I guess I've let my cats do the talking around here for long enough. Smudge is starting to get an attitude with me about who is the better writer - so unbecoming in a feline, don't you think? - and fraNkie and Trixie will be copying him soon enough if I don't put a stop to it. So I am asserting myself and reclaiming my blog.
"The Winter of Our Discontent," John Steinbeck's last novel, sums up the last six months of my life in its title. I have not felt comfortable in my skin since my father died last October. Perhaps it is simply grief, or a confrontation with my mortality, or an existential crisis of intergalactic proportion, but I feel disconnected from myself in a profound way.
The age of 35 has always seemed to me to be the perfect age. At 35, I was no longer a wunderkind who might not have what it takes to stay in the game. I had proven myself in my career (telecommunications) and established a solid reputation. I had a home and family, the beginnings of the American dream, and I thought the world was my oyster. I am certain that this is ringing a bell with a number of you.
And that 35-year-old me has just hung in there ever since. When I thought about myself, I felt like I was 35. At 35, I was fairly hot (just ask Michael) - tall and slender and full of enthusiasm and joie de vivre. It was a wonderful self to remain for all these years and I managed to hang onto myself as 35 even through my terrible lupus years of limited mobility and huge weight gain.
Age never bothered me. Hiding my age never occurred to me. And getting older didn't matter because I was only 35 no matter what my birth certificate said. This summer, I will turn 60 and I find I cannot get my head around that. At times over the past few months I have just sat back and contemplated 60, but I never get very far. It is like contemplating the origin of the universe - the more I think about it the more complicated it gets.
60-year-olds used to seem much older than I am now. I know a number of people who are turning 60 this year, too, and some of them look much older than I do. Or, at least, I tell myself that. Then I catch a glance of myself in a mirror in an unguarded moment, or see a recent photo of myself and POW! - I'm looking a little more worn around the edges than I think.
My dad died at 88, just a month short of his 89th birthday. For several years now, he had been failing and I had gotten used to seeing an elderly man when I visited. This last year, the change in him was drastic, perhaps because he no longer had the strength (or inclination?) to exert himself intellectually. Most of the time, he was a bystander with the world spinning around him. Most of the time, he seemed older to me than was possible.
And that's how I feel about myself right now. I am older than I thought possible. I am 59 years and 9 months old. Friends not much older than me are dying. People my age die regularly. It is morbid, no doubt, to be so caught up in this age-anxiety. And it is so unlike me. It bothers me that getting older would bother me.
I don't dye my hair and I don't plan to start. I don't wear clothes that are "too young" for me or for my figure. I have no interest in Botox or a face-lift - although I do appreciate good foundation garments. I am not seeking my long lost youth.
The plain facts are that I am seeing the end of my life on the horizon. I can't keep putting off all those "I'll get to it" items any longer. If I don't sort out the photographs soon, they may never get sorted out at all!
All winter, while I haven't been blogging, I have been quilting in one form or another. Quilting offers permanence. Nothing I did in this world heretofore was so great that it would outlive me except my children. My quilts may not be great, but most of them will outlive me. At the quilt guild meeting this month, someone showed off her great-grandmother's quilts, made almost a hundred years ago.
I find comfort in thinking that in 2110 my great-grandchild - or great-great grandchild - might be cozied up under a quilt I made and happen to read the label: "Hand quilted by Lane Gustafson Devereux for (whoever) in 2010" and ask her mother who I was. With any luck, there will still be stories of my more outrageous and wonderful adventures around.
I guess I'd better try to lighten up a little for myself and for my audience. If I stay this morbid, you're going to want the cats back!