Tuesday, June 11, 2024

Limitations and substitutions

I printed out my old camping-trip-list and began to gather stuff, making little piles on the kitchen floor. The list is detailed and lengthy, so the process took time. First, the big stuff—ground pad, tent, self-inflating mattresses, sleeping bags, camping stove with its pot and pan, and so on. Then the little, but vital, stuff—insect repellant, collapsible bucket for washing dishes, flash lights, hand soap, mirror, and at least 30 other items that made me glad we were driving to our spot, not hiking in.

Then, of course, food. I carefully planned yummy but low-effort meals and made the grocery lists—macaroni and cheese from a box, clam chowder from a can, granola, canned evaporated milk, bacon, coffee, apples, and little sealed cups of chocolate pudding. I like to rough it. I had started buying the food.

In faith (or foolishness) we had reserved three nights at Silver Falls State Park. Before the pandemic we enjoyed tent camping, exploring sites throughout Oregon and going as far as the redwoods in northern California. But as we reached retirement years, we noticed that sleeping on the ground, even on our 3-inch inflatable mattresses, was getting harder. We were pretty stiff getting up and getting dressed, and it was taking longer to sum up the courage for the hike of the day. We no longer enjoyed putting up and taking down the tent. (We didn’t have the self-pop-up kind, but the pounding-stakes-in-the-ground contraption.) Our hikes were getting shorter.

We had been wondering if it was time to give up tent camping, but we really weren’t ready to do that. We had found so much joy being surrounded by trees, hearing the rain on our tent at night, finding new trails and splendiferous vistas. There’s nothing quite like that first cup of coffee sitting by the camp fire.

So, we decided to do an experiment. Hence the reservation. We figured if we pulled it off, we’d still have a year or two to keep camping. If the experience left us with such painful backs and aching limbs that we cut it short by one night, it might be a clue to let it all go. We could then make a list of our camping stuff and show it to the grandkids.

Unfortunately, we didn’t even make it to the campsite. Just a few days before the trip—all the gear still on the kitchen floor—we had to cancel. Hal’s back was so painful and my dizziness so pronounced, we knew we couldn’t do it. We canceled just in time to get our deposit back.

That was last week. Learning the weather at Silver Falls was beautiful didn’t help. So we asked ourselves what we could do the make the week special anyway. We chose to go to a movie (“Sight”—I highly recommend it) in the afternoon, then drive back to town, buy a bowl of chili and the free senior drink at Wendy’s, then go down to the river landing to eat it and watch the evening sky. Then go home to our comfortable bed and indoor toilet.

We wrestle with the limitations of age and the life-style changes they demand. Physical limitations such as giving up tent camping, not being able to play my guitar as easily because of arthritis in my hands, no more running on the beach with my dizzy head. I haven’t ridden my bike since the last tumble. (Fortunately, it was a gentle fall; I was peddling very slowly. But still.)

Then there are the economic limitations—realizing we may have to give up driving sooner than we had hoped; the prospect of moving from our two-room apartment to a studio in our retirement community. There are probably no cruises in our future (to Hal, a source of relief). Even mental limitations challenge—I forget appointments unless I write them down in two places, then remember to look at the calendar. I can no longer multitask.

Limitations are inevitable as we age. But as I was thinking about it this morning, I decided this was too negative a focus—for this blog and for my life in general. I will not let myself be diminished by the limitations of aging! I will re-direct my energies, find substitutes, develop new passions!

That is so positive. I feel it this morning. But I know myself well enough to realize I will have difficult days when I decide this is all a bunch of hooie and give up all over again. I guess this finding of new passions (or, at least, new interests) needs to be intentional and beyond fluctuating emotions. I’m obviously not writing as one who has the dilemma of facing limitations all figured out. And I never want this blog to sink into a wise-advice-from-a-successful-old-person kind of site. For one thing, I’m not all that old. For another, I’m not all that successful. Or wise. (I’ll settle for funny.)

