Having been wheeled down the ramp to the Delta flight's open door, I now have the privilege of early boarding on our flight back to Minneapolis. To a long-awaited family wedding.
We're eager for this time apart from our New Hampshire lakeside summer. Tourists to points all over New England are finding their seats on board with us. Their sweatshirts say Wellfleet, and Bar Harbor on them. Such fascinating faces they are wearing. We're all going home. At least for awhile.
Dear Molly has got me to my ringside seat. A little old man comes hesitantly down the aisle, looking for his seat. He's doing it all on his own.
I think of that: All ages are here. But most have someone at their side, having responsibility. The young have parents. Teenagers, heading home from camp, are glad to be on their own. For the wheelchair crowd, glad for assistance, are grateful to be seated and secure.
We take off with a roar, rise above the clouds, and then do our half circle to the west, heading into the sunset across America, toward home.
So many heaved carry-on bags into our overhead bins before sitting down. Even my Molly "young and strong" at 87, aimed her blue bag aloft and managed a perfect landing. Something I could no longer do, with mine. I watch others taking perfect shots with their baggage and making it on the first try. I marvel that they can.
I noted earlier how much the wrinkled can do and how spritely their step, how agile their movement. And I know I've lost that. Molly and I joke about "lurching" through our house. I hit walls and doorframes with my poor aim. Even standing still, I find I teeter - back and forth ever so slightly.
It embarrasses me, but I've learned to laugh - quietly - to myself. I repeat the mantra from the medical people, repeatedly in my head, "don't fall." I find different shoes make all the difference, so do those occasional weights I carry - a walking stick to the beach and onto the deck. My too-heavy briefcase when traveling. Even small bulging things that go into my pockets. Traveling light is the best.
But, once in the stern of my canoe that all changes. It's about a balance game, for sure, but I am then the guide, pulling my paddle as I can, and feathering the J-stroke and the C-stroke, to keep on course, and renegotiate the river's bend. Long and slow is still the best way to make sure I reach the bridge and make it home again.
I look out, from inside myself, at lots of things - calculating more carefully than I did over the many decades ago.
My swimming is still short and slow. But, there in the shallow water it is exercise, and exhilarating. I count each stroke, as I do too, with my paddling, praying I'm getting at least some of the exercise I need.
I find we old folks measure things. We keep score. We count steps. We feel determined to keep moving. Knowing it's to stay alive. Which we want more and more to do. Partly to "be there" for others around us, dear wives, and children, and grandchildren. Even friends. Neighbors. Treasured now, more than ever in life.
Some days there is even the sense that the world needs me. That God cares about who I am and what I do in this world. I'm obliged to try. And stay. Living as I can, and doing what the Lord of it all gives me to do. The new, high privilege.
Arthur A Rouner, Jr -
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