The following essay was written by my grandmother, Rose Ridnor. I found it humorous because I’m often precariously balanced on a ladder, in the middle of summer, trimming the dead flowers off our two lilacs in Mount Vernon, WA. And while I have the clippers, the nearby apple trees also gets a trimming.
The lilac tree was long overdue for pruning. This particular morning, after spending almost two hours pulling weeds, cutting, and cleaning up the front and side of the house, I was finally ready to begin trimming the lilac. When I as more than half done, I found I was getting terribly tired.
The burning sun had followed me all morning, making my face flush and sticky with sweat. My legs ached from leaning against the runs of the ladder, my hands were stiff from wielding the clippers. I just had to finish. Stop now and who knows when I could get back to it. So I pushed harder with the clipping and snipping to finish faster.
I was concentrating hard on lopping off a heavy branch, my mind as blank as it could get, when out of the blue, a line of words popped into my head. It was odd. I eased off a second to repeat it to myself, “I can always plant another tree, but I can never grow another me.”
Quickly, I fathomed its meaning, and for a moment was tempted to heed its message. But no, I couldn’t stop now. I had to finish.
But it kept bugging me. Why am I pushing myself? What am I out to prove? I have just so much energy, exhaust it, and I’m finished. The tree doesn’t give a darn whether I cut off its dead flowers or crowded limbs. It will just go on doing what it has to do: Grow and produce more flowers that will die, and I’ll have to cut off.
I set the clippers down, stepped off the ladder, went into the den, and plopped into a chair. I could feel the tiredness ease out of my body.
Ten minutes later, quite refreshed, I went out, put away the ladder and tools, left the sweeping to Morris [husband], and that was that! I didn’t hear one word of protest from the lilac tree.
Life is a constant weighing of the importance of one’s own self in relation to everyone, and everything else.
O Lord, we have again come together to spend a few hours of companionship with our fellow members.
In these days of unrest and violence in the world, we ask that you help us to maintain our inner peace and tranquility, a rightfulness of purpose, a tolerance of others so that we may ever remain people of goodwill and intent.
This innovation was written in 1983. At the time, a terrorist explosion killed 237 U.S. Marines in Beirut, a South Korean plane was shot down by the Soviets, killing 269 people, and the United States invaded Grenada. Counteracting these acts of violence, a leap for mankind (or rather womankind) occurred when astronaut Sally K. Ride became the first American woman to travel in space on the Challenger. At the time, Ronald Reagan was president, and George Bush was vice-president.
Little has changed.
Yesterday, an Egypt Air jetliner, carrying 66 passengers disappeared on approach to Cairo. Terrorism is suspected. It’s the third Egypt Air incident this year. Meanwhile in Iraq, an angry hornet nest of violence since it was unjustifiably invaded by George W. Bush in 2001, has been experiencing suicide and car bombings. Yesterday, 46 people died in an explosion, bringing the number of dead in the past few weeks to over 200.
The Soviets, led by the irrational hothead Vladimir Putin, has been engaging in empire-building with their incursion into Ukraine, Georgia, and Moldavia. Their precarious finance situation, precipitated by a fall in oil prices, however, has quelling their aggression, at least for now. Back in 1983, their saber-rattling led President Reagan to propose a Strategic Defense Initiative missile shield, which came be known as “Star Wars.”
In turbulent times, the only escape might be to seek inner harmony, rather than hope the world quiets down, becoming more peaceful and tolerant. There’s no pleading with people determined to cause chaos in the name of the causes.
We thank thee, O Lord, for bringing us this day so we may celebrate another Mother’s Day with our fellow members.
We are grateful there is this day of recognition for those of us who give of their time, effort, and selves in the fulfillment of the role of motherhood.
There are also among us women who have never known biological motherhood, but in their own way have earned the title of “mother.”
They have mothered sisters and brothers, and other people’s children, and whenever a helping hand was needed, they were there. To them, we extend a special Mother’s Day accolade.
Now we ask your blessing that we remain in good health and spirit so we may continue to function as helpful mothers and friends.
My grandmother had three sisters, and three brothers. All three of her brother’s married, but only two had children. Two of her sisters each had one child. And one never married, having no children.
