"In the New Year, never forget to
thank your past years because they
enabled you to reach today!
Without the stairs of the past you
cannot arrive at the future."
Mehmet Murat Ildan
Another New Year, and I find that age has changed me. Yes, I still look forward and anticipate new and delightful experiences, but I pay tribute to the past and those that I held dear but who are no longer here with me. I pay tribute to my failures and my successes. I struggle to understand the role that each played in my becoming who I am today. Sometimes I think that given the state of the world today, 1 lost in every 1,000 here in America so far and over a million worldwide, that it may be good they are not here to see this and for me to worry about; but I am glad to be here so perhaps, probably even, they would be too. Regardless, many of the people who molded and who shaped me, the animals who comforted and taught me, are gone. Yet I am grateful to them. They not only did but continue to influence me, to chastise me, to comfort me, to guide me.
I miss my husband. People think it odd when I try to explain that one of the things that I miss about him is the smell of him. For months after he passed I would pick up his hat and cover my nose with it while inhaling as deeply as possible, feeling my body relax and luxuriate in that beloved scent. I have never had an overly sensitive nose and before him, I don't know that I realized that each of us has a unique aroma. And maybe we don't. But he did. And to me, combined with his arms, it spoke of home. I miss his touch and the shivers it would send up and down my spine. I miss the sound of his footsteps, unique in all the world. I miss his laughter and the funny things he would say. I miss how he cared if someone hurt me or I was upset about something, his advice that I often didn't listen to but still needed to hear. My world is emptier without him but paradoxically richer because of him. My future would undoubtedly have been quite different had he not been in my past.
I miss my mother: not so much the tired shadow that gradually replaced the mother I knew though she too had her role, but the mother of my youth, the one who held me and rocked me, the one that took me to Cincinnati shopping and to have an ice cream clown. I remember falling one year as I ran down the street, skinning my knee. It was a rather nasty fall taking lots of skin with it and blood poured. But I did not cry until I reached home and my mother's arms because she would care and somehow, her very caring so much, would make it better. Such a strong woman, certainly not a perfect woman, molded and shackled by a childhood of deprivation and hardship and unkindness, condemned to growing blindness as she aged, but a strong woman. Sometimes I feel shame in my own weaknesses, particularly in the light of comparison. But I miss her. I miss her wry humor. I miss her hands. My mother had the most beautiful hands, capable of being so gentle, a trait she did not pass on. And I owe what strength I do have, if indeed I have any, partially to her and the example she set.
I miss my big brother. In my mind's eye, I have a picture of him near the time when I realized he really was going to die, that there was no cure and God was not going to perform a miracle but was calling him home. I worry that I will lose the image as my mind and memory weaken with age. Verizon would not help me, but my son helped me find a program to preserve the sound of his voice. During my lunch on a recent solitary 13 mile hike on the Knobstone, I listened to it remembering how he loved the woods while growing up. I remember snuggling in his arms while we watched "Bonanza" on television or listened to Bob Dylan, "West Side Story," Simon and Garfunkel, and the Beatles on his record player. I remember how he could pick on me, but let anyone else pick on me and they would answer to him. I loved Chris. I will always love Chris. And I miss him. But I am who I am partially due to his being in my life.
I miss Becky Moore, her life cut short despite her beauty and her vivaciousness. I was, perhaps, one of the few that knew the difficulties that she smiled through, that knew that her searching probably played a role in her demise. Despite that and being a friend, I can't say I was never jealous. Being a plain Jane, it was not easy having a friend who had that certain something that drew every man within her radius toward the flame. But I loved her and the friendship that bloomed between us. Despite the years, I keep a gift she made me all those years ago and hold it close. It makes me smile. And I learned from her, from her life and from her death. There have been times when I have tried to live my life more fruitfully since hers was taken from her.
I miss my pets. I miss Kitti and Pupik and Pooh and all the rest of them. I hope they forgive me for the times I failed them, when my patience grew short or my knowledge was limited or flawed. So many pets throughout the years for I love animals much as I love small children. Unlike dealing with adults, with children and animals you don't have to wonder so much what they are feeling, if they have some hidden agenda. What you see is generally pretty much what you get. Somewhere along the line, children grow and learn subterfuge, but that comes later. Animals never or rarely do. What you see if what you get. Kindness lights their day. A harsh word breaks their hearts. Always giving more than they take. Yet each had an effect. Each played a role in making me who I am today. And I am grateful for their love and guidance.
And this leads me to my biggest blessings: my children and grandchildren. I had hoped my daughter would find someone special, fall in love, marry, and have children. I still hope she finds someone, but she is reaching the age where there would most likely be no children. This does not seem important to her and I accept that, but I can't help but to think what a wonderful mother she would have been. My daughter has given me far more than she has taken, and I am thankful. She also played a huge role in shaping the person that is now me.
My son and his wife gave me two, beautiful granddaughters and in them I see my youth and my children's youth and their own precious youth. Since COVID, I have not had much contact. As something I read by someone I can't remember pointed out, in this new world NOT seeing family and friends has become the true act of love, but we did have a Christmas visit, the first physical contact I have had with them since last January. Ivy and I had a dance party, the other adults looking on as if we were quite unhinged as we danced and smiled together, sharing a moment, a moment it is unlikely that she will remember due to her age and the insignificance of the dance, but quite likely that I will. It always has interested me how moments that may be of primary importance to one person are not recalled at all by the other, as if their world was not the same one and if that moment in time was not shared. I briefly held my newborn granddaughter, searching her face for a hint of who she is to become, looking for my husband in her, knowing that I would love this tiny, little person no matter who or what she is.
I have been blessed with all of these wonderful people and animals now gone, waiting for me when my time arrives. What a joyous reunion it will be. I am blessed with new pets who comfort me in times of sadness and make me laugh. I am blessed with friends, old and new, who accept me for who I am and who like to spend time with me, who accept my bad traits and cherish my good traits. Friends who I can call upon to join me on a hike, or a walk, or a bike ride.
I am blessed with good health. I am blessed with enough income to meet my needs, to keep a roof over my head and food on the table, a car in the driveway, and a bike in the garage. (Okay, kitchen or basement. I don't have a garage;-) I am blessed with eyes that while dimming, are not yet giving way to blindness through macular degeneration. I am blessed with a mind that may be a bit foggier than it used to be, but still functions well enough to allow me to go about my daily business. And I am blessed with people in my past, now gone, that I loved and who loved me, who molded and shaped me, giving me the strength to move forward and to possibly love again. Hopefully they have forgiven me for the times I let them down, when I did not cherish or use the gifts that they gave me as they should have been used. I do realize that they gave me "the stairs" to climb to where I am today, and while it is not perfect, it is okay. So long as I hold on to my memory, they are here with me, in the wind as it whispers and kisses my cheek, in the road as it changes while my bicycle wheels lead me forward, in my mind as I recall them and smile rather than cry, as a song bursts forth from my heart into the open air. To them and to those that are still with me, who remain important to me, I say thank you. And since I cannot do more, that must be enough.
I wish you all a Happy New Year. I hope that you have people that you love and people who love you. I wish you an appreciation of those who have gone but who played a role in your development. I wish you the ability to be appreciative of what they gave you, of the role they played in your life, in making you who you are today. I hope you had the strength and wisdom to tell them what they meant to you while you could. I wish you the strength to continue to hold strong and stay safe until the worst of the pandemic is over, and that you have the wisdom to dwell upon the things it has taught you about what and who is most important to you and to your world. Happy 2021! As Dicken's Tiny Tim wisely said, "God bless us every one."