So Hal and I talked this morning about things we could substitute for camping and biking if, in truth, we need to give them up. We discussed short hikes in beautiful places, more picnics in parks (in our camping chairs rather than a blanket on the grass), country drives. Instead of exotic cruises we can explore the incredible beauty of the Pacific Northwest, go to more museums, frequent the local cultural center more regularly. And be intentional about it all. This week (or next) we hope to visit the Mt. Angel Abbey.

Lovely plans give me hope that giving up stuff does not signify the end. We need to be realistic and courageous. But I’ll confess, I’ve made another reservation for a camp site in Silver Falls State Park, this time in September. Surely we’ll be strong and energetic by then.


Tuesday, June 4, 2024

A psalm for growing old

 “David sang to the Lord… when the Lord delivered him from the hand of all his enemies.” 2 Samuel 22:1; Psalm 18

My enemies were like the waves of a stormy ocean.
They threatened to overwhelm me:

--my failing body
--the death of loved ones
--a downsizing that seemed to diminish
--loss of my place of service and contribution
--going from limelight to invisibility
--losing my home, my job, my place in line
--not knowing where I fit in my family
--fear of losing my memory, even my personality
--the ever-present approach of death.

But you, O Lord, drew me out of the deep waters,
lifted me from the chaos, lit the darkness,
opened the snares of death that threatened.
You rescued me from the fear
of illness, obscurity, dependence, and loss.

Thank you for getting so angry at the attacks against me
that you thundered, quaked, and stormed!
You terrified them all even as you held me in gentle hands.

The wall of stigma, of being white-headed, wrinkled,
stooped and stupid—look! I just leaped over that wall!
Where did all this juice come from?

Instead of a nursing home, you set me in a spacious place
of beauty. You opened the windows of my heart.
You enlarged my imagination and the scope of my understanding.
You gave me eyes to see. You are my Lamp.

You, O Lord, are my Rock,

--a solid place to stand
--a space of belonging
--a room with a view

The difficulties remain.
I’m growing older, stiffer, less energetic.
I use a walking stick that someday will become a cane,
then a walker and a wheel chair.
One day I may decide to just stay in bed.
Yet you lift me high! You give me courage and hope.
I will not despair.

I will bless you, my Rock, my Lamp, my Redeemer!
I will sing! I will give thanks until the day of my death,
the day of my deliverance, my beginning.

Bless the Lord, O my soul! Let all that is within me
bless his holy name!

(Note: This prayer is based on 2 Samuel 22, also Psalm 18, a psalm David wrote near the end of his life.)

Tuesday, May 28, 2024

Death, choice, and mystery

 I come from a large family. While I have only one brother and one sister, my parents lived in more generous households. There were 13 kids in Dad’s family, raised in a coal-mining town in Pennsylvania, and seven kids in Mom’s family, raised in Des Moines, Iowa. That makes 18 aunts and uncles, not counting spouses. And these all reproduced, some prodigiously. My sister Becky and I added up at least 50 first-cousins, again not counting spouses.

As the kids grew up and formed their own families, they scattered. Now my extended family lives all over the country and is no longer united. The few family reunions have been geographical and not well attended.

A few years ago, Becky and I decided to take cousin-trips every other year, in order to get to know our family. The first trip had us staying in homes in Iowa, Illinois, and Wisconsin where we were warmly and enthusiastically hosted by our only living uncle (Illinois) and aunt (Wisconsin) and four cousins. Everywhere we stayed, it felt like family to all of us. Instant rapport.

We took our last trip in February 2020, just before the pandemic forced us all into isolation. We spent time in the homes of three cousins in Florida and South Carolina. Since the pandemic lifted, my body is no longer happy about long trips. That’s sad.

