Tuesday, 10 May 2011

What on Earth......?

Prompted, as I so often am, by a comment from my writer/photographer/philosopher nephew,'Pohangina Pete' I stretch my mind from thinking about what slugs are for (in my previous post)....to what I am for.
A dangerous business, possibly leading to depression and sleepness nights. Easier to think about slugs.

Once there seemed little doubt about my purpose in life. As a wife and mother, a bread-winner, a dutiful daughter, my purposes were clear and clearly endless. Or so it seemed.
In retirement and widowhood life changes, and needs to change.
What am I for now?

I am a mother, a mother-in-law, a niece, a cousin, an aunt and a great-aunt; no longer central in the scheme of things, but there consistently, marking a space of familiarity and safety.
No longer first with anyone, but reliably someone who knows where the old photographs are kept, where there might be a bike-pump, a favourite scarf, a special book.

I am here for keeping the family home in good shape, the beds made up, the meals ready for visitors. It is no longer the primary home, but it is still the place where memories are stored, along with the piles of stuff in the attic that no one is prepared to take to their own primary home.

I am here to be a friend, to make people laugh, or at least smile, and I am here for caring about people - lots of people, and actually caring for some of them.

I am here to stay upright, to try not to fall off the ladder while pruning the vine; to stay fit enough to go to 'medical school', and to try not to create problems for others.

I am here for arguing with the County Council about consessionary bus passes, among other things.

I am here, trying to be good at last, an old-fashioned notion involving purity of heart. When horizons are restricted, choose the good bits.
I am here to accept my changed role in life with as much grace and calm acceptance as I can muster. (I loathe than poem about growing old disgracefully.)
Not a very impressive justification for being. Quite slug-like in fact.

The photograph through the cloisters in Worcester cathedral was taken by my niece, Josephine.


Jane said...

Agree about choosing the good bits - it's the only way to survive!And about being good and calm acceptance. In order to enjoy the so-called privileges of age one surely must deserve them, one can't expect to automatically qualify just by having the good fortune to have longevity in one's genes! I loathe it when people say 'at my age I'm entitled to...' it's usually an excuse because they are just about to behave very badly usually to someone who doesn't deserve it! You're still on my 'to see soon' list - no car for the next few days as daughter has had to borrow it.

Frances said...

Thank you for reading my mind.

Zhoen said...

I am here, with my dear D, to make Moby a good life. It's not a grand purpose, but we are content with it.

Molly said...

Were you looking over my shoulder while I sat by the water on Sunday afternoon? I was watching some little creatures skittering over, or under, or just barely ON the water. I couldn't quite figure out which. They might have been flies, or spiders. They were creamy coloured and fast moving. They kept swirling around and around in the same little area, and I wondered what their purpose in life was, and wondered also if we must look something like that from way up above, skittering back and forth and around and around----to what purpose? Sounds like you have a wise and sensible approach to the whole business of growing older and feeling a little bit superfluous.....I can so empathize!

marigold jam said...

I think many of us can empathise with your thoughts here. Does a thing/person have to be useful just to justify its being can we not just be? Life is full of changes and getting older is one of them which as you say we have to accept gracefully. Great post.

leslee said...

You forgot "and to provide my readers with thoughtful blog posts", although we may be included in the aforementioned to make people smile.

Anne said...

Reading this made me realize what it is about growing old -- actually, I am already quite old -- that I am afraid of. I am afraid of becoming useless by living longer than my capacity to function in the world.

Joan said...

Every single piece of a puzzle is important, and leaves a hole when it is not there.

Relatively Retiring said...

Jane: that's such a good point about needing to earn the privileges of age. I imagine you are speaking from a lot of experience!

Frances and Molly: how good that we can share thoughts in cyber-space. Thank you for your comments.

Zhoen: there's a very great deal to be said for contentment, as opposed to grand purposes.

Marigold J: such profound thought within your deceptively simple question.

Leslee: oh, that's lovely. Thank you so much.

Anne: I didn't want to say too much about the real fears of growing old, but of course this is the major one. It makes me do what I can, while I can in the great hope of not becoming a burden to others.

Joan: thank you for leaving a comment. There's another profound truth in what you say.

Relatively Retiring said...

I'm not sure if my responses to you all appeared yesterday.
Blogger seems to be eating comments, and also not allowing access to today's postings.
Thank you all for your comments. I have responded more fully, and if the message doesn't reappear soon I will do so again.

Relatively Retiring said...

Yes, we all had Blogger problems over the last few days, and things disappeared.

The voice of experience comes through Jane's comment, and I agree so much with what she says about needing to earn any privilege in age.
I was so glad that Molly and Frances and I can agree in cyberspace, and to Zhoen I said that contentment is better than grand purpose. Good man, Moby!
I thanked Marigold Jam for her profound question, and Leslee for her kindness.
To Anne I said that I know I skirt around the real fears of becoming old, which she has stated so clearly here.
My thanks to you all.

den said...

I have never wondered what am I for. I have just stumbled along. Sometimes praying I do little damage on the way.
When I was small very small. My mother told me I was an accident not hers my fathers. It was years before I figured out what she ment.
So when I think of the very big questions in life, that sort of sums it all up, even down to the big bang. hey ho.

Relatively Retiring said...

Den: that's a sad thing for a child to hear, but I'm sure we are all either accidents or total miracles, when you think of the odds against conception.
I'm not really questioning too seriously, but bumbling along, like you!

den said...

I love that total miracle.
Hence forth I is a total miracle.
and very apt word verification too.

herhimnbryn said...

Do what you can and enjoy. I draw your attention to this article by Diana Athill!........


Relatively Retiring said...

HHnB: thank you. Diana Athill is an icon for us all, whatever our age.
I've just returned from a training session in which we explored the virgin, mother, crone stages of womanhood. I prefer to call it the Wise Woman stage!

Joan said...

Blogger ate my comment last Thursday. It was something about how every single piece of a puzzle is important, and leaves a hole when it is not there... I suppose it must suffice to become a discreet and indispensable presence in the lives of those who matter to us.

Relatively Retiring said...

Joan: thank you, Blogger had quite a feast last week!
I really appreciate your comment, especially the combination of disceet and indispensible.