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Embracing Change

I’ve entered that stage of life where my body (and even my mind) don’t cooperate as well as it once did. I hear lots of folks utter the cliché “getting old isn’t for sissies.” And they are correct, of course, but no stage of life is “for sissies.” Remember being a teenager trying desperately to figure out life. Remember being a new mom with too little sleep and too many responsibilities. Remember being a new teacher who in the first year was going to make EVERY mistake one can make. This new stage of life is no different. The rules have changed and it’s a challenge every day to figure out how to deal with this uncooperative body.

Within the last six months I have had two major surgeries: one for a knee and most recently one for a new hip. The knee is better but not perfect. The hip is getting better but still needs lots of coddling. Tasks that I once did without even thinking such as laundry and making a bed are hard.

Along the way, I’ve had to use an “assistive device” (don’t you love euphemisms). Some refuse to call these canes and instead talk about their walking sticks. No matter what you call them, they are essential to me to move about the outside world with all its steps and stairs. I originally bought the most serviceable one I could find hoping I could just pretend it didn’t exist. It did its task, but was basically boring if not ugly.

Over the last few months, though, I’ve had lots of time to think about the changes in my world. Originally, I railed at my “infirmities” angry at what I could no longer do easily. But one day I stopped and thought back to the other moments of change in my life. I thought about the demands on me when I moved to a town far from family to live with a husband who traveled most of the time which meant I had to be the “grown up” managing finances and disasters. I thought about the freedom I gave up when my first child was born and I could no longer do as I pleased. I remembered the burden of settling my father’s estate which took months and hours of time writing letters, making phone calls, and trying to understand legal documents. Each of these events moved me from one world into another. I sometimes found myself wishing for my easier earlier life, but most of the time I accepted this new world as a good place to be.

With these thoughts in mind, I considered this world to which I have now moved. While I have physical limitations, I now also have amazing freedom. I go where I wish when I wish. I eat what I want when I want it. I sleep when I need to rarely setting an alarm. I can read far into the night or all afternoon. I can talk for as long as I want to friends far and near. I can wear what I want which can include not getting dressed until noon. There were many times in my previous life stages where I would have considered this scenario the nearest thing to perfect.

As a result, I decided to embrace this new stage with all its good points and bad. One step in the embracing process was the decision to look for the prettiest cane I could find and buy it. After all, it’s an accessory not just an aid. I wouldn’t carry an ugly purse or wear an ugly jacket. Why would I want this part of my wardrobe to be any less? The one I found matches my car and makes its own statement. It folds up with a Velcro strap when I need it out of the way (just as a good purse can be unobtrusive when necessary). And it’s red. I carry it proudly using it as I need not trying to pretend it doesn’t exist. And just as one gets comments on earrings or cute sandals, I get compliments on my cane along with the “where did you get it?” question.

Will there be other changes along the way that will be frustrating? Sure. But I’m working as hard as I can to treat each of these changes as just the flip side of a truly wonderful world. It’s a tradeoff no different than the one I made when I gave up freedoms to become a mother or when I took on responsibilities as I entered adulthood. I embraced each of those new worlds. I will embrace this one as well.

 

I always grew up thinking of myself as English. Not surprising with a name like Lancaster. I even did a project on the War of the Roses because of my “connection” to this name in history. My “English” father didn’t discourage this belief in our heritage and there was no talk in my family about my mother’s contribution to my genetic makeup. Since her mother (my maternal grandmother) had disappeared when she was very small and her father was in places like Pakistan and Libya during my growing up years, I never heard anything from them about this side of the family.

Becoming a committed genealogist (that’s one who should be committed to some kind of treatment center) meant that I learned quickly that that invisible side of my makeup was 75% German. My maternal grandfather was the product of German immigrants and my maternal grandmother was German and Irish.

So what difference does all this make? Well, I’ve been thinking back over my life and have come to realize how often Germans seem to be a part of my life.

In college, I elected to take German because I’d had too much Spanish in high school (the rule was I’d have to take second year as a college freshperson, and even after many years of Spanish, I knew I’d be in big trouble). As a result I took two years of “scientific” German because I started out as a biology major (another story). One had to have a B in the last semester of the two required years to use it as a language for graduate school. Guess what? I had three B’s and a C so in graduate school I took another semester of “reading” German. What this means is that even after all these years I still have a huge German dictionary in my library, but no Spanish one.

After my children were of school age, I returned to teaching at a rural school outside of Lubbock. Lubbock doesn’t strike one as the German capital of Texas and it isn’t. But Slaton IS the German capital of West Texas. There’s a large contingent of German families who immigrated to the area. As a result I taught kids with names like Heinrich and such. There was even a huge German sausage festival every fall.

Recently, we moved near Houston picking our new home almost at random based upon its proximity to our children/grandchildren as well as its size and amenities. Not once did I think about the makeup of the families in this area. Guess what! Yep, there are German names on every street and in every organization. And these German “immigrants” are serious about their heritage. There is even a German Texas Heritage Society as well as a Maifest celebration every May. At the monthly genealogy meetings, I listen to folks talk about their visits to Germany as they retrace their roots.

I’m beginning to think life is trying to send me a message. Perhaps those Germans in my family tree need more attention and a visit to Germany should be in order. All I know is that I find myself craving potato pancakes, German sausage, and sauerkraut. And Brenham doesn’t have a single German restaurant.

1. Limiting one’s packing to a single reasonably sized suitcase means it’s quicker to pack and even quicker to unpack when one gets home. And there’s less laundry to do. Flight check in is quicker and using 25 inch luggage means it’s almost impossible to exceed 50 pounds.

2. It’s not necessary to take every walking tour otherwise known as a forced march led by someone whose occupation is walking — fast. One can see lots and photograph much more if one is strolling. You miss the fascinating information that guides provide, but it’s a fair exchange.

3. Wearing one’s phone and tracking steps each day means you understand at the end of the day why so many things on your body hurt.

4. Sitting in the Explorer’s lounge each night before dinner watching the world go by through the windows is nearly as nice as my back yard sanctuary.

5. It’s very embarrassing to stumble upon a chair leg at lunch and send your carefully concocted salad across chairs and table. Fortunately, I’ll never see those folks at the table again – or so I hope.

6. Small cruise ships are so much better than monster ones. Elevators come more quickly, lines are shorter, you actually see people you’ve met on previous days, and the staff seems less harried.

7. Spending the money at least once to eat a gourmet dinner with wine pairings for each course is well worth it – particularly if one has ship’s credit to cover it.

8. Husbands who are awakened before 3 a.m. by the ship’s office on the morning of departure informing him that our credit card was denied and we cannot leave the ship until it is resolved AND we are due to offload at 3:30 a.m. will be grumpy for a LOOONNGGG time. A fraud alert informing the credit card folks of the countries we will be in creates a problem when the cruise line office tries to run the charges from their California office. Always carry a second card.

9. It’s a good idea to request assistance in Amsterdam to get from Gate D to Gate F if one has mobility issues. Taking a cart means that you wiz through passport control and then even get early boarding. It’s not physically possible to get from Gate D 64 in Amsterdam to Gate F 6 in less than an hour even if the map makes it look like a gentle walk.

10. No matter how much water one drinks on a transatlantic flight and how many times one gets up to walk and stretch, your body will still hate you the day after you arrive home. However, caffeine from Gene’s jet fuel coffee helps.

PS. The Global Entry card is well worth the cost and time it takes to acquire the fast track number. Flew through passport control and luggage at the Houston airport without stopping for more than a moment.

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