The heat is rising in waves from the concrete deck, shimmering in that strange, invisible way that heat waves do. The whole of southern California is turning up the AC, blowing fans over bowls of ice, taking quick dips in the pool or bathtub, trying to even out the air temp in as many creative ways as possible.
Here, in our coastal town, we’ve had temperatures in the 90’s for almost a week now – unusual in early July. Often our national holiday is shrouded in fog; the annual fireworks display can only be seen in bits and pieces, when an occasional rocket climbs above the layers of goop circling round the end of the pier.
This year, however, the show should be grand. But we will not be there.
We’ve seen lots of fireworks in our day, and sent more than a few brilliant displays into the skies ourselves. Yet these days, listening to the pops and bangs and whizzes is almost as much fun as seeing their aerial display. Maybe we’ll watch the televised ones from DC and NYC, who knows? I only know we won’t be joining the throngs who will jam the beachfront boulevard and then struggle to make their way, ever-so-slowly, up to the freeway and home again, home again.
At this end of 47+ years together, we are increasingly careful about how we spend our time and energy, wanting not to waste any of it with crowds and confusion. Maybe that makes us old fogies. In fact, I am SURE it makes us old fogies. And you know what? I am more comfortable with that idea than I ever dreamed I might be. Believe me, it’s not all bad, being a fogey. It has its perks.
Like . . .
. . . Living long enough to see this grand country of our birth for what it is: flawed and imperfect, fractious and frustrating, yet still about the best place on earth to call home. We’ve lived overseas, traveled to over twenty foreign countries and reveled in the history and wonder of each place. Yet, every time we come home, we whisper words of thanks for that Declaration of 1776.
. . . Stretching into longer periods of quiet than we have ever enjoyed before; luxuriating in the small beauties of our yard and home; listening for the seasonal arrival of the shy oriole or the fiercely territorial hummingbirds that buzz our feeders and border gardens.
. . . Appreciating the great gift of well-burnished love; saying ‘thank you’ for our shared commitment over time and through valleys, dark and glorious; floating buoyantly across the deep reservoir of shared memories, stories, experiences; singing old songs by heart, even when we don’t always remember the words; finding a good rhythm of give-and-take, alone-and-together, talking and listening, working and resting.
. . . Knowing that most of the time, a bad mood is a very temporary thing, and understanding the truth that there is usually a good reason for it. Becoming more patient with the scared little boy and small girl who still live inside these aging bodies, and then, intentionally reaching out with a gesture, a word of encouragement, a small joke — reminders that we don’t do this alone, do we?
. . . Discovering that we both cry a whole lot more than we used to; realizing that tears are sometimes much better than words for all kinds of situations and circumstances. And as our eyes fill, offering a hug or a handkerchief or a simple, “I know. Isn’t it amazing?” Or, “I’m sorry this is so hard.” Or, “Isn’t life good? Haven’t we been blessed?”
. . . Acknowledging that those first years of living cross-culturally, followed by a couple of decades of financial stretching, helped us truly learn what tithing looks like, no matter what. Leaning into the generosity of God, through the lean years and the sturdy ones, taught us that giving has little to do with dollars and a whole lot to do with attitude and habit.
. . . Practicing simple things, like grace before meals, gathering with community, worshiping each Sunday and saying ‘thank you, thank you, thank you’ — to God, to one another, to anyone who offers help or kindness throughout our days. And learning to say ‘help me, help me, help me’ with less embarrassment, more humility and a surer sense of our own need.
. . . Knowing, deep down, that the biggest and best moments are not at all what we thought they would be when we were in our 20’s and 30’s. No. More often than not, it is the smallest, most common and least sensational moments that bring the heart-sighs, the teary-eyed smiles, the down-to-your-toes sense of satisfaction and delight. The blue jay who takes peanuts from your hand; the grubby, face-planted kiss from a happy 3-year-old grandgirl; the angle of the light as it hits the window pane in the kitchen; the sound of the fountain burbling in the night air; the knowing look across a crowded room when it’s time to turn for home and bed. And always, the sound of your laughter, pealing down the hallway as you come to tell me of something you’ve heard or read or seen.
. . . And of course, realizing in new ways that there will be an end to this life we share. 2015 will be our 50th. How is that even possible, we say. It was only yesterday, we remark. We’re still so young, surely we are, we insist!
The mirror, the creaky joints, the nightly handful of pills tell us otherwise, of course. Yet in the center of ourselves, we are still every age we’ve ever been, aren’t we? Our over-confident 20-something selves, our over-tired 30-something selves, our over-drawn 40-something selves, our over-joyed 50-something selves and our over-done 60 and 70-something selves – we’re all here. And even though the years ahead of us are fewer than the years behind us, we’re looking forward to every single one.
Even if we are old fogeys.