Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Anchors

Friend requests. They’re popping in like crazy: school chums, co-workers from as far back as my first job, college pals and distant relatives. Being Linked in, Facebooked, and blogged has its perks. With each special person I add, I feel another connection to my past – to my whole. Every meaningful relationship I have had in my life has served as a tether, anchoring me to my memories and the events and milestones that shaped me; each one owning a different piece of my history.

What happens when we start to lose those anchors? I have always said that it’s no wonder a lot of old people are cranky. Imagine the losses they have survived. They have buried grandparents, parents, aunts and uncles, friends, spouses and many – their own children. Most of their tethers have been severed. There is no one alive who remembers the young version of themselves; as a baby or youngster full of spirit; as a fresh faced teen full of dreams and in love; and the dancing, laughing, vibrant, playful version of themselves.
We look at the faces of our elderly, wrinkled - their experiences mapped into deep creases, eyes that are slightly recessed and droopy – and I wonder if we are fooled by their appearance. It’s easy to miss the beauty, for now it is found in different places. It is no longer in the sway of her hips, or the glisten of her hair, nor in his commanding posture or strength of his hold. It is in the tone of her voice, softened with time; it is in the wisdom born of accumulated experience; it is in the endless hours they spend sharing what they have learned; and it is in the unconditional “thank you” they whisper in your ear when you have listened to them. It is in the tightest of hugs, embellished with sincerity and the disbursement of unencumbered advice. Our elders are free from the shackles of perception; they live authentically in the knowledge that nothing is gained by nor does time permit, reinvention.

I was fortunate in that I was raised in the safe, nurturing bosom of a large extended family. Some of my favourite memories are of nights I spent at my grandma’s apartment, drinking coffee (and later on – beer) when I wasn’t supposed to; learning the fox trot and cha cha; playing cards for pennies and interrogating her for hours about her girlhood. She answered freely – how she dealt with her first period; her wicked obsession with playing baseball in Sundays (long pants concealed under her dress); about the love she didn’t get from her mother; how she found love; and provided juicy details about the advice her mother gave her on her wedding night. As she would talk, she would transform before my very eyes … I could see the dark haired beauty swinging the bat and standing nervously at the altar … I could see her as a girl and a woman, not so different than myself.

Now with half my life lived, I have lost some important tethers and I feel my anchor fraying. But in our family, we are blessed with the love of conversation and sharing. We keep our memories alive and vivid with each recount; with each famjam. Watching my girls, nieces, and nephews chatting with my Dad, T and Doris, listening to their stories, asking questions, debating issues - warms my heart. They know there is much to be learned - the juicy stuff – and all they have to do is ask - and listen. And THAT is what lodges the anchor permanently.

2 comments:

  1. You brought tears to my eyes with this heartfelt post... How wise you are! :)

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  2. I loved reading this... the older I get, the more I value my close, open, sharing family - and regret often that my parents live in the 'wrong' hemisphere..

    What beautiful photos, you have put in here, too...

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