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, August 28, 2016

MIlestones and me

A toast to summer
As usual, the first thing I did before I started to write this post is look for a picture to start it out. I found this one from a few weeks ago, where Lynn (who is smiling), my hand in the foreground, and Carol's fingers curled around her beer, are toasting our friendship. I'm a red-wine drinker; Lynn enjoys white, and Carol loves beer. There is another glass on the right, which belongs to Lily. (clink!) Four friends who all live here in the apartment complex with me.

What I really wanted to do is find a picture of Lynn, because I'd like to introduce you to her this morning. It was a year ago that she moved into the ground-floor apartment at the base of the stairs with her grown son. Although she is in her early fifties, I wondered if she was retired (not knowing her exact age) but learned that ten years ago she was in a horrific car accident, with her husband driving their motor home. She and her then-13-year-old son were in the back, traveling home from a vacation, with husband and his brother in the front seat. In the accident, both men were killed instantly, along with the driver of the pickup that struck them.

Her life changed completely from that moment on. Although her son was only slightly injured physically, Lynn suffered many broken bones, with one leg and ankle shattered, along with serious head injuries. She spent the next year in a convalescent hospital. At one point they almost amputated her leg below the knee, but instead she opted to keep it with all the metal and pain, learning to walk on it again. At first she was in a heavy boot (which she still occasionally needs to use), but when I met her last year, she was determinedly going on long walks with her cane. Not always, though: sometimes she went without it, and now if you were to see her on a good day, you'd never know about her disability.

A few months ago she joined our walking group on Saturday mornings, and she goes out for a long walk several times a week, at a fast pace and with friends she has made from the group. Lynn is one of those people who makes friends every single day with everyone she meets. She is the essential ingredient that was missing from our apartment complex. After she showed up, we began to have evening gatherings of the women in nearby apartments, all of us fellow gardeners, too.

Last month she moved from the downstairs apartment to the one right next to me. We all helped with the move, and she used the opportunity to shed some of her more cumbersome furniture. And now her front porch is the hub where we all gather. This past Friday night we enjoyed an evening visit with Kitty, who was the previous occupant of the apartment next door, along with the four of us mentioned at the beginning. They all knew I would be the first to leave, because I just don't like to stay up late, and after I left and snuggled into my bed (SG was out for the evening), I listened to the sound of their laughter until I fell asleep.

Yesterday as we were returning from the Saturday morning walk, I stopped at the local drugstore where I can pick up some wine (we drank it all the night before), and I bought a box of my favorite. While we were at the checkout counter, I pulled out my ID (it doesn't matter if you're ninety, they have to see it). The clerk announced it would cost $19.56. Lynn and I said together, "that was a good year." Lynn added, "if I had been around to see it, of course."

Nineteen fifty-six. "What do you mean," I said, "if you were around. Of course you were." She looked at me and said, "I was born in 1965." Shocked, I realized that I was only a teenager in 1956 and suddenly realized the difference in our ages. Although I know it intellectually, I don't ever feel it. I am more than old enough to be her mother. I grew up in the fifties and sixties, but that was more than half a century ago. Where did all that time go?

The incident got me to thinking of how I compartmentalize my life. When I first started skydiving (1991), my skydiving accident (2000), when my son Chris died (2002), and when I retired and moved away to Bellingham (2008) — these are milestones that give me a way to think of what happened when. The scary thing is that they all seem rather immediate when I pull them up out of my memory to ponder. Time does not follow a linear path in my mind, but has peaks and valleys. I guess that's normal. How could I already be a septuagenarian? Wasn't it just 1956 the other day?

*  *  * 

Part of the reason I forget, I guess, is that I am still able to live an active life. After I finish this post and start my day, I'll do my exercises and head off to the coffee shop before my morning yoga class. It will be the second week with a substitute who knocked my socks off last Sunday. She's harder than Laifong but I found that I was intrigued to see what I could and couldn't do. She had us in a full shoulder stand (which I didn't think I would be able to accomplish, but I did), and although I was sore the next day, I'm looking forward to what she will introduce me to today. This foray into yoga has been really good for me. I feel more balanced and confident as I move, and I'm totally convinced I'm getting taller. Last week I signed up for the fall semester, and when I sign up for the winter, I'll have been attending for a year. 

Two weeks ago as I was leaving the class, Laifong mentioned to me that she had been surprised at how well I have been doing and said that I had exceeded her expectations. That sure gave me a boost. Obviously, her expectations weren't very high, since I'd been attending the gentle yoga classes and had not been exposed to Level I, the next step up. I think I've found my current level, although it makes a huge difference who is teaching it, I'm discovering.

Fall is coming. After another three-day mini-heat wave, we had a day with the temperature in the sixties yesterday (20°C) and another to follow today. It's probably the last heat of the summer, and I won't miss it a bit. I've become a Pacific Northwesterner with little tolerance for the heat. Oh, wait: I've always been that way, which is part of the reason we moved here. Next week will also bring some chances for rain, which has also been absent during July and August. I miss the lush green we usually have, but it's coming back now that fall is righ around the corner.

And with that, I'll say farewell for today. My partner is still sleeping next to me, and the sun is finally over the horizon. Tea is gone and the day is calling. I look forward to my coffee shop friends (not to mention my daily latte) and the class that awaits me. Until we meet again next week, I hope you will stay safe and surrounded with love and light. Be well.


Anonymous said...

