For Joel


Sombrero Shot

In 5th grade, I missed the point but remembered the beauty of a science experiment. After assembling some materials and asking for our attention, Mr. Wadsen told us to watch carefully because he’d be asking for our observations. Then, with his cowlick springing free and an air of scientific inquiry, he slowly emptied a large eyedropper filled with red dye into a jar of water.

Leaning forward in my desk, I propped my chin on my fist and watched as tiny tendrils of scarlet worked their way through the water, slowly expanding and stretching in whorls and swoops until the water was completely infused with a lovely red glow.

More recently, a sense of well-being has spread through me much like that softly flowing color I remember watching as a 5th-grader. Contentment, in swirls and downward trickles, has slowly changed me, bestowing an ease that streams through my days, transforming me as gently as dye infuses water, making me more beautiful on the inside. I’m happy.

Aging — though a continuing succession of physical woes — has blessed me with the grace of maturity.

During my life, I endured losses, suffered hurts, made mistakes, and failed those I cared about; but I also learned what is important and what is superficial; what my body and soul need and what harms them; what I am responsible for and what I can leave to others.

I’m calmer now, more genuine and appreciative. I’m able to more quickly see the humor in my own follies and the eccentricities of others.

My major life-decisions have been made, and for the most part, I’ve accepted them and learned to live with their consequences. Sentences I used to resist saying come more easily to me now: I’m sorry. I was wrong. It’s not important. And other statements escape me less often: You always. You should. I didn’t.

I still begrudge my body’s latest betrayals, dread the results of medical tests, and greet my mirrored image with indignant surprise, but the infusion of happiness bestowed by my years buffer those blows, comfort me with the knowledge that, as long as I live, I’ll be able to find a measure of joy in life.

So thank you, Joel, for looking up from editing one of my recent posts and asking why I never write about the positive aspects of aging.

You are right. I’ve failed my readers by not telling them the truths I’ve discovered as I’ve walked through the last ten years with you.


23 thoughts on “For Joel

    • i can hardly wait until you can stop contemplating and start retiring Jeannie, because that would mean longer lunches and conversations. Speaking of which, I think it’s time for another get-together. I’ll give you a call.


  1. We are not our physical self. We are much more than that. Our physical form will crumble and eventually fall, but our soul will still exist. Whether you believe in heaven and hell, or reincarnation, the spiritual us will continue to live in some sort of after life. It has been said that aging is not for sissies. I subscribe to that completely, but I also know that aging is a gift not given to everyone. Of course, if you are an atheist, then I guess none of this makes sense. Pity.


  2. What a lovely tribute Janet- was feelling a bit “lurgy” last week and googled all the hideous possibilites I never worried about in youth. I have dealt with anger and disapointment in years since my sister died, Losing a sibling is the worst, The bad day I have is one she had no chance to. Did an online Quiz, looks like I will be reincarnated as a Tree Sloth…a comforting thought, thanks Sheila.


    • I’ve often thought how difficult losing a sibling will be. I’ve known them longer than anyone else in my life. Plus, they know all about me and like me anyway. I’m sorry you lost your sister, Sheila.


  3. I well remember when my mother reached this point in her older years… she reached a point of peacefulness with herself and seemingly total acceptance of others… and joy in living… the miracle was, ,, people in her environment responded to her openness and joy… even her physician…..she touched others who came in contact with her… sue


  4. That is so funny, Sheila. The photo is from a retirement party with a fiesta theme where the wife of the honoree, an excellent photographer, had the guests pose in sombreros and took snapshots as a memento of the party. Obviously, Joel and I had been enjoying ourselves by the time she rounded us up to pose for her.


  5. Janet, I’m seldom at a loss for words, as you know, but this wonderful post had me thinking instead of writing. I was moved to hear you write how happy you are in your life, and the peace you have with accepting your genuine self.

    As I read and re-read the positve changes you mentioned that can come with aging into later years I kept thinking “you’re right”!

    I love the analogy that you felt contentment slowly spreading through your life. From a distance I’ve observed your happiness with Joel, the family, and grandkids. It’s heart-warming.


    • Mercy, you more than almost anyone have shared my voyage toward “accepting my genuine self” as you so aptly described it. I’m glad you recognized and agreed with the positive changes I’ve experienced. Thank you for writing.


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