Thursday, November 01, 2007

Elder Revelation or HawHeyWhoYah!


I'm a fan of Padraic Colum and have always admired his poem "The Old Woman of the Roads.
I was forced to learn it in school but over the years, it comes back to me and I get this overwhelming feeling of gratitude. Maybe the Sisters of Mercy knew what they were doing, making us memorize all those poems!



Picture is that famous old optical illusion of the young woman/old woman.

I've come to this conclusion:
This suits me: The age I am, the distance I am from everything that used to be important. In this place I now call home, I’ve always felt as if I received a second chance to live. I play house here. I only put up my own artwork, or cards from friends, or photos I like, or my mother’s embroidery. Even the odd poem gets a wall to itself. I use mismatched china and mismatched chairs. And boil a ratty old kettle on the woodstove for my tea. I invite people I like in to my house to share meals with me. And show them some chairs from 1860 that someone found and gave to me, as there were only three of them. Who’d want three? Well, me. I’m so far away that no one can check up on me.

I find I don’t really truly miss the familiar as much as I’d thought. I’d lived on the same street as my daughter and granddaughter forever it seemed. I co-parented my granddaughter to all intents and purposes and saw her every day and she did her homework in my Toronto office. I even went to her PTA meetings when her parents were working and did the parent teacher thing all over again. I thought one day, I might be doing this for my great-granddaughter, who knows. Does it ever stop? You’d think I’d miss the grandgirl. People tell me I must miss her dreadfully, all the daily doings. Well, yes. And no.

It seemed like every time the phone rang in my old life, someone needed something from me. Nearly always. I got tired of that. Call me selfish. I won’t justify myself. My grandy-friends, left behind, complain about all the demands on their time. They’re the sandwich generation, taking care of their senile parents and their rambunctious grandchildren, sometimes all in the same day. They’re fed up. No time for themselves at all. Lucky, lucky you, they say to me. You got out.
Self-preservation has always been my strongest suit. I make no apologies for that. Enough sacrifice, I say. Did I mention I called off two engagements, negated them, because in each case a daughter took a dislike to the situation and threatened to leave home? That’s how enmeshed I was. How much I didn’t know myself. I thought taking care of myself meant keeping my daughters happy no matter what the cost to me.

Now I’ve disentangled myself. I’m left to my own thoughts, my own books, my own writing, my truly, truly own space. Yes, it would be nice to share it with someone, a soul-mate of my own choosing. Maybe that will happen, maybe not. Meanwhile, I think I’ve gotten to know me and like me and honour me for the first time in my life. And there’s nothing wrong with that.

It’s alright actually. And we all deserve a bit of the alright.

9 comments:

  1. Good for you, making your own space and refusing any longer to be at everyone else's beck and call. It's so easy to sacrifice our own interests in the belief that we're being 'selfish' or 'not doing our duty'. A sense of self-preservation is vitally important - I've always had that too.

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  2. What a wonderful post! I too learned the Old Woman of the Roads in school.

    I now live 126 miles away from Elly and my siblings. It is no distance nowadays with both landline and cellphones, e-mail,MSN Messenger, Skype, Twitter and Jaiku to keep us in touch.

    I wonder how i have the time to blog!!

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  3. Nick:
    The old ones used to have it. Once you take care of yourself first, then you can take care of others, it doesn't work the other way.
    GM
    Compared to you, I feel like I'm on the very edge of an outpost way out here (but sssh, loving it!)
    XO
    WWW

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  4. All power to your elbow, www.

    I know it's a pretty morbid subject but I always say that if I finish up being 'the one left' between the pair of 'us' - then I'm up & away from here. To somewhere a lot warmer!

    I don't want to hang around here long enough for anyone get so fed up with me that they'll (as the saying goes), put me in a 'home' - for my own good.

    Heh. I'm certain you know exactly what I mean. :^)

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  5. Oh yes I do Richard! My friends and I have jokingly formed a cliff walking club. And have found some pretty high wide and mighty cliffs. And we tell each other that we will know when the day comes when we take that solitary walk (and leap).
    XO
    WWW
    PS Probably better in the thought than the execution, my Irish luck might see me as a helpless quad drooling in a wheelchair and nobody to push it anywhere!

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  6. The women in the sandwich generation put the family first and have little time to even reflect on their own needs let alone meet them. I couldn't do it.
    Lucky you for getting a room of your own so to speak.

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  7. Hi WWW

    This post cheered me enormously. I'm about to move back to my home country after 25 years of having no interference at all from family. What you say so eloquently is what many of us solitary folk feel. You can love your family and know that they are terrific people whose company you enjoy if they happen to be there BUT if you can quite happily go YEARS without seeing them and not feel deprived in any way. It doesn't mean you don't love them. It means you don't need them.

    xxx

    Pants

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  8. Medbh:
    I agree, and my friends who are doing exactly that are lost and some have embraced religion again and view the familial enmeshment as duty and sacrifice and we all know how that works out. They go on and on...
    XO
    WWW

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  9. Pants:
    I like that, we don't need them, in spite of loving them. It took me years and years to get to this space and distance does help. You will be thrown into the tribal cauldron shortly. Good luck!
    XO
    WWW

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