I am looking out the rear second-floor window of our home office southward. The bright winter sun is glistening off the slightly wind-blown, green needles of a twenty-five-year-old pine.
We have been here 28 years. I can recall when that tree, along with several others, was planted on a small hill south of our property. A few months short of 78, I find the vibrant light and green pine needles lighten my day physically and spiritually.
It’s God’s handiwork. He has given purpose to our marriage and our lives. He continues to paint beautiful images 150 feet beyond that window. It is enchanting.
I am two weeks and two days short of the ninth anniversary of my retirement. I remember struggling with whether I should work on Saturdays late in my career when it seemed necessary. Technology had not helped diminish my weekly hours making it far easier and tempting to work at home on Saturdays. At one point I even considered laboring on Sundays but, thank God, my spouse, Kristine, quickly talked me out of it.
I cannot describe how gratifying it was to walk out of my office on that last day of work. It was almost like the world had been lifted off my shoulders.
On the other hand, it wasn’t long before various systems in my body were beginning to slow down and decay. I am a victim of inbreeding as a 100 percent Ashkenazi Jew.
My paternal grandparents were cousins. Not a good thing. I am slowly feeling the effects of that now approaching 78 years of age in less than five months.
By God’s grace, he found Kristine and me almost 38 years ago. It’s made the road more tolerable and more peaceful. She is the love of my life and He is our savior.
“Being a nerd, which is to say going too far and caring too much about a subject, is the best way to make friends I know. For me, the spark that turns an acquaintance into a friend has usually been kindled by some shared enthusiasm.” Sara Vowell, an American author.
I guess nerd has gradually changed it’s meaning over my lifetime that began in the mid-20th century. At that point, Civil War vets were breathing as was Babe Ruth. It had been only 42 years since the Wright brothers first success at Kitty Hawk.
One Sunday afternoon 31 years later, two tennis nerds met in downtown Baltimore, a place that to my knowledge has never hosted an international, professional, tennis event. In those days a nerd was the player who got picked last for the sandlot team.
A few days later they played the game. One week later they attended a tennis tournament in Washington, D C.
They were married nine months after they first met just filled with their tennis nerdity, enthusiasm and passion. That was my spouse, Kristine, and me. Thank God for HUGE favors.
“There is no such thing as conversation. It is an illusion. There are intersecting monologues, that is all.” Dame Cicely Isabel Fairfield, the late British novelist whose pen name was Rebecca West,.
I have been working at CONVERSATION for 77.5 years and three weeks. First, I was gleaning English by osmosis in the sponge of my infantile brain. As a grade-schooler, I noted the girls were chatty while I remained silent. The schoolgirls actually seemed to listen to each other. They even went eyeball to eyeball, as opposed to staring at the floor, which wasn’t very far down.
Jumping, some seventy years, I have read when we associate something we are told with a personal memory, the feedback falls short of genuine discussion. The thought has a tinge of self-absorption instead of responsive curiosity.
A reaction like, “why do you think that’s true?” Might well be ideal. With any luck at all, you get my drift.
This blog from two years ago is appropriate today, our 45th anniversary.:
I woke up this morning and there was Kristine. For almost 43 years we’ve managed to live through innumerable highs and lows. However, here we are.
By the grace of God in the face of conflict, that is a part of any marriage, we still love each other. We care about getting better at that by the grace of God.
Yes, marriages are complicated. Yes, many fail. Yes, there are times of desperation. Yes, there are times of great joy.
The challenge in my retirement, as my sense of thirst, sense of hearing, sense of sight and mind, slowly (Please God), deteriorate, is to listen attentively with my aid-assisted ears and soul. There is more time to do that once retired. On the other hand, that time together, I think, is best balanced with time alone, which is a bit more difficult in a pandemic.
Down deep we both believe that prayer and receptivity will get us through it. She is, after all, the love of my life.
It was 45 years, sixteen thousand dinners and goodnight kisses, two kids and two grandkids ago on a rainy, Saturday night in Bethesda, MD that I married the love of my life. That night was the most blessed and joyous of my life.
“‘There is nothing like staying at home for real comfort.” Jane Austen, the 19th-century English novelist. Oh yes.
The home was a mixed blessing when I was a kid. My mom was nurturing and my father was difficult. It thrilled me to leave for school at eighteen.
Our house is where we have lived, thank God, for almost thirty years. It has my loving, artistic spouse’s touch. Those touches have given me peace, as have her paintings. Our dwellingplace is where I can awaken, have breakfast, read, write, and experience Kris’ company in the quiet tranquility of the indoors.
It’s no accident that small, romantic, non-epic films are now very hard to sell at the box office. We have high definition, large, crystal clear screens with soundboards with which to enjoy the personal. They have added to the comfort of our era. That change is part of what the Pandemic has done to our culture.
I was thrilled when the San Diego Chargers’ moved to L.A. I could avoid traffic, boisterous crowds, and local television blackouts for non-sellouts. I could gain well-informed, former quarterbacks to explain what was really going on.
It’s even better now at home than in Austen’s 19th century. Good thought, Jane.
At 77, I have lost my youth. It won’t come back in this life.
In my youth, I could play in a tennis, doubles match for hours and singles in shorter bursts. Today, my low back spasms after hitting one serve. That accelerating first step towards the ball is non-existent. The painless, tennis serve won’t be happening without surgery that may not work.
Then, I could eat whatever struck my fancy without concern for my blood glucose. That practice went south about a dozen years ago.
Then, I could go upstairs to a room and consistently remember why I made the trip. Most names came to me easily. Those skills have withered slowly, thank God.
I could use my hands without arthritic pain. That doesn’t happen much anymore.
But, what I do have are the gifts of life, a spouse, a home, two children and two grandchildren. They are gifts from an all-powerful God who loves me more than I can even imagine. He touches my soul and enrichens my life. Thank God, I don’t have to achieve a performance standard.
I need to love more deeply, pray more fervently and grow up.