I grew up hearing about the flu epidemic of 1918–and knowing how contagious disease can affect a family’s history. My 26-year-old paternal grandfather died in that epidemic; he left behind his 23-year-old wife and my dad, not quite three years old. This tragedy determined the trajectory of the lives of my beloved grandmother and dad; it left a hole in our family tree that no amount of time could ever fill.
I retired from a deeply satisfying teaching career just before I turned sixty-five, having always thought I would keep teaching well into my seventies. The decision came in the aftermath of my parents’ illnesses and deaths.
The years between stroke and death for both my mother and father seem, with hindsight,
My awesome friend, Flo, worked as the RN nurse manager of the Spinal Cord Unit at the Veterans Administration hospital for many years. During that time, she married, raised twins and earned a master’s degree. Then, in 1990, she came to work at my hospital, and we’ve been friends ever since.
Flo was generous, had a great sense of humor and always saw the best in people. We said she looked at the world through rose-colored glasses.
“So, how much do you love the new knee I gave you?” he asked as he walked into the exam room. I stared at the doctor in disbelief. This was his introduction at my first post-op visit after knee replacement surgery? My husband had been an orthopedic surgeon himself, and I’m quite sure that, in his thirty years of practice, he never said that to a patient.
The light from the stage spilled out over the audience and illuminated the faces of my companions. I was there with my Dad, 94, and his friend of many years Dilys, 93. We were settling in after intermission. As the music started, I could feel each of them sit up a little straighter, alert to the familiar Mozart. I wondered how many times each had heard this symphony. I glanced at the two of them, their faces rapt in full attention. Their eyes gleamed and each of them smiled slightly. Bliss! I felt a rush of happiness to be
Simon and Garfunkel said it best: “How terribly strange to be seventy.” When I turned seventy in 2017, I felt old for the first time in my life. Nothing external changed except for a few more wrinkles and gray hairs; I kept my part-time teaching job, continued to usher at theatres, and kept up my reading marathon. However, internally, I felt mortal; most of the chapters in my life have ended, and only a few chapters and the epilogue remain.