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 steps 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.