Posted by: jhvn | 03/27/2013

Ode to Joy for Geezers, Adults, and Children

Music and joy know no bounds. They nourish us all.

Many endeavors have distracted this geezer for the last few weeks. This morning I was wonderfully awakened by street musicians playing Beethoven to the absolute delight of all. So I felt compelled to share this experience with you all. Here it is. Follow this  link to Beethoven’s version of Schiller’s  Ode to Joy done in the street for all.  This geezer was in tears and can say only ENJOY!

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“Life is a sexually transmitted fatal disease”

“Life is one damned thing after another. Then you die.”

” Life is a game.Whoever has the most toys when he dies, wins.”

Common wise cracks like these slink around like fearsome serpents in the depths of our hearts. They poke their pointed heads out into our consciousness at night when sleep evades us. They wiggle uncomfortably in our gut when things go wrong – when we’re being confronted by our spouse, our kids, our parents, our boss, or our own incompetence. They terrorize us when tragedy strikes. Could this really be all there is? Should we adopt the attitude presented by Guy Lombardo: “Enjoy yourself; it’s later than you think? As ageing nudges us inevitably closer to the the threshold of geezerhood, fears and fantasies of death may increasingly haunt us.

When I was about 10, my maternal grandfather died – my first experience of death. He had just retired as an elementary school principal. Everybody – even my barber who had gone to his school as a child – extolled his creative compassion for children, teachers, and parents. I had gone to church regularly with my parents, so I quietly suspected that he, like Jesus, might return. He didn’t. I had no idea how to cope emotionally with his loss, so it gradually sank below my awareness. I thought the loss had left me. But it hadn’t. It retreated into those depths of my heart and fed those fearsome serpents.

In adulthood, we work harder and harder to avoid death – any little death. To save marriage from death, we surrender too much to our spouse’s demands, and a little of our own Self dies. To prevent the death of our job, or our vocation, or our profession, or our reputation, we give up of even more of our own Self, and the serpents grow fatter. You can see where this is leading. To prevent the loss of whatever or whomever we feel vitally attached to, we lose more and more of our own Self – completely unaware of what we are losing. And then one day …

When I look in the mirror,

Whose face do I see?

The eyes of someone I don’t know

Stare back at me.

Then I wonder what happened

To the face that I knew;

And I see the reflection

Of emotional stew.

Finally this geezer is learning compassion for the little boy inside himself who fearfully fed all his emotional pain  (not just his grandfather’s death) to those serpents within, hoping that pain and loss would then disappear. As a result of loving compassion, this geezer can sometimes  recall the taste of those fragments of loss when they were whole and first experienced. Occasionally this geezer actually can taste that primordial stew as a whole, amazed at the bittersweet  concoction which now, with the perspective of age, delights his palate. It’s like the broccoli, which he used to spit out with disgust as a child, but which he now savors steamed with lemon, butter and garlic.

Compassion for the terrified child of our past, which still lurks within our hearts, requires genuine courage – because we will feel the pain we’ve avoided all these years. Compassion also requires the humor of not taking ourselves so seriously. After all we have survived. We have had some great loves as well as losses. We found some areas where we do have some ability. We made some contribution to human evolution. And we have enjoyed some great parties and good times.

So with age, with love, and with humor, the geezer in us discovers that it’s about really enjoying this sexually transmitted condition of life – including the sexual transmission itself. It’s about discovering the opportunities that appear in all those damned things that bring us down to earth when we get flying too high. It’s about facing our approaching death with excitement at the threshold we are about to cross into a whole fantastic realm that we can only glimpse dimly from our earth-bound sexually transmitted condition. (More about that in another blog post.)

I hope you will be able go join this geezer in beginning to discover Rumi’s wisdom:

“From love bitterness became sweet,

From love copper became gold,

From love the dregs became pure,

From love the pains became medicine

From love the dead became alive,

From love the king is made a slave.”

©John Van Ness Feb., 2013

Posted by: jhvn | 02/12/2013

Caution Christian Soldiers

Since this Geezer studied and served in churches during part of  his adulthood, it should not be surprising that he will find himself commenting from time to time on the situation of the Church from his growing awareness provided by geezerhood. These comments will emerge from time to time under a different category of posts — Geezerhood Comments to the Church — so you can avoid them if the church is not your cup of tea.

