On Mother’s Day weekend I traveled to Nebraska to visit my parents, family, and a few friends who have been long time characters in the story of my life. I spent a day in Lincoln, then ventured down the highway to Hebron, the town of just under 1,600, where I grew up. The trip had several purposes, one being to visit a handful of my significant elders. Without giving too many details, my general impression of all of them is that they are aging with grace. At varying stages of the aging process, some still driving and living in their own homes, others preparing to make the transition to assisted living, they all continue to approach life with the same wholesome midwestern optimism that is also in my own blood. For the first time, it struck me what it might feel like to be facing the decision of giving up a home after a life together of raising children and making a contribution to the world.
Returning to the place of my youth, I lose track of my own aging process. Over the weekend as I found my way down the same red-brick main street that I walked to grade school as a child, it was easy to forget that I’m almost 62. In just a few years I’ll be eligible for Medicare, the same system my elders are navigating their way through right now. In my hometown it seems like nothing has changed, until I look closer. I notice the weeds, old tires and peeling pink paint on the garage behind what used to be my grandparents‘ house and wonder what happened to the hollyhocks I used to play with on summer days. My high school now has a different name, due to school consolidations from other surrounding small towns with diminishing populations. The two-story elementary school building I attended was replaced long ago with a newer one. The golf course with its state-of-the-art sand greens I played on as a teenager, are now upgraded to lovely grass greens.
Despite all the changes, there are a few constants from my childhood. The lilac bushes that separated our yard from the neighbors’ still produce the same fragrant purple flowers we filled our May baskets with each spring. And the sleepy Little Blue River continues its meandering through town. On my recent visit to Hebron, I was drawn to the river on more than one occasion. I love the wildness of its banks, the raccoon tracks under the bridge, and the dandelions sprouting up in sunny places waiting to be wished upon. I know the sandy banks have changed considerably since we explored them as children. Yet, it is the same river. Perhaps it drew me to its banks to deliver the message that even now as my heart struggles, knowing that time with my elders is limited, life continues to flow, revealing that which is new, awaiting its own time in the sun.