I’m Still Here!

Dear Readers and Friends of The Tarnished Years,

I know it has been close to two months since I posted an entry. Some of you may wonder whether this means I am no longer publishing the blog. Let me assure you this is absolutely not the case.

As you know, life has a way of throwing curveballs at us, and redirecting our best intentions along an unanticipated detour.  After my son’s wedding in October, I found myself running in circles to catch up on things I had let slide during the period leading up to the big day.

Once I felt I was ready to make my re-entry into my pre-wedding routine and get on with my life, I was hit with what I have come to call “the plague.” I imagine many of you have gone through, or are in the midst of experiencing, this illness that seems to take its cues from the invasion of the body snatchers. Mine started as a slight soreness on just one side of my throat, followed by a full-blown sore throat that made me wince every time I swallowed. Soon the stuffy nose, rattling cough, headaches, and numbing fatigue showed up to the party.

One doctor diagnosed it as a virus that I just had to wait out. She gave me the good news that it would get much worse before getting better. Yippee! After a few days, she sent me to an ER doctor who said I had either bronchitis or pneumonia—they are really the same thing, he explained—and prescribed an antibiotic.

Nearly two weeks later, the sore throat is gone but the other symptoms remain. When I cough, it sounds as if someone is popping bubble wrap inside my chest. I go through more than one box of tissues a day, and the headache is relentless. I still need to nap at least once or twice a day.

“Why is she complaining to us?” you may be wondering. First of all, who doesn’t like to complain when they are sick and tired of being sick and tired? But the primary reason is that I want you to know that The Tarnished Years is still very much alive, and I hope to have a new post—one that is not a litany of maladies—in about a week and a half. I hope you will hang in there, and I hope none of you have this same bug or, if you do, that yours comes and goes more quickly than mine.

Meanwhile, Happy Chanukah, Merry Christmas, and a wonderful holiday to those who celebrate something other than those two. As always, thanks for reading.

Letting Go Because I Love You

Before I begin this post, I want to thank all of you who have been reading this blog and following The Tarnished Year’s Facebook page. I hope you continue to enjoy and learn from my pieces, as well as from the featured articles. I also hope you find comments by fellow readers to be thought provoking and present points of view you might not have considered previously. My intent in leaving space for comments is to stimulate discussion amongst my readers.

Please tell your friends and family about us. If any of you are interested in being a guest blogger, you may reach out to me at Rhonda@TheTarnishedYears.com.

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The title of my last post, Stuff Part I, (posted October 2nd), suggested that my subsequent post would be Stuff Part II. There will be a Part II, but events in my life compel me to write about another topic first.

I often think of raising children as a series of transitions. They go to preschool for the first time, and every few years there is a graduation: from elementary school to middle school to high school. They have their first haircut. They get their first tooth and, later, lose their first tooth. There’s their first sleepover and the first time they go away to camp. They learn to drive and go out on their first date. Each one of us has our personal Achilles heel, that one transition (or transitions) that makes us sad. You may be puzzled about why you feel this way, and then you realize it’s because you are wondering where your little boy or girl has gone.

Until three weeks ago, the most wrenching transition for me, personally, was when I dropped each of my sons at college for the first time.  I still cry every time I think about it. It marked the first time I felt that they were leaving me behind. I worried that a fissure might develop in our emotional bond, inviolable up to that point, because I now would play little to no part in their daily lives. I wouldn’t know their friends or when they had a paper due. I wouldn’t be able to walk into the next room and give them a hug. Of course I was excited for them, but it was excitement tinged with a feeling of loss.

Then came my son’s wedding day, and I realized all those prior transitions were bush league by comparison. In the weeks leading up to the wedding, I was aware that our nuclear family was being altered permanently. It nagged at the back of my mind, but I didn’t dwell on it. I did not cry as my husband and I walked him down the aisle, nor during the ceremony. But in addition to feeling joyful, it was bittersweet for me when they said their vows and walked through the crowd as husband and wife, wearing the widest, most radiant smiles I have ever seen. Perhaps some of you had similar feelings when your child married.

I have joked on more than one occasion that when I attend a wedding, I want to take the couple aside and tell them, “You have ABSOLUTELY NO IDEA what you are getting into!” Yes, I am trying to get a laugh, but I am not entirely joking. When your children get married, you hope you have helped them develop the wisdom, common sense and courage they will need pretty much every day of their marriage.