This comment was provoked by a phone call last Saturday afternoon. Blizzzard warnings had been put out for the weekend, and about 2 feet of snow had fallen by the time of the phone call. However the snowfall had stopped and the sun was peeping out. This geezer had driven his plow truck to town for gas and found the roads easily passable. So when the telephone caller said that church worship was cancelled for the following day, A loud WHAAAT?! spontaneously erupted from this geezer’s mouth — to which the caller gave a great belly laugh.

Well Sunday was a beautiful sunny day. This geezer’s private worship was particularly meaningful – reflecting on Jesus’s Transfiguration. Yesterday, Monday morning, during meditation a parody on Onward Christian Solders began to emerge so strongly that it had to be written down — before breakfast! After the usual editing and stewing in the unconscious overnight, this uncharacteristic poetic creation begged to be posted on this blog. So the new category was developed, and here goes.

Caution, Christian soldiers,

Escape the inner war;

When the dark clouds gather,

Seek shelter from the storm.

Fears and doubts assail us;

We know not where to turn.

Best stay home, be safe and warm,

And make the home fires burn.

Caution, Christian soldiers,

Face our inner war.

When the dark clouds gather,

Seek shelter from the storm.

Evil forces challenge

Selfish winds prevail.

Poor and homeless suffer

Wealthy scoffers sail.

Fearful of strong action,

Christians feign concern;

But when called to meet and pray

They make their home fires burn.

Caution, Christian Soldiers,

Face our inner war.

When the dark clouds gather,

Seek shelter from the storm.

Like a frightened army

Moves the church of God.

Avoiding Christ our leader

And the path he trod.

“Where two or three are gathered,

“I’ll be surely there .”

His Spirit is our only hope

For Love to conquer fear.

Caution Christian soldiers

Face our inner call.

Or we may lose the struggle

For Life and Love for All

© John Van Ness 2/11/13 with apologies to Sabine Baring-Gould

Posted by: jhvn | 02/11/2013

A Gallery of Ageing Geezers

Here’s my late wife, Pat when she was 5 with her mother, and with her grandfather aged 75 (my grandfather-in-law) on Mt. Monadnock. She often told how proud she was when she was the youngest and he was the oldest person on the mountain that day .

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Pat often lovingly described him as her favorate adult in her family, and so strong-willed that he would wear a straw hat in winter “if he was a-mind-to.” Pat’s grandfather died 4 years later, decades before we were married, so I never knew him. However he became my first geezer role model. Here’s my tribute to this true geezer, who introduced Pat (who introduced me) to climbing Mt. Monadnock — andf to being strong-willed.

Straw Hat in Winter

You’d be surprised at how comfortable it is — keeps your head cool, and keeps the sun out of your eyes. Be careful in the wind, though.

Now on the left, here’s my own grandfather — one proud geezer.

 My Grandfather - one proud geezzer

His  dressing style of the 1920s reflecterd his attitude toward fishing, which he loved. He was so attached to fishing that for several summers he took his family to a back-woods fishing camp on Kezar Pond (geezer pond?) in Maine that could only be accessed by buckboard.Kezar Lake, ME On the right you can see the family on the buckboard, including my Grandmotther (Dolly), who, I understand, hated the rugged conditions there. His son — My dad — hated spending all his time rowing the boat for his father. So my dad never enjoyed fishing and had little to teach me about fishing. My grandfather exercised his patriarchial role by taking his family where he wanted to go, regardless of their strong resistance — hardly a geezerhood characteristic, but clearly an adulthood characteristic. However, years after Dolly died in 1935, my grandfather married a woman who loved fishing as much as he did. Together they enjoyed many fishing excursions — in the Maine woods and at the Florida oceans,  and at spots in between. That move did demonstrate his geezerhood wisdom.

“It’s a hard rain gonna fall” along the road that leads from childhood, through adulthood, and on to geezerhood. Not everyone survives.

Wm. the Geezer

    Jeff MacNelly skipped Bill the Jock, the adulthood part of his life. Billy the Kid never quite made it to true geezerhood. He was shot too soon.

