Thursday, June 17, 2021

Remember When by Liz Flaherty

I'm writing this at a glass-topped table that seats 10 easily and more if TV watchers drag up chairs to join the conversation. The kitchen has room for several to work at once, a curiously small refrigerator, and a dishwasher we keep running constantly. There are anywhere between 10 and 14 of us here on the beach in North Carolina. 

Other than the husbands and wives among us, and the two who are in middle school and high school who still live at home, none of us would willingly live together. The personalities and opinions that surround this table and fill the house-crossing deck in the back are varied and...varied. They don't always mesh. Sometimes we clamp our mouths shout. Sometimes we should but don't.

But our six kids, half by birth and half by law and all by heart, in all their differences, love each other's children. On this trip, Uncle Chris has been 11-year-old Eamon's favorite plaything and Skyler and Fionn have done their best to shock Aunt Tahne. All "us girls" have personalized wineglasses and ankle bracelets that will serve as remember whens for as long as we have them. 

The kids love us and worry about us as we age. Whenever any two of them are gathered in quiet conversation, we ask if they are discussing putting us in "the home." Usually they assure me I'm okay, but Dad may have something to worry about. Or vice versa. 

The grandkids are fascinating and funny. They know so many different things and their personalities and interests are as varied and entertaining as their parents'. 

Like most other families, we spend a lot of time in front of screens. We all have phones, several of us work from wherever our laptops are, and there are televisions and games systems everywhere. Fourteen of us wear approximately 55 pairs of shoes, 33 hats, and 29 pairs of sunglasses (none of which can be found when needed.) Between us, we have at least 20 bottles of sunscreen but can never find the one we want. We have beach towels that are used for nothing more heroic than collecting sand but are very pretty and bright nonetheless.

We've said and done things that are inherent to us. One son slept "44 hours straight" according to his brother. In one day! (Not sure who said that...) Decades after our daughter declared the "tiny belt" on her car needed replacing, it is still the family go-to description of any automotive problem up to and including transmission replacement and blown engines. When my granddaughter and I walked the beach in swimsuits of matching colors, I mourned that no one thought we were sisters. They are not brilliant things, these things we still laugh at, but they are still ones we cherish. 

It is special this week coming up on Father's Day to realize that my favorite four fathers are here in one place. They are being reminded of their failures, whether real or imagined, and their successes are right here for us all to see. 

We are diverse in our religion, music, food and beverage choices, and--somewhat--in our politics, but share values complete with lines that cannot be crossed. Except that we cross them all the time. Voices are raised, much eyerolling goes on, and sometimes quiet falls between parties. That kind of quiet is heartbreaking at the age I am, because I know no matter how much time you have to spend with your family, it's never, ever enough. 

I'm writing this on Thursday, staying inside because no matter how much of those 20 bottles of sunscreen I used, it wasn't enough. We'll head back in a few days, to several parts of the country, using various modes of travel. We'll all be glad to be home, back to routine, to our own beds. We'll all have different remember whens, but no matter how individualized they are, every one of us will have them with us always, in one of those pockets in our hearts that we can open when we need to. 

Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, June 12, 2021

What's Going On? by Liz Flaherty

I am on vacation this week, and it looks as if I might be missing a lot of things going on in Miami County!

#ColePorterFestival is this week. Go here for a schedule of events.

It's #SecondSaturday. A lot will be going on, including music at Gallery 15. 

It's time for Gilead Garage Sales. Pick up your map early!

Farmer's Market--with great vendors and more music!

Feel free to add more activities in the comments. Have a great week. Be nice to somebody.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Glory Days by Liz Flaherty

In church a few Sundays ago, Pastor Scott Mann said something that I want to remember. He said, "I can't believe in the salvation of anyone who doesn't long for the salvation of his neighbor. Be the church." 

He also reminded us later in the service that "the glory days are in the future," which--for me--meant the past is behind us. (As someone who is notoriously reluctant to let things go, this had a really big couple of meanings...)

