Environs

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On a flight recently, I spent some time reading blogging friends who have fibromyalgia. Having FM myself, I always marvel at the resilience with which these gals, with chronic muscle pain and oftentimes foggy brains, valiantly face each challenge.

Also, on my flight, I read a piece that said we should be thankful for our old age, because many don’t have the chance to live it. So aches and pains aside, life is here to embrace.

So much to think about.

I’ve been on the west coast now for nearly a week with my teenaged granddaughter. I’ve been reintroduced to the busy life of a high schooler–the up early to school, babysit, youth group, homework schedule. This afternoon I made a college visit with her. She has a lifetime to plan. And, as a former college teacher, I basked in the campus smells of books and classrooms and learning.

on a campus visit

on a campus visit with my granddaughter

Such a different life from my own as an older person, retired, living in an urban high-rise.

Plus, when I’m here I sit in a house.  Grass and flowers and an outgrown swing set stare back at me as I lounge under my daughter-in-law’s home-made quilt.

I play Monopoly with my granddaughter and friend. After decades of not playing, I load up on houses. Then hotels. I win. I am pleased with my stack of $500 bills.

By contrast, yesterday, I spent the day with my older sister nearby who moved into a retirement home last fall. We walked the halls among residents, some with hesitant gaits and walkers, and all with smiles and fascinating histories.

I spoke with one man who quoted Moby Dick: “Call me Ishmael” and recited other sentences with great gusto. Another man had lived in Chicago. “I know just where you live,” he said, recalling business trips a half century ago. One woman shared her story of losing her husband, one painful moment at a time, to dementia. “I no longer have anyone to talk to,” she said.

dinner with my sister and a daughter

dinner with my sister and a daughter

After several months here, my sister has decided to change her “environs”–her favorite word. She’d come from the responsibilities of the large home where she’d raised her four kids and thinks now she’d like an interlude of a maintenance-free apartment, living on a street with a library and coffee shop and diversity of age groups.

“When’s the right time for these moves?” she asks. “You don’t know until you try them.” So on the sixth anniversary of her husband’s death, she will move into a ground floor apartment a few miles away. Living on a third floor now, she says, “I miss grass.”

Environs. Always important in this juxtaposition between being young with lots of promises ahead and getting older when we have more reminiscences than promises, but when we continue to savor hope and change and the future.

Tomorrow, my granddaughter will give an acrylic painting lesson to me and her other grandma. We grandmas will learn something new. I will take my canvas home with me to hang in my high-rise. I will paint some grass on it.

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