We all tend to “defend to the death” the place we’re at. Few children leave the nest of parents’ home to get a job or go off to college without a wrenching inner struggle. In college I mailed my laundry home to Mother, rather than do it myself. My grandfather suffered being widowed before  he realized the wisdom of finding a mate who shared his passion for fishing. My own wife’s death jolted me into  recognizing my own geezerhood.

Amsterdam-On January 28,2013, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands officially announced that she plans to abdicate after 33 years on the throne and will be succeeded by her eldest son, 45- year-old Willem-Alexander.Queen Beatrix & the Prince of Orange0001 The Queen, who turns 75 this week, decided to step down, which was not surprising since her mother, Queen Juliana, abdicated at the age 0f 70 after 32 years on the throne. Willem-Alexander is the eldest of three sons and has the title Prince of Orange — the title of the Dutch heir apparent since the Queen’s investiture in 1980. We understand that the investiture will take place in Amsterdam on April 30th when the Dutch celebrate Queen’s Day. (from the Holland Society of N.Y.)

Now here’s a geezer who knows when to retire. Some geezers, like Queen Beatrix, and now the Pope,  do have the wisdom to shift many family responsibilities to the next generation without losing face, or self-esteem. They shift from playing the leading role or the director to perhaps the role of prompter, keeping the cast on their toes and helping out when the going gets rough. Every person, every family, every institution, needs a respected counselor and skilled navigator without direct authority who who can be relied on when the storms arise, or unknown shoals loom up and threaten shipwreck to an inexperienced skipper.

The wise geezer rises to this challenge. This is the wisdom I seek.

© John Van Ness 2/11/2013

Posted by: jhvn | 02/01/2013

Solitude and Aloneness

When I was born, I was an only child. My parents have told me that I had had a brother two years older. But he was stillborn. The doctors had warned my mother not to have any more children. Was her pregnancy with me intentional? Or was I an accident?

Except for one cousin whom I seldom saw, I found myself to be the only child in my whole family, doted on by parents, grandparents, and aged aunts . With no way of exploring how to relate to kids my own age, I had no clue about making friends with them. After 6 3/4 years my sister was born. (What do the doctors know?) What a thrill that was. Now I would no longer be alone in a world of adults. Little did I know then what a childhood pain she would become – stealing my parents’ attention from me, messing up my bike when I was fixing it, etc. (We now have a good relationship.)

Much later, when I was married and about 24 years old taking a graduate course in New York City, by chance I came upon Jack, who had lived next door before my sister was born when I was 3 or4 years old, and whom I had not seen for 20+ years. At dinner with him and his mother, she remarked how upset she had been that I would never fight back when Jack threatened me. I had considered Jack a good friend and had no memory of such incidents. So I was surprised that I had been so scared of a friend at such an early age. The fear I had felt as a child began to trickle back to my memory, and I was appalled. How grateful I am for that chance encounter. I have not seen Jack since.

I vividly remember preparing for bed the night before I was married, imagining how wonderful it would be going to bed with Pat alone, and together. She had amazed and delighted me by accepting my proposal of marriage only 6 months earlier, and now she would be my wife. Of course sex also occupied my mind, but with as much anxiety as anticipation, since I was a virgin – in the 1950’s you understand. But to be alone together with my love – finally – was the greatest joy I could imagine. My life-long empty pit of loneliness was about to be filled to overflowing.

Nearly 59 years later, on the night Pat died after 10 years of increasing dementia, I clearly recalled that night before our wedding. She had not been in our bed for 2 months, since she had needed hospitalization and then assisted living. But now the bed would remain empty – forever. My contentment that night amazed me. I no longer needed her physical presence to make me feel whole. She had radiated more peace and contentment during her last few weeks than I had ever seen in her, which filled me with joy. She needed nothing from me now; and I needed nothing more from her. Solitude, which I felt that night, to my great surprise became my joy. I remembered the words of David Winnecott, an English psychiatrist, who had written: “…(T)his capacity (to be alone) is one of the most important signs of maturity in emotional development.” To my amazement, I realized that I had matured!

