Friday, November 19, 2010

"I Do" And Other Platitudes

After 35 years my husband and I are getting married again. We’re not renewing our vows, we are getting married again. I haven’t researched it but I’m pretty certain it isn't considered bigamy if you are in two marriages at the same time -- but to the same person.

We have been making our plans for several months now and keeping them secret, which has been such fun! We cuddle by candlelight with a glass of wine, and decide things like the pastor (lined up) and the place (decided). We're still kicking around the date and time, but that of course will require more candelight and cabernet.

Our first and most important decision has been that this time we will definitely not have children.

It isn’t that we don’t love the children we already have, because we love them very much and are very proud of them… how they have chosen to live their lives, and all that they are accomplishing. The reason for our decision is that when we had children, we made our lives all about them. We did our best to raise them to become upstanding adults, and then… they left us… to become upstanding adults.

Of course it’s never that simple. Not like they were all here one day and all gone the next, leaving me with an empty nest in which to rattle around. When my first son moved out I recall throwing myself into my husband’s arms, sobbing and saying “I wasn’t done with him yet!” When my second son moved into his own apartment, it was a short distance from our home and I thought he'd always stay close (wrong), but we still had our daughter, who was only four at the time.

That was, I believe, where we ran into trouble. She was the center of our universe. If it is possible to love a child too much, we did. When she left at 18 to join the Air Force and begin a life of her own, I said, “You are not supposed to have a life of your own now! I never said now! I always told you some dayl! Some day you will have a life of your own, I've said. I never used the word now!” My laments fell on deaf ears. She was out the door before I could finish my pathetic plea for more of her. Since then we’ve been the safety net she has fallen into occasionally, which is as it should be; however, what do safety nets do when they aren’t being put to use? They just hang around… feeling useless and unimportant. Until the next time.

So it has taken us years to adjust, and I believe we are finally okay with the current scheme of things. We have young grandchildren we dote on and adore, and an older set who drift in and out (mostly out) of our lives, busily living their own. Frank has his clients and his meetings, I have my quiet, cozy home on a good day and too many irons in the fire on other days (weeks, months). We have a dog, a cat, and a horse… all warm and fuzzy-ish. But most importantly, we have each other.

And now a wedding to plan!

Looking to the future this time is far different from the first time, when our concerns were primarily for our children and teaching them as best we could to tread with caution upon their chosen paths. We’re closer now to the end of our own path, and our long term concerns center on how we will walk it alone when one of us is left without the other, as life usually decrees. Getting married again will help us turn our attention from the others we love, and to focus more on ourelves as newlyweds are entitled to do.

A recent line from the TV series Brothers & Sisters comes to mind. Nora said recently to her two grown daughters (asking her to settle a squabble between them), “No! I don’t have to fix it for you! That’s not my job anymore!” Our relationships with our grown children sometimes catch us with shakier steps and thinner skin, but now I realize I don’t have to fix it with them, as I've tried so hard to do during past squabbles. It’s not my job anymore!

My job is to be in love with Frank, plan our wedding, and this time I won't even have to worry about music, a cake, or who catches the boquet. The first time we got married we knew we wanted to grow old together. This time, we know we are doing exactly that. Where did the last 35 years go? I just don't know...

But sometimes platitudes say it all, like: What’s done is done, it is what it is, and what will be will be.

Monday, November 15, 2010

Talking Body Parts

If your legs could talk, have you ever wondered what they would say to you if, as a semi-fit woman pushing 70, you (1) sprained a knee and tore a ligament in Alaska, spent a month using a knee brace and a cane, another month having physical therapy three times a week, THEN (2) hopped on a plane to Honolulu to climb to the top of Diamondhead, do several walking tours of the downtown area, a lengthy excursion through the Army Museum, and an exploration of the many decks of the battleship Missouri using multiple ladders to go up and down?

Well, I can tell you what my legs are saying to me, two days home from Hawaii: “What the… were you thinking?” Answer: I was thinking, “I can do this.” So I did. Was it sensible? No. Was it challenging? Yes. Was it easy? No. Was it worth it? Yes.

When my son recently took his family to Waikiki Beach to celebrate his 50th birthday, he invited my husband and me to join them. I no longer “do“ sun, although I was an avid (okay, obsessive) sunbather in my youth, and previous trips we’ve made to the islands have included only a brief stop on Oahu to hop a flight to either Kauai or Molokai (both quieter). So with a week to, uh, relax.., we were more interested in the history of Honolulu than its sun and sea.

This made it an emotional week for us, as my deceased father was career military and Frank is a Viet Nam vet. On the grueling Diamondhead climb my mind was on the many soldiers who had passed there long ago to build and then man the bunkers (that were never used in wartime). The museum surprised me by displaying artifacts that ranged from ancient wars among the islands themselves, to wars being currently fought. The Missouri was impressive on many levels (pun intended), but most particularly as the place where the WWII peace treaty was eventually signed.

We stayed in a luxurious ninth floor beachfront condo ON Waikiki, which was a wonderful place to rest and recuperate between adventures. There were times when I literally could not stand without support, let alone take a step. As I look back on that week, I am honestly amazed at my ability to keep on keeping on -- and no, I did not resort to pain medication (unless a few mai tais count). I literally listened to my legs. We had an unspoken agreement. They would give me their all, if I would give them my attention and push them to but not beyond their physical limitations.

Yes we had a rental car, but we chose to walk one day from the condo over a mile (each way) to Barnes & Noble, leisurely taking in island sights along the way. The manager, Naomi, welcomed us in true Aloha style (a warm smile and kind words), It was worth our time and effort, just to speak with the islanders and tourists there who were interested in our book Charming Children -- How the Relaxation Game Helps Good Parents Raise Great Kids. ( )

Reflecting the advice we give others in our book, I’ve recorded a CD for my granddaughters Annabella (6) and Evelyn (4), that they listen to nightly since I can’t be with them in person. To cover issues such as biting their nails and taking way too long to eat, the Fabulous Fix It Fairy now visits them at bedtime. They tell me their favorite part is when she waves her magic wand so their ten fingers can all talk to each other and to them. Among other things the fingers say they don’t like being put into the girls’ mouths, but they do like putting healthy food in so the girls can bite, chew chew chew, and swallow it down. They also like to put toys away. And to pet my horse Brandi, when Annabella and Evelyn visit her.

So now my legs and I are talking to each other, happy in our relationship. I have promised not to take them on another… relaxing… vacation for a while, and they’ve promised to support me in my goal to get my right foot into the stirrup painlessly for my first real ride since my injury in Alaska. Which brings to mind something I’ve said nearly 40 years now to my Yoga students, that might be helpful advice for some of you.

“Instead of being upset with your body because it won’t do what it used to do, or all that you want it to do, be grateful to it for what it can do, and for what it does do for you 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, often without your awareness, let alone your appreciation. Take time to be appreciative, because when it feels appreciated, it wants to do an even better job for you.”

We all know that feeling.