I fought back the tears that stubbornly welled up, squeezed him a little tighter, then released my embrace and waved goodbye as I went out the door. I had stopped by to bring him the Hershey kisses he so loves and had requested the night before. The smell of Daddy's aftershave lingered on my neck and I could smell it all the way home. One day when he is gone, I may never be able to smell that aftershave again.
There have been many changes in my dad's life since my mother died in 2014. He is still grieving in so many ways, but the initial shock of losing your wife of almost 67 years has eased enough now that he can talk about her most times without crying. He recently celebrated the one-year anniversary of moving into a full-time care facility. Sometimes I feel a pang of guilt about moving him to assisted living but then I am reminded that, if we hadn't, he might not still be with us. Living in a dark house with rooms and walls filled with all the things reminiscent of my mom would've been a slow death for sure. I really believe he would've given up and perhaps that's the very reason so many elderly do give up after the loss of their spouse. They almost always want to stay in their house, but that is not always what is best for them. At his assisted living home he is active, served three healthy meals a day, receives his medications accurately and on time, and has someone watching over him 24/7. For that, I am extremely grateful. It gives me great peace to know that he is receiving excellent care at this stage in his life, and activities and people to stimulate him as well. He is able to come and go as he pleases, visit with other residents and attend all the many activities they have planned there. He even has developed the reputation of the resident pool shark. I think he would play pool seven hours a day if it was realistic. God bless the one who decided to put in that pool table. All in all, it's a good life for him.
I noticed as I watched my dad literally shuffle from the bed to the fridge to the door and back again that he resembles now in a great way his own mother; there is no doubt about it. As grandmama was nearing the end of her life but before she became bedridden, she began to stoop a little as daddy is doing now. Daddy's memory is suffering, as is his fragile body. But overall, his health is fairly good for his age and he amazingly gets around pretty well. As we sat and talked on this particular day, he seemed confused about some things and I asked him what was wrong. He couldn't really tell me, but I reminded him that he could talk with me about anything -- anything I said. As he hung his head a bit, he finally found the words. "I think I might've moved into this place a little sooner than I needed to," confessing his thoughts and heart to me. He concluded that there were so many people there that were worse off than him, which is absolutely true. My first impulse was to impatiently explain to him for the thousandth time how we came to the decision, and why it seemed to be the best choice for him. But there was something in his voice...a sadness...an insecurity it seemed. I can't say exactly what it was but it softened my heart. I could feel his pain. I was touched with how I would feel if one day I am in the same situation. So, for that thousandth time, I gently explained to him that he had certain conditions now that required full-time care and that, yes, he was in much better shape than some at his assisted living, but that he too needed to be there. As we talked, his countenance lightened a little and he wholeheartedly agreed that he was better off being there than in a dark house all alone with nothing to do. He usually does come around.
I will admit that occasionally I feel a bit impatient with my dad. But, just as you have to lovingly and calmly teach a young child, you do it as well with the elderly. It can become quite frustrating having to explain things over and over again, having to remind your loved one once more something he should already know, and refresh him on conversations you've had more than once. But then I am reminded of all the times he was there for me when I was growing up and literally every day of my life since, how he was patient and taught me well, and I take two steps back and remind myself that it is not his fault. I remind myself that he can't help his memory issues and any other issues that he has right now. I remind myself to be gentle. I remind myself that one day, if I live that long, I will be where he is now at this stage of life. He is a good man, and he deserves all the patience and love that I can give him right now. So we talked, and he felt better and I felt better; then we laughed. We are always willing and ready for a good laugh.
When we first moved him in, I had the misconception that all our problems would be solved by this decision. If you are in the midst of caring for an elderly parent, you know how naive it was for me to think so! For some reason, I had the mindset that every day would be good now. Boy, was I wrong. Because we live closer now to my dad, he fully expects us to come by more often, and we are happy to do so. But instead of always finding him happy and content, I sometimes find him having a bad day. Then it dawned on me...well, duh, everyone has a bad day once in awhile! Every person of every age of every background and ethnicity and situation has bad days. It was as if I almost felt that one bad day would be the beginning of his going down a hill that we would not be able to climb back up. But, thankfully, that has not been the case. Most days are good, some days are not, but one thing I can still be thankful for is that daddy is always (at least right now) still able to be encouraged, and that is something I am more than happy to do. When we see our parent whom we've always known as a strong influence in our life both emotionally and physically, it can be difficult to switch places and have the shoe of guidance and leadership on the other foot.
