I stepped from Plank to Plank
A slow and cautious way
The Stars about my Head I felt
About my feet the Sea.

I knew not but the next
Would be my final inch -
This gave me that precarious Gait
Some call Experience.

Emily Dickinson, c. 1864

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Time marches on

Mama and me at Pete and Norma Jean's wedding
Not only do the years pass quickly, the changes that come about without noticing are profound. This picture was taken of Mama and me at Norma Jean and Pete's wedding in 1965. That young girl in the teal is me, if you can believe it! I was 22 at the time and in four months I would lose my precious baby Stephen to spinal meningitis. But the unmarred young girl standing with her mother didn't know any of that at the time. Mama was 41 and probably felt really old, seeing her second daughter getting married off. It's amazing to me to think I had already given birth to my two sons and had that svelte figure. I'm sure at the time I felt fat, which in retrospect is silly.

Mama lived to be 69 and died four months prior to her seventieth birthday. I remember talking to her on the phone about the big day, but I think she knew she would not live to see it. Not long after this picture was taken, Mama developed breast cancer and, although she survived it, her heart was damaged from the radiation they gave her. She suffered numerous heart attacks over the years that followed. She always rallied and sometimes came back from her trials seemingly hale and hearty, but she took a massive amount of powerful drugs daily to keep her that way. Mama was a fighter. She was the center of my universe in so many ways, but I didn't know it at the time. It was only when she was gone that I realized how bereft I was.

And now, today, I am exactly the same age Mama was when she died: four months shy of my seventieth birthday. The young girl in the picture is now officially old and white-haired. But the difference between the way we have lived our lives, Mama and me, is profound. Yesterday I woke to clouds and grumpily gave up my thoughts of going to Snohomish and skydiving with my friends,  so I joined the women's walking group at 8:00am and walked briskly for more than four miles. I kept looking up at the sky and saw blue sky peeking through the clouds, so I went home and checked the web cam at the Drop Zone. As I saw it was indeed beginning to clear, I hopped in my car and headed south. By the time I got there, the first load had been sent. My skydiving buddies Linny and Christy showed up soon after I did, and we made three wonderful skydives together before I headed home at 6:00pm.

Although I was tired and hungry by the time I arrived home, I related the day's activities to Smart Guy as I drank a glass of wine and then had a wonderful dinner. There is no doubt in my mind that I am fortunate to have the life I have, and hopefully I will be able to continue on in this lifestyle for a while yet. But time passes, sometimes quickly and sometimes not so much, as the years and the decades continue to march on by. Mama has been gone since 1993; the young girl I was in the picture is gone too, and the wedding we were celebrating is no longer, since Pete died last year. My sister is now a grandmother with two grown children in their forties. And both of my children are long gone; next month will mark a decade since my son Chris died, as hard as it is for me to fathom that.

Yes indeed, time marches on, and I find myself here, still here, this morning as the sun begins to rise. It's time to begin another day. I have so much to be thankful for. My dear partner sleeps next to me and I tap away at the keyboard, my slick new Macbook Air in my lap. My iPad lies nearby, with the latest book I downloaded onto it partially read. The technology that allows me to video chat with Norma Jean several times a week continues to amaze me. The difference between a telephone conversation and chatting with her while I can see her is remarkable. We mention that every now and then. She tells me she is so accustomed to video chat when she talks to her kids that on the rare occasion one of them will call her, they find it a real hindrance in communication.

It's all what you get used to, isn't it? Our lives today would look like science fiction to the two women in that picture above. Remember the old show "Believe It or Not"? I remember the prediction of Dick Tracy-like watches that displayed the face of the person you were talking to; today it's a reality. All the latest technology has evolved in a very short span of time, when you think about it, and it makes me wonder what the future holds. Probably things I can't even imagine.

When you reach seventy and you begin to think of the future, you realize that the next decade will most probably be one of decline. It's natural; it's the way of life. Even though there are many vigorous people in their eighties and even nineties, they are the exception rather than the rule, and they will also succumb to the ravages of age. It's natural, and I realize that it's also like the passage of time: it's gradual and you don't even realize it until you see an old picture, or until someone you love passes away.

In the meantime, I'll continue to enjoy my activities, both mental and physical. I wish all of you, my readers, a wonderful journey as time marches on.


karen said...

Such a nice photo of you and your mom. Time does march on leaving its scars. I stand in awe of you for coming through such tragedies still managing to live a full and wonderful life. You're an inspiration to me. Thank you for allowing me to share your journey.

Teresa Evangeline said...

