Dear Younger Self

Dear 18 year old self –

You often wonder why no one truly seems to want to date you. You are shy. You wish you didn’t blush. (That won’t go away – sorry.) You think you are too fat. (You are not – that will come later.)

You will marry that guy that you’re dating for “practice”. Saying yes to his request about “going out” will change your life’s direction entirely. It will be one of your most important “yes’s”. People will wonder why you’re dating him. You see qualities of gentleness and kindness and he will love you and be your best friend. Good call.

You think you may not want to have any children or just one. You will actually quite enjoy them and end up having four – even if some were surprise blessings. When you’re done raising children, you’ll wonder why you didn’t have one or two more because they’ll be such awesome grownups.

You are floundering around with what direction to go regarding schooling. You’ll try college, end up in an x-ray tech program – wishing it was a nursing program instead. You will finish that 2 year program, and you’ll end up being an at home mom. That desire to become a nurse never leaves and it will happen after all –just a couple of decades later. You will end up in an awesome job with some awesome people.

You love to read but do not always choose wisely. You will mature in your taste – for the most part. Put down those Harlequin Romances. Read real stuff.

You were not too ambitious in schooling but you got by. You will end up being a great student as a “mature” person – which shows you that you DID have unused potential – just like those teachers said.

You enjoy writing, journaling. That will not stop.  Don’t throw away old journals ever again.  You can learn about yourself from them.

You were insensitive to your parents, oblivious to them – as are most people your age. You will appreciate what they did for you far more when you’re older.

You are very casual about anything spiritual and you will get more serious and keep on trying and will not have it together even when you’re in your 50s.

Wear a bra. Halter tops with strings are next to naked. What are you thinking?

If you would be more disciplined now, you’d actually know how to read music now and be a real pianist when you’re older.

You were wise to never smoke or do drugs. You don’t even drink. You were strong and that shows a bit of wisdom, even if there were a few other choices you’d like a “do-over” on.

That guy you’re going to marry will take you on adventures you’d never (ever) try without him – and you’ll even end up living in Virginia. And you will love his courage.

You will have daughters who will dress better than you do, who are smarter than you are, and who will become your best friends.  They will even think you know a few things and come to you for advice!  Your sons will learn how to be great husbands from that man you picked to be their father.

You will be 54 and still feel not-grown-up. You will have times when you still feel 18 even when the calendar says you are middle-aged.  You are still not one of the cool kids, but you will know that it’s even less important than you once thought.  Or did you ever think that?

(You will not remember things when you’re older – write them down now.)

September brings birthdays

Another September arrives and among the many birthdays in my extended family are my parents’.  Mom will be 80 and Dad will be 81.  I am blessed to have them in my life still.Image

Each of my parents lost a parent when they were young.  My father was 15 when his father died after a short illness.  My mother had just turned 22 when she lost her own mother to breast cancer.

My father – 11th of 13 children – lost his oldest brother as a result of a post-surgical infection just six months after his father died. It was a huge blow to his family and this likely sped up the necessity for him to leave school to help with the family farm.  He was close to finishing the 8th grade.

My mother was still living at home when her mother died after a long illness with breast cancer and she became the keeper of the home.  She also took up the mothering for her younger brothers; her youngest was only 9 years old.  A natural caretaker, she had likely already slipped into the role long before the death of her mother.

Each of my parents’ remaining parent lived into their mid-90s, but my parents had long before moved away.  They left northern Maine during the early 1960s –moving 500 miles south of their extended family.  There were phone calls and letters, and annual trips to Maine and New Brunswick– but the stuff of day to day living was no longer shared.

Unlike my parents’ experience, I have been blessed to have them nearby for the majority of the past couple of decades.  We’d also moved away from extended family just after my husband and I turned 30, but less than 5 years after we moved, they would retire to the small cottage on the former-farm property we then lived on.  For approximately the next 10 years, they were nearby – watching the kids on occasion, dad mowing the 5 acres of lawn (thank you!), and mom sometimes folding our laundry when she was bored.

In 2005, things changed once again and my parents – who’d annually wintered in Florida –were now there year round.   Eventually occasional health issues – both mental and physical – made it challenging for my sister and I to offer help.  It was time to move back to Virginia to be closer once again.

Watching them experience the changes brought through aging and health issues gives me a preview of things to come – should I be blessed with long life.  They taught me when I was young, and they continue to teach me through their lives.  They offer me an opportunity to serve.   They fear that they are a bother.  They frequently express appreciation for my “help” –although their needs are (so far) small.  They are aging, less energetic, need a bit of help here and there, but are still fairly healthy.  It is a blessing to have my mom here as a survivor X 2 of breast cancer.

The roles of parent and child are not as they were many years ago.  Their needs may grow.  I nag them about things, scolding on occasion.  I may even boss them around a bit. But he still prays for his family daily. They are proud of their daughters and express this.  They are proud of their grand-children and so pleased at how “well they are doing”.  They think that their first great-grandson is quite sweet.

I wonder how long they will be here but am grateful I do not know the future.  I cannot yet envision a life without either of them nearby.  So we will celebrate these September birthdays once again.

Perhaps it took getting to my mid-fifties to realize how blessed I am.  🙂  With age, comes appreciation.