On a better note, we recently celebrated a huge milestone in Daddy's life -- his 90th birthday! It was a great day of celebrating, laughter, and good food, and I think a day he won't soon forget -- I least I hope not! To be the fine age of 90 years (or 32,850 days), he is hanging in there. We took him out for a steak dinner with the family, then had cake and ice cream back at his home. I was truly amazed at the residents who showed up to celebrate with him, and the sweet cards and best wishes they gave him for his special day -- friends he would've never made if he hadn't been living there. The best thing about my daddy? Even though he tends to be a half-glass-empty sort of guy as opposed to a half-glass-full, we can usually coach him into taking the negative and turning it positive.
Eventually, if we live long enough and are blessed to have our parents long enough, we are all faced with the daunting task of caring for an elderly parent or relative. I continue to run into people at my dad's home whom I know and are going through the same thing with one or both of their parents moving into the same assisted living facility. And, like I've said many, many times about raising young children, caring for the elderly is not for the faint of heart! It takes a huge amount of love, a lot of planning and ingenuity, and enough patience to literally fill an ocean. If, like me, you are in this time of life and sometimes you struggle, take heart. I have learned to let the guilt go for not being the perfect caregiver every day -- I am human, just as we all are. I am doing my best to help give my father a wonderful quality of life in his latter years. One day when he has gone on to his forever home where things will indeed be good every single day for him, I want to be able to say I have no regrets. I'm sure I'll look back on these times as challenging days, but I want to remember them as a joyful time as well. I want to love my daddy a little bit more every day, hug him a little closer each time I see him, and be able to say in the end that I was a part of his good life.
But in that day, the scent of his aftershave is one thing I absolutely will not be able to endure without a bucket to collect all the tears I'm sure will fall. Just keepin' it real.
Looking good for 90 years young (pool stick in one hand; walking stick in the other)!
"Gray hair is a crown of splendor; it is attained in the way of righteousness."
After 36 years of marriage to the same wonderful man, I have come to this conclusion: WE ARE NOT NORMAL.
Now, before you open your mouth to judge or, worse yet to agree, allow me to explain. We have not been normal for most of our marriage. Way back in the early years, we appeared to be normal, but there were rumblings...of restlessness...of sleepless nights...of dreams not fulfilled...ideas with which we had no idea what to do. They filled our minds day in and day out and sometimes in the wee hours of the morning. This crazy life we now live is our love story, cracked and imperfect as it is.
We started off just like any normal couple. We met; we fell in love; we got married. I might add that we got married way too soon (four months after laying eyes on each other) but, hey, that's water over the dam now -- or under the bridge or -- well, you know what I mean. About three years into our marriage, I got pregnant. I was elated. I already had my precious son when we got married, so I had wanted another child way before I actually got one. Tim was eight years old when Hollie was born. Then exactly three years, seven weeks, and three days later, Abbie came along. She was our "surprise," but I have lived every single day since she was born wondering how I would've ever gotten along without her. As a throwback to my hippie days in the seventies, I call Abbie our love child. She will probably be mad at me for this comment, but it's the truth. Don't know when or where she came to be a tiny blessing in my womb, but a blessing for which we will be forever grateful. All our kids rock.
As time went on, we continued to resemble a normal family. We maintained a household that ticked along with the rhythm of schedules, school, work, church commitments, meals at regular times, baseball, softball, band practice, concerts, and "normal" milestone events like birthdays and graduations. Every child had their vaccinations and endured a bout with the chicken pox (for which there is now a vaccination). The kids argued and had sibling rivalries. We argued and had adult rivalries. We argued about work, finances, when or if to take vacation, how to discipline the kids, and all the other things normal people argue about. Overall we had "normal" family problems. Our kids dealt with all the growing-up pains that come with -- well, growing up. Before we knew it, our kids were grown. It happened in the quickest time warp that is comprehensible to man. Fast forward 36 years and almost eight months. The kids are not only grown, they've been out of college for 10+/- years. Yikes! Tim is married to a wonderful lady and they parent the first two of my wonderful grandchildren. Hollie is married to a wonderful man and they parent the most recent two of my wonderful grandchildren (one of whom is still in the hatch!). And as much as I don't want to admit it sometimes (and much to her angst), Abbie is all grown up now, able to take care of herself, coming up soon on her 30th birthday, and completely in control of her life living in a huge city all by herself 800 miles away from her mama. The times are different now.
