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, February 12, 2023

Love and loss

Bellingham Bay at Marine Park

On the calendar, this coming week is one where we celebrate love, with Valentine's Day, and seeing the bare beginnings of spring on its way. It was partly cloudy when we went out for our five-mile-long walk yesterday, Melanie and me.
You get older. In the end, you end up accepting everything in your life — suffering, horror, love, loss, hate — all of it. —Harry Dean Stanton

Today I'm thinking of what I've gained and lost during the long years of my life. I don't believe that most would consider my life as one they might want to have, instead of their own, unless perhaps they are in Turkey or Syria right now and have lost everything: family, home, safety. The loss of loved ones can be borne with enough time and space from the event, but living through an apocalypse like the earthquake that has killed a minimum of 28,000 people, with probably many more bodies to be unearthed before it's all over, is horrific. Anyone who has lost even a modicum of what these people are enduring can identify and relate to their suffering.

When I was growing up, I was incredibly fortunate in my early life, well fed and taken care of, with no idea what my life would be as I matured. I gave birth to my firstborn just before my nineteenth birthday, just a kid myself, but I loved so much being a mother and caring for my infant son. I gave him what I experienced in my own early life: safety, comfort, food, shelter. By his third birthday, all that had changed. I had given birth to another son, but Stephen died just after his first birthday, of spinal meningitis. Chris not only lost his brother, but his mother as well. I was a basket case for many years and did not give him the love he deserved. And it was the beginning of many years of strife in my own world. 

But that was then. Nobody continues to go through such painful periods forever; you eventually pull yourself together and pick up the threads of life and do the best you can. I suppose that is also true when enduring natural disasters: eventually life morphs into a new normal. Although I have had my share of loss, and then some, I have also been blessed to experience much love from my wonderful family and friends.

Most of us have the same sort of lives: a lot of good times and bad times, hard moments and delightful ones. I have noticed that sometimes an event will stand out in my memory and can be remembered again and again. Not only happy ones, but awful ones as well. With each remembering, the event subtly changes, as memory is not very dependable. But there are moments that stand out, hardly change when I recall them, such as those moments when my two sons came into the world. Both times I was ecstatic and felt incredibly lucky. On the other side, I also remember the moment I hit the ground when I broke my pelvis in six places during a botched parachute landing. I remember that moment very well, although it was almost a quarter century back in time. My life took a serious turn into injury, followed by many months of recovery.

These days, I am busy enjoying the later years of my life, with a wonderful partner who helps me navigate every day, sometimes with laughter and sometimes with tears. We love each other, more today than when we first got together, which is such a bonus, and one we could not have imagined as we gazed into our future life together. Marriage always has its ups and downs, but after I had experienced three failed marriages before we got together, it was in no way guaranteed. But here we are, proving that love and affection can rise above all the tribulations that we have faced together.

Today we also face the loss of our faculties, as we move into our eighties. I finally got my hearing test, through the local university which has a training program for new audiologists. I had two trainees and one experienced teacher who put me through extensive tests before showing me the results. I had hoped that my hearing loss would be minimal, but I learned that I definitely have lost my high-frequency hearing, and cannot distinguish many consonants from one other. It was not a surprise, but I held out hope that I wouldn't need hearing aids. Not so. In a week or so, I have an appointment to receive them, and although my medicare advantage plan pays for some of the expense, I will also have to fork over $2,000. I will receive a 60-day trial period, a three-year warranty, and 150 batteries, each of which only last about a week, as I understand it. Plus I get an advocate who will work with me for several months; I don't want to make such an investment and then end up with them living in a dresser drawer rather than being used.

We have five senses: taste, smell, touch, hearing, and sight. Three of those five are compromised in my case (everything but touch and taste), and I could be very discouraged if I decided to let myself go there. But what good would that do? Growing older is a gift, not one without thorns, but a gift nonetheless. I am still able to take a brisk walk for up to seven or eight miles, thanks to my trekking poles, and I can still manage most of the postures in yoga, even now. I have plenty of friends who are in the same boat as me, and we commiserate with one another and give each other useful tips for navigating the choppy waters of The Eighties.

I cannot expressing adequately how much I appreciate having this other community, the virtual one that puts me in touch with so many others around the world who have joined me on this journey. Some live nearby, in my state and many in Canada, and some on the other side of the world. As we live our lives and blog about our adventures, as well as our trials and tribulations, I realize that I would be lost without your kindness and love. I hope you will be surrounded with lots of love today, tomorrow, and far into the future.


John's Island said...

Dear DJan, What a wonderful post! After following you in the blogosphere for over a decade I can honestly say it’s a joy to see your new posts each and every week. Blessings to you and SG and returning the love! John

ApacheDug said...