My parents had strong family ties and made sure we kids knew our aunts, uncles, and cousins, even if it meant long car trips across the country. I loved it. I remember our periodic trips to Phoenix, Arizona to visit Dad’s sister, Cusie, and her four kids. Cousin Diane and I were especially close, being the same age and of the same mischievous temperament. The two boys and the older sister largely ignored us. But I admired my older cousin Loretta from a distance. Diane and I were around twelve that one vacation, while Loretta was in college and engaged to be married. I looked up to her as beautiful, sophisticated, brilliant, and now, about to join with her Prince Charming. Loretta was kind to me, but I’m not sure she perceived me as an actual person. More like a pesky little cousin.

One afternoon, Diane discovered a book Loretta kept by her bedside. It was entitled Ideal Marriage and was a sex manual for young virgins about to be married. While Loretta was out of the house, Diane and I lay on Loretta’s bed and began reading parts of the book and devouring the drawings. If not totally new information, the book literally fleshed out details that surpassed our previous imaginings. We founding ourselves giggling hilariously at the astoundingly shocking things we were learning. (Today, 12-year-olds would already know this stuff.)

We stopped laughing when Loretta walked in and caught us. She was not happy. The last memory I have of her is the anger in her eyes as she made us leave her room. Can’t say I blame her. That was years ago.

Last year I learned that Loretta was battling cancer, but I didn’t know the details. Then just last week I received a letter from my cousin Cathy, conveying information from a phone call with Loretta.

Cathy wrote, “Loretta wanted me to contact you and to convey how much all of you in our Forsythe clan meant to her…. Her cancer has progressed. And so she has made the decision to engage in physician assisted dying, which is legal in New Mexico. The “ceremony” (she called it) will take place Friday morning….

“I am so sorry to have to convey this news. She clearly gave this decision careful consideration, a very intentional and thoughtful decision…. I can only imagine what pain she has been in.”

As I write this, the “ceremony” was yesterday morning. Loretta, my beautiful, sophisticated, brilliant cousin, is no longer in pain. I felt sorrow all day, and it lingers now. O, Loretta.

My emotions are mixed. I will not judge my cousin and I will not call her act “suicide.” That word carries a stigma, especially in Christian communities. Many of my friends would label her decision sinful and consign her to hell. That makes me shudder. I find no support for that conclusion in the Scriptures.

Most of us don’t know ahead of time when our death will come, just that it will. Loretta chose her time. She had her reasons, and whether or not those reasons were morally sound, I can’t say. I don’t know where Loretta stood in her relationship to God, but I believe in where God stands in his love for her. A mysterious mercy.

This is all mystery to me. I cling to David’s agonizing prayer in Psalm 139:

Where can I go from your Spirit?
Where can I flee from your presence?
If I go to the heavens, you are there;
if I make my bed in the depths, you are there.
If I rise on the wings of the dawn,
if I settle on the far side of the sea,
even there your hand will guide me,
your right hand will hold me fast.
If I say, “Surely the darkness will hide me
and the light become night around me,”
even the darkness will not be dark to you;
the night will shine like the day,
for darkness is as light to you.

My Lord, I bow before the mystery of your love for all of us. Without understanding and without knowing what I’m praying for, I ask that your presence be with my cousin, wherever she is. Let her know your love. Hold her fast. Turn the darkness to light. Amen and amen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2024

The "Happiness U-Curve"--Is it true?

 I’ve been reading a fascinating book entitled This Chair Rocks: A Manifesto Against Ageism by Ashton Applewhite (2016). The author defines ageism as “discrimination and stereotyping on the basis of a person’s age,” and she goes through the whole book detailing its manifestations in our culture. She expresses some of the fallacies of ageism as Wrinkles are ugly. Old people are incompetent. It’s sad to be old. Applewhite counteracts the prejudices of ageism with her very positive take on the values and joys of being an older person. She almost overdoes both ends of the sad/happy continuum, and contrasts with another fascinating book I blogged on earlier this year, Susan Jacoby’s Never Say Die: The Myth and Marketing of the New Old Age. (See my blog on January 9, 2024.)

