His face is etched into mine. As a child I studied that face as he shaved in his boxer shorts standing at the mirror over the sink, his face white with shaving cream, his eyes occasionally glancing over at me with amusement. I was captivated because he was my hero. He traveled a lot and home without him was not a good place for me, so when he was there I tagged after him like a puppy nipping at his heels. I never wanted him to leave and yet much of what I remember is him leaving with a suitcase in his hand, his suit and tie neatly packed, his blue eyes smiling and his black hair shining. I always wanted to go with him and when he would firmly tell me no and kiss my mom goodbye I remember running outside and watching the black Chevy drive away and then hiding in the Russian Olive tree trying not to cry. He was my touchstone, my protector and without him I felt adrift and frightened. This feeling lingered for many years until finally I found that some other boys could be equally as fascinating and he didn’t seem to mind the loss of interest on my part. We sometimes still went fishing together on the river or to a party on the 4th of July with my brother and my mom and I don’t remember much alone time with him, but he was often who I called when I was brokenhearted or afraid. He would listen to me and encourage me and let me know that everything would eventually be okay and I believed him and eventually it usually was. He rescued me many times from precarious places and some really bad choices and he let me learn some really tough love lessons too. As we both aged, I began to see him in a more realistic light and he became a friend. I started to worry about him more and want to take care of him and he would do things behind my back (like tell me he wasn’t driving when he was) or that he was fine when he was clearly struggling. We began a slow role reversal and I began the incredibly painful journey of learning how to hold loosely the love I have for the best person I have ever known. This picture was taken this past Christmas. I am 63 and he is 92. He is my Familia, the place I know and am known.
It’s coming on a birthday. A blessed, birthday for one who was “not expected to live past the age of 24.” A birthday that reminds me of grace in my face. Lines. So many lines I cringe in the morning light as I am viewing the face up close and personal. It’s in glaringly clear glass, without steam or a dimmer switch. Where did the time go and why am I not all that I want to be?
I am trying to bend, to lean into the hope of another day in this amazing place called planet earth, with the life that I have been given, this gift of a life (when so many died young.) I am trying to ignore the signs and symptoms that have nested in my marrow for over 40 years. Can it truly be that I have survived myself?
I see the messages given to women that they must be without wrinkle and all that “plumped juicy skin” is their value. The mysterious womb, their uterus, by which they bear the fruit of life and family being their purpose. As of today I have none of those gifts or qualities. I am lined and I am childless. I am breathing in the hope waiting for the one thing that has left me unfulfilled and full of sorrow. To know my purpose and meaning beyond my looks, my marriage, my day-to-day existence of growing older. Can this really be all that is left? Is there anything I can do?
I am too long in the tooth to ever hope for a child. We tried (my husband and I) to adopt. We tried to foster, we tried to accept and we tried to forget and today all hope for that is gone. Unyielding truth that it is, I tried. Now I am watching my friends cuddle and read to their grand babies and be cared for sometimes by their children. I have none of that. There was never that, and that has brought me to my knees. A body that has lived but has betrayed me with my desires for a family of my own.
I am obviously in the crushing month of February. Where multiple people passed away, dancing around my birthday with their eternal goodbye. A mother, a best friend, a Grandmother, followed in quick succession in March by a brother, another dear friend and record producer and too many others. You see I have known over 20 people who have passed away. It sobers you, makes you clear-eyed and depending on the day either grateful or despondent. I have also lost 8 dogs (which seriously feels worse much of the time.) I have survived many of the same illnesses that killed some of these loved ones. Cancer being the common enemy. I see the marks of those battles on my body and my face. Once a beauty, I am a now a weary survivor. I am setting all of this up to tell you that I suffer, but life (if you are fortunate enough to live it) is to be used. God gave me every day so that I can pour out my energies for his purpose. His purpose is love and love wins. Some days it is his purpose for me to see his beauty. To draw nearer to him, for us to see him in the forest light (or the stars, or the ocean at dawn)
Some days Gods purpose is for us to be his hands and feet
Some days Gods purpose for us is to learn to love ourselves. With our lines and our sags and our scars. To be able to see ourselves through Gods eyes and not the worlds magnifying glass.
