Sunday, March 27, 2011

The old man at 65

This photo, taken when I was 64-and-something, arrived last week inside a birthday card from my friend Mary Ellen, with whom I'm sharing a bench here on her front deck down along the South Chariton. I look positively benign, I think, so decided to post it. As a rule, when confronted by a camera, I look as if I planned to eat the photographer, grilled, for lunch. There's even the hint of a smile. I laugh a lot. Really.

Mary Ellen also quite effectively expressed life's greatest lesson a couple of years ago in terms that I remember. After the last in a series of deeply-felt deaths, someone asked her how in the world she had managed to cope. "I just keep breathing," she said. Ain't that the truth?

I'm told that when I was born 65 years ago today at Yocom Hospital here in Chariton, my paternal grandfather brought a bouquet of violets picked along fencerows and the margins of his timber. No violets this year, despite a moderate March. But there soon will be. There always are.

The most memorable gift so far has been a large bowl of Lenten purple jello with mixed fruit to acknowledge my rigorous insistence that the Jello served during any function at a Roman Catholic, Episcopal or Lutheran church be of the liturgically correct color for the season. We are all fundamentalist in some things.

Sixty-five is an artifcial milestone, created by the fact one once became eligible for full retirement benefits on that birthday --- no longer the case. It still has a certain power, however.

I've spent a little time, but not an excessive amount, thinking about some who didn't make it. Vietnam was the first great epidemic that carried away people I loved; AIDS, the second; extreme old age, the third. But I'm not especially good at sensing absence so carry no particularly heavy burden of loss. I can't explain that.

I used to think I'd grow up someday, but have come to see that we never do. Vulnerable and in need, prone to tantrums and fits of temper, inclined now and then because of our own insecurities to be cruel --- there are no adults. We need to remember that more when dealing with ourselves and with each other.

Got up this morning and went to church, as I have most Sundays since I started attending regularly during college. It amazes me that I still go to church. Faith in the institution vanished during the opening years of the previously mentioned AIDS pandemic as I watched Christians in inaction, spewing hate --- as many still do. I call the inability to break my Sunday morning habit a leading.

I've spent going on two years now doing things I love to do, and still feel guilty about that sometimes. I wish I'd broken the habit of doing what I thought I should to do much sooner.

Born queer, I'm bemused when someone attempts to demonstrate my createdness by saying, "but no one would choose to be born that way." I look forward to the day when no one feels obliged to say that --- and the signs are hopeful, but we've got a ways to go.

Love is love and it's wonderful. Makes no difference whether you love someone of the opposite sex or the same sex --- or alternate. The ability to reproduce is irrelevant. Love is sufficient.

Thanks to one and all who see this and have sent greetings. You're all great!

I wish I had really good advice to give, but here's the best I can do after 65 years. Do more of what you love to do, less of what someone tells you should be done. If anyone, including me, begins a conversation by telling you he's a Christian, run like hell. Never believe anything you're told in church --- keep listening, but test it. Fall in love --- as often as necessary. You've been redeemed --- behave as if you believe it. Feed the hungry. Comfort the sick. Raise the dead. Laugh a lot --- mostly at yourself. And above all else, remember to keep breathing.


Norm Prince said...

Birthday Greetings, Frank
It is good to know a few good men are still around even if a bit younger. We have so much in common it some times makes me wonder, yet we also are different. I have enjoyed, learned, laughed, cried, and been frustrated with your blog for some time now and most always look forward to each days offering. Many happy returns old leatherneck.

Debbie said...

The happiest of birthdays to you. You have a refreshing voice in the community and show me faith in that which I usually find faithless. Thank you for all you do.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday Frank.

Peggy Senzarino

Ed said...

Norm said, "I have enjoyed, learned, laughed, cried, and been frustrated with your blog for some time now and most always look forward to each days offering."

Couldn't have said it better myself. Happy birthday Frank. I sincerely hope you have plenty more.

Also, keep up the genealogy posts. They truly are my inspiration and I hope that someday my family posts are of similar caliber.

Angela said...

Happy happy birthday! What a beautiful posting...

I began reading your blog for the genealogy and historical posts that touch on my own family's history and love for the midwest, and have become a daily reader for your insight into politics, religion, and current events. When I feel the whole world has gone crazy and no one sees things they way I do, I know I can turn to this blog and maybe lawrence o'donnel on msnbc and be comforted to know I am not alone. Thank you for all you do! :)

Angela in Omaha