I met two friends in our paddock for morning yoga, and convinced one to step barefoot in the dewey grass free from concern about mud and grass clippings. We felt the energy of the earth, watched clouds pass overhead, listened as the breeze danced with the leaves and caused one old tree limb to creak. At the end of our practice, we took time to notice the drops of dew on a single blade of grass, the white markings on the inside of clover leaves, the way spider webs were adorned and sparkling in the sun. As we walked back toward the house, conversation turned to the day's plans. Then I noticed our neighbor standing in her doorway.
At 95 years young, she is struggling with a terminal illness. She is fiercely independent and dislikes relying on anyone. Yet her presence in the doorway beckoned us. Embarassed to not be looking her best, she asked if I'd help her get ready while my friends waited in the living room. Once ready, she came out to visit. I neatened up her room, and came back out to find one of my friends with an arm around our neighbor's shoulder, the other leaning forward with a comforting hand on her knee. Slowly, over the next 30 minutes, her lamentations about needing help, about dying, about not wanting to be dependent turned to stories of her life. We laughed about her enabling my older step kids as she allowed them to use the phone when we had told them "no", to watch her cable when we had disconnected ours, to open her refridgerator and help themselves to whatever they desired. She told stories of delivering newspapers with her grandsons when she was in her 70s, and letting them sleep in on Sunday mornings because it was just too early for them to get up and work. She reminisced about the meals she loved cooking for them, how she loved doing their laundry and hanging it out and how she just loved being around them. We talked about all the kids at John's daycare whom she has loved over the years; and how they've come to expect a hug and a lollipop whenever they see her. I shared my favorite memory of her babysitting when Aimee was about 5. Nan loved the show "Dancing With The Stars", Aimee loved "American Idol", and Nan's grandson was working as a DJ at a local radio station. When we came to pick Aimee up, we found the two of them running during commercials from the living room, (Dancing With the Stars) to the kitchen( where the radio was on), to the bedroom(American Idol) and giggling like little girls. We laughed and shared for quite some time.
As we prepared to leave, Nan mentioned she might like to sit on her porch. We got her situated, but noticed her rollaway bed in the corner. She has, for years, loved to sleep on the porch weather permiting. We made up the bed for her in case she got tired and wanted to lay down, and left promising to drop by later with the clam roll she is craving and sit outside for a bit. I came back home to find Aimee dressed up in the outfit she is pretending is her "first day of school" outfit. Each year since kindergarten, Nan has come over to watch Aimee get on the bus. This year, it would not only be a feat for Nan to walk over, but the bus comes an hour earlier. Aimee devised a plan to dress up today and go to Nan's to take her back to school picture a day ahead of time. Sensitive to what she sees as Nan's expectations of a girl going into the 6th grade, she wore a skirt and top and asked me to french braid her hair; even though tomorrow she will wear her tie dyed shirt, a pair of shorts and a tie dyed scarf she made with a friend. Her sensitivity and forethought are ripples that dance from the rock that has been Nan's love, and I'm filled with gratitude and sadness.
95 years are not enough for this woman who has lived and loved so well. They would be enough for those of us who love her if she said she was ready to go. But she longs for one more first day of school, one more wedding, clam roll, fall planting of bulbs, setting up of her Christmas village and nap on her porch. I'm rethinking the day as the afternoon advances and John picks up her clam roll. I'm thinking about my big plans as I feel the breeze kiss my face as I write. I'm considering the beach as I prepare to grab my sheets from the washer and hang them on the line so I can drink in the fragrance of the day while I sleep. I'm realizing yet again that it isn't the days I've picked up and taken off somewhere for the day, (though those are delicious times too); it is the moments I sprawl on my back in an old horse paddock with friends and watch the clouds, or hang sheets out to dry in the breeze, or sit with an old friend on her porch and listen to stories. It is talking with Aimee about whether it is really a lie or just a kindness if she wears what she thinks Nan would like for their first day picture. It is knowing there are at least 100 things to do, and never enough time to do them. It is letting go of the guilt and worry that go with that thought, and instead appreciating the wonders of love and friendship. it is knowing that 95 years will never be enough for me either. It's knowing that I can't stop time, go back, get a re-do or change the world, but I can take a rest, and be profoundly grafeful for this gift that is today.