If I wait for my ship to come in with the finest of sails, I may just miss the ride.
Maybe that’s where the beauty in aging comes in.
You finally understand what your elders always told you.
Aging gracefully’s my goal.
Yet aging gracefully doesn’t come easily.
Take yesterday, for example.
I was limping across my little backyard to water my two small flower beds.
But I was also wilting in the 95 degree heat.
I felt old and overrun with a bum heel, bulging bunions, and bad crooked toes.
The humidity wasn’t helping any either.
As I lifted my tired green hose over the blooming yellow day lilies, I finally felt my mood lift some.
They were speaking to me in a way.
It was as if they were whispering, “If today you can’t bloom, there’s always tomorrow.”
I smiled and took a quick picture of my new best buds.
Then moving on to water my zinnias in the other bed, I noticed one lonely purple bloom to the side who looked a bit spent.
She’d seen better days and had obviously lost her luster.
Or so I thought.
Suddenly a young Monarch butterfly stopped by her petals for a visit.
He clearly saw her value here on earth and honored the gifts she still had to give. Fluttering his orange wings for a while he slowly sipped her nectar.
I took another picture.
This morning after a good night’s sleep, I find myself blooming once again.
The air is fresh and much cooler.
I’ve already bandaged up my bum heel, bunions, and bad toes.
And now I’m ready for my six mile nature walk.
With a camera and notebook tucked in my backpack, I need to get going.
I may not be young, but I still have many gifts to share as well.
It was a short trip to the country, long overdue.
I know you can’t go home again, and my final destination never actually was my residence.
But in my heart it was home, especially in summer.
My grandparents once lived in the little Minnesota town I was fast approaching. My childhood memories there are still ripe with picking rhubarb, fresh corn, Grandma’s lemon pies in the oven, and porch swings.
My final stop was to be a rural cemetery in the corn fields just about a mile beyond the town’s Main Street.
My brother, parents, and grandparents are buried there, along with a host of other relatives.
It’s my tribe.
I recall a great aunt softly grabbing my arm and walking me through the place at my brother’s burial service many years ago.
She introduced me to each and everyone of his new neighbors there. And it seemed I was related to them all.
The main purpose of my trip was to check on the state of my family’s monuments and pavers.
And also to pay my respects.
It was a lonely, cold and gray morning at the cemetery. Memorial Day had already come and gone, just like the northerly wind.
There was just me and the morning doves around.
I noticed looking across the grounds that flowers on the graves were very few.
Perhaps those who used to plant the red, white and blue petunias on the burial sites of their elders had now passed away themselves.
But as I walked around I found some unexpected gifts.
A small bunch of yellow silk forget-me-knots adorned my brother’s grave. They were faded some, but lovingly placed perhaps by a stranger who cared, or was moved by the words ‘beloved son’ engraved on the tombstone.
I also discovered sheaves of corn placed around his grave and those of many others.
There is an old custom of placing these sheaves on the burial ground of those who once farmed.
Though no one in my immediate family had worked the land, it was still in their blood.
I pulled my old down vest tighter as I battled the chill back to my car.
Driving again through my grandparents aging small town to enter the highway back towards the city, I became a little blue. I noticed the downtown looked a bit dead with many vacant storefronts.
And I realized too that this trip out in the country had lacked the charm I used to know. The once proud red barns were now decaying and swaying in the breeze. And many of the other small towns along that highway looked lost and weathered as well.
I longed for any signs of life in traditional small town America and rural America.
And maybe just to see a farmer in bib overalls, I thought.
Suddenly I pulled the car over at the sight of something familiar, yet a bit different.
To my right I saw that the old Victorian funeral parlor, sitting kitty corner from my grandparents’ old place, was filled with life again.
There were tricycles and toys in the front yard. Maybe a growing family lived here or it was a bustling day care center I hoped.
Then I looked to the left.
My grandparents’ former home was shining brighter than ever with a fresh coat of paint.
And a few minutes later as I was driving back on the highway, I finally saw my farmer in bib overalls coming out of a dollar store.
I smiled for a moment.
I was happy.
At least it wasn’t a big old Walmart.