I have been taught a new lesson about how to live life in the past two days. I am in Florida with my parents and their “snowbird” friends. They have all flocked together to escape the harshest Mother Nature has to offer in the north for three or four months.
Before I came down here, I would chuckle and shake my head every time I would call my mom on the phone. She never had more than 20 seconds to talk to me. The conversations went a little like this. “Hi, Mom. How are you? Guess what? I just found out I need surgery on my foot.” “Oh, Lisa, I’m sorry to hear that, but I’ll have to call you back. Bocce Ball starts in 10 minutes.” Other familiar responses would be “May I call you later? — we are meeting people for dinner, friends are coming over, we are off to serve at a mission center, we are off to church, or I can’t hear you from the noise at the pool.”
From my wintery cold sunless end of the cell phone, I enviously envisioned “the lucky ones,” as I thought of them, blissfully laughing and effortlessly living out their golden years without a care, so I thought.
I have visited my parents and the friends they have met over the past few years at this condo in Florida several times in the past, but for some reason, I see them through new lenses now. Don’t get me wrong. I know they all are fortunate to have the means to be able gather and escape the darkness of winter. I am well aware that they are all fortunate enough to even escape the world of work and have retirement years as I know that they are in the minority of the world’s population of poor. However, what I see clearly now are lovely people who are gracefully doing the best they can. You can escape the snow, cold and ice storms, but you can’t escape the harshness of what life brings with it the older you get. You can’t escape the physical aches and pains and the emotional scars of loss after loss. Getting old is not for sissies.
Of their friends, there is one man who refuses to put his beloved wife in a nursing home. ” I have done things as her care taker that I never dreamed I would do, but you do what you need to do,” he shared. — and he battles on with a cigar in his hand.
There is woman from a distance who looks like she could be a model. She is graceful, beautiful, fashionable. You have to look very closely to see the hint of grief that follows her. She has lost a husband, son, and almost lost a grandson in a random shooting. — and she battles on.
I get a hug from another friend I have met in the past who remembers me. She is one of the kindest people I know. I would never have dreamt that welcoming, thoughtful soul carried with it a real depression that relentlessly won’t leave her alone — and she battles on.
There are countless stories of love, resilience, fortitude, and acceptance living in these condos. If I am wise, I will take away a lesson that will serve me well in the years to come.
As I listen to the echo of their laughter at an evening pool- side gathering, I hear them share stories from their past. Through the pain that aging brings with it, they find each other and share, love, and live life abundantly, not alone, but as birds who flock do, together. That is the lesson I have learned, together.
Together– and they battle on.