Saturday, May 12, 2012

Measuring My Life in Decades

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T.S. Eliot's character in “The Love Songs of J. Alfred Prufrock”  says something like: “I measure my life in coffee spoons.”  

I think it was meant to symbolize the disillusionment so prevalent in England, and everywhere in the world, during and after World War I.  Eliot’s famous poem “The Wasteland” (1922) reinforced the message.  I have always wondered how a generation that experienced such a devastating war, with the loss of so much human life in such cruel ways, could fight another gruesome war less than 20 years later.  I can see why people of Woodrow Wilson’s generation wanted to banish war for all times.  It remains a dream. 

I thought of the T.S. Eliot quote at some odd time today, because I  realize I am now measuring my life in decades, not coffee spoons.

Maybe it’s because I went through the dozen or more large plastic boxes of photos, cards and momentos left by my mom,  looking for photos of my Aunt Loretta to take to Charlotte. I did find a few and made a little album (nothing like Roz's beautiful creations) called "How I will Always Remember You," which my aunt seemed to enjoy, sort of.  Not sure.  It was hard for her to muster energy to sit up and look, but she smiled, faintly.   She was able to identify a lovely pastel picture of a young Loretta, and informed us that she was 16 years old when the photo was taken. That was fantastic.  Other photos were of my Aunt and Uncle Steve at my mom's 80th birthday in Florida, and of our wonderful visit almost a year ago in Sylvania. 
Aunt Loretta in front of Elissa and Julia, at top of stairs;
 then descending order,
cousin Roz, Loretta's granddaughter, and my grandkids
 Tony, Alli, Josh holding Philip, Kyle
But it hit me: I’m getting up there, too, in age that is.  Not long and I’ll be celebrating 80 years, like mom and Aunt Loretta did, my friend Gay in San Miguel, and now, this May, my friend and neighbor Judi.  Then I suppose my kids and grandkids can do an album entitled “how I will always remember you” and stumble through all the old photos and stuff. More dust, more memories. 

Tempus fugut, I thought, my old Latin coming back to me: Time flies. 

So I'm thinking of my life in decades, and it goes something like this, with highlights, in brief:
10 years old  – Rochester, NY, schools 17, Allendale, Harley (HS graduation 1958)
20 Years old – Norton, Mass. (Wheaton) to UW Madison, the perennial student
30 Years old Toledo, family, civil rights/antiwar, PhD,Nantucket summers
40 years old  – Toledo, teaching women's history, Australia/New Zealand trip,
transitions: divorce, move to DC, new chapters, new adventures
50 years old  – Washington, humanities work, trips to India, Europe, Mexico
60 years old  – Tampa/St. Pete, work, teaching in retirement, trips to Europe,
Amsterdam with Loren and sister Andy, Brugge/Maastrict highlights; around USA, Southwest, Grand Canyon, Utah, Zion and Bryce, California, Route 1, NC Great Smokies, Costa Rica with Loren; Mexico in winter. 
70 years old  – Ykraine, Peace Corps Volunteer;  trips around UA, Kiev to Lviv,     
Odessa, the Carpathians, Crimea/Yalta; and eastern Europe, Budapest, Krakow, Prague and all around them; Istanbul, Egypt.                
72 years old  --and counting, back in Ohio, Sylvania, family life, coming full circle.   

Goodness.  Where will I be for my 80th birthday?  I might have to make a point of being somewhere else.  Italy?  On the other hand, it could be heaven or hell!  For sure I'm measuring my life in decades, now, not coffee spoons. It's the circle of life.

The circle of life.  This makes me think of Elton John and his beautiful song of that title (music by Tim Rice), created for the movie The Lion King.  Elton John is a fantastic poet and songwriter, and this is  one of my favorite songs. 

Lyrics to Circle Of Life :
From the day we arrive on the planet
And blinking, step into the sun
There's more to be seen than can ever be seen
More to do than can ever be done

Some say eat or be eaten
Some say live and let live
But all are agreed as they join the stampede
You should never take more than you give

In the circle of life
It's the wheel of fortune
It's the leap of faith
It's the band of hope
Till we find our place
On the path unwinding
In the circle, the circle of life

Some of us fall by the wayside
And some of us soar to the stars
And some of us sail through our troubles
And some have to live with the scars

There's far too much to take in here
More to find than can ever be found
But the sun rolling high through the sapphire sky
Keeps great and small on the endless round

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