It’s true. I now make friends easily, without fear, with men and women to whom I feel drawn; and my life feels full of satisfying relationships. I also enjoy my dinners alone, often listening to Performance Today on NPR. Going to bed alone is a joy, and sleep comes quickly as I reflect on my day and remind myself, as I did during the years of Pat’s dementia, that we all are held in God’s hands. Although I do miss the intimacy that Pat and I shared for 59 years, something has filled the emptiness I had felt as a lonely child. And I no longer need the intimate relationship with Pat to fill the void. This feels mysterious, and I marvel at it. I’ve concluded that this shift to enjoying solitude marks a true transition to my geezerhood from my adulthood need for a loving spouse, and from my childhood fear of any closeness that could cause pain.

How did this transition happen? I’m not sure. Pat’s dementia caused me much pain – gradually losing the relationship we had had, and watching her decreasing ability to communicate all that she was experiencing – except during her remarkable windows of lucidity. Paradoxically our relationship deepened during this time, as I was able to let go of my fear of what was happening and take it one day at a time. I found the help I needed; and I survived. The pain never destroyed me; it actually seemed to increase my strength.

So geezerhood must thrive on staying present to whatever happens,
letting go of fear and desire,
and relying on my Higher Power, as the folks in AA put it.

© John Van Ness 2/2013

Posted by: jhvn | 01/27/2013

Technology and the Fear of Lonliness

Two brightly colored backpacks were sitting on a near-by table when I sat down for lunch recently at Panera’s. Two slim teenage girls arrived shortly with their trays of lunch (large pastry and a soda!). As soon as they sat down they silently took computers from their backpacks, and one also took out a cell phone. They barely looked at each other as they focused attention on the computers, casually grabbing a bite and a drink. Occasionally they did look up, but they didn’t appear to engage with each other at all. Their attention focused on their computers and the one cell phone.

This geezer wondered, 1) how could they retain their slim profiles with such lunches of sugar; and 2) what kind of relationship did they really have with each other?

As a teenager I was no social butterfly, but I did have a few good friends. Although I never went out to lunch with friends, I enjoyed school lunches with them talking about all sorts of things – personal, academic, and technological (I was a radio geek in the 1940s) – as well as using a straw as a blow gun to shoot bits of apple at unsuspecting kids standing in line near our table.

I was experimenting with making connections with other kids – trying to alleviate my own deep loneliness and fear of intimacy.

How can I develop enough finesse to negotiate the shoals of relationship, so I can connect with others, yet avoid the pain of rejection?

Children and adults all agonize over that dilemma. I did it with straw blow guns and lots of talk. The girls in Panera were doing it with social media and little contact with each other.

This geezer doesn’t quite get how I managed to cut the apron strings to my parents. I was only 23 years old, when I did manage to snag and marry Pat, a beautiful, smart, deep, loving woman. However those apron bonds held me for many years until they slowly frayed and finally let go. Perhaps I just transferred my emotional attachments to Pat as the apron strings were fraying. Only when those bonds no longer held me, could I genuinely nurture a marriage with Pat for nearly 59 years until she died, through about five different “marriages”, and raise 3 wonderful sons together  – one example of a complex, thriving, mature relationship.

So this geezer shakes his head at the new-fangled social media which gives the illusion of many “friends”, while engaging in little real friendship. The electronic gadgets seem to imitate relationships by chatter and tweets, while avoiding genuine human contact with its consequent fear of attachments and pain. But are these gadgets perhaps really any different emotionally from the straws through which shot my bits of apple? Hmmmm.

Sherry Turkle, an MIT professor, presents evidence of technology and social media preventing the normal growth of relationships. In Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other , she  describes teenagers who revealed their anger when their parents spend time at the dinner table texting and emailing, instead of focusing attention on their children, who desperately need that attention. Such parents have obviously not yet achieved their own adulthood. They must be really struggling with parenthood, and have a long way to go before they discover true  geezerhood.

 

Perhaps it comes down to fear:

fear of  abandonment,

fear of  starvation,

fear of pain,

fear of losing love,

fear of rejection,

fear of incompetence,

fear of sickness and helplessness,

fear of old age and physical decline,

fear of aloneness.

The journey from childhood to adulthood and on to geezerhood

requires

not letting those and other fears paralyze us.

One of my sons has written a song about the Choices (the name of the song) we must make on this journey . One verse goes,

“So Follow the road that you hear in your Heart

When you’re standing alone and you’re ready to start

Don’t become fooled by the voices you’ll hear

That surround you and drown you and get you to act out of fear.”

