Thoughts on Turning 82 - by Barbara Fleming

When I was in my twenties, many decades ago, I envisioned my future through rose-colored glasses: I would return to school, earn graduate degrees, join the hallowed world of academia as a distinguished professor, and in my spare time write stories and give time and energy to causes I espoused. My offspring would become successful professionals;  in the fullness of time I would have grandchildren nearby to enjoy. The years stretched ahead of me full of promise and hope.

However, along the path to that shining time life got in the way. Nothing happened quite as I had imagined it would.  I ended one bad marriage and began a good one, had a career as a teacher but not the one I had pictured, became a grandmother  (to my joy) to two young girls living on the other side of the country, and only late in life achieved success as a writer. Along the way I experienced setbacks both physical and emotional, loss, sorrow and disappointment, as well as happiness, fulfilment, love and contentment. 

Now here I am, turning 82 this month and wondering where the years went.  Now I take each day as it comes. Now I look back not with regret but with pleasure, choosing to remember the good times and the lessons I learned from missteps I made, forgiving those who hurt me and hoping those I hurt have done the same. Now, having made necessary preparations, I think not about the end of life but about the dailiness of it, the breathtaking beauty of the world around me, and the pleasures of simply being alive. 

Over the years, I learned more about myself and about human nature. Here is some of what I learned:

  • The most important part of being alive is giving and receiving love, a warm blanket that enables us to get through the days.
  • No one is flawless; we are all imperfect. The secret to successful relationships is choosing what imperfections we can abide—ours and those of loved ones. We may strive to improve, but we will never attain complete success, and that is all right, it’s part of what makes us human.
  • Relationships only work when both parties invest in them, sharing time, openness, honesty and fairness, but most of all respect.
  • Hatred is a damaging emotion, not worth nurturing. There are and have been monstrous people in the world, but hating them only hurts the one who hates. For me, a far better response is indifference, or dislike, sometimes abhorrence, but not hate. Hating intensely might even shorten one’s life.
  • The vast majority of people are good at heart. They mean well, they wish no one harm, they live their lives as well as they can, and they interact with others without hostility. Sometimes, people are rude, selfish, thoughtless or unkind; sometimes, people are stingy, critical or crass, but they really don’t want to be that way all the time. I find it useful to start by seeking the good in people; it’s usually there somewhere. I certainly don’t love everybody unconditionally, but I try to approach individuals one at a time rather than as someone belonging to a certain segment of
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Barbara Fleming is a local author and editor. Her most recent book, Hidden History of Fort Collins, is available at local bookstores and on Amazon.com. You can visit her at her website  https://www.authorbarbarafleming.com

Greetings from the Graceful Aging Blog team

We hope this season finds you busily preparing for the upcoming holiday festivities, planning to be among friends and family, and successfully wending your way through the maze of shopping, wrapping and packaging. Christmas is a time for traditions; we all have some special ones to observe or remember. Our team hopes that your traditions enrich and comfort you. But a new year is on the horizon, and we wish to keep our Graceful Aging blog going strong in 2018. Even if you have submitted a piece before, we invite you to share with our readers your personal experiences with aging, be they fulfilling or otherwise.  These stories help connect us with each other and ease our way through the aging process. You do not need to be a polished writer to submit an article; you only need to be willing to share your story with others. Check the blog archive for examples of previous submissions. 

We hope this season finds you busily preparing for the upcoming holiday festivities, planning to be among friends and family, and successfully wending your way through the maze of shopping, wrapping and packaging. Christmas is a time for traditions; we all have some special ones to observe or remember. Our team hopes that your traditions enrich and comfort you.

But a new year is on the horizon, and we wish to keep our Graceful Aging blog going strong in 2018. Even if you have submitted a piece before, we invite you to share with our readers your personal experiences with aging, be they fulfilling or otherwise.  These stories help connect us with each other and ease our way through the aging process. You do not need to be a polished writer to submit an article; you only need to be willing to share your story with others. Check the blog archive for examples of previous submissions. 

The Last Letter -by Libby James

When Adam, my first grandchild, arrived in March 1989, I began a tradition. Every year on or about his birthday, I wrote him a letter, usually four or five pages, describing a little about what was going on in his immediate family, his extended family, and in the state, nation and world. When he turned one, I wrote him another letter. I did this because I’d always been curious to know first hand what had been happening in my family and in the world as I grew up. I tried to include details and small incidents that were at risk for being lost to time.

Fifteen months later, when Adam’s sister, Amy, arrived, I wrote a letter for her. And as the years went by and the grandkid kid count climbed to eleven a decade later, I did the same for each of them on or around their birthdays every year. 

When Brenna, number twelve, the final arrival, showed up, of course she began getting annual letters as well.

I did not share these letters with my grandchildren. Instead I put each letter into a folder and stored it away on my bookshelf. I don’t remember just when I decided that when each child turned twelve, I would give them the folder and the flow of letters would end for that grandchild. There are now eleven folders in the hands of my grandchildren. Maybe they read their letters, and maybe they didn’t. Perhaps some of them ended up in the trash. I’ve never asked, so I don’t know their fate. Perhaps some of the folders hung around until the kids got old enough and decided it might be fun to read the letters. It doesn’t really matter.

Brenna turned twelve a week ago and I’m about to write the final letter to go in her folder. I remember wondering, somewhere along the way, whether I’d even be around to complete her letter collection. Looks like I made it so here goes.

A few words from Brenna’s final letter.

Dear Brenna,

On July 2, 2017, you turned 12 years old which means that this will be the last of the letters I’ve been writing to you every year since you were born. I will give them all to you when you come this summer. You have been living in Tokyo since you were two, so I worried a bit about how you might fit in surrounded by all those cousins, ages 17 to 27, who gathered for a big party in Fort Collins. I didn’t need to worry. It took you about two minutes to join in the fun and games. You loved hanging out with your five girl cousins and they thought you were something special, which you are.

Your visit was short, but you managed to pack lots into a few days and you went home knowing a whole lot of relatives you’d only seen in photos. You stopped in Hawaii with your mom to attend a tennis camp. You are athletic, love to act, play the violin, and your dad says you don’t have a shy bone in your body. He predicts that you will be an entertainer.

The letter goes on to describe what her immediate and extended family is up to these days, a bit about the political situation in the U.S. and my hope that she will return this summer for some more tennis coaching. These letters are easy to write and hopefully will have some meaning for the recipients at some time in the future. 

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 Libby James is the author of several children’s books. She writes for the North Forty News and is an award-winning runner.