It is years since I was in New York. Decades. I had gone there as a young woman, and marveled at the energy, the fact that on every street there was at least one place I wanted to go into, the glory of the museums, the push of the multitudes of humans of every sort. I loved it. My life, however, whooshed me along on an extraordinary journey, and I only went back once — for a meeting — and never again had the joy of returning. Until now.
On the day that this column is printed (the 16th), I will be traveling to New York City with my youngest child — the wondrous Noli Taylor. Once there, we’ll meet up with my firstborn daughter, Laurie Dewan, and my virtually adopted (another story for another time) son, Wade McCollum. They are taking me to New York (“Don’t ask us where we’re staying or what we’re going to do, Mom. It’s a surprise!”) to celebrate my 80th birthday. They had asked me what I wanted (A party? What?), and I spoke from my heart, saying that all I really wanted was some time with my children to just hang out and be together. No kids. No spouses. No cooking. Just time to tell stories and laugh and hug. (Alex, my stepson, lives in Europe and he can’t be there, but he’s coming to the Vineyard for Christmas, so that’s OK.). And so, here we go.
It is astonishing to me, ridiculous, that I am turning 80. Getting old (and let’s face it, 80 is old) has been as life-changing as puberty was. The face and body that I see in the mirror are only vaguely familiar. The quickness of thought and the ability to multitask that I had taken for granted are now gently fuzzing. I sometimes find myself feeling suddenly sleepy. And just like during puberty, it is also true that the world has taken on an intense, magical quality. I am in love with the beauty of nature. I am lifted by “my” music. Stepping away from the deadlines and pressures of the workaday world has given me time to luxuriate in time spent just musing and wandering with my beloved, or reading piles of books, or just watching the birds at the feeder. Just like my adolescent grandsons, I daydream and zone out, and sometimes dance like crazy. It’s the best of times and the worst of times.
The difference between then and now is that the aging body is not getting stronger, it is slowly weakening. I never know when another friend or family member is going to die. I think about my own mortality, about my Charley’s mortality, and what that means. I am no longer building a life, but rather I am settling into this new one. And to my astonishment, the settling is rather glorious. I have so much love around me, and so much beauty. And I have the time to see it and embrace it. Getting old ain’t for sissies, but it also is definitely the best time of my life. So far.
I share my birthday with Tiffany Vanderhoop — happy birthday, Tiffany! And look forward to cheering for that smart and tough and wonderful Ryan Bognar, who will turn 7 on Nov. 22. It’s a good week for birthdays!
It’s also time for Thanksgiving. This is a dual-edged holiday, for sure. It is one that is surrounded by myths born of a racist interpretation of history. That said, I still appreciate this holiday because it is a day that we set aside for giving thanks. No presents. Just good food and gathering with friends and family, and, if you’re so inclined, a chance to express your thanks for all that is good and peaceful and loving. Among my list of what I am thankful for will be those who are working so hard to get a ceasefire in the Middle East and trying to stop the march toward war. I wish them godspeed. And I wish us all many things to be thankful for.
On Monday, Nov. 20, the up-Island police departments (Aquinnah, Chilmark, and West Tisbury) have joined forces to host a Friendsgiving Luncheon at the Up-Island Council on Aging at Howes House. It’s a great chance for seniors to get together and be glad to be alive, and to say “hello” to those who work so hard to keep us safe. If you’re interested, please RSVP to 508-693-2896.