DJan, I was thinking of you this morning while watching ABC News. They were discussing Russia's latest barrage on poor Ukraine, and I thought "isn't it gruesome, tragic & normal how we've grown accustomed to Russia's war on this country as it's no longer fresh news." There's a mean part of me that wishes Ukraine could just drop "the big one" on Moscow for payback. Anyway... very much enjoyed this weekend's thoughts (though I wonder if you're being too harsh on yourself in your early mothering days) and glad you have your friends, and hope your week ahead is filled with love & good things.

Rian said...

DJan, you have been through a lot in your life. I can't even imagine losing a child, going through divorce, or breaking a hip. I think you are very strong... and maybe your early childhood (well cared for and loved) helped you become this way. I know it's a cliche, but they say what doesn't destroy you, makes you stronger... and I think it's wonderful that you and SG found each other.
As for the hearing aid, I too am being told that the time is coming. I haven't done anything yet, but it won't be long. (I'm trying to hold out as long as I can - hoping Medicare will eventually pay for them - or part. We have a regular Medicare Supplement plan, not Medicare Advantage).
Have a wonderful Valentine week!

Rita said...

Yes, the good and bad events stand out in our memories...and probably morph a little over time. Events we didn't think we would survive at the time and yet we did. Going through a long one right now that I've survived for over a year and a half so far. Life is a gift.

I need hearing aides but cannot afford them and have eyes effected by strange puckers so I cannot read as well as I used to. I get along. And am very glad to still be here. All I've been through I've never had to endure what people in natural disasters or wars have had to...so I am blessed.

Always love your Sunday posts! :)

Linda Reeder said...

I have the same type of hearing loss that you describe and have worn hearing aids for about five years. It will soon be time to upgrade them. Mine were $5000 after insurance back then, so I am happy that prices have come down considerably since then. I wear them every day faithfully, but they don't really help that much for carrying on conversations, especially in a noisy environment. I rely on closed caption on TV a lot now and I'm sort of lost when it isn't available. I don't need it for news broadcasts though. I wish actors spoke as clearly as news people. It's those muddled consonants.
Having followed both of your blogs for many years now, I am aware of your heartbreaking losses and your years of struggle. I am so happy for the love and friendship you enjoy now, and for the peace that exertion in the outdoors brings you.

Gigi said...

Beautiful and thoughtful post, as usual. The blogging community, for the most part, has a special place in my heart for the exact reasons you noted. Happy Valentine's DJan. I know you are out there spreading as much joy, kindness and love to all you meet.

Anonymous said...

DJan This week I have stopped to take time to count my blessings. Although my parents had hard times during the depression and lost loved ones, by the time I came along, my family was in much better status. I grew up in a loving family with a mother and older sister who made my childhood happy. I grew up on a beautiful farm where I could ride horses, play in the woods and be gone all day with no worries for my mother. I had security that I would be fine no matter what happened. No one in my family died while I was a child. I didn't know major loss until I was grown and married. When I think of those people in Turkey and Syria and in Ukraine, especially the children,it breaks my heart and I find it hard to understand how those who survive are ever the same. Ageing is not easy, but I am fortunate to have family and friends for support. The hardest thing about getting old is seeing so many people I love lose their health, suffer with disease and die. I am sorry you are losing your hearing. I am, too. My vision is not good and I am told that is because I have diabetes. But I am trying to look at the good things. Happy Valentines Day. Treasure your partner and joy in your time together. Glenda Beall

Far Side of Fifty said...

Sorry to hear that you need Hearing Aids but I am thankful that they are available to all who need them. I only follow the news through what ever bloggers mention..sounds like a horrible earthquake. I find being away from the news works just fine for me...she said sticking her head in the sand. :)

Anvilcloud said...

A word about hearing aids. You will be given a trial period, or at least we are here. If there are problems, don’t accept them. I am thinking mostly of devices that give a whistling feedback. People get this and don’t realize that it isn’t the way that it has to be. Actually, I don’t think tis is a problem any more with newer technologies, but I decided to mention it just in case.

Red said...

Nice title for this post. You keep mentioning your 80th year many times. But really I think you think yourself as young. WE have to have a realistic idea of our age but then live to the fullest as you do. My Dad never reconciled the death of his daughter. At the time I didn't realize that I missed regular parenting. I look back now and see what we missed. Guidance wasn't there.

Marie Smith said...

Wonderful post, Jan. Loss is a part of life but with love we prevail. I appreciate how you tied it into aging, where losses require adaptation. How fortunate we are to live to this time in life.

gigi-hawaii said...

Oh, I am so glad you had your hearing tested. Those hearing aids are extremely expensive. Too bad you could not get the kind with rechargeable batteries.

William Kendall said...

Very well said. I know from my father's case that hearing aid batteries last briefly.

Linda Myers said...

I love your Sunday posts!

My hearing aids are on my nightstand, waiting for me to resume wearing them. During the pandemic, the combination of glasses and a mask usually resulted in them falling on the ground.