By Jean Bloom
My long-time friend and I are having dinner. We’re two women of a certain age, efficiently and politely served by a woman at least a couple of decades younger. People in our decade are rarely in her position, it seems. On most of our mealtime outings, the wait staff are young enough to be our children, even grandchildren.
We’re used to that now.
We hit on a reoccurring topic—how easy it is to feel a little overwhelmed. When we were younger, it seems, we juggled balls and plates in the air with the best of them. But now the drama and complications we managed in more youthful days sometimes seem “too much.” We remember how our parents, all gone now, let their worlds get smaller and smaller the more they aged, preferring—perhaps desperately needing—quiet and peace so much that they eliminated most of the flying and rotating objects from their lives.
We thought them “closed off.”
Is that what’s in our future? we ask. We’re starting to understand how it might happen, but we’re not there yet. We don’t know anyone our age who’s there yet. We picture our proverbial rocking chairs as empty and unmoving.
We have vacations planned for the summer, but now we’re making plans of our own. We’re going on a girlfriend trip, just us. Laughter comes with the admission that we’ll want to stick with what we know we like, not compromising on what will make us glad we came. And we want just enough but not too much adventure.
After all, we know who we are, what journeys we no longer need. We’ll each say when we’ve had enough, when it’s time to rest. Rounds of ice cream, though, are a given; I make that clear. My friend says this alone makes me an ideal travel companion. I agree.
We’re going to a happy place, along a shore. By the time we get there it will be summer-warm, although the waves will still be winter-cold. That’s okay; we aren’t swimmers anymore. We’re find-a-bench-and-soak-in-the-sunshine-and-feel-the-breeze people. People-watching people. Sunrise-and-sunset-watching people.
Dipping our toes in the water would be nice, but walking on the sand with our bad knees wouldn’t. Still, we’ll stroll out by the lighthouses and beside the channels, and we’ll watch the boats and the seagulls and the families and the couples and the clouds. If necessary, we’ll watch the rain.
We’ll shop too. We’re both fond of mugs that are “just right.”
And we’ll talk and talk, because we’re friends who promised as twenty-somethings to end our days side by side in those rocking chairs—if it comes to that. We’re friends apart for most of thirty years or so, but who half a decade ago landed in the same place again and picked up where we left off. We knew that’s how it would be.
We won’t be required to stop talking until we’re done. We dearly love the children in our lives, and spending time with them is life itself. But all our discussions will be void of tiny interruptions from sticky hands or requests for drinks or because we are the teachers and they are the students. When you get older, this is possible. When you are younger, maybe not. Probably not. Children are precious “plates and balls,” but what would our lives be without them?We’ll miss them while we’re gone.
We’ll miss them while we’re gone.
Maybe we’ll talk about the “big three”—death, politics, taxes. We’ll talk about TV shows and movies and books. Our jobs and volunteering and retirement someday. Our fears and our opinions and our needs. We’ll talk about the future—and a little bit about “boys” to the degree we are still really in our teens.
We’ll talk about God, because as believers we do that.
Wherever we are, young men won’t notice us, and young women will defer to us, and as long as no one points out we’re “old,” we won’t (as Nora Ephron lamented) feel bad about our necks. Or even our bad knees. Or the necessity of coloring our hair because gray does not look good on us.
With time-away quiet and peace, and surf and sun, and ongoing friendship and love, we’ll enjoy ourselves. Immensely. Then we’ll return to the plates and balls still to be twirled and shifted and balanced and juggled in the air. We’ll return to those younger and older who need us, who love us, and whom we love.
We’re not ready for our rocking chairs—though someday, we suppose, it might come to that.
Jean Kavich Bloom is a champion coffee drinker and a freelance editor and writer for Christian publishers and ministries. She doesn’t garden, bake, or knit, but insists playing Scrabble is exactly the same thing. Jean and her husband, Cal, live in central Indiana. They have three children (plus two who married in) and five grandchildren. She blogs at bloominwordstoo.blogspot.com.
Photograph © Anggie, used with permission