My grandmother’s husband, Morris, had seven sisters. All of them married. One, however, never had children. And several of his sister’s children never married or had children.
It makes me wonder if my grandmother was referring to her extended family when she wrote, “women who have earned the title of mother.” Having been the first born in her family, she naturally became the one to lend a helping hand, especially when it came to caring for your younger brothers and sisters.
After she married, she had to deal with the drama surrounding her husband’s sisters and their children, along with continuing to emotionally support her siblings. Shortly after marrying, her brother Teddy, temporarily moved in until he was old enough to care for himself. Later, a nephew stayed with them after his mother had a nervous breakdown.
My grandmother was more of a mother to me than my mother. She worried about my health, stressed the importance of doing well in school, and emphasized I could become whatever I wanted. Nearly every Saturday from the time I was nine until seventeen, my grandparents visited, bringing the Sunday comics, boxes of Cracker Jacks, and a respite from my mother’s lunacy and constant demands.
Happy mother’s day to my grandmother, and all the women in the world who loving care for others, enriching their lives, and bringing joy and comfort.
In life, there is only one true ending, all others are but transitions to new beginnings.
Living, from the moment we are thrust into the world becomes a series of doors, closing (endings), and opening (beginnings).
The first closing comes at our expulsion from the womb. That phase of development is complete and final. The door shuts tight, no re-entry allowed.
At that instant, we must take that first breath to send us through the open door called life to begin that continuous task of learning how to adapt to ever-changing locks and keys so we may survive.
One door leads to another, and generally we can’t reach a particular door until we’ve gone through another.
The infant can’t learn to chew until it has suckled, or walk before standing, or become an independent being before learning to control and coordinate all mental and physical functions.
Going up the ladder from elementary school to junior high, to high school and college may seem simply a continuation of studies, but at each step we start afresh with new teachers, new subjects, classmates, competition, attitudes, social pressures, and problems. That means having to accept change and make adjustments.
Getting married closes the door on singlehood. Being divorced doesn’t put one back to the same singlehood. It will be different. Widowhood is equally different.
Changing jobs, retiring, coming into money, losing money, an illness, an accident, all create whole new situations, needing new rules, new planning.
Sometimes, an opening or closing is so subtle we are unaware of the change. Sometimes it’s obvious. Or it’s so unexpected, we are caught short, and end up floundering around for a while. Or too many close or open at the same time, we are overwhelmed. Or hold a door open too long, we find it difficult to let go. Or let go too soon, and we are not ready. Or there is no new door to open, and we are stuck behind the old one.
Yet, for seniors in particular, as the years advance, and there are fewer and fewer new doors to open, we must hold tight to keep old doors from slamming shut. We mustn’t let go of too many activities, and interests, even if need to jam a foot into the doorway to keep it open.
Each opening and closing, beginning, and ending, contributes something to what we must learn in order to exist. Each offers challenges and opportunities, another chance or problem to solve.
For better or worse, that is life.
My grandmother, Rose, passed away in her Burbank bungalow, a month after her 90’s birthday. Her husband, Morris, died 13 months later, in the same bed he’d shared with his wife for over 60 years. Together, they’re opened and closed numerous doors, life in New York, and then Southern California, austerity during World War II, contentment after retirement, adventure in travels, sorrow from disappointments and deaths, and joy from children, grandchildren, and great grandchildren.
They lived a pleasant life. Throughout their marriage, my grandfather worked as a taxi driver, chauffeur, car salesman, and eventually an assembler at Lockheed. He retired with a pension, which afforded them an opportunity to travel to across the United States, Israel, Japan, and other far-flung places. For most of their lives, they lived in a tidy bungalow in Burbank with a vegetable garden in the back, Meyer lemon tree by their bedroom window, and hibiscus bush in the front.
While on the outside my grandmother appeared happy with her life, she felt a disappointment of having never gotten her work published. She was a dedicated, determined writer, who left several boxes of her work, some of it written on the backs of form letters, scrapes of paper, loose-leaf notebooks, and small flipbooks.
If she’s looking down, I hope she’s pleased that her writing is finally getting an audience!