WE are different now. I have learned that time changes things, and hardly anything remains the same. This has been a hard lesson for me to learn, but I've finally come to the realization that life can only move forward because of change. Change is sometimes difficult, but it is totally necessary. And sometimes we don't even realize that those same changes we 'dread and hope will never come' are the catalysts for seeing the dreams and wishes we've had all of our life come true. Sometimes we don't even realize what those dreams and wishes are until the changes force us to bend, maybe even break, and then pick up all the pieces to begin again. This morning, I am sitting at my computer, penning (in the loosest form of that word) this blogpost. Writing is my passion and it has taken me a lifetime to realize that this is where I am happiest. But this is the weird, totally un-normal thing about it: I am not in an office doing this thing that I love. I am in my nightgown in a tiny corner of my tiny kitchen. I have no makeup on my face and my hair has a slight case of bedhead with a few spikes of hair awkwardly sticking up at the crown; I haven't even showered yet or brushed my teeth this morning, ewwhh. Oh, too much info? Sorry. Hubby has been up since 4:00 a.m., as his passions don't even allow him a full-eight hours' rest most nights. He is an intense man. After falling asleep at his desk several times, he was forced to close his eyes for another hour or so. Being self-employed affords him the luxury of choosing his own hours. Many days we are able to have lunch together. Sometimes we have a date right in the middle of a Wednesday. I have realized in very recent months that we are not a normal couple, nor will we ever be. We don't work normal hours, we don't sleep normal hours, we don't even eat at normal hours. We are living what most people might consider a life of uncertainty in so many ways. Sometimes it's a feast; sometimes it's famine. Sometimes it's all creative energy; sometimes it's a dry and dusty desert. But no two days are ever the same.
But as some might see us living a life that is uncertain, unconventional, and definitely not the norm, we call it livin' the dream. We see it as living the life we've always wanted, but didn't know we wanted till we got here. We have never been more free to move forward, to explore our ideas, to choose our own projects, and do it all at our own pace in our own timing. Matter of fact, come to think of it, none of our family is normal. Our family is not buckled into much that our society considers the status quo...normal jobs moving up the ladders of success, normal lifestyle, normal anything. We live sometimes from day to day. We look for adventure in every single opportunity. We chase dreams. We take risks. Sometimes we fail. Sometimes we succeed. But there is never, ever a dull moment. Our kids don't fit into the norm, either (sorry, kiddos, but I'm beginning to believe it's your lot in life). Tim joined the National Guard to serve his country and provide for his family at the age of 34 (when a lot of soldiers are thinking of retiring), followed by a stint as a stay-at-home dad. He is always up for a project with the hubs -- even if they don't have a clue what they're doing!! Hollie is a medical missionary who has lived in a developing country for the last six years and birthed her first baby there. Abbie is a creative...a ceramic artist who spends her days putting her hands in clay and paint and glaze and coaxing it all into something of great value. We are a family of reachers, seekers, dreamers, and doers.
And even though sometimes normalcy looks very enticing to me because creativeness and entrepreneurship can be exhausting, I know that it will never be that way because it is not who we are.
The conclusion I've come to after 36 years? Normal is 100 percent, without a doubt, totally overrated. Don't you think so?
The proof that we are not your average family. Last Halloween, we all -- each and every one of us -- dressed up for the event! I mean, what family really does that? If you know someone, don't tell me 'cause I think we're special! One thing that absolutely never changes over the years of intense change? The immense, heart-wrenching love we share in our family. The only thing it does is dig its roots deeper into our hearts.
And that's a story for another time.
I think I might possibly maybe kinda sorta be -- no, I definitely do have the late-summer blahs. I must admit it...I'm tired of 90+ degree days, and 80% humidity. Georgia weather in late August has a way of tryin' to bring me down. I am not one of those who dreads winter but I don't necessarily look forward to winter, either. Like most folks I prefer spring and fall for the simple reason the weather is beautiful and you can get out and be one with nature. However, in winter I am able to "layer up" and still hike the trails, and I think that's been part of my dilemma. I've said before I'm a fair-weather walker and it's just too hot to hike. It's not fit for man or beast or bird or bug outside in Georgia right now. Too hot to get out; too boring to stay inside. So I just sit and wait in the AC for that first cool autumn morning...for the temps to dip into the seventies and stay there for more than 20 minutes...for that moment when I feel the need to pull up the duvet lying in bed because of an early morning chill in the air...for the "feel of autumn" that permeates my belly with butterflies as fluttery as the one in this picture (more on this picture later).