As usual, I find questionable extremes along with much of value in both books.

Applewhite refers to what is to me a new concept—the U-curve of happiness. “People are happiest at the beginnings and the ends of their lives. If you don’t take my word for it, Google ‘U-curve of happiness.’ Even as age strips us of things we cherished—physical strength, beloved friends, toned flesh—we grow more content.”

I love that idea, but is it true? Is it true for all old people (obviously not), most old people, or a special group of really mature oldsters? Is it true mostly among white, wealthy, healthy retirees? Is it a cross-cultural reality (one study says yes)?

Applewhite cites research that “proves” that little kids and old people tend to be the happiest people in the world. (She doesn’t mention it, but I assume that refers to people not living in war zones or depressed neighborhoods.) She includes a 2008 combined Gallup poll and University of Chicago study where 340,000 Americans between the ages of 18 and 85 were surveyed, with mentally sharp old people winning the happiness trophy.

The author quotes an expert on aging (these seem to abound) who “points out that in contrast to the doubts and insecurities of youth, growing older enables us to become more self-aware and confident, less fearful of being judged, and authentically happy. Not that life gets easier, but that it becomes easier to focus on what truly matters—and that makes it better.”

I like that and I think there’s truth to it. But I’m not sure how widely it applies. I look at it as something to grow into.

Applewhite says that “age itself confers very effective coping mechanisms upon ordinary people…. savoring the small things, letting go, and practicing gratitude.” That could refer to mature people at any age.

While this list obviously does not exhaust the ways we cope with old age, it’s sweet. I want to briefly reflect on these three coping mechanisms. How am I doing?

Savoring the small things: Does that mean that, even though I couldn’t afford to go on an exotic cruise even if I wanted to, I can savor the wonders in my own back yard? I hope that’s true. As a poet I naturally gravitate to the small, concrete stuff of life: tiny blue flowers alongside the trail, the toes of small babies, my husband’s smile, comfortable shoes, no back ache this morning. Yes and hurrah to all of the above!

Letting go: This one is trickier. Some of my friends have recently had to let go of their life partners, their mobility, even their memories. Not so easy. And it’s not as though they had a say in the matter. I guess in these cases, it’s coming to a point of acceptance that matters. Will I be able to handle these kinds of losses with maturity? Probably, with God’s help. In the meantime, I learning to let go of my role in the family, my books, my ability to run along the beach, chocolate, more than one cup of coffee a day, my place in line. And maybe I’m learning to hold closer to things that matter. I keep narrowing down the list of those things. Letting go of the rest. And after the sorrow of loss, breathing a sigh of relief.

Practicing gratitude: Most self-help, how-to-be-happy books mention the importance of being thankful. Because it’s true. But it’s also hard not to be glib and fluffy about gratitude. Realism is important as we age. Loss, pain, and inevitable death are no laughing matters. So, a mixture of realism and gratitude would seem to be the way of wisdom. A sort of gritty gratitude that faces the unpleasant realities of the aging process and dares to say thank you anyway. That’s hard. And that’s why we need to practice.

So this morning I say Thank you for all my body parts that are functioning just fine—my heart (that’s a big one!), my tear glands, my kidneys, the right side of my brain, and so on. At this point in my journey, there’s more stuff that’s working well than not. Thank you for early morning sunshine, in spite of a rainy forecast. Thank you for the “leaping greenly spirits of trees,” as e.e. cummings put it. Thank you for poets. Thank you for the new glasses that let me read the poets. I could go on and on, but I won’t. I just pray that the next time I’m feeling grumpy, woeful, or old, I can still think of something to say thank you for.

Are old people, in general, happier than younger adults? I’m not sure. The studies are provocative, but not totally persuasive. I do know that as I’ve been reading my old journals, I notice that I’m currently a calmer, more peaceful person than I’ve ever been. Interesting.

