Tuesday, July 9, 2013

Age or Life?

My eyes lingered on the Dr. Seuss-inspired birthday card from Adrian's last birthday, You're 2! One fish, Two fish, Red fish, Blue fish...Hope you get each big wish YOU wish! I had found it tucked away on a bookshelf, and put it back on display for a while. Tonight my eyes caught on the bright colors reminiscent of the book itself, and I thought a bit ruefully that my birthday is tomorrow, and I would not like a card to yell 'You're 35!' at me, thank you very much.

I suffer from a bit of birthday-induced depression. I realize that this sounds really trite, really I do. Generally I hear that chorus "It's my party, and I'll cry if I want to" in my head. Two years ago I sat outside on the patio and really did cry my eyes out, and I'm not really sure why. I think I remember being in the car on my mom's 40th birthday and she was crying. Or maybe just the song was playing on the radio, I'm not sure. I thought that the whole thing was bizarre back then, I mean first of all who cries on their birthday? It should happy, period. And also back then 40 really did seem old. I mean, o-l-d to a kid barely reaching double digits herself.

I imagine a friend and neighbor of mine rolling her eyes and going "35? You think that's old?! Wait until you hit 50".  Then I think of another dear former neighbor, whom we recently visited in the assisted living home that she shares with her husband. This was just a few nights ago, when Angelica walked up to the chair she was sitting in, hands shaking a bit in her lap from the Parkinson's disease that distresses her more and more, and asked "How old are you, Miss June?" Eight-nine, she replied. It breaks my heart a little now, knowing that after Angelica replied "Wow, you are old" that I left it at that. You know, as in kids will tell it as it is, right? It was a teaching moment that went untaught.

I realized tonight after seeing the You're 2! birthday card that if it could talk, it would probably shout something like You're thirty-what? That's old! and what could I say back to that? I mean, that's true. But what could you, card, possibly know about what that means in my heart? The fact that for the last five of those thirties, I have been growing, feeding and nurturing children. Three of them, that have come to me from heaven above. That  (when I am focusing on the years and age itself) make me feel like I have done nothing else in that time. And yet, what could possibly be of more worth? I have to remind myself. When I get in that spot, that little spot deep inside of wanting it all to be about me. Of wanting to crawl inside of that place of wanting and wishing for the things I feel like I somehow deserve or should have "by now". And that's just the last five years. And oh, how does the time fly as they will always keep telling you.

I remember Miss June and I hurt because I know that Angelica's comment had to have pierced her own heart. Yes, she's old? That's what I thought? Who could possibly put pen and paper to the moments and feelings of a life of such proportion? How could I even think in terms of years? Life is meant to be lived big, for something more than just for oneself, and Miss June is the illustration of a life beautifully lived for others, for her God. Age has nothing to do with Miss June. Grace is Miss June. I can talk to her and feel the years disappear between us. It's uncanny. I remember her talking about teaching in a one-room schoolhouse years ago. Or the fact that having her mother across the alley helped her from losing it when she was raising her young son. Or that sometimes it's hard to connect with people in a new church, a new town, or a new living situation. That even assisted-living homes have their cliques and barriers that make it hard to get to know people. But Miss June presses through those things. No one that meets her is left the same, untouched by her love. While sitting in the cafeteria next to an elderly resident, she was asked "Do you ever think about suicide?" to which she responded "I don't think God would be very pleased with that decision" and the woman's countenance changed completely. Apparently, she hadn't thought about it that way. Miss June can nudge you toward a better way, the better way.

When I let it, my age can take on a life of itself and yet, the number does not tell what is in the heart and the way those years have shaped it. Whether it's a two and a half year old loving to chase birds and make faces to crack us all up in the car or in the living room or thirty-five years old living life as a mother through the boredom, intensity and all-out-joy of the moment to moment or of eighty-nine years polished and loving, loving, loving with eyes focused on the goal of going home. As she put it. And there's no doubt in my mind that on that day she will be received with a glowing
Well done, my good and faithful servant by her precious savior.

I rejoice and ache for her, as  I will miss her when that day comes. However I am so glad that she's taught that me that life that has nothing to do with age. It would be well-worth my while to remember that lesson tomorrow and always. And pass it on to my precious little ones.


  1. Melissa, what a beautiful post! At the beginning, I was prompted to think of my own 35th birthday--the first one where I felt regret. I always love the age I am, but that gets harder to do with each year.
    I wept at your conclusion. Lovely, and important to share. Thanks1

  2. I got tears, too. I've met Miss June and have been touched by her quiet loveliness. Your title says it all, age or life? I think we all go through the shock of "aging" (yes, it was 40 when it hit me, we were in the car, and the song was "Big Girls Don't Cry." You remembered well!), but the real beauty is in the way we live. God bless Miss June for reminding us of this by her example. And thank you for this post. By writing it, it shows the things of love that are in your heart as well. Pretty special :-)

    On another note, I wasn't aware of your struggle with turning 35, and...well...please don't take offense at all the number 35s you might see at your party later today!

  3. Happy Birthday.

    I don't know why you cried on your birthday a few years ago, but I have noticed that as I get older, and especially since having kids, my emotions are rawer at times. Occasionally something will make me cry that never would have before. I'm sure hormones play a role, but ... I hope it is also my heart getting softer. I was such a hard, cold, self-centered young person. Maybe I am just starting to enter into normal human emotion.

    I remember in college, a dorm mate crying when she turned 20. "I'm no longer a teen-ager!" Sweet, but not my reaction. I'm 37 now, and aside from the occasional "Why haven't I published a book by now?", I like the 30s. For one thing, I've finally lost my baby fat. Also, it's nice to be able to say, I'm not going to wear shorts any more. Nor am I going for off-the-should tops. Or neon. I am Too Old. Hallelujah.

    But when I get that panicky feeling of "I am middle-aged," I think about the wise, kind mother and grandmother that I want to be. As you do. Miss June is a very good goal to be.