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!


Monday, September 3, 2012

The Glory of Now

My friend Theo looked thoughtful today as he and Bob tuned their guitars for a music session. "Why is it," he said. "Why is it that people are always looking for a reward -- the glory of heaven, the big cash out, public accolades -- instead of living, just living, fully now?"

                                Bob and Theo in a joyous music session                                                 

Bob, Theo and I talked about that for awhile -- how easy it is to get caught up in seeking rewards for the future when the best reward of all is a life fully and lovingly lived.

Sometimes the process of achieving a goal is sweeter than the goal itself.

The daily commitment to living according to one's values and doing the right thing moment by moment, day by day, is its own reward.

It feels good to be loving and generous with others. It feels good to greet others with a friendly "hello" whether or not that greeting is returned in kind. It feels good to listen and really hear another. It feels good to be kind -- not because you're looking for a reward in heaven or on earth -- but because it's the right thing to do, easing another's burden.

It feels good to consider, right now, all that brings us together instead of focusing on the ways we differ. "People get notions about people who are different from themselves," Theo, a former social worker in New York City, mused. "We cling to stereotypes and we make assumptions about each other when we are much more alike than different." Something to remember in these divisive political times.

It feels good to take time just to be.  So many times we focus more on what we do or what we have than who we are.  What discoveries one can make in meditation, in stopping and quieting the mind, reflecting on what makes us both unique and one with each other.

Especially on a holiday like this one,  it's wonderful to take time just to savor life and its blessings. When I was a child, my parents had a dear friend named Carl Mueller who had a great talent for savoring life as it was happening. As my parents ran around in a frenzy of work and worry, Carl would take my brother Mike and me out to the grassy front yard where we would lie down and watch the clouds, enjoying the sunlight and the ever-changing shapes in the day and the vastness of space and starlight at night. Such times were an oasis of calm, of joy, of mindfulness in our otherwise troubled childhoods.

And now my brother is passing such glorying in the moment along to his own children. Yesterday, he sent me a picture he labeled "Our Carl Mueller Moment" -- a picture of him and his two-month old son enjoying cloud-watching on a late summer afternoon.

                                        Mike and Henry enjoying the moment

Bob, Theo and I agreed that we're far from ruling out the possibility of an afterlife, a heaven. But we want to enjoy the glory of some heavenly moments now, all those small moments of peace and kindness and goodness that bless every one of our days.