When we’ve lived a lifetime as someone; with someone. Spent hours in pursuits profound and frivolous. Seen the world through blue glasses that now are rose and handle the world through less steady hands. Well, one simply has to start thinking about what comes along for the ride and what, no longer needed, is left by the side of life’s journey like so many childhood oddments that are now faded and broken, missing pieces, parts and meaning.
How do we choose? I propose that for many of these things the choice is simply made for us. No longer young and no longer strong there are activities best left to those who are both still. Yet I really had very few of those; I wasn’t into full contact karate or kick boxing. There are still plenty of things now where the choice is being made for me and not necessarily without pain..
I’ve been a long time woodworker. I started in graduate school in earnest along with some other crafts. I made a steel string and classic guitar which I was there and a drafting table with a turned three legged stool. The instructor that I learned from and caused heartburn for passed away about ten years ago and I felt compelled to write a detailed letter to his widow. I had been deeply touched by her husband’s caring help during that relatively brief time I worked in the shop.
I carried on with woodworking when I could and when we bought our house setup a small workshop. Everything from modest amounts of furniture and wooden bowls to carpentry done on the house was done via the tools in that shop and my two hands. Some was happy, some was just work and not every project is complete. There’s still an unfinished glued up chessboard that will likely never be finished much less covered in pieces I will have turned.
As long as I lived in the house I could put off deciding to stop doing woodworking and the tools had other uses and the house was going nowhere immediately. Now I’m not in the house and there’s at least the notion of selling it, and I have Parkinson’s and haven’t taken a serious interest in woodworking in almost a decade and perhaps it is time. Even if I were to buy another house, would a shop be appropriate? Sharp spinning blades and a badly timed hand jerk just doesn’t seem wise.
Woodworking then becomes a marionette in the pile, flaked paint and missing strings ruining her earlier beauty.
There are activities that are fine for now and I hope never to lose. I love making music and singing. God willing these will stay with me for a long time. I have such warm memories around them. Playing clarinet growing up. Learning piano on my own as a teen. Seranading my wife to be. Singing our daughter to sleep. Singing French songs for a French circle. Performing with a friend for the town’s breakfast with Santa like a good jewish girl. Open mics, choir performances, at home with friends. Music has supported and is interwoven with my life.
Our marriage is obviously a huge thing being lost. More than just a bit player it was the backdrop and cast that made living possible for the last twenty nine years. My metaphor breaks down and I wouldn’t sully our marriage by comparing it to a toy. Mutual respect and support has been so meaningful.
I remember with clarity the night we met at a dance. The first time we were together. Her there for me when I got the call my mom had passed away. Our wedding day being marched into the ceremony by a Klezmer band and the terrific reception after. I remember sitting with her while she was in labor and the moment our daughter was born. The moment she received her call that her dad had passed away. So many memories, they will be cherished and never forgotten.
Yet if there’s one thing I’d pass on, it is the advice to take these changes and losses in stride. Accept support from friends but not pity. Pity diminishes the person being pitied, you become less than you were. It isn’t easy, and I don’t think it’s possible to avoid it entirely. Do the best you can.
Well, I must end here lest I start getting still more maudlin.