When you present yourself in life to parents past the normal child rearing years it presents a quandary – has birth given you the catbird seat with all the seasoned knowledge, life and value of a vintage wine? Or have you arrived in the land of stagnant, where failing body parts should not have conceived where once they had done the light fandango? For over 50 years I can say both sides of this teeter-totter have influenced my state of mind (please note due to said influences, gym was always out of the question so this teeter-totter was also the only physical enlightenment in my life).
There was no sibling rivalry in my youth which was a great thing. However, it did arrive about as welcomed as puberty had; only now I was over 21, and not a freaked out 13. The sister, who had been more their child or plaything, suddenly was an adult who had to be reckoned with as a real sister equal – or so it appeared anyway. Yes, might have avoided middle child syndrome, but instead, had a whacked out only child care giver position, in the family that plucked me from the cosmos.
Old and then elderly tired parents do provide you with some qualities that are not readily acknowledged. Life for me was the glass always half full, probably because they had lived through the Great Depression and never took anything for granted. Entertainment and things that brought pleasure into my life were on the true low end of the economic scale for the most part, but high end of the emotional scale for the same reason. I remember a long hot summer car ride wanting to get an ice cream cone to my father, only to arrive with it a gooey mess in a soggy cone. He made me feel like I had just delivered the Ark of the Convent at his feet. I guess I can say when you have nothing, you learn to have love. That was the best sticker my parents stuck on the baggage of my life.
As I raised my own daughters through youth, divorce and the middle age “What do I do now” stages, I have seen those same small but meaningful moments come back through them. And like a fine wine, I shut my eyes, see the bouquet and feel the warmth as it creeps into my heart a soul. Those are the times when I know which end of the teeter-totter is up.
On the down days, I regret how I never reached out into the childhood yearbook thrilling arena of my life and tried to make my mark. My mother was so over protective fearing the lions would eat the last fruit of her loins, that I lived in my room behind thick glasses and animals already stuffed. I did however learn to enjoy my own company, listen harder for the changes in life and relish the times that made me smile. That sticker on my baggage is shiny, and reminds me of the reflection you can’t have unless you are honest and alone.
So today, I prepare for the funeral of my mother, who at 93 always smiled and led a simple life. I pull the baggage from the shelf, dust off the time, see the stickers and know today, as I always knew, I lived a life that was seasoned just right with aged products that enhanced the value. I also know as I look at her picture, it was through love and reflection I was able to be a mother and grandmother myself and I thank her for the baggage.