I've been told before (by my bff) that I'm easily bored and that is something that, as much as I hate to admit it, is probably true. I like the versatility of doing something different on any given day if I am so inclined, and the opportunity to indulge in something creative or to see new things is where my inspiration is born. I mean, variety is the spice of life, right? So I have to admit that my creativity level has been at an all-time low the last couple of weeks. The late-summer blahs have inched their way into my muscles and bones and I have been pretty much a couch-potato the last 14 or so days, except to shuffle back and forth to the kitchen and down the steps where my parked-under-the-shed car awaits me and offers me air-conditioning full-blast. But there is a silver lining here. I have caught up on my summer reading. I soared through two delicious pieces of literary gold and I am sure that I must be a better human being for it. Reading historical drama (that's really fiction but takes place with characters who are realistic and engrossed in circumstances that are corrrectly historic or prevalent in the world) broadens my horizons to other people's lives and how they live and how they face their demons. It makes me more tolerant of others and their problems and differences.
But there are good things going on. I took the plunge and cut all my hair off, and I haven't looked back -- well, except to see the short, mousy gray stubble on the backside of my head. I left my bangs long and highlighted and will probably keep them that way at least for now...I am slowly easing into the hair of my sixties. Showering and getting ready has never been easier or quicker! I keep seeing all those folks with beautiful silver and white hair and wonder if I'll ever get there but, hey, patience -- it's a process! The underside of my hair hasn't seen the light of day in the ten years since chemo so I figure the sun'll kiss it a little day by day and, by the time I start drawing Social Security, I should truly look the role! The funny part about having this new hairstyle is that, even though no one will ever doubt again that I am a senior citizen, I really feel younger! There's nothing like a new hairstyle to perk you up and take away the doldrums. I also bought myself a new top which I have worn literally to every place I've gone recently, which probably makes it no longer a new top. A new top also has a way of perking you up.
And, as much as I fear announcing it because I don't want to jinx it, we have finally purchased a house to renovate. However, I have learned after many failed contracts not to get my hopes too high until exactly 60 seconds after the closing table has been dismissed. But this one looks like it's a solid contract, and for that I am totally elated! It is a long, low seventies brick ranch, and I've been totally stoked about getting my grimy little reno hands on one of these. It has sat for a long time empty and has issues -- pretty big issues but nothing that we can't fix. So for that reason, this reno will be a team effort. We have called in my sister and brother-in-law and my brother and even my 90-year-old daddy who will give us his well-respected opinion when he will walk away and fully expect his kids to get it done! And that we will do, sweet, daddy-o! There is roofing to be done, flooring to be laid, and lots of decor decisions in order to bring this old gal back to the land of the living. As they say, she has good bones, just needs her hair and makeup done and a little TLC injected into those walls that could probably tell us a million stories. As you see in the images, she needs a haircut really badly...she is completely covered by an overgrowth of bushes and trees and weeds galore. But the beautiful hardwoods and mature crepe myrtles and purple lantana will once again shine and be her glory. Even she is gonna be made better by a haircut! Can't wait to get started!
Then absolutely the best thing that has happened recently is finding out that my newest granddaughter who is still safely within the confines of her mother's belly is well and appears to be completely healthy. My sweet daughter's family recently relocated back to the states from Honduras for a year after Hollie contracted the Zika virus during her first trimester of pregnancy. And, if you've been watching the news lately, you know this is a scary diagnosis. But uncertain days, sleepless nights, and many tears later, the team of awesome doctors at Emory has found that my sweet little baby granddaughter appears to be growing and developing normally and right on schedule to make her debut in December. An amazing Christmas gift, indeed. For this report, we are beyond grateful and really have no words for the thankfulness in our hearts. It has been a road of stressful moments from a string of not-so-good reports. But love and prayers have brought us through this most difficult time and we are once again reminded to never take life, love, or good health for granted.
So if you, like me, have been suffering from the late-August humdrums, finding it hard to be inspired, and you're longing for the brisk, cool days of a new season, know you're not alone. Meanwhile, look for the blessings you have in your life and focus on those (I guarantee you have some!); think about better days to come and the victories you've achieved in the battles of everyday life.
You might even wanna think about cutting off all that hair that's weighing ya down...hey, it worked for me!
