Sunday, September 16, 2012

Time Passing with Hellos and Goodbyes

In the midst of the timelessness of another Maui vacation -- with Bob running four miles daily along a coastal trail and our swimming across Napili Bay and back twice a day -- there were reminders today about the relentless march of time.

We got an email from our former neighbors Jay and Linda that Alice, one of their two surviving cats (after the late Zoey, about whom I wrote a post in April 2011), died yesterday at the age of about 17. She was a spirited member of their family for sixteen years and a great pal of Zoey's.  If there really is a Rainbow Bridge, I hope that Alice and Zoey are playing there together once again -- free of the pain and infirmity that their old age brought.

               Alice, a beloved member of Jay and Linda's family, died yesterday    

It's a reminder of how brief and fragile all our lives are.  Our beloved pets just live a speeded up version of timelines that confront us all.

While walking to breakfast at our favorite sea side restaurant this morning, Bob and I saw a woman out walking, supported by a walking pole, aged and unsteady on her feet. As we approached the restaurant, we saw an elderly couple, both bent with severe arthritis and walking with great difficulty. And I wondered if I might be glimpsing the future.

Looking back at our first visit to Maui together in 1977, I realize there is quite a difference between the slim young woman I was then with nary an ache or pain, running in and out of the surf. Now I approach the waves with a heavier step and fling myself in, re-experiencing youth only while swimming and jumping the waves. Only when I step out of the sea once again am I reminded of the passing of time and its toll on me physically.

And yet, perhaps, I enjoy days here in Maui at least as much and probably much more than I did in my youth. I realize now, with new clarity, how finite the time that will permit Bob to continue to run and both of us to swim through choppy seas without undue fatigue.  There probably won't be many more of these active holidays -- which is why we decided to come back again this year.

Aging is a fascinating passage. For some of us, our bodies age and our spirits remain young. Some years ago, my 90 year old maternal grandmother was visiting us and Bob asked her how old she felt inside. Grandma's eyes twinkled with amusement. "Why, 18, of course," she said. "I've always been 18 in spirit."

All these years later, I know what she meant more than ever.

I'm 18 in the water and all of my 67 years on land.

Where did the time go?

I'm astounded when I think of my sister's child Nick and get the image of a bright and droll child in my mind before realizing that Nick is now 22 years old.

It doesn't seem possible that I'll be attending my 45th college reunion in October and my 50th high school reunion in April of next year.

Bob and I can't help but look at each other with wonder when he recounts every moment of the day we met and we both realize that was 37 years ago -- and that we've known each other and been married to each other quite a few more years than we had been alive when we met.

And I cuddle my beloved cat Gus, remembering the delightful, sweet kitten he was, then see the impact of time on this wonderful animal whose gait is slowed and jumping days are over. Is it possible that he is 14 years old? A wave of anticipatory grief comes in a rush. Then I kiss his massive head, vowing to enjoy every remaining moment with this lovely cat however long or short the rest of his life may be.  And I watch him nurturing our new kitten Hamish, who is quickly growing out of kittenhood and toward young adulthood in what seems like an instant.

               Gus as a kitten in August 1998, curled up with late brother Timmy   

                             Gus, 14, and Hamish, 4 months, in August 2012                     

It's the cycle of life we all inhabit -- where we're always saying "hello" and, as time goes on, more and more often saying "goodbye".

Goodbye youth, hello young old age.

And hello to new generations of kids and kitties.

Hello, sweet Henry, two months and precocious Maggie, 3 -- the children of my brother Mike and his wife Amp. Their lives in a multi-cultural, high tech world will be very different from ours -- and, we hope, will extend many years after we are all but memories. And we hope that all of those years will be happy and fulfilling ones for these children -- and countless others who are new to this world.

                   Maggie and Henry, jet-lagged on arrival in Bangkok, Thailand               

Goodbye to Jeanie's wonderful and beautiful Marmalade Gypsy whom so many of us came to love through her blog of the same name.

Hello, my precious Hamish! May you have a long, healthy and happy life.

Goodbye to too many friends I knew and cherished who never had a chance to grow old.

Hello, Jay and Linda. I can so feel and understand the pain you're experiencing right now.

And goodbye, dear Alice! You were a wonder and have left so many hearts sad at your passing and so very glad to have known you!



  1. Ahhh! I've been thinking on these things lately myself. I'm so glad you and bob got to enjoy such a lovely vacation (and kudos to him for his running and swimming!). We just make the bet of what the days allow us, don't we? And like your sweet grandmother, it's how we feel on the inside that defines us, not what the external looks like.

    Maggie and Henry are precious, and Hamish and Gus are too cute!

  2. I find myself thinking these same thought lately. Ah, I just noticed that the blogger above said the same thing. I guess those of us who are aging are all on the same page.

  3. Is this an epidemic or what?? I too have been thinking many of these thoughts myself this summer -- maybe it goes with the age -- I turned 67 this year, too! This year in France I was amazed at the energy of my husband, 70, as he renovated, repaired, and 'upkept' the garden -- especially as he kept up his regime on the hottest of days. I kept wondering -- how much longer ... My energy levels seem to lag more and more and the small aches and pains seem more troublesome -- nevertheless we are both lucky compared to so many others. But I do need to get on with more physical activity -- one thing I get a lot more of now that I'm back in the UK and have to walk!