Wow, I can't believe what your friend went through. She seems like such a good person. I wish only the best for her and you, too.

Linda Reeder said...

While your new friend Lynn may attract friends, you do too. It's a quality I admire but do not possess, the plight of being an introvert.
We are off to a little adventure this cool morning, involving art in a garden, of course. Sounders on TV this afternoon. A day with grand kids tomorrow.
All is good.

Marie Smith said...

You neighbour is an example of courage and determination! It sounds like a lovely bunch of friends.

Yoga is good for body and mind! Enjoy!

Kailani said...

What a wonderful pair of ladies you and Lynn are. I am amazed at the resilience both of you demonstrate daily. :)

Far Side of Fifty said...

Your friend Lynn sounds like a social butterfly, if I recall you didn't know many of your neighbors a few years ago...then there was gardening and now get togethers! Good for you! Age does not matter among friends. It sounds like she has had more than a few bumps in her road but is putting one foot in front of the other. Thanks for sharing her with us.
It was cool here but summer is returning for a few days this week. I hope you have a wonderful week:)

Elephant's Child said...

As I read this post the sun is just edging into the sky. A soft pink glow. Lovely.
Age is not what defines us - or shouldn't be.
And time is a tricky (and flexible) beast.
Love that Lynn perseveres. No wonder you made friends.
Have a wonderful week. (Red wine is my preference too. A merlot for choice.)

Gigi said...

Oh how I wish I could join you on the porch - I'd bring the chardonnay!

What a tragedy Lynn has endured - my heart breaks for her. She sounds like a wonderful person and I'm glad she (and the others) are your friends.

Have a wonderful week, DJan!

Arkansas Patti said...

Wow, your friend is not just a survivor, she is a thriver. I am in awe how she has handled such tragedy.
How nice to have found such a compatible group to share a drink and laugh with.
Keep up the good work and nice to know the instructor sees your progress. A bit of praise always makes a person's day.
You say Yoga makes you taller? I need to get busy.

Friko said...

I think this age thing hits all of us who have reached our 70s. In my head I am no older than I was 30 years ago and, like you, I see myself as the same age as someone much younger. Alas.

Your friend is doing well. It’s wonderful to have a group of women friends who all ‘sing from the same hymn sheet’ as they would say over here. There’s nothing like the company of friends, we all need to be connected. It is another way of staying young at heart.

Carole said...

What a wonderful life you have. Good friends, plenty of opportunities to be active, and wine! Your life is full and it shows. Friendships are wonderful, and I never take mine for granted. Thanks for sharing with us a part of your world :-)

Red said...

"Where has the time gone?" is a common question for seniors. Next june it will be 60 years since I finished high school. Those sunny days live on in my head forever. Yes, surprise those yoga teachers with your fitness level.

Tabor said...

Those who have been tested by time are the best friends because they really know the value of life and friendship. I have been bypassed, thus far, by lots of tragedy. While the death of my younger sister was difficult, she lived far away and I saw only every other year, so there were not daily reminders. I like to hang out with strong people so that they can keep me focused.

Sally Wessely said...

Catching up with you is always a joy. You make the most amazing friends. I know that is because you attract friends as much as your friend Lynn does. She sounds like an amazing woman. I'd love to meet her.

I like what you said about time. I think I see my life much like you do with the peaks and valleys. I also don't really think of it in linear ways. When I realize the passage of time has been great, it always rather shocks me.

I love that you are rocking the yoga class.

Rhapsody said...

May you have more wonderful times with your friends.

have a blessed week.

Heidrun Khokhar, KleinsteMotte said...

I love the way you search inside yourself to reach new levels in all things even new relationships. Your new little group of friends seems like an exciting time for the moment. And you pull at the time concept in a rather interesting way. My guess is many of us have those peeks and vales. What may vary is how vividly and even accuratelt we are able to recall moments long gone.
While I thought my recall was pretty accurate, reading one of my very old journals made me realize I had alteres somethings over time yet to me my altered memories felt accurate. Our minds are so fascinating.
Enjoy the fall yoga. I'm off to UK with hubby and Buddy in a week. Time for them to meet the little July 1 baby girl.

Trish and Rob MacGregor said...

It's amazing what people experience and endure and then come out on the other side of it, like Lynn, like you. Great post!

Rita said...

Age has never mattered much to me when it comes to friendships. I've always had friends of all ages. It's more important to me who they are, you know, so I forget how old most of my friends are--LOL! In fact, I probably couldn't tell you with most of them--could be off a decade or so--LOL! Lynn sounds like a great lady and a wonderful addition to the neighborhood.
In 1956 I was five years old, had moved to a new house in Fridley (suburb of Minneapolis), I begged Dad to plant the cottonwood tree, and started first grade. Was a year of huge changes. :)

Barb said...

Sometimes, when I think I have a burden, I only have to read something like your post and realize that I don't even really know about sacrifice and pain. Thank goodness for the human spirit and perseverance which apparently Lynn has in spades. I'm toying with taking Yoga again, but I'm finding it hard to commit. Often, I prefer to exercise alone, though I've gotten a lot of benefit when I did take Yoga classes. I'll send some cool weather your way!

Deb Shucka said...

I always finish reading your pieces feeling more alive somehow. I have a number of younger friends and am always surprised when someone sees me as older. The milestones don't stop accumulating until the last big one - it's one of the many things that keeps us young.