Monday, May 31, 2010

A pre-birthday meditation

In eight days, I will be 68 years old. I was born at 3:55 p.m. on June 8, 1942 in Chehalis, Washington, the first living child of my parents, Mona and Merritt Ketcham. Two brothers had been born in the years before my birth, James and Charles. I was the first baby carried to term.

I don't know what effect these too-premature-for-the-times babies' deaths had on my parents, though the writings my mother left behind seem to indicate a certain stoicism and steady belief that they were in the arms of Jesus. Somehow they carried on, managing seminary and the Great Depression and poverty with grace, and when I was born, my dad was in his first pastorate in Mossyrock, Washington, at the Mossyrock Community Church.

Sixty eight years later, I am in a pastorate in Freeland, Washington, having benefited from their steady grace and deep faith and having the natural or nurtural resources to find happiness, though the world is increasingly messy and tormented by humankind's mistreatment.

I am finding that the days and weeks and months and years are speeding by more quickly than I could imagine. I remember when each month was endless, when I was living from paycheck to paycheck, hoping I could make it for the next week by judiciously parceling out the sparse funds in my bank account, even floating a check at the grocery store on the last days of the month, hoping the paycheck would make it to the bank before the check cleared. The Favorite Son seemed always to be in some kind of growth spurt, eating constantly and outgrowing everything.

Friends tell me I don't look like I'm 68 and truthfully, I don't feel like I'm 68. My dad had been dead for eight years when his 68th birthday rolled around. I have outlived him by eight years and during those eight years, I have marveled that I have been given this gift of time. His health problems presaged mine, but by the time mine were discovered, medical science had progressed enough that mine could be easily fixed.

My mother would have been 100 years old this August, had she lived past her 84th birthday. I figure I probably have at least another 16 years, likely more, as I also have escaped some of her health concerns by being born after penicillin prevented scarlet fever from damaging heart valves. She was not so lucky.

So here I am at this young age of 68, watching time fly by and wondering what the future brings. What does the rest of my life look like? How long will I stay on Whidbey Island? Will I ever get to live on the Oregon Coast? Will I ever be able to live close enough to my son and his family that I can see them more often? How long will I be able to be an active, energetic minister? Will my brain ever fail me? Will my own efforts to control my health without medications be enough? Will I find a life's companion who can put up with me for the next (at least) 16 years? And will I be able to put up with him?

It's another rainy morning on the island, it's Memorial Day, and the newspaper is full of bad news. My friends whose son recently died are managing, heroically, to offer the now-annual Veterans Tribute event to the larger community, despite their grief. I will be there to support them. And then we will meet this week to begin planning his Memorial service.

May this Memorial Day have deep significance to you, my friends. May you give thanks for freedom, for health, for friends and family, for the many gifts of life which outshine the sadness and destruction so pervasive in today's world. And may you do what you can to make others' lives easier. Amen, Shalom, Salaam, and Blessed Be.

17 comments:

spiritualastronomer said...

Kit, thank you so much for this thoughtful, personal meditation on growing older. As my 85-year-old mother visits for a few days, many of the same thoughts have been swirling around in my own mind. I hope I'm able to handle more birthdays as gracefully as you are.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Chris, I hope your time with your mother is happy and satisfying.

Charlotte said...

Kit
As we all grow older we all think of what is ahead for us. What we still want to do and how long our health will last so we can do everything we want to do. i enjoy each day even more now that I am over 50. Like Mom once said when she turned 40 it was no problem as she could see living another 40 years and she has. Yet at 50 she knew she wouldn't last another 50. So you start to look at things differently. We lost Dad about 3 yrs ago and Mom because of her weak body after the stroke is now in a nursing home but her mind is sharp as ever. It is hard to leave her there since her mind is quite aware of where she is.
Enjoy every day and do something to make each day special. Have a Happy Birthday next week. Char

Elz said...

That zinger at the end about the newly-dead war hero really puts it in perspective. May God sustain you and the family in the hour of loss. And may we remember, who have not been so touched, that Memorial Day calls us to pause for grief and gratitude.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Charlotte and Elz.

Joel said...

I didn't know that Gran's heart problems were from scarlet fever. In this family, heart trouble just seems to be as much a given as ten toes.

Didn't Grandpa live to 62? (Not that it matters; I just noticed the arithmetic and had to be pedantic.)

I remember when each month was endless, when I was living from paycheck to paycheck, hoping I could make it for the next week by judiciously parceling out the sparse funds in my bank account, even floating a check at the grocery store on the last days of the month, hoping the paycheck would make it to the bank before the check cleared.

Been there, done that.

Is there any chance of FS finding work int he Northwest? Grannyhood is hard-earned and should be enjoyed as much as possible. The kids can count themselves lucky to have you for a grandma.

ms. kitty said...

You're right, Joel, my math is wrong. He died in 1970 and that's where I think I got the zero!

I know the FS and his family would love to live in the PNW somewhere, and that would be absolutely wonderful, if/when it comes to pass!

Earthbound Spirit said...

Best wishes (early) for a happy birthday, Kit. I appreciate your wisdom and words.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, EB, and I'm glad to see you back on the job checking out the blogs!

Miss Kitty said...

This was such a wonderful post, Ms. K. Thank you so much for your thoughtfulness; I always learn something new when I read your fresh takes on the life within us, and that goes on around us.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Miss K. I always treasure your comments.

LinguistFriend said...

Happy pre-Birthday, Kit. Take care of yourself; you have after all, both your local congregation and your on-line congregation to handle. Some of my friends tell me that I am not very good at taking care of myself, but I encourage them to take care of themselves, and I have been unexpectedly effective as a mentor with most of my students. There is a feedback principle there of course; the success of one's friends and students and children and congregants makes one's own emotional survival more likely. So, take care.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, LF. And YOU take care of yourself, please!

Tina T-P said...

Hey Kit - We hope you have a wonderful Birthday!

Here's a coincidence for you - my brother-in-law has lived in Mossyrock all his 70+ years - His mom & dad started Aldrich Berry Farm (blueberries and raspberries) They (bro-in-law & sis) still live on the home place and still raise blueberries... It's a funny little town - not changed much in the almost 50 years I've been going there...T.

ms. kitty said...

Thanks, Tina! Your brother would have been about 3 or 4, it sounds like, when we were there, so he probably wouldn't remember our family, but it's fun to know that he was there at the same time.

Vanessa said...

I just read your post -- my arms free again today! What a beautiful sharing. You definitely do not look your age, but your wisdom reflects your experience. Thank you for your writings, your work, and your friendship.

ms. kitty said...

Thank you, Vanessa, I value your friendship highly.