We are all visitors to this time, this place.
We are just passing through.
We are just passing through.
Our purpose here is to observe, to learn, to grow, to love
…and then we return home.
Australian Aboriginal Proverb
I went to bed last night on Saturday and woke up this morning on Friday. At least that was what my atomic clock said. Why do they do that to old people? Don’t they know we’re liable to believe that nonsense? After all, atomic clocks are supposed to be the most accurate time pieces on the face of the earth. They magically synchronize themselves each midnight from Boulder Colorado’s National Institute of Standards and Technology using mambo jumbo I couldn’t understand if I was younger and actually wanted to know how it works. All I know is someday that clock is going to be wrong again and I’m going to go some place I’d just been to a few days beforehand. And when I get there some bubble gum chewing receptionist is going to say, “poor woman is getting senile” because there is no way she’s going to believe my atomic clock actually told me it was yesterday instead of tomorrow.
I’ve been thinking of writing a blog about coming of age books written for adults, one of my favorite genres. The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd, To Kill a Mocking Bird by Harper Lee, and Spencer’s Mountain by Earl Hamner Jr. all fall into this category of fiction. But this morning, having woke up on “yesterday” got to thinking there should be a term for what people go through late in life, a term to describe the kind of epiphany senior citizens have when we suddenly realize why we’ve been passing through this world---what it all means, and how we make peace with our past missteps and mistakes and inevitable demise. I suppose they call books like that autobiographies or non-fiction like Tuesdays With Morrie by Mitch Albom. To bad. I’d like to coin a new phrase like the coming of wisdom books.
I’ve always felt cheated because I don’t have a coming of age story to tell. There was no sudden transformation from childhood to adulthood for me, growing up the way I did in a 1940s and ‘50s household. It’s a stupid way to feel, of course, because in order to have a coming of age story I would have had to live through a trauma that took away my innocence or left me seeing an uglier side of life. Nope, I had a childhood where I came home from school to cookies and milk and parents who were determined my brother and I would have more opportunities in life than they had. My parents, if they had been inclined to write, could have told good coming of age stories. They both grew up dirt poor and without mothers in their lives. Actually, that fact had a big influence in how I was raised. Since my parents didn’t have mothers to model typical gender roles that were common back then they didn’t pass those values on to my brother and me.
It wasn’t until I transferred to a state school for my third year of college that I faced my first bias against women when my academic adviser wouldn’t approve my curriculum leading to a degree in architectural design. “Women only go to college to get an MRS degree,” he said. “You can’t take up a limited place in that program; that would deny the slot to a guy who needs to make a living.” Older and wiser now I realize I should have fought for myself back then, but I wasn’t a trail blazer. I didn’t like it but what could I do? At the end of that school year, I dropped out of college and didn’t go back to finish until twenty-five years later.
That was 1963 and that year at college planted the seeds of unfairness and when Betty Friedan’s classic book The Feminine Mystique came along later the same year those seeds grew. I became a card carrying member of NOW and all through the rest of ‘60s I could have been Exhibit A for work place unfairness. I was holding a job where I got paid half of what my male co-worker was getting because, as my boss put it, “He has a family to support.”
Since this is a blog about widowhood, I need to bring my late husband into this entry. He came into my life in 1970 and early on he actually read The Feminine Mystique at my request and more importantly when he started hiring women to work for him plowing snow he paid us the same as the guys. What’s not to love about an enlightened guy like that? God rest his soul. ©