Also on that bright and beautiful Sunday morning, a cluster of us arrived at the church at once, greeting each other and walking up its steps together. I was reminded of when I was a kid, walking into a different church with mostly different people, but with the same feeling. When I tried to explain it, Chris McGuire said, "Oh, happy day." And yes, that was it. 

I wrote those things because I want to remember what gifts they were. Memory gets sketchy with age. It's selective and faulty, but no less precious for all that. 

Change and loss become such parts of every day that we expect them. Even in expectation, we are blindsided by them. Loss still hurts and change is still bewildering. We learn to not miss chances and to not say "one of these days, I'll..." Not that we always act on what we've learned, but we know. We know.

We also know that into those changes and losses come the letting go part. Some friendships end--even old ones. Some lifetime scars are bumpier and harder to live with and open and bleed no matter how hard we try to let things go. 

We need to forgive ourselves. 

There are no words to describe how much I dislike dreary days or relentless wind. Both of those elemental events cause me to hunker down and pout, but into those gloomiest of days, the orioles, goldfinches, blue jays, and woodpeckers have flown in all their brilliant glory. Walking the Nickel Plate has become anticipatory because the colors and scents are different every day. More change. More loss.

This week has been a cacophony of change and loss and the delight of grandkids in the house. At the end of it, the sun is still shining, the birds are still singing and hanging upside down from the suet feeders--how do they do that?--and we still have the opportunity to "be the church" and to let things go when the keeping of them doesn't help anyone.

I realize the Window doesn't all come together this week. There's nothing new in that, I guess, although I wish I were a little better at wrapping things up neatly. But most things aren't like that, are they? Not that we can't wrap them up and be happy with them, but it's not usually all that neat. I think that idea's one of the things I'll try to let go.

Have a great week. Forgive yourself. Be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Words and Adventures and 50 Years by Liz Flaherty

We talked at this week's writers' meeting about our voices and what we write about. I admitted that I write about aging...well, all the time. I feel kind of apologetic about it, but not really. My intent has always been to write about life's adventures from the cornfields and these days that inexorably flying  calendar has much to do with those adventures. 

I love words. No secret there. If I were a writer and I didn't love words, that might be a problem, but that's not an issue with me. My friend Nan Reinhardt collects words and writes them down. I, on the other hand, collect them, forget them, and discover them again another day. I would say that I do this on purpose, but that would be an outright prevarication. Well, yes, a lie, but we're talking words here.

Different words have importance at different times. One of my current favorites is slippery. And no, it's not really a favorite, but it's one that...well...slips into every day in one form or another.

Sometimes, instead of slippery, the word colors outside its lines and becomes trippery, because there you have the biggest single health fear I have. I tend to not watch where I'm going and I tend to not pick up my feet (they're heavy!) which means I fall more often than I'd like.

When this happens, I take a furtive look around to see if anyone has seen me skid across whatever treacherous surface I'm scaling. I wait until dizziness subsides and get to my feet using whatever methods necessary. And I am both grateful and...yeah, I'll admit it...scared, because I'm so worried about damaging a brain that's already being compromised by that damn calendar I mentioned. Becoming the subject matter in a family intervention is something I'd rather avoid. 

Also slippery are the memories of what happened yesterday. Yes, I know we talked about it, but then there was a squirrel or something and it's just gone. I do, however, remember the day my 47-year-old son went to kindergarten orientation. He had on this little denim jacket...

I've loved every age I've been in my adult life, some more than others, and this year when I am 70--which makes this my eighth decade, something I'm not thrilled about putting into print--is no exception to that. Because no matter how scary and frustrating the aging process is, it is also endlessly fascinating. There is no possible chance for boredom, because life changes virtually every day. Even if it really doesn't, there's the memory thing, so...yeah, every day.

As your vision dims and clouds, it also values everything it sees, because you've gained a real appreciation for the word finite. 