Guess I’ll just keep practicing—savoring the small things, letting go, and saying thank you as often as I can.

Tuesday, May 14, 2024

The prodigal son stays home

Downsizing is the name of the ghost that continues to haunt our apartment. His nickname is Books. But he has a twin sister named Keepers. I frankly play favorites and I like Keepers better than Downsizing.

I am making progress. Really, I am. And along with deciding which books to recycle, I decide which books are beloved enough to keep around a while longer. This are books I will likely reread. Right now I’m rereading Cry, The Beloved Country, the wonderful novel about a changing Africa by Alan Paton. Stephen Kumalo, beloved pastor of the village of Ndotsheni in South Africa, is one of my favorite literary old men, and one day I will write about him.

But today I want to reflect on another keeper, The Return of the Prodigal Son. This is my favorite Henri Nouwen book. It details Nouwen’s discovery of Rembrandt’s painting of the same name, a depiction of Jesus’ well-known parable.

Many years ago, Nouwen saw a poster of Rembrandt’s painting and he became entranced. Then he had the opportunity to visit the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, where the original painting is housed. The museum curator provided Nouwen with a chair and he spent hours in front of the painting, in wonder and meditation. His reflections resulted in the book that so affected me and that still sits on my shelf. One of my keepers.

I was (and am) especially moved by Nouwen’s reflections on the love of the Father and how Rembrandt had captured this in the expression on the old man’s face and in the position of his hands. Nouwen observed that one of the Father’s hands was clearly masculine, the other feminine, two aspects of love, acceptance, and nurturing. He also reflected on how we can see ourselves in each of the three main characters. I saw myself in the wayward and repentant son, in the resentful and entitled older brother, and then in the Father himself reaching out in compassion. That book fed me and I frequently gazed at its cover, a reproduction of the painting.

A few years after first reading the book, I had the opportunity to visit Russia. This was not a tourist trip but a pastoral ministry assignment sponsored by the Friends Board of Missions. We spent time with our friends who were living in the country as “Friends Serving Abroad,” Johan and Judy Maurer. Johan and Judy knew Russia and loved Russians, so our time with them was rich and educational, much more than “seeing the sights.”

A few free days were an intentional part of our schedule, and Johan and Judy gave us some options and asked us what we wanted to do. I instantly spoke up. I suggested we go to St. Petersburg and visit the Hermitage. The others readily agreed, so one morning we boarded a speed-train from Moscow to St. Petersburg, a trip that gave us a taste of the Russian country-side. On arrival we found our hostel, enjoyed some of the local cuisine, and went to bed. I could hardly contain my excitement for the next day to begin.

My time in the Hermitage was outstanding on many levels, including the huge palace itself with its winding staircases, intricate furnishings, lush drapes, and beautiful floors—each room distinct. It was thrilling to come face to face with original paintings by Renoir, Cezanne, Goya, Picasso, and many others.

But as soon as I entered the palace, I was on the look-out for Rembrandt. A guidebook directed us to the right section, but even then, the multiple passages and creative arrangement of rooms made the search challenging. I was the one who spied it first (why is that factoid important?), in the distance, at the end of a long corridor. I walked as fast as seemed appropriate in that august place.

I was not disappointed. Quite the opposite. I knew the painting was large, but I wasn’t prepared for the reality. The only painting in that particular room, it covered the wall at 8 ½ feet tall and almost 7 feet wide. The figures were larger than life and very much alive.

The Father, hands on the shoulders of his runaway son; the son in his ragged clothes, bowing in sorrow and repentance before his Father; the older son off to the side, with a look on his face that expressed the complexities of anger, frustration, resentment, and suppressed longing—all this brought to life the story Jesus told the crowds over 2000 years ago.

It brought home to me the incredible love of God and his forgiveness of any human failure we can conjure up.

I stood before the painting transfixed for just under an hour, at moments in tears. I guess that’s what great art does. It touches us at a deep level and reminds us of what it means to be human. And what it means, in this case, to be forgiven.