God has a purpose for you and for me. It’s the day…today…to celebrate whatever has come. No matter the losses, the scars, the battle wounds and the shattered dreams. A new day is here. A new beginning. A hopeful thing. It’s life on life’s terms. God and his magnificent love and all the mysteries of God that take our breath away, that’s our hope.
So hope in the midst of birthdays and old age and lost dreams and painful reminders of what can never come….is GOD. What to do on this day of reckoning? When pain is heavy and years are few? To celebrate our breath and our lines and our scars. The lost dreams and the reality. THIS IS YOUR LIFE and GOD is GOOD. Take a singular step into your day with new eyes. Gratitude, thankfulness, hope. Clear eyed hope in love. Oh and go celebrate your life, now, today before another day slips away!
I don’t know what happened but suddenly I was old. Something clicked off I imagine and the dark circles came and my hair got thinner and silver and my face wrinkled like a prune….seriously…like a prune. I got a sad look from the bone density tech and my weight dropped off. I became brittle literally over night. My eyes are red most of the time with an eye disease my mother had when she was old. Only I am not really old in years yet.(or maybe denial is not a river in Eygypt). I just feel like I have been swimming in chlorine for hours. My ears ring and hiss and roar. My joints pop and crackle (sheesh I sound like a symphony) When I was young and healthy my body was quiet. As in no noise. Now everything sounds either muffled or really loud. What? My Dad turned 90 this summer. He is vibrant and active and healthy. When I was driving and was seeing halo’s and stars around the lights coming at me I asked him if he saw those things too (he said No he just saw the lights) Great..I’m older than my dad. I was seriously worried about that until I removed my glasses and found that without my glasses I didn’t see the halo’s or the stars either. (Scratched lenses) Hahaha!
I also have hair that grows in the strangest places and hair that is falling into shower drains and on black sweaters and jackets at an alarming rate. My goodness what happened to the long-haired girl with the big hazel eyes and the toned muscles and the smooth skin? Where the heck did she go? I miss her. She was a beauty by some people’s estimation. A face for Hertz, a body for Club Med. There were travel brochures with her big eyes looking over her tanned shoulder holding a tennis racket. Now I look in the mirror and I see my mother. Some days I see a really old person, who’s sick and hurting with pain. It’s not easy. Truth be told I am NOT liking this. Not at all Not one bit.
I was reminded today by my therapist (yes I have a therapist) that my legacy will be something much greater than my looks. That if I get to live 20 more years (that would be some feat as I was sent home to die at 24) and I continue to do the work of funding the water wells (we are on our 19th) that for every child who lived and went on to have children, my legacy, my divine purpose will be revealed in heaven when thousands of people come to me to tell me they had life because I lived. I realized that as long as I have purpose I have a reason to live. The orphans and their suffering has been my purpose. That purpose has carried me through years where I gasped for breath with the pain of living. That purpose has reminded me when I saw no hope, that those precious people for whom I give my heart and life are in worse conditions than I am, suffering. Knowing that has prompted me to rise from my sick-bed and fight. For them and for me I fought back from a pesticide poisoning that caused my stomach to shred like I had swallowed glass. Bent over for months I pushed myself to get up, go to a chair, say a prayer, dream a dream, try to eat whole foods again (everything I ate was pureed like baby food). Those orphans, with their big eyes and their protruding stomachs and their skin and bones needed me. I could help them. It pushed me to live again. I fought back from cancer (twice) and I continued to write about those orphans. I wanted the world to remember them, even as they seemed to forget me. Those orphans reminded me of their courage and their laughter in the face of extreme poverty and sickness. I took great strength from their stories. I took great courage from their ability to be thankful with so little when I truly had been given so much. Through no fault of their own they were born in Africa, not America. Through no cause of my own I was born in the land of plenty. To NOT help them is unthinkable to me.
So yes, I am older. I am weaker, skinnier, wrinkling and by American standards of youth and beauty declining. But I am reminded that as long as I have breath I have purpose. I have God in me, I have a few dear ones who support me and my cause, I will carry that purpose to my grave and one day perhaps in heaven a man will come and hug me because the water saved him as a baby and he went on to a long life, fulfilling his purpose to help his people live. It’s a beautiful gift purpose. It changes the world It carries you home.
Wish to help? http://www.drlynnandtheorphans.com/index.html
Things grow wildly
skies and wandering trails of morning light, a tree stands tall in the middle of the wandering.
