When my father, Frank, was my age, he’d already retired from years of long hours as a tool and die maker to take care of my mother, Florence, who was dealing with the effects of diabetes. My Mom would never make it to my age. This comes to mind because I am working through a book, Opening Our Hearts, Transforming Our Losses, with someone I sponsor. The book is about grieving, not just loss through the passing of loved ones but the loss in relationships and of dreams. If you haven’t been around 12-Step programs, that probably seems like a strange way for two men to pass Wednesday afternoons. For the most part, moving through the pages has made me aware of the fortunate life I’ve lived, but we all lose friends as we age … and I think even the most fortunate among us have broken dreams. Mine mostly involve my now grown children, so perhaps there’s hope. That’s what the book is about.
In this already wistful mood, I found my way to Susan’s blog, coming east, and read her somewhat wistful post, Vintage Wine. For the most part, I could have written it. She talked about her Dad and his favorite song, Frank Sinatra’s It Was a Very Good Year. My Dad wasn’t a music lover but Sinatra’s album, September of My Years, is one of my favorites and perhaps the best recording ever made about growing older. My favorite from that album would be This is All I Ask, with the the lyric, Children everywhere, when you shoot at bad men, shoot at me. Take me to that strange enchanted land grown-ups seldom understand:
Susan writes about her mostly positive feelings as she approaches the autumn of her life. Like most things these days, it got me thinking. Frank Sinatra was 50 years old when he recorded September of My Years. Susan is younger than I am by some years (that’s all I’ll have to say about that!). So, if it’s the autumn of her years and Old Blue Eyes was in the September of his years at fifty, where the hell am I? It must at least be Early Winter.
The truth is, it feels more like Winter lately anyway. More often I awake with little aches and pains that have no logical explanation. Lately, I notice that I’m sweating and hot when the weather is cool. Is there a male menopause at sixty-nine? A good night’s sleep is a rare luxury. I find myself wistful more often and I think about changes I’d like to see before I die. I feel life more deeply, a good thing except when the sadness gets too deep or the anger too hot. I love more and more often, whether it’s family, friends, music or a sunny day. Susan says that she understands her Dad more in the autumn of her years. In the Winter of mine, I sometimes am my Dad, whether I’m remembering a lesson he taught or something slightly inappropriate slips from my tongue … and Muri and I have a laugh about it. Listening to music, I recall how my mother’s love of music … and art … and nature … gave me mine. In my Winter, I’ve found faith … not anyone else’s but my own. I may be wistful but I am incredibly grateful for the life I’ve been given, warts and all. I can live with some snow flurries and I’ll worry about the blizzards when they come.