I bought a canvas reproduction of the painting in the museum shop, and today it occupies a space on our living room wall. It reminds me of who I am, and how loved I am, as a child of God.

Thank you, Henri Nouwen.

Thank you, Rembrandt.

Thank you, Father.

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Tea party people

 Last Friday I attended the ladies’ tea party, an annual event sponsored by the Residents Association in our retirement community. This was a first for me. In the past I’ve not gone, reasoning that I am not a “tea party person.” I’m not. I’m more at home walking a trail in the forest or staying inside reading a good book. My idea of a successful social occasion is conversation among a few close friends. Something you don’t have to dress up for.

But I had heard so many positive comments about last year’s tea party, I thought I’d give it a try. Good publicity helped. Plus, I had a new outfit (that wasn’t jeans) and I needed an occasion to wear it. That’s probably not a good reason—but there you have it. I was concerned that I didn’t have any matching white sandals, but then again, my black sandals would be way down at the bottom of my outfit, so who would even notice?

To assure some ease in what might be an uncomfortable situation, I invited myself to go with two friends I normally enjoy spending time with. That was a good decision.

We were told to bring our own tea cup and to wear a hat—both optional. I chose a flowery cup and saucer from my mother’s wedding china. Most of the pieces from this set have been broken over the years, but I’m sentimental about the pieces that are left, even though I never use them. This would be a good chance to put the cup and saucer to use.

I didn’t bother with a hat. All hats make me look like an idiot. But I enjoyed the hats some of the other ladies wore. Some were lovely, others silly, but all worn with a sense of stylish fun.

The party’s theme was “Butterflies and Lilacs” (very tea-party-ish) because this is the time of year when lilacs bloom. The only problem, no one had sent the lilacs an invitation, so out of spite they bloomed early, leaving the decorations committee with a dilemma. Which they cleverly solved by tucking some realistic fake lilacs into the folded napkins.

All in all, the tea party was fine. The decorations, the food and its beautiful presentation, the musical entertainment, and the handsome tuxedoed waiters (resident volunteers)—well done!

And yet, for reasons mysterious to me, I was never able to ease into the tea partyness of it all. I felt awkward and out of place, like a young girl in a room of grown-ups, wondering which fork to use, thinking I might be inappropriately dressed, wishing it would get over so I could go home. My adolescent self seemed to take over. I thought I had outgrown that kind of reaction, so it surprised me.

At the conclusion of the event, I said my goodbyes, gracefully exited and went up the five floors to our apartment, only to realize I had left my mom’s tea cup behind. So down five floors, into the auditorium, pick up the cup, back up five floors to my door, only to realize I had left my purse. So down five floors, into the auditorium…and so on. By the time I was finally able to shut my door, change into my jeans and sit down, I was ready for a good laugh. Which helped clear out the fog in my spirit.

The thought, “I guess I really am not a tea party person!” made me smile. And it occurred to me that there is probably no such thing as a “tea party person.” To divide the feminine half of the human race into two categories—tea party people and non-tea party people—is categorically ridiculous. What were you thinking, Nancy? I imagine many of the women who enjoyed the event also enjoy walking in the forest, reading books, and talking with close friends. And there were probably a few others like me on the fringes of comfort.

I admire people who are so comfortable with who they are they are at ease in many different situations. Adaptable. Flexible. Women who can wear a hat to a tea party, no matter how silly it might make them look. I’m reminded of the Apostle Paul who said he had learned to be equally content whether he was living in poverty or in plenty. That’s the context of his famous testimony, “I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me” (Philippians 4:13).

I’m obviously not there yet. But just because I’m “of a certain age” doesn’t mean I can’t change. Maybe I’ll try the tea party again next year. And maybe I won’t. Probably doesn’t matter much. What matters is growing into who I am in Christ and being at ease (it’s called peace) with whatever he wants me to do, wherever he wants me to go.