I am faithfully walking, feet aching, flowers blooming, dark clouds looming.
Oh how I want to know the sun upon my hurts, the love that I cannot feel from the wounds that will not heal.
I know some deeper grasp of breathless while living in the wild air. I want to lightly sigh as love abandons a lovers kiss, a woman of no measure, who lives confined in a wild beating heart.
I am on my knees in gratitude for such a long life. A long life that was cursed from the beginning, feebly and shallow breathing the city smog, smothered in longing, gasping for hope.
Today I see that things grow wildly, as I am faithfully walking in daily abandon of living as I do now in the wild air.
I turned 61 today. For someone who was sent home to die at the age of 24 that is quite the celebration. Every year that I am on this earth is a gift and I am thankful. My birthdays always start out with a phone call from my beloved Dad, who shares how it was a blizzard that year and he was freezing and hungry in the waiting room while my Mom was warm and toasty delivering me. Then there was a card or two and breakfast. My first gift came in the mail from my Uncle who gave me a beautiful love gift for my orphans in Africa and so the first blessing was I funded a water well this morning. My heart lifted and I felt so light with the beauty of that.
Happy Birthday to me!
As my sister (who is also a present every year for my birthday, my Joey, the pups and I) headed off to run errands. Looking for lamps for the bedroom. The sun was pushing against the clouds and I am humming in the front seat, when I see two people sitting on a curb, sign reading “I need a hand up.” They are long without a bath, dust of a thousand storms upon their faces and clothing. “Stop,” I cry out to Joey “We need to get them some food!” So we do…and I walk bags of chicken and fruit and vegetables and green drinks and crackers to them sitting there, eyes so haunted and sad that I can’t help but to say “It’s not always going to be like this.” she looks at me, her nose running, her face as grey as the sidewalk “Can I pray for you?” she cringes as if I am about to hit her and then she nods. I touch her and I touch him and when I do GOD and his mysterious ways comes through my hands into them and they burst into tears and I am thankful to open the heart of GOD to them…We sit like that, bathing in his mercy to us all. I am whispering “You are cared for” into her upturned face, she nods. God is so good. They eat, tearing into chicken and I hear her say quietly “It’s going to get better.”They are clinging to one another weeping as I walk away. We wave little waves of thanks to one another and God has given me another beautiful gift.
Happy Birthday to me.
I am then taken to lunch with two of my favorite people in the whole world and we munch on chicken salad and grin at one another. Just thankful to be alive and sitting together, hungry and full at the same time. After lunch my sister and I go into the world of Barnes and Nobles where books and Mozart and a movie Fried Green Tomatoes (one of my favorites) go into a bag of goodies for me. I love bookstores.
Happy Birthday to me.
After coming home to dinner in the oven, I do yoga and stretch and notice how different my skin is and my legs are looking…well older. I am thankful they still work and I am still here on this planet to experience this memorable day. Then dinner in my little cottage that Joey built with his own hands last summer, and a birthday bag of love love love from the kindest person I know and then a massage from hands that should be bronzed they are so beautiful. My final blessing is a pear pie eaten in a claw foot tub with hot water and two little puppy faces peeking over the sides of the tub begging for pie. I share crust and a piece of pear with the both of them before they curl up on the bathroom rug and sleep. How merciful and kind is God to me today. Giving me so much love..so much purpose and so much grace. I am one blessed woman. Thankful to all for the well wishes and love. Thank you.. To another year of his mercy and grace and for the two tattered angels upon the sidewalk I pray you find your peace tonight.You are thought of and loved.
Morning has opened her arms. The forest light comes gently, tenderly into my eyes. I am the lover in the bed. I am the fisher of men. It is time to rise.
The trill of the mama bird, the building of the nest. I listen and I know her heart.
I am the wandering lost since she left me. She lays in the forest under a grave marker of ash cloth and copper words. Beloved
A small and rowdy pup bites my toes as I walk to the kitchen for sustenance. He will never know my heart is broken. I squat down and he studies me with my finger in his mouth, gnawing.
The light calls me. The day surrounds me. I will chose thankful. I will chose Open
In the depths of the dirt and the sweep of the wind, I feel your loss, I feel the chill
But the cross But the cross
Lay me down in a bed of roses, red stained the eyes uplifted,
I suffered your holy kisses,
But the cross, But the cross