them off to the open maws of the waiting buses.
What I look forward to most about retirement are the hours I get to reconfigure, the daylight hours I can spend out of doors instead of locked up in a building. As a first grader I ran away from school twice before the teachers assigned me a personal watchdog. The idea of staying all day in a stuffy building, no matter how many books it held, was abhorrent. I still feel the same way almost 60 years later! A meager social security stipend will necessitate returning a few days a month to sub. I will bite the bullet and do it (and probably enjoy it), but the time I spend hiking and biking and gardening and exploring and traveling and drawing and painting and dreaming and playing with the grandchildren and reading and napping will overshadow any days spent holed up in a classroom.
One day last week, before the steady rain moved in, the
air was mild and deliriously scented with lilac and lily-of-the-valley. Birds soared
and sailed and sang. I could not be indoors on such an evening so I left the
supper dishes to soak in the sink and went for a walk.
lettuce fields were newly plowed and killdeer flew low over the turned
earth, shrieking and calling. Often they lay their eggs in the furrows. I can't imagine many
survive, but year after year they repeat their folly. In a few weeks,
this field will be green with baby lettuce leaves ready for harvest. The
farmer sells them to the local restaurants and to private
customers. They are delectable but I prefer to grow my own. The pots on my patio already sport their own baby lettuce leaves along with spinach, peas, and little potato shoots.
water in the mill pond looked like a mirror. Swallows swooped and dove
over the surface, seining the air for bugs, of which there were millions
upon millions dancing in the sun-beams. The air was so sweet I could almost
taste it. The sun set in a swirl of pink and pure gold.