This is a beautiful post, DJan, filled with wise and thoughtful insight. Photos of my distant past are starting to look like stills from a movie I once watched. I know the young girl I was is still there, in some ways, but I'm so glad I'm no longer the emotionally charged creature I was. The "older" I get, the stronger I think I get and it feels good. Your strength is as amazing as your beauty. I mean that.

Happy Sunday.

Mel said...

I feel the same way about old photos as you, wondering who that person was and where she went.

I also feel the same way about video chats with my sister. The phone just isn't the same, and the skyping bridges the distance somehow. I'm looking forward to visiting her in September. It's been three years, I'm not sure how that happened, except time marches on whether I want it to or not.

I think of you, skydiving and hiking in the mountains, almost 20 years ahead of me and I wonder how I could possibly feel so old. I need to get up off this couch and seize the day.

The picture is priceless, the hats! Thanks for sharing your thoughts this Sunday morning. I hope you have a wonderful week.

Anonymous said...

It puzzles me that you did not have more children after Stephen died. You were still in your early twenties! I had Maria at age 32, and Lisa at 36. And my first grandkid at 61 and my second at 64. So, as you can see, I started reproducing really late in life.

DJan said...

Gigi, the loss of my son at such an early age broke up our marriage and I entered into a relationship afterwards with a man 23 years my senior. He did not want children, and by the time I got out of THAT relationship, I was in such a mess that I am glad I didn't subject any other innocent people to my life!

Anonymous said...

That's too bad, DJan. Thank you for being so honest. I was pretty messed up myself, pursuing a musical careeer when I lacked sufficient talent to pull it off. So when I gave birth to Maria out of wedlock, the baby gave my life focus and new meaning. Then, I married David 2 years later, and the rest is history. But, Maria's birth was pivotal. Without her, where would I be today? Lol.

June said...

Lives unfold in such unexpected ways. I have found I can live without so many things that I thought I'd die if I didn't have.
And I'm 61! Amazing how young 61 seems now, considering that when I was 31 such an age was definitely Old.
I hope when I die I can come back again, or go on to a different plane. It would be a shame to waste all the wisdom I've gained.

Blissed-Out Grandma said...

That is a great photo. I can totally relate to those outfits, including the mandatory gloves. And funny, my mother had that same look on her face at my sister's wedding in 1967. You had terrible loss in your life, but you have really done an inspiring job of finding purpose and meaning and peace. I'm having a temporary setback this summer but I see you as a great role model, and an encouraging friend.

Star said...

My mum died at age 69 as well, in 1992 in her case so I can identify with that time scale. When we look back it is almost impossible to believe that we were the people in those old photos and yet at the same time, we transport ourselves back and remember lots of little details that the photos have brought back. I am looking forward to celebrating your 70th birthday with you D-Jan.

Gigi said...

Time does indeed march on. And your post serves as a gentle reminder that I need to remember that well.

Love the photo of you and your mom!

Linda Reeder said...

I have a similar photo taken about three years later of me as I was in my sister's wedding. The photo shocks me now. I don't remember ever looking that good. And then the old photos make me a little sad as I contemplate my lost youth. But then I think about how fortunate I am now and what a good life I have, and have had, and I let that old nostalgia go. We must live in the moment.

Red said...

It was of some concern to me if I would outlive my Mother. she was 59 when she died. I have outlived her and now look back to think how young she was when she died.
When I tell my kids about my family life on the farm I can hardly believe what I'm saying. It is much different and will be much different if we stay here very long.

Grandmother said...

I love the photos and the styles! It's good we don't know what's coming lest we just give up. When the circumstances require it, somehow we find the ability to take the next step and deal with the heart breaking losses. You did that and sculpted a life for yourself that's full and rich. Good for you!

Arkansas Patti said...

Loved that picture of you and your mother. You were quite the cutie. Hats seem to have fallen by the wayside haven't they?
I know how you feel. I got a picture from my sister yesterday in my birthday card of all us siblings together as 20 and thirty somethings. Wow, were we young, firm of flesh and thin.
The way you are taking care of your body, you shouldn't have to worry much about decline.

Keicha said...

Looking back at photos, even from the not so distant past, is definitely a reminder of how much in life changes. Isn't it odd to look at your face before such loss and sorrow, trying to remember the you before such life-altering events? I find myself looking at pictures of me before my sister died, amazed at my innocence.

You do indeed live an amazing life with much to be thankful for. Thank you for being such an inspiration to me, and a reminder that life is meant to be lived and enjoyed to its fullest.

CrazyCris said...

