After nearly a year of silence…I’m back.  I’m sorry if I worried people.  The most likely explanation when a recovering alcoholic drops out of sight is that she’s drinking again, but I wasn’t. Not that I didn’t think about it some.

I don’t have a good explanation for the silence. I lost the desire to write–perhaps because for most of us writing demands examination of the inner landscape, and that was the last thing I wanted to do. Too much turmoil in there. Too many changes.

Since last April, my husband and I have packed up our belongings, sold the house we’d lived in for 28 years, and moved across the bay to a small apartment. It’s a formal acknowledgement of a new phase of our lives: aging. No more jobs, no more child-rearing, freedom of sorts, but with it, for me, increasing restriction.  I am not who I once was.

This was brought home to me recently when one of my ten-year-old grandsons asked to interview me for a public speaking project:

“Grandma,” he said, “what was the hardest thing you’ve ever done?”  I thought about quitting drinking, bearing children, nursing my father and mother when they were dying; none seemed great to share with his 5th grade class.  “I guess,” I said, “it was when I went to Selma.” “Selma? How do you spell that?”  Oh my, I thought, where do I start?

So I talked a little about the attempts in 1965 to march from Selma to the Alabama state capitol in Montgomery to demand voting rights for black people, what things were like in the south in those days, why I responded when Dr. King put out a call for people all over the country to join the third and final march, how scared I was to go to a place where people had been brutally beaten trying to do what I and others would try to do again. I described a silent walk 50 of us took through a white neighborhood in Selma, walking in pairs 50 feet apart to avoid arrest for unlawful assembly; how a heavy-set white man attacked the slim boy from Maine I was walking with, bloodied his nose, knocked him to the ground; how we were all arrested, piled into school buses, hauled off to jail, where we watched Sheriff Jim Clark hand out clubs to white men  he was deputizing. (We were spared, thanks to the national press presence.)

“I was scared the whole time I was there,” I told my grandson. “How could you do it?” he asked. “Because there were so many of us,” I said. “I wasn’t alone.”

He called me a couple of days later: “Grandma! I got four out of four on my speech! And the teacher wrote a really long note on the paper. She said it had been a major event in our country’s history, and I should be proud that my grandmother was part of it.” It made my day: my grandson saw me with different eyes.  I wasn’t just a grandma anymore.

The loss of identity with retirement and aging is significant. To many, you become a gray, bespectacled “senior,” harmless and irrelevant.  Perhaps the move away from the house where I’d spent so many productive years made me feel that way, I don’t know. I went into silent mode, read mysteries, watched movies, didn’t return calls, didn’t make calls, retreated from the world.  And now, for no particular reason, I’m re-entering.

We moved into a ground-floor apartment in south Berkeley nine months ago. It’s only IMG_1893steps away from a green and verdant garden;  huge trees loom in the background.  Robins and wrens, finches and humming birds, crows and jays are visitors here.  The cats have adjusted, and the grandchildren like it. Friends tell us it’s exactly the sort of place they visualized us in.

Today, sitting outside in the sunshine with the twittering birds, I am content.

I can’t wait to catch up with all my blogging friends.



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7 Responses to Re-entry

  1. mishedup says:

    i have missed you so!
    knowing about the move and all the energy and life force that takes, as it did me, I was not surprised by your quiet, but it was too long for my taste.
    So happy you are back, such a lovely story to return with.
    I love your apartment, it looks beautiful, and I am looking forward to hearing more
    yes..Susan is back, all’s right with the world!

    xo michele

    • sswl says:

      So good to hear from you, Michele! I surfed through MishedUp yesterday and gather you’ve been going through some tough times, too, around leaving your house and all the memories it holds. I’m so glad you were able to turn it over to such a nice family. A new stage of life for both of us–awesome and awful… Much love to you, Susan

  2. Welcome back! So glad you’re here, missed your writing…

  3. You were missed and thought of often. Such a true joy to hear from you.

    Thank you for the ray of needed sunshine today.

    Much love to you Susan,

    • sswl says:

      Ah, Christy, and I missed YOU!
      There’s so much going on on your blog! I’ve always liked your generous spirit, sharing and publicizing the wisdom of others. So many links to explore! Thank you for all you do for fellow bloggers.

      • There’s a lot to catch up on, isn’t there?

        My big things are captured on the right sidebar–I talked about my descent into drinking and losing my mom in “My Grace is Gone” and then I was interviewed by WordPress in January (“So I Said I Wanted to be Brave”) and then I’ve branched out with some creative stuff, evolution I guess, huh? My little Spot’s cancer came back, so that’s been heavy on my mind lately. I fear she is losing her battle, so we’re all trying to enjoy every moment. Seeing your post put a much needed smile on my face.

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