Octo Observations: Counting Blessings

Thanksgiving time is here again. Each year we older folks grow increasingly aware of our manifold blessings. We cherish each good day, and we ache for those in our lives who have been victims of traumatic events such as losing loved ones or the decline of their own good health.  Our appreciation for a healthy body, mind and life accelerates daily. I know that my priorities have shifted dramatically in the last eighteen months since we downsized and moved.

Today, however, it is impossible not to empathize with those countless tragic victims in California who have lost their lives or their homes to the most vicious, senseless fires in history. The shear horror of this reality defies comprehension. Yet, miraculously reports abound of remarkable courage revealed by valiant firefighters with neighbors helping neighbors. These folks are struggling with inconceivable loss yet they are grateful to be alive.  Imagine the connotation of Thanksgiving this year for them.  Counting blessings will take on a profoundly new meaning.

To a far less dramatic degree, however, living in a retirement community accentuates the fragility of one’s well-being. Just last week when my husband went to the “Big House” to pick up our dinner, he encountered one of his favorite, long time golf buddies who suddenly fell. Help was immediate, and with assistance John’s friend was taken to his cottage at his own urging. This dear man is nearly 90, and his wife is in the dementia unit where he visits her each and every day. John and I, plus another  friend, stayed with Bob while the nurse checked him, called the ambulance and waited for Bob’s son to arrive. What impressed me was our friend’s innate feistiness, quick humor and determination that he would be “just fine.” His first words to his son were, “Now don’t tell your mom.” Not that she would realize what was happening, but to Bob his thoughts centered on NOT upsetting the love of his life for nearly 70 years.

Bob is back home, now, after two “miserable days in the hospital”, and wearing a heart monitor. The time is coming for him to move out of his cottage, but his independence means more to him than perhaps his own well-being. We see lots of people these days who hang on to normalcy with tenacity. We see those whose families say, “no more driving,” and we understand both sides of the story.  The other day my spry 89 year-old neighbor, a widow of several years, said to me, “I get so mad when my back hurts, because in my mind I feel able to do all the things I loved to do when I was younger.” I get that thought! How I admire the dear 91 year-old widow whom we drive to church with us most all Sundays. Eleanor is meticulously prompt, neat as a pin, fit as can be, gracious as the day is long, and thrilled to be able to go to worship service, to hear the incredible music in our sanctuary and to see friends. She can no longer drive, as her hearing is severely compromised, even with a Cochlear Implant. But she is intrepid. She never ever fails to look lovely and be the epitome of a gracious, proud person. How blessed we are to listen and learn from her as we travel to and from our church.

The old adage “Aging is not for sissies” is true, but we do know that given reasonable control of our own minds and bodies, we can choose our attitudes. I feel rock solid about doing all I can to be a cheerful Octo lady, passing along a “cup half full” and offering “joy” to those whom we know, love and meet. In return I am delighted to talk to people who look at life through a positive prism, who value each and every good day that God gives them on this earth. They are an inspiration to be emulated.

In the past year, we have witnessed several of our good friends lose lifetime spouses. I marvel at how these women and men are coping and have survived. Being an observer makes me acutely aware of how blessed John and I are to have each other after 61 years of marriage.  So many things change as years pass, but appreciation for loved ones only increases. Never taking anything for granted, and never letting little differences interfere with our sense of gratitude is a way of life now. I can no longer fret over things that are not in my control. We realize how many changes are inevitable if we are lucky enough to turn 80. Truly, a “high class problem!”

This Thanksgiving is special, and yes, a bit challenging for many. It will be just my sweet John and me celebrating together. I was late offering invites to a few “orphan” friends, so John and I decided that it will be fun to roast our own turkey breast, make a dinner au deux with all the trimmings and open a bottle of champagne to celebrate the meaning of this special day. Glory be, I can still cook, even if it takes a bit longer. It will be fun to pull out the old favorite recipes and see what happens! Our family is far flung in four different states. Traveling on this of all holidays is no longer an option. We are saving our energies for going north at Christmas. Gone are the days when we would drive hundreds of miles round trip to be with one of our chickies and families. Gone are the days of changing planes and flying for hours to get to Seattle to be with that cute gang. But HERE are the days when we can hop onto the computer, Face Time, and enjoy instant, meaningful interaction with beloved offspring and families. We can receive videos of precious great-grandbaby Evie “Wonder” as she bounces and giggles in her jiggle chair, and we can text or talk on the phone to teeny boppers, college bound or post college age grandchildren… We are NOT alone. Yes, technology has provided blessings in spite of drawbacks. Each time Seattle Susie and I Face Time (we have a standing Friday afternoon date), we end our conversation by smooching the computer screen, and saying “I love you.” Not as good as a real hug, but pretty darn close!!!

My Thanksgiving prayer is simple. May we always remember with grace and gratitude that:

*Living in the United States of America is a blessing.

*Living close to those whom you cherish is a blessing.

*Living each day to the fullest and without rancor is a blessing.

*Living with forgiveness in your heart is a gift you give yourself.

*Living with good health is a gift from God.

*And Living each day as if it is the last is a humble reminder of how blessed we are to be where ever we are.

God bless and a very Happy Thanksgiving one and all. 

Top photo: Bigstock