Time sure does seem to advance without us quite noticing it! I've noticed I've kind of lost my sense of the passage of time since I finished college... There years were marked so clearly according to the academic calendar, with Christmas and summer holidays almost half a year apart. I can pretty much remember what I did every single summer until I finished my Master's Degree, but all the summers after that (and the years!) are a bundled mess!

I'm reaching the age where any slight problem in my parents' health worries me (and their current problems aren't that slight!) because I know they're nearing an age where a small problem can quickly grow bigger. And it scares me! My age has never felt like anything to me, only in relation to others... and now I begin to realise that the years I have left to enjoy with my parents are numbered. I try not to think about it actually... too depressing to imagine!

Going into the 70s might mean you have to slow down on some activities DJan, but having gotten to know you a bit through the blogs, I feel pretty confident in saying that if you have to stop one activity you'll soon find another to replace it with and will also fall in love with it! ;o)


Dee said...

Dear DJan, this evocative reflection on growing older left me somewhat melancholy in that I so love life and I know that it shall end. And yet, in that ending I believe is a new beginning. The timeless cycle and circle of life.

My mother died when she was 58. I'm now 76 and so I've lived so much longer than she did. And I'm glad to have been given this opportunity to grow because at 58 I was still in some ways caught in the past, wanting to please others so as not to be abandoned. Only in the last few years have I finally let go and accepted the who of me. That acceptance has been a great gift.

Your posting, I think, is exceptional. Thank you for it. Peace.

Lydia said...

You skydive?!!!! And tell about it in such a matter-of-fact manner?!
I am impressed, most definitely.

Loved this post. My mother has been gone since 2000 and I often think of how much of today's life would seem a fantasy (in many cases, a horror) to her. I also compare myself to who she was at the age I am now (61) and realize how markedly different we are as women. Neither of us plowed through the sky, however! (Your post certainly has ratcheted up my commitment to my walking program, however!)

Rita said...

Love the picture and the post so much! How different your life is at 69 than your mother's--hiking, sky diving, biking, gardening. And video chatting and reading books on tiny screens is truly like a science fiction movie from the 60s or being on Star Trek or the Twilight Zone. ;) Life is short, but it's wide. :):)

Murr Brewster said...

A wonderful thing to read on this, what would have been my father's 104th birthday. I clicked onto this while hopping from someone else's blog, and found myself thinking: Snohomish? Skydiving? Do you know Djan?

You ARE Djan! I'd only been to Djanity. March on, my sweet. I'm right behind you.

Jackie said...

Jan...Your posts are packed with feelings that reach the deepest parts of my heart.
First of all, I love the fact that you call your Mama "Mama." I call mine that, too. Your Mama is beautiful; genes run deep, don't they.
Each time I read about the death of your sons, I cry. I can't help it. It's a Mama thing, I think.
Your Mama being the center of your universe says a great deal about what a wonderful Mama she was to you.
As you approach your seventieth birthday, I want to wish you blessings and happiness that fill every cloudy day that you might encounter. You are indeed an inspiration to me.
Keep on keepin' on, my friend.
I know that you will. It's in you for always!

Trish said...

There's a book here.

CiCi said...

You do have the best photos to draw on for your younger years. The photo of you and your mom at your sister's wedding is nice of both of you. It looks like it was a fancy wedding. you have packed a lot into your one life, you have not sat it out idly, you have participated fully in your life. That is one of the things I admire about you the most.

Linda Myers said...

Quite a reflective post. I have had similar thoughts. Very glad not to be alone with them!

Linda Myers said...

Quite a reflective post. I have had similar thoughts. Very glad not to be alone with them!

Far Side of Fifty said...

Great old photo..I sense that you are a little afraid now that you are almost the same age as your Mother was when she died. You live differently than she did..people that hike and skydive and eat all their veggies must live longer than most people:)

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

Yup the way you put it in this post makes it very clear. I am only 66 but have had my sure of roller coaster life experiences.On Sunday my sister and I will be off to visit our 91 tear old aunt. Her partner just turned 100 and they are just back from what they think my be their last vacation away together. Who can tell?

Theresa said...

Dear DJan,

Thanks so much for your post. It means the world to me because I am sitting here at the exact age my mother was when she died. (Fifty-six and 3 months). My mother died in 1974 when I was 17.

I have no idea what to do with this day. Celebrate? Mourn? It's tough to talk about because most of my friends still have their parents and can't relate.

So, when I googled the subject and found your post, I was thankful for what you wrote.

It's always gratifying to know we're not alone in our circumstances... that others have been where we are now... slogged through and risen above.