As it happens, the place was a dump. The room was painted a sickly Pepto Bismol pink. There were holes in the drywall. Three mismatched chairs circled a lopsided table. And the bathroom sported off-matching tile and plain concrete. Holes in the door were either of the peep or bullet variety, neither one very reassuring.
This group consisted of ladies who are mostly retired, between the ages of 60 and 80, but still have a sparkle in their eyes and a gleam in their hearts. They live comfortably, they have worked hard, and they have experienced a myriad of tragedies and joys. They are the culmination of life.
I recently joined a new gym. In order to join, I had to sign a two-year contract I can’t cancel, but they can and will increase my monthly membership fee after the first year. Doesn’t a contract mean that both parties are locked into something for a period of time? Heavens, no. It means that I, and I alone, am locked into a contract for a period of time.
The bats were brown furry metaphors, of course. But for what? Outside distractions? Random intrusions? Or perhaps they represented our own personal perceptions or fears or past experiences or imagined dangers – all those things that can come flitting out unexpectedly from our private places of darkness.
Our time here is made up of events, good, bad and “eh,” but a great deal of it remains locked inside our minds. Our experiences become a footprint, a trail, a eulogy or a sum total that registers the fact that we stood on this earth and that we mattered.
After being divorced 15 years, I gave up on finding Mr. Right for the second time. At that point, I thought married life would be about two old people living together. We’d lead slow, lethargic lives – eat dinner at 4 p.m., indulge in scavenger hunts to find our eyeglasses and fall asleep while waiting for the 11 o’clock news. I’d probably even lose my independence. Yuk!
Two knee and one hip replacement, along with severe back arthritis, had me leaning on a cane and, occasionally, a walker. I passed a mirror and was shocked to see my posture resembled Quasimodo’s. My head stretched two feet in front of me when I walked, like a periscope in search of land. Hopes of making it with George Clooney had long since vanished.
Anybody who has ever argued in their household about what setting should be maintained for the heat and air-conditioning is more than aware that what is cold and what is warm are relative.
In writing and sharing these stories, a phenomenal thing occurred. We discovered all the shared values we have as Americans and as women. Recurring themes emerged about the anguish of love, loss and pain, as well as the joy and successes of parenting, overcoming challenges and finding true love.
Above the coffee cups on my desk are an array of photos with mismatched frames. There is one of my granddaughter playing in the sand when she was two, my three children as babies and teenagers, my nephew Alex as a college man, and my grandmother playing Chinese checkers.