“You are imperfect, permanently and inevitably flawed. And you are beautiful.”
― Amy Bloom
Today I am resting up from a five-day marathon. Now, I know that a marathon is measured by miles (26.21875 miles to be exact), but my marathons are measured by days and are also measured by what I am doing those said days. In my case it might be moving; it might be editing; it might be a decorating project; it might be a million things where I've turned my focus to something and persevered until it's done -- wrapped up -- fini! This week it has been a marathon of loving, guiding, wrangling, and keeping safe my little Preston while her parents were traveling. And, let me tell you, this nana is worn out! But did you know there's a difference between a "bad" worn out and a "good" worn out? Well, this is an extremely "good" worn out, but worn out nonetheless!
For those of you mommies who are passing from the infancy or toddler stage to the preschool stage, let me give you a piece of advice from a seasoned nana: hang in there, this too shall pass! There are myriad opinions of what stages in child-rearing are the most difficult. Some say infancy because baby is so helpless and you sometimes simply don't know what they need; this stage gets my vote as the most difficult. Some say hands-down the "terrible-twos" stage because it seems at this developmental time in a child's life, they have mastered an utterly amazing repertoire in ways to express the word "no." Saying "no" by a two-year old can simply be the word "no" in a firm or extremely loud and authoritative tone, but it can also be accompanied by the showing out of little Sammy or Sue. It might even include a well-orchestrated-full-on-throw-me-down tantrum after which follows a hard and wrenching trip back to normalcy in an already otherwise difficult day. After all, it's a day with a two-year-old...certainly not for the faint of heart. But as I have observed three children and three grandchildren in my journey as a grandmother, I see that every single stage has its blessings and its challenges. There are actually some days in a small child's life that go by pretty much without a hitch. They are agreeable, they eat well, they take their nap without a fuss, and they say things so cute that you literally think you could eat them with a spoon for desert. It's a good thing God made 'em cute, right? We live for these days.
And then there are the threes. Much like the twos, the threes continue in the art form of saying no. And if you have a strong-willed child such as my little P (as was her mother), you get an even stronger dose of just how challenging a three-year-old (aka preschooler) can be. Every day recently with my granddaughter had its challenges, some more than others, and every day had its blessings. The blessings by far ruled over the challenges, but the challenges were absolutely there. Some days they were as little as a timid no -- timid because she knew nana would not take no for an answer but, hey, you gotta try, right? Some days, they were a little more taxing...to the point that, once baby girl was in bed for the night, Nana soon followed. Raising children is for the young! I know there are plenty of grandparents out there who for whatever reason are having to raise their grandchildren and will complete the task at any cost. It's hard to believe you can love a grandchild as much as your own child...until you have a grandchild. And then that little person becomes just as much a part of your life as the children you carried for nine months and delivered from your own body. I believe God gives those grandparents who are raising their grandchildren an extra dose of power and endurance and blessings. It also doesn't help when you feel like the grandchild is a complete "re-version" of your child and at times, when you're keeping her, you're quite sure you've been taken back in a time machine to the year 1986 when your own child was three. Sometimes even the sound of Preston's voice is like Hollie's when she was three. It is a strange and magical moment when that happens, but a bittersweet one as well. Before you know it, they're grown and having babies of their own. I know it's cliché, but it's true.
Three is an interesting age. By the age of three and into the fourth year, children are well-developed into their own and lasting personalities. They know quite definitively what they like and don't like, what they want to do and what they don't want to do, and how to express those desires in no-uncertain terms. They have learned the power of persuasion, the art of negotiating, and exactly how far they can cross the line before driving their parents and grandparents over the edge of no return. I personally believe they plan their days to see just what they can achieve in the area of getting what they want, when they want it! And, thankfully, my little P is no different from a typical three-year-old because she is right on schedule and thriving, but if I didn't know better I would swear she is far ahead of her years in the negotiating agenda. She knows what she wants and every single solitary day she goes after it! Her perfect day would go something like this:
Rise with the sun, well-rested to a breakfast of doughnuts and chocolate milk
*Play for exactly four hours till lunchtime, which is a slice of cheese pizza, cookies, and lemonade
Skip naptime because there is still much playing to be done and two hours of television until...
An equally-delicious meal of mac&cheese (and mac&cheese only) is served for dinner.
(Bedtime only comes because little one is too tired to go any further and kills over from exhaustion)
*Playtime also might include times of pool-wading, park-visiting, or shopping for fun toys at the local Wal-mart).
