Yesterday I turned 65. Bill and I had a really great day together, including a birthday dinner at the house. But there was no big ritual about it. I signed up for Medicare the month before. The day before I got my senior pass for the T, which allows me unlimited rides for $28 a month. But I did give a lot of thought to generations.
Over the last several years Bill and I have lost all the family members of the generation ahead of us except for one of my uncles. We’ve also lost our mentors and people who inspired us as they walked the path ahead. I understand far better now Marian Wright Edelman’s need to write the book Lanterns: A Memoir of Mentors to honor the people who mentored and shed light on the way for her.
Just a month ago, we lost someone who started inspiring us in college and continued to do so up until his death. John Dunne was a prolific writer who taught at the University of Notre Dame for over 50 years. He was a great lover of God who saw life as a journey with God through time – a great adventure of which death was, perhaps, the most adventuresome part. Continue reading
The woods are lovely, dark and deep.
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.
Robert Frost, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening“
I have loved Robert Frost’s poem “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening” since I was young. Then, I was grabbed with the narrator’s sense of service and duty. Lately, the poem has struck me differently. I am taken by his attraction to the lovely, dark and deep woods. I can imagine him longing to go into them to see what’s there, to feel the magic and reverence that woods can inspire.
While thinking about this at some point I realized that I felt the same attraction and that, wonder of wonders, Bill and I have no more promises to keep. We’ve raised our children. Our fathers died somewhat young and we cared for our mothers in our home for the last little bits of each of their lives. We had various returning nesters that we sheltered. But now they are independent. We have left our salaried jobs and work for ourselves. The only promises left to keep are to each other and to God. We can hold hands and walk into the woods. Who knows what we’ll find there? Hopefully we’ll discover new opportunities for service, expansive ideas, gratefulness for the journey and joy in the small, precious things of life.
What attracts you and what do you hope to find?
One day earlier this summer, Bill and I walked through our four bedroom house on the water in Florida and had a ritual good-bye. We remembered important things that had happened in different rooms and thought about all the people who had stayed in them. Then we got in the car and began our journey north. I turned to him and said, “It’s a magical world, Hobbes, ol’ buddy…” to which he replied, “Let’s go exploring.”
Certain benchmark ages cry out for response. Turning 65 (which will happen for Bill in October and me in December) is typically marked by signing up for Medicare. We had something further in mind. For the past several years we’d been getting impatient with Florida. I find the heat and humidity oppressive and physically taxing. We were spending more time in our house, less time interacting with people, exercising or pursuing interests. We were challenged less often and I began to see how easy it would be to live in an increasingly narrow world, to grow old. It was time for something to jog us out of what could easily become a rut.
We have always loved Boston. Bill was born about a half dozen miles from where we now live, but moved away as a child. I fell in love with the city as an adult. Good friends and most of Bill’s cousins live here. Our daughter Kate and her husband, Marton, had moved here. In February they gave birth to Leila, their first child, our fourth grandchild. While in the process of figuring out a living situation in Boston we were told by our friend, Margaret, about Beacon Hill Friends House. We went for a visit and fell in love with the place. They accepted us as residents. A week after leaving Florida, we began the process of moving into our third floor, 16 by 18 foot room overlooking Chestnut Street.