Newlyweds—my son and his wife included—have faith that they will be able to handle any challenge they encounter, fortified by their love and respect for one another. Having observed my son and his now-wife for six years, I agree. They love and understand and support one another unconditionally. I can’t imagine a couple more prepared to deal with adversity when (not if) they encounter it.

As I am not a soothsayer, I have no way of knowing what bumps in the road await them. In my head I can reel off a list of the more common ones: one spouse feels the other spouse spends too much time at work; your child is sad or struggling and you have to decide what (if anything) to do while your heart twists and contracts with pain; disagreements over money or childrearing issues arise; someone is diagnosed with a serious illness that puts a strain on the whole family; there is bickering about trivial things (you always forget to take out the garbage, you never turn the lights off when you leave a room) that stealthily erodes the edges of a marriage, perhaps doing more damage than larger arguments.

I am confident they will function as a team, collaborating to solve difficulties that come their way. But I also know I will have to watch, silently, from a distance, as they do so. My mother-in-law used to mime zipping her mouth closed when she had an opinion she knew she had to keep to herself. I will be rooting for them all the way, but it will have to be from the sidelines. They will need to navigate their paths, both as a couple and as autonomous adults, without my input. Much of what comes to mind when one thinks of being a parent—nurturing, advising, molding character, leading the way—is now a thing of the past for me.

At the reception, each parent had an opportunity to speak. My remarks began with a few amusing anecdotes about my son’s childhood, continued with some playful ribbing about my daughter-in-law’s reaction when she first met our family, expressed our delight that she was joining our family, and told everyone what perfect partners they were for one another. (They really are.)

Then I directly addressed my son and his wife.

______, marrying _____ will be the most profound change you have experienced in your life so far. You are starting your own family unit, distinct from the family that your dad and I have nurtured and cherished for 31 years. Now your primary responsibility will be to your wife, to this new family the two of you will create. That is, of course, how it should be, and it is a type of happiness I have always wanted for you. However, while you and _____ are building something new, your father and I can’t help but feel some degree of loss, as if a rope connecting us to one another is fraying a bit.

No matter how much you and _____ love one another, marriage is SO hard. The fact is the two of you have many challenges ahead that right now you can’t even imagine. So, I would like to leave you with these words that are from the book and movie, Corelli’s Mandolin.

Love is a temporary madness. It erupts like an earthquake and then subsides. And when it subsides, you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have become so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of promises of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any of us can convince ourselves we are. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those who truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossoms have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two.

I wished them a marriage and a life of intertwining roots, of growth that creates one indestructible tree out of their love. We all raised our glasses and drank a toast to the newlyweds. And then it was time to dance.

 

 

 

 

Bemused, Bewildered and A Little Bit Afraid

“Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.”
—Jennifer Yane

So…what the hell did happen? I am 63 years old, and each day it feels more and more as if someone changed the rules while I wasn’t paying attention. My friends and I discuss it, well, pretty much all the time. We are bemused, bewildered and, yes, a little bit afraid. The world feels as if it is constantly shifting under our feet and we just can’t seem to find our balance. We used to feel on top of the world. Now we feel irrelevant.

Middle age is the most difficult phase of life I have experienced so far. I am struggling to redefine my role as both a mother and a daughter. I feel surrounded by loss. My children are happily starting their own adult lives which is, of course, what I want for them. Yet I also feel as if something in my heart is fracturing. I miss my cuddly, adorable little boys and wonder if the best part of my life is behind me. Relatives and friends—some elderly, some my age—are suffering from dementia, wasting away physically from age or illness, dying. And I wonder if I have accomplished anything that has made the world a better place than it would have been had I not been born.

In the midst of all this “navel gazing,” I imagined there must be other people who shared similar thoughts and feelings. I also hoped that these people might want to read what I have to say, and be interested in commenting and starting a dialogue that might help all of us make a little more sense of what we are experiencing. I wanted to reach and engage people from a myriad of locations, people who otherwise would never have the opportunity to meet, so I decided to start this blog. A friend of mine once said, “These are supposed to be our golden years? More like the tarnished years.” It struck me as so funny and so true and, with her permission, I had my title!

I hope you will read my posts, enjoy them, and relate to them. Please comment whenever you would like to either agree, disagree, or just add some comfort or advice. And if you like it enough to tell your friends about it and suggest they read it as well, even better.