But, alas, the day doesn't always go as our little one would have it because we, as parents and grandparents, have to make sure they get their veggies, their rest, their exercise, AND their discipline if needed. They soon become little creatures of habit and well-developed habits when they're young leads to good habits when they're older. My girls tell me they simply cannot eat a meal now without some sort of green vegetable on their plate. I guess I did something right!
But one thing I've learned about strong-willed three-year-olds like my little Preston: They have great potential to go far in life and, with the right guidance by their parents, grandparents, teachers and every other adult in their life, their strong wills can be developed into passions and successes. The key is to channel that energy into productivity, and I can say that my daughter has done a marvelous job at that. Every single day Hollie has her own great efficacy in turning Preston's boundless energy into something productive -- household chores such as cleaning and gardening, reading, learning new things. Preston is extremely energetic (because she is well-fed and gets the proper rest), happy and hilariously-animated, and very intelligent for her age. I would not be at all surprised if one day in her future she will direct that boundless enthusiasm to medicine or research or law or a trillion other things that could be a result of the strong will that she claims. Strong-willed people are perseverers, confident, and determined. They never give up on what they want!
So we carry on. We accept the challenge when we have children and grandchildren to love, direct, and yes, wrangle them into submission if we need to. We deny ourselves for them, we put them first in all our decisions in life, we do the right thing for them when we're too tired to put one foot in front of the other, and we too persevere till the end. Which, I'm beginning to think never truly comes. My mother, on her death bed, lined up newborn pictures of my siblings and me, and referred to them as her babies. She went back to the time when she felt she was the most blessed women in the world to be entrusted with those three little lives and she was a mother who loved her kids with great passion till she left this world because, like they say, once a mother always a mother. And, if we truly want the best for them, we do it all with a happy heart, even though most times it's treacherous work and sometimes an equally thankless job.
It seems as though the marathons are in no way winding down for me, as I have a new grandbaby due at Christmas! And, as long as there is strength in my body, I will run the miles needed to make sure my kids are happy, healthy, and secure. As long as there is breath in my lungs, I will talk to them, tell them stories, read them the same book for the thousandth time, and play their little games, no matter how silly. I will teach them that kindness, not selfishness, has the greatest rewards. I will teach them that love is the golden rule and that hard work is not easy but always pays off. But races are preceded by months of preparation. You have to train and you have to rest. Then you train and you rest some more. And after the next race, you do it all over again.
And, on that note, I am ready for a good lunch and another nap. I can see my next race on the horizon, and I simply must be prepared. Because life, and having children, is not a sprint...it's a marathon for sure.
Happy Wednesday, y'all!
There is an unopened box of Clairol Nice‘n Easy, number 8/103A, Natural Medium Blonde (my long-time color of choice), under the sink in my upstairs bathroom. I’ve had it for approximately one month now, purchased around the time I should’ve colored my mousy gray roots (an every-six-week ritual since I've forgotten when). But I’ve put off this regular task because I am considering …uh, thinking about ...uh, maybe letting my gray grow out and, for the first time since I was 16, allowing myself to be completely au naturel. I certainly have done that with everything else. I no longer even try to squeeze my size-9 feet into shoes meant for street-walkers, and my bunions thank me. I could not walk down the street in a pair of stilettos any easier than I could run a marathon right now. I haven't worn a girdle in 40 years and am completely content with going out in public sporting my spare tire(s). Okay, you don't know what a girdle is?? Bah, I'm telling my age as I speak! I think they're called "body-shapers" today. It hasn't been as easy letting go of my Nice'n Easy. I've been highlighting, coloring, or lightening my hair 'from the sun' most of my adult life -- correction, all of my adult life. Remember Sun-In, you 70's gals? They still sell it! But frankly, to be perfectly honest, I'm just sick and tired of doing it. I've also heard horror stories of ladies being diagnosed with brain tumors only to find out later that it was deposits from their hair dye over the years. Yikes!
