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Another Day in the Country

Notes on life: outdated so soon

© Another Day in the Country

My friend Don had sent me a note with his new address. Obviously, he’d moved. So I went into a file on my computer desktop called “Addresses” and changed the list.

Then, while I was at it, I changed some of the notations behind the names.

I’d learned to make notes behind names from an old, old buddy of mine — years ago. He always wanted to be able to remember people’s names and their children’s names, but as the years went on he had less and less contact with acquaintances and had forgotten the details.

I liken it to an old file drawer that hasn’t been pulled out in a while. The more desperately you want to remember a name, the more difficult it is to recall. Then, hours, days after you’ve let it go — there’s the name!

So my friend had his “secretary” write little explanations after each name on his address list. They included the names of the person’s wife and kids and how he knew them from his previously more active life. It was immensely helpful — not just to him, but to the people who came to know him later in life, like me.

On my address list, I’ve put notes about people who are important for me to keep track of so that if my daughter has to go into the list for some reason, she’ll know their connection to me.

If I were living close to my children, this wouldn’t be necessary. But miles separate us from important information, no matter how many times we fly across country from Kansas to California.

Updating the list with addresses, I chuckled to myself because I’d put numbers behind some of these names.

One said, “friend, 40 years.” Another said, “friend 25 years,” and “friend 50 years,” along with “cousin,” “former art student,” and “worked with for 25 years.” Wow! This needed to be updated, too. Another decade had gone by so quickly.

It’s amazing to think that my friend Renie and I have known each other for 60 years. That’s a huge number, and it is difficult, most days, to realize I’ve actually even lived for 60 years. It went by so quickly. It feels more like a 40-year span. When I have to fill in my birthdate for something on the computer, I have to scroll and scroll to find the appropriate number.

My dad once told me in the final years of his life that he felt as if he was sitting on a bench, and every month the people around him moved down a notch. In his 80s, he felt as if he was being pushed off the end of the bench. In spite of health failing, his will to live on was so strong. He most certainly didn’t want to be crossed off the address list.

In fact, he didn’t want to even change addresses or find himself in need of being updated on a friend’s list. Even returning to a familiar place, his old hometown, where he went to school, here with his daughters instead of being in far-away Oregon, was very difficult for him in his last days of life. Difficult but inevitable, these transitions.

I was listening to a wonderful program on public television the other evening called “Into the Night: Portraits/Life.” It was on the subject of coming into old age or facing a health crisis and admitting that your lifespan is ending.

It does end, we all know; but we have a natural tendency to ignore that possibility. People don’t talk about it, and if they do, it is usually with a religious belief that comforts them about death with another life anticipated afterward — elsewhere.

Search out this broadcast since public television channels often play their best work more than once. (They don’t want you to miss “the good stuff,” either.)

What made this program so profound was the wide range of people interviewed from different viewpoints: Christian, scientist, atheist, believer, Muslim, agnostic, mathematician.

One of the quotes I scribbled on a piece of paper as I listened has given me lots to think about: “The lust for certainty has been the most damaging thing to humanity.”

To stand still in the mystery, the profoundness of life, is difficult. There is so much happening all around us, inside us. Everything is inter-connected and constantly in flux, impossible to control!

We all know that the very essence of life is change. And yet we find it so hard to accept at times, even though the opposite of change is death.

It was the scientist looking at the vastness of the cosmos who reminded me that I am a part of this “vast experience we call life,” and that, whatever comes at the inevitable end of it all, I had the privilege of belonging to this amazing universe.

Sometimes Ramona feels like a very small puddle, but all you have to do to get a glimpse of the universe is drive down Paint Rd. on a clear night and look around you.

“Embrace it all,” I say. I find comfort in the continuity of growth we enjoy — planting trees and fields and gardens, experiencing this natural renewal, for as long as we live another day in the country.

Last modified April 4, 2018

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