© Tim Van Ness

Today’s motto for all geezers is Love Is Letting Go of Fear .

© John Van Ness 1/27/2013

Posted by: jhvn | 01/18/2013

The Geezer’s Vacation

As you might have noticed, this Geezer took a vacation around the holidays. As most of life  in geezerhood goes, it was not a well-planned vacation with travel, reservations, shows, all kinds of great fun, etc. This was a vacation that just happened; and I let it happen (that’s true geezer behavior); and no posts got written for a couple of weeks. I’m sure we all survived.

Oh I did plan one thing. For the first time I hosted an open house all by myself. For the first time in my life I had no parent, no wife, no child – nobody I needed to clear plans with (or could get help from). When to have it, whom to invite, what to eat, how to fix up the house (including Christmas decorations) – all these decisions were mine alone to make. Wow!

Energized and terrified at the same time, I remembered that back in the ‘60s we used to ask, What if they threw a war and nobody came? Well from the dark recesses of my mind a voice kept chiding me, What if you throw this party and nobody comes? and, You can’t possibly do this with no help! etc. etc. Well in my geezerhood I’m starting to pay attention to these messages that well up inside myself, because they sometimes express vital stuff that “I” missed. But I’m also beginning to recognize the fear lurking in my heart; and the fear was erupting in that voice.

Practicing discernment – recognizing the difference between the voice of wisdom and the voice of fear – is a new geezerhood skill that I”m learning. This time fear was calling. I had no doubt, so I plowed ahead – making all the executive decisions, planning some innovative food (which I did try out first), and sending out email invitations. About 30 people showed up. Most said they enjoyed it; and I had a blast, especially in the deep discussion that continued for nearly an hour past “closing time.”

I was also exhausted. I got a 2-week cold in the nose & throat just when Christmas gifts were crying out for attention. That fearful voice persisted: You’ll never get it all done in time. Also by myself for the first time in my life, I decided on, bought, wrapped, and delivered all gifts to my family. Again I felt both elated and stressed. I enjoyed my accomplishment – on time and on budget – another part of the geezer’s vacation.

There’s still more. My three marvellous sons had invited me to celebrate the holidays with them and their children at various times. I had a fabulous time! But it was also AFLO (another freaking learning opportunity). I got lots of honor, felt well taken care of, and had no responsibility. But I’m not used to that. As the father and grandfather, I used to be ‘in charge’ (along with my wife, Pat) of most family gatherings. This time I felt like an honored supernumerary. Once I was blown away when I realized that about half the people in the room – adults and teens – had their noses buried in their electronic gadgets, all the while carrying on spirited conversations in the room (something I could never do). Lots of gourmet meals, snacks, and gifts also forced their way beyond my good judgement into my mouth and strained the limits of my stomach. (I still struggle to button my pants.)

Life has taken a huge new turn since I’ve been aware that I’m well into my geezerhood. Learning new facets of life consumes huge amounts of energy. Again I had a great time; but I was exhausted. So I’ve needed more sleep to rest up from my vacation. When I am awake, I’m enjoying the freedom to let it happen, rather than feeling pressed to make it happen. More attention now is available to focus on the riches of relationships, rather than being diverted to the fear that will always inhabit the darker reaches of my soul. But aha; I now recognize fear for what is and have no need to obey its commands. I’m enjoying myself more than ever, and I’ll take geezerhood over adulthood or childhood any day. (What choice do I have?)

Posted by: jhvn | 01/06/2013

HELP! I’m slowing down!

Or maybe The world is speeding up? HELP! HELP!

I need twice as much time to brush my teeth. My dentist insists that I use one of those little Christmas-tree-shaped proxa brushes, every day, dipped in listerine, between my teeth, to keep the rest of my teeth from falling out. He had a note on his ceiling: “Of course you don’t need to floss all your teeth – only the ones you want to keep.”

Buttons nearly stump me. I’ve given up wearing neckties because I can NOT get the collar button buttoned, let alone the neck tie tied. It often takes 2 or 3 tries before I can get the zipper zipped on my new jacket (They obviously make buttons and zippers smaller than they used to.)