    Lovely post, Kathy, and so good to be able to read your wise words once again!

  4. Dearest Sweet Friend
    Like your other friends I too have been having these very same thoughts so it was strange coming over here and reading your post.
    I am so glad you are enjoying and making more lovely memories with sweet hubby.
    We all need to be like your grandmother and keep a twinkle in our eyes. I too don't see myself at 64 until I try to do something that not too long ago was no problem to do.
    Just told a friend last night that I thought my body was aging faster than normal here lately. lol
    Enjoyed my visit with you today


  5. THe words "anticipatory grief" rang -- and are still ringing -- in me. I sometimes feel as if I'm the only one who feels/sees these slow, inevitable changes, and I always feel such comfort when I come here.

    I love how smart you are.


  6. Dear Kathy, this posting today touched me deeply for it is about the cycle of life. The ebb and flow of the spirit within us.

    I am sorry to learn of Alice's death. I believe she's playing not just with Zoey but also with Dulcy and Bartleby. I embrace the Holy Oneness of All Creation and so I have no doubt that love never ends. It is the lasting eternity. And it is the essence of those animals who have graced our lives as well as those humans who have touched our lives. Peace.

  7. It would be good if we could accept that all life must come to an end, that the cycle itself is endless and we are granted no more than the briefest time ourselves. Of course, the goodbyes would still be painful, but the raging against 'the unfairness of it', as so many people see it, would surely no longer be part of the mourning process.

    We can do no more than live each day as it comes; I am not even an advocate of 'living each day to the utmost'; it's futile. No matter how much I meant to become aware of each passing minute after I'd recovered from serious illness, that determination soon disappeared into the great void of the stream of life. Hello and goodbye, that's life.

  8. Lovely post ... now that I think about it, that may seem a strange thing to say about a post on death, aging, and loss. It's bittersweet, it's sad, but it's also heartwarming and lovely. I identify, like other commenters here. My parents are elderly, frail, and one is in fragile health, and I occasionally have that "anticipatory grief", just as I do with our current cat companions. But I then do just what you did - immerse myself in the moment, the happy full-of-life moment.

    Your brother's little ones are cute :)

  9. Oh, Kathy, your words are where my thoughts have been lately. Partly in mourning Gypsy (thank you for thinking of us in this post) and partly in seeing a body that just doesn't work the way it used to. Paying outrageous amounts for machines to help clear my lungs and thinking, "I didn't bargain for this part." But those moments make me all the more grateful for the time in the surf you mention, the pretty days that move too fast. Today I ran into someone from my high school homeroom. We weren't all that pal-ish in high school. We never did any of the same activities and I never even thought he knew my name. We realized it was more than 40 years ago that we graduated. Had we done enough with our lives? Enough good? Made the right choices? It was a nice conversation that stuck with me, long after I checked out.

  10. Thank you for being in touch with me throughout my epic renovation :) About aging - I'm 47 years old. In all respects, I feel much more cheerful than when I was 30. At that time, I was too critical about everything. Now, I'm kind of clueless and happy about it :)

  11. We seem to be saying goodbye not just to those who died, but to parts of ourselves that are no longer responding. Old age can be cruel on so many levels. Yet, looking back, realizing what a gift this life was, in all its facets, all its unpredictable ways, stretching us to be more every day, looking back helps us see all the chapters stretched and understood.

    Glad you still enjoy swimming!
    Glad you help us all see these things in perspective!

  12. Another wise and perceptive post, Kathy, in which you have obviously struck a mighty chord with your readers, including me. At 66 I too am aware of bits of me not working as well as they used to, of tiring more easily and finding life just a bit harder than it was. But almost 14 years after my first cancer diagnosis, I am still hugely grateful to be as fit and well as I am and syill enjoying life so much.

    No cats for us for as long as we are peripatetic, but we will have them once we stop travelling, even though I too hate the inevitable partings.

  13. Dear Kathy, you haven't posted in a couple of weeks and I'm hoping you are just taking a break and doing enjoyable things and that you're not ill. Take care. Peace, Dee

  14. Oh gosh you've touched upon everything lol
    Animals, parents, friends, young old age....

    I've always wanted to be 23 and I stopped there but my body didn't lol

    Best to look at life as an every day gift to enjoy.
    Now if only the every day bad news would go away, it could become a perfect world.

  15. Dear Dr. Kathy,

    What a wonderful post! I just discovered you from my cousin's blog. And after reading your post I knew I had found a similar soul. I have blogged about aging - I am pretty opinionated about it having been a caregiver for my mother in my home for the last 5 1/2 years. I have 2 wonderful cats that follow in the footprints of 8 previous family felines over the 43 years of my marriage to my husband.

    I am so glad to have "found" you.

  16. Always enjoy my visits with you. This has been one sad month long of friends losing their beloved pets.

    Love the kid-lings, they are darling.

    TTFN ~

  17. HI Kathy, Great blog post. Sometimes we all struggle --especially as we age-- with life and loss. Being the youngest in my family, I have lost both parents and both brothers.. I think I miss them more now that I'm older... BUT--we need to plug on ---and stay positive and as healthy as possible.

    Losing a pet is always hard --no matter what age we are. We get so attached to them and don't realize what a vital part of our lives they are until after they are gone.

    Glad you are enjoying your time in Maui. That is on our list of places to visit someday.