Good knows, our spirits are willing and eager. If only our bodies would respond in like fashion!
If only we could jump out of bed in the morning rarin’ to go and keep going. If only the sun setting beneath the horizon, wouldn’t take our energies with it.
If only we could regain the enthusiasm of yesteryear, to find everything as important or they once were. Or as exciting. Or necessary.
If only then we seniors would be standing at the lectern, and not sitting in the audience.
O Lord, what we seniors don’t need is a pep talk. What we do need is a pat on the back, a word of praise that we are doing as well, and as much as we are. And that would spur us on to do even better.
Perhaps the young can imagine how it is to walk in the shoes of the old. But they can’t, nor should they know how painful the pinches.
I was so caught up in writing my response to invocation #43, I hadn’t realized it went onto another page. Reading the rest of the invocation, I’m struck by the statement “Perhaps the young can imagine how it is to walk in the shoes of the old. But they can’t, nor should they know how painful the pinches.”
This assertion is especially relevant today with politicians on one side quick to propose extending the retirement age and cutting benefits, and employers on the other unwilling to retain older workers, or expecting them to ramp up their productivity as they implement lean policies. It’s a losing proposition.
Older workers that aren’t shuffled out the door are expected to keep up with peers’ decades younger with more energy, health, and conceivably, more relevant education. Maturity, experience, and foresight become irrelevant. Once unemployed – from lay-offs, forced retirement, and other circumstances – older worker are faced with few choices. Employers prefer younger workers, and if an older worker finds a comparable job it’s often for less pay, and possibly no benefits because it’s a contract versus full-time position.
If an older worker has the financial freedom to retire, they may be chastised for becoming a drain on society by collecting social security and signing up for Medicare. Many older people, especially single and divorced women, who don’t have the financial means to retire are forced to overcome their “painful pinches” and work at low-income jobs at fast food restaurants, retail and grocery stores.
Older workers in America don’t need a pep talk, they need compassion, acceptance, and the ability to retire with dignity.
She came, as a volunteer worker in a service group, to address our club meeting.
Charming, sparkling with health and vitality, she could easily have passed for under 40, although she boasted she had just crossed the half-century mark.
But interesting as was her talk, she did not say what we wanted to hear.
Her main thrust was to encourage our seniors, a full generation or older than she, to put more action in our lives. More zest.
“Don’t shut yourselves off,” she urged. Don’t sit home enslaved to the TV. Get out. Keep moving. Go places. Do things. Get out into the community. They need your talents and your time. You have much to give. Give it.
And don’t ever say, “I can’t,” because you can. Whatever you still want to do, you can. Just go after it. Stretch your vision.
Certainly she meant well. She just didn’t understand.
Who of us seniors doesn’t want, nay, yearn to do more? Go more. See more. Work more. Help more. To take a long drive, to hop a plane to hear and there. To visit and be visited. To still do all we once did. To be part of the crowd-on-the-move.
It’s been months since I’ve posted one of my grandmother’s. Her thoughts on a “pep talk,” strike a familiar cord. While, I’m up-and-about working, cooking, doing yard- and housework, shopping, and other day-to-day chores, I’ve starting to feel the drag on my energies. A symptom of age.
This is the first year in decades that I haven’t baking a dozen or more different types of holiday cookies and candies, then packaged, and sent them to friends and family. The gifts I usually purchased in October, so they can be given to people by Thanksgiving, are a mirage.
I started to write my holiday letter a few days ago. If I’m lucky, I’ll make copies and get it in the mail by early December. Although, it’ll probably take me a week or so to address the cards. Groan.
This year, I procrastinated in trimming bushes, and preparing them for the winter. Only half of my grasses, lavenders, and other flowering bushed received their obligatory haircuts. With the nights now dipping into the 20’s, it’s too late to trim them.
Last week, I pulled some carrots out of the garden, and realized I never pulled out the tomatoes, cucumbers, and other vegetables, which long ago stopped producing. The large rose along the back fence, which had phenomenal growth over the summer, is still loosely tied to the fence. It should have been cut back so the branches don’t break if it snows are they get covered with ice.
I don’t think I need a pep talk. I need the energy and motivation I had a few years ago.