Listening becomes not only important but a necessity. Not only because you might miss something, which you most certainly will, but because hearing gets compromised. Even if you hear well, it is often situational. As in, your husband can't hear you if you're on the couch beside him, but will talk to you from two rooms away and be offended because you can't hear him over the sound of water filling the washer right in front of you.

I keep italicizing words know...words. They have so many meanings and places at different times in our lives. There are also some, and combinations of some, that I don't like. 

Like the term "little old lady." It may be accurate, but it's not your place to call me one. 

Like "no filters." I use this one myself, and it, too, is accurate. However, quite often, what it really means is rude. It's occasionally used interchangeably with entitled. This is not who I want to be. Even as a little old lady.

Like "kids today." Kids today are great, just like they were in every decade before this one. Their parents have made mistakes, and the only reason we complain about them is that they're different mistakes than the ones we made.

Like...oh, good grief, I think maybe staying past your welcome should be included here. I've gone on a little longer than I should have. But this has been fun for me to write. That's another word about aging, by the way: fun. It really is. 

Fifty years ago today, Duane and I went to a church in Denver with our friends Mike and Nancy and Rev. George Hapner and promised each other forever. It has been a long adventure. We have learned that sometimes a long marriage is held together by scar tissue and the emotional superglue used when we've broken pieces off each other's hearts, but that together is the operative word. We're going--he says--for another 50. Okay by me. I love you more, Duane. Love, by the way, is another favorite word.

Have a great week. Make life an adventure. Be nice to somebody. 

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Go with All Your Heart by Scott Johnson

Scott Johnson wrote this eight years ago, when he retired from teaching. He's never really retired, you understand--people still learn from him all the time. A lot of teachers are like that, aren't they? They just kind of walk around with an invisible classroom. He said I could use this, so here it is, the Window's almost-annual gift to graduates, compliments of Scott Johnson, owner of Black Dog Coffee and renaissance man extraordinaire. Congratulations, Class of 2021. We are so proud of you. Go forth and be smart and funny and all the other things your parents and grandparents have always known you were. 

I have been sitting here in front of this blank screen for quite a while now. It's a nice evening so I don't really mind, but I have been trying to find some way of telling you all just what I have learned about life since my career began. I thought I would be able to sum it all up in one grand and deep sentence but my mind is clouded with memories and so I can't really see that clearly now.  

There are lots of little lessons that I would like to share and you can choose to think about them if you wish but I have long ago given up the idea that I could influence people to do what they really don't want to do. Ignore all this nonsense if you want to.

I learned that with us humans, we have to strive to give another person what they need rather than simply giving to them what we want them to need.

I learned that most of the time when fights and arguments happen, they have very little to do with what injury someone else has done to us, but rather what injury our own self esteem has done to us.

I learned that at one time or another, everyone needs to be told that everything is going to be ok.

I learned that we have to do what makes us happy and be who makes us happy because human nature cannot be fooled.

I learned that being kind to others without expecting anything in return is the best way to make ourselves complete.

I learned that some rules must to be broken but others should never be.

I learned that imagination is the most important thing to be nurtured.

I learned that reading and thinking are skills and like any skills, need to be practiced.

I learned that taking on challenges that other people provide but never challenging yourself has no worth.

I learned that we all have the power to make those around us feel good about who they are and this is the most powerful thing in the world. This power should never be withheld and the opposite of this...making those around us feel bad about who they are...should never be used.

I learned that when you have to correct a person, always let them save face by laughing with them immediately after.

I learned that karma is a real thing.  

I could probably write down lots more of these little lessons but these will do for now. When I look over this list, I find there I have failed to quote one single educational standard that might appear on a standardized test sometime. I guess this is why it is time for me to go.

I am going to borrow a line from a song that I heard today to finish this off.

Never give up

Never slow down

Never grow old

Never ever die young. 

Thank you all for everything you have done. I am sorry for many things. I will miss you and I will always be there to tell you...everything is going to be ok. -  Johnson

Have a great week. Hold someone tight. Be nice to somebody.