As we women began to age and start thinking more about our mortality, many things threaten us. Issues of declining health are probably some of the biggest. We dread going to the doctor for fear that another test is needed to determine what this ache is, or where that pain is coming from, or what the most recent blood results mean. But we know we have to go, because to not go could bring about even worse results. I always think about my mother and how, if she'd just faced her cancer head-on in the beginning, she might still be with us. My mom was a strong woman but she was in denial. I'm sure I've been guilty of that as well. Mama was strong enough to fight cancer but she waited till the weakness had already set in and the cancer had invaded her body too far. Her resolve started strong, but her weakened body forced her to throw in the towel. But if we're completely honest with ourselves, we not only think about feeling well and being healthy, but looking good too. Come on now, you know I'm right. Every time we notice a new wrinkle, we check the store aisles for a better night cream...you know, the kind that works while we're asleep?! Every time we notice new spider veins on our legs, we once again consider the possibility of seeing a dermatologist for that new "un-intrusive" surgery advertised all the time in our faces. I mean, after all, who can live a full and complete life with spider veins? Well, me, apparently. And, if you're like me, you've started that "I'll-do-better" diet and exercise regimen again and again over the years. Recently I had to have a tooth pulled that had been giving me issues since 2014. I know, I'm the worst sometimes about going to the doctor and the dentist even more so -- unh-unh, I hate it! But after having it pulled and the dentist quoting me the cost to have a bridge or an implant, I decided I was not too proud to have one less tooth in my head! I mean, I could go on a vacation -- a nice vacation -- for the cost of a tooth implant! I've told my girls sometimes it just seems easier to let everything go and just face whatever health issues develop and their consequences...after all, I don't fear death. But they tell me I'm selfish to think such things and I'm not thinking of them; I guess they really do love me. Then I'm reminded of my sweet mama and I totally understand what they're saying.
As I edge a little closer each day -- each and every day -- to the golden years where it seems like the physical gets harder but the knowledge and wisdom accrued over the years is more desirable, I am forced to come to terms with what I really need at this point in my life to be fulfilled. Sure, I'm just like most red-blooded American girls...I wanna be "purdy" if I can; I do not love showing my age. But is there any eternal benefit to having no gray hair, no spider veins, no wrinkles, no age spots...except to boost our own pitiful self-image? When Hollie got married, I was just a short time out from chemo and my hair was probably a half-inch long, if that. She told me she didn't want me to wear my wig if I didn't want to. She thought I was beautiful either way. So I nixed the wig! I cruised down the aisle on my hubby's arm, so delighted to be there, cropped hair and all. My bestie told me she cried as she saw me, just so happy that I was still there to see my daughter get married. That was my time to stop coloring, but did I do it? Much to my regret, no, I did not. Sometimes I try to look at myself the way others do but, believe me, it's no easy task. My children and grandchildren don't care how I look; they care how I act. Uh-oh, that's a little scary as well. They care if I show them unconditional love and give them my time and wisdom and help and, for that, they think I'm beautiful! Other people seem to look past my imperfections as well. How do I know this? Because I give them the same grace. I look at their hearts and their minds, not their bodies. If we face ourselves squarely in the mirror, it's because we want to look great for numero uno and to somehow convince our foolish selves that we're really not aging at all. Unfortunately, we still sometimes base our worth on how we look. We can thank the American marketing system for that one. How many times recently have you thought back on younger days as you marvel over a Photoshopped image of a beautiful young woman? But more importantly, how long has it been since you gave yourself the test of self-worth based on your heart, your smarts, the accomplishments you've achieved in your life, the love you hold dear, and your hard-earned wisdom, not simply on how you look? Our looks are not what is true and lasting (believe me), and as I've heard it all my life, it's what's on the inside that counts. Thank God for that.
So to color or not to color? The jury is still out on that one. I sit here staring at the box of Nice'n Easy that has now made its way to my desk as I contemplate the matter. My hubby's vote is for me to continue being a blonde...says the man with no hair at all! I'm leaning towards the natural state that is really me now, as much as I hate it, -- mousy gray and that's okay. My sister stopped coloring her hair several years back and it seems to me that her life is just as full and happy. Plus, she has more time to face the big giants that really count when she's not thinking so much about how she looks all the time. Like spending much-needed time with family and friends. And serving in her church. And making dinner for the family with the new baby. Or visiting the sick. Or teaching a class. Or solving the problem of world hunger. You get the picture.
I have exactly 1.5 inches of gray hair growth right now at my roots. And who really and truly cares? No one, apparently.
And, most importantly, neither do I.
Just a little postscript...I'm not suggesting we don't try to look our best. A little lipstick, a little mascara, a little cover-up...a fresh coat of paint makes even an old barn look better! Let's just try harder to accept ourselves the way we really are. There's no shame in that...
Posted by CC
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