Even if it’s a tea party.

Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Pomp, circumstance, and soggy scrapbooks

 This past weekend has been jubilant and celebratory. Our granddaughter Alandra graduated from George Fox University as a mechanical engineer. That is, indeed, an accomplishment. The whole class of 2024 is to be congratulated for their courage and persistence. These young people entered their college experience in the fall of 2020 at the height of the COVID pandemic. What was to have been a long-awaited experience of collegial life—new friendships, classes, all the challenges involved in this phase of life—turned into a marathon of masking, six-feet apart fellowship, hand-sanitizing, and Zoom classes. Not at all what was expected. Rather than collegiality, isolation.

But they persisted and formed bonds that only those passing together through a hard time can experience. And the weekend celebrations were, indeed, jubilant, at time raucous.

We celebrated Alandra. For four days we celebrated: Thursday, Honors Convocation; Friday, Baccalaureate; Saturday, Graduation followed by a family meal; Sunday, reception with family, friends, food, and the sharing of memories. Our dear granddaughter beamed all weekend long. She has passed through one door and entered another, the door to the rest of her life.

Graduation day was drizzly, this being Oregon, but the skies held back during the ceremonies, not actually raining until afterward when people gathered in the Quad to congratulate the new grads. One special moment during the actual ceremony happened as Alandra came forward to accept her degree. The moderator paused to tell the crowd that she was a fifth-generation graduate of George Fox University. (He didn’t supply the details, that her parents graduated from GFU, as did her grandparents (us), her great-grandparents, and her great-great-grandmother. Quite a legacy.)

Alandra doesn’t know what’s ahead. She hasn’t yet applied for a job, and for the summer she is moving back home to live with her parents, a temporary situation she insists. She senses the need for a break, for a time to reflect on where she’s been and to wait on God for an indication of where she’s to go. That seems wise.

For me, last week didn’t begin on such a high note. On Monday morning the director of Resident Services phoned to let me know I needed to get right down to the basement storage units. Each resident has their own cubicle and ours was stuffed. She informed me that a pipe in the ceiling had sprung a leak that had affected a few of the many cubicles. Ours happened to be the most affected. She gave me a number to call in case any of our stuff was ruined and needed to be replaced. That was not a reassuring piece of information. So I hurried down.

Sure enough, wetness reigned. A tarp covered the top of the affected cubicles, funneling the water from the still leaking pipe into a large garbage container. It didn’t pour, but the steady drip drip was not music to my ears.

All our stuff was wet. Fortunately, we had stored most of it in plastic containers and the contents of these stayed dry—winter clothes, Christmas stuff, some documents and memorabilia, etc.) Our suitcases, camping gear, and bicycle pump were wet but not damaged. But I had stored some items in cardboard boxes, never thinking something like this would happen. These items were damaged. They included my high school and college scrapbooks, something I’m sentimental about. Also a shoebox of love letters from Hal from before we were married. Mushy stuff, now literally mushy.

The staff loaned us an empty cubicle where we could store our stuff until the situation was resolved. And I brought the scrapbooks upstairs, pried the pages apart and spread them on the floor, table, and chairs to dry. My soggy memories. I’ll be able to salvage some of it. It will now have an antique, wrinkly look, quite artistic (at least that’s what I’m telling myself).

In the college memories book, I found my graduation program (“The George Fox College Year of Jubilee Graduating Class of 1967”), some photos (sticky), and a newspaper article with me in my regalia looking quite pleased with myself.

I love the coincidence (a coming together—a co-happening—of two separate incidents) of the two graduations—my granddaughter’s and mine. There are differences—for one, 50 graduates at my ceremony and just under 500 at Alandra’s. But the goofy smiles and the sense of accomplishment and celebration—these are universal.

Hurrah for the celebration of landmarks!

Hurrah for the links between the generations!

Hurrah for good memories!

Hurrah for new beginnings!

God is good. Hurrah!