Tying my shoes often takes 2 or 3 tries; and I used to tie them without even thinking about it.

I really don’t remember the thrill of taking my first walking steps, or tying my own shoes, or buttoning my own buttons, or zipping my own zipper. But I have watched and thrilled as my children and  grandchildren achieved those accomplishments. I do know that I used walk, tie, button, and zip in no time at all,  giving them little attention –until a month ago – or was it a couple of months – or a couple of years ago? Egad! How long has this been going on?

A few weeks ago I had a marvelous experience with a group I used to be a part of until a year or so ago. Then, when I reflected a bit, I realized that it has been 15 years since I was part of that group.

So here’s what’s happening: I am slowing down.

Neurologists and driver test examiners tell us that our brain’s reaction time does in fact slow down with age. (Try a Google search for “brain reaction time” and you’ll see all kinds of scary evidence, as well as ways to improve it.)

So are we geezers doomed to slowly slide the slippery slope to senility in this speeding world? NOT ON YOUR LIFE – OR MINE.

This geezer is convinced by his experience that great value and meaning lie hidden in our natural slowing down – just as with all other aspects of ageing. We geezers differ from other old people by giving attention to our body’s talking back to the multi-tasking race so many adults have entered.

For children life is all so new they can’t explore it fast enough. Adults often feel they must struggle to keep up with it all. Geezers are learning to look beyond the race and reflect on where racing is taking them and what racing is doing to them. Slowing down rewards us geezers with time for self reflection, an essential ingredient of maturity.

One of this geezer’s reflections is that his sense of time is shifting. For a 5-year-old, a year is an enormous amount of time – 1/5 of his whole life. For a 50-year-old, a year is only 1/50th of her life. That’s why birthdays come along so quickly for us geezers. Frank Partnoy published this past June a fascinating book entitled Wait: The Art and Science of Delay. It’s full of research and stories demonstrating that often waiting, even procrastinating, can drastically improve our life and our performance – from playing tennis, to making decisions, to offering an apology. So we geezers can relax and enjoy our delaying brain.

During my college years, a girl friend once astounded me by saying “If you’re going to be raped, you might as well relax and enjoy it.” I was so shocked that I didn’t take time to reflect on whether or not this might actually have been an invitation. I may have missed a remarkable experience.

So Geezers, we can reinterpret a song about our wish to revert to childhood lack of responsibility into a geezerhood song about letting go of the race, Slow Down, You’re Goin’ Too Fast. Geezerhood can paradoxically resemble some aspects of childhood, As Jesus knew.

© John Van Ness 1/2013

Posted by: jhvn | 12/20/2012

Santa and Jesus

The Family Circus - Jesus & Santa

What a great question!

Other good questions have begun to pop up on this geezer’s mental computer screen: How did Christmas get from Jesus’s birth to Santa Claus? Did Santa invent shopping malls? Did frustrated parents write the song, “You Better Watch Out” to bribe their kids to behave?

I remember hearing this song when I was about 5 years old at a school Christmas program and was scared to death about what might happen. An earlier fear gripped me on a Christmas Eve when I must have been only 3, and my parents and I spent Christmas eve at my grandparents’ house – which HAD NO CHIMNEY. Even though all the adults assured me that Santa would find a way to get in, this child barely slept that night, listening.

When he was about 4, my eldest son asked the most profound question I have heard about Santa: “Is Santa Clause a real or imaginary person?” I replied, with some trepidation, that Santa was imaginary, but that made him no less real, since our imaginations are real. My son seemed satisfied; but he has later told me that he really was crushed. (He’s always been a good actor.) I wish I’d asked him what he meant by an “imaginary person”. That would have been a good move to draw him out, and a move toward geezerhood on my part rather than jumping into my adult role of providing answers and guidance to my children. But I was only 29 years old and just getting used to being an adult and a parent all at the same time. What did I know?

How deeply we children take these mythical matters!

St. Nicholas looks back

 A real person inspired the mythical character we call Santa Claus — Saint Nicholas. Be sure to follow this link, including the section ‘The Origin of Santa Claus”. The story will fascinate you and is told far better than I could tell it here. From the available information, it appears that Santa and Jesus did go to school together. Jesus was the teacher and St. Nick was the student.

The most important question that has popped up on this geezer’s mental screen is this:

How can we move beyond the Santa that has been hijacked to increase financial profit by creating greed in children, and by growing guilt in their parents ?

This question incites our own movement from an adulthood that seeks to assuage our guilt by being “good”, to a geezerhood that nurtures the grace of giving and generosity. The story of St. Nicholas inspires just that grace, which has made him one of the most beloved of all Christian saints. The stories of Scrooge and of the Grinch work the same magic in us. Of course after they discovered the joy of generosity, St. Nick, Scrooge, and the Grinch must all have seemed weird to normal adults . But such weirdness marks true geezerhood and true humanity.

If daddy in the top cartoon could rise to his true geezerhood, he might reply, “Yes, Santa learned to give to needy children from his teacher, Jesus. What would you like to give to someone you know who is in need?”. If you let such a fantasy play out in your own imagination, you may find it possible to grow a famly circus at your home this season full of fun, and nurturing  the growth of generosity, mutual appreciation, and sense of belonging.

May your Christmas celebrations provide just such a circus, and the consequent sense of loving and being loved that is true grace.

Posted by: jhvn | 12/11/2012

Why Do Mothers Do These Things?

When I was about 12, my mother sent me to a dancing class on Friday evenings. It was torture! I had to approach one of the girls sitting primly in a row and ask her to dance with me. Of course by the time I had made up my mind who was  prettiest, some guy who knew her had already swooped in, and she was chatting happily and gliding out on the floor with him.

I could barely even speak to a girl.  My feet wouldn’t go where I was told by the teacher they should, so of course I stared at them hoping to make them work. My cluncky movements were anything but graceful.  I felt like a total clutz.

The class was in the city where my parents grew up, a 20 min. bus ride from the corner near my house to a city corner near the dance studio. To get home from the ordeal, I had to walk alone back to the city corner to catch the bus. It was dark. I would shiver from embarrassment and the  cold. The bus took forever to come. And I had to pee. The urgency would begin about half-way to the corner.

In my eagerness to escape the scene of my humiliation, I always forgot to use the toilet, so I squeezed hard hoping I would not leak. When my wait mercifully ended, I got on the bus carefully so I could hold it in, hoping the driver would not notice my strange way of climbing up the steps. I sat there riding home, tormented by every bump in the road, every slamming on of the brakes, every jerky start. By the time I finally got off the bus, my underpants were usually wet. That chilled me even more. I hoped my pants didn’t show the leak. My parents got used to my dash to the toilet room as soon as I got in the door, and they didn’t grill me about the evening till I emerged. My bladder relief so overwhelmed me that I could mumble something about a good time without feeling much at all.

I never learned anything in that dance class: not how to talk to a girl in spite of my fear; not to let my body feel and move with the rhythm of music (although I did enjoy the recorded big band  music); and certainly not to use the toilet before I left for home. These all must be learned before a boy can begin to enter adulthood. Aha! My mother must have hoped I would learn them.

Now, after many years, this geezer has learned a few things. I don’t have to let fear paralyze me. (I still struggle with this one.) I do enjoy moving with the music and dancing now, and I married  a great dancer (even I’m not).

I’ve found that fear produces the urgency to pee (hence the saying “he was so scared he was pissin’ green”).

Also, I have figured out that the urgency to pee, the rate of flow, and the volume released do not always relate in the way you would expect. In my childhood, I mercifully found immediate release when I let go. In adulthood I had more control, but sometimes I could only release a little bit (like after a particularly emotional movie). Now, well into my geezerhood, things are all mixed up. Feeling great urgency I can race to the toilet (or to a tree in the woods) and find almost nothing coming out. I can also go for hours, feel a tinge of urgency, take five minutes to finish up, then have to pee again in only half an hour. In a marvelous scene in the stage play of  Tuesdays with Morrie, Morrie goes off stage to pee. when his friend calls him to hurry up, Morrie calls out, “I’m 84 years old. It doesn’t come so fast.”

Well, I am a slow learner. And I write too many words in my stories. But I can be concise in three mottos of this Geezerhood Guide:

1) Never let fear paralyze you.

2) Always learn from what humiliates you.

3) Never miss an opportunity to pee.

© John Van Ness 12/2012

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