Gero-Punk Contemplation: Thanks-giving

Let me begin by telling you about my soundtrack: Various NPR programs (May I just say how relieved I am that Israel and Hamas have agreed to a cease fire?); Coldplay (The latest; hated it at first, but now it is growing on me, but only slightly. You may not know this about me, but I’m an incredibly loyal music fan. Once I love a band, it takes a lot to shake me off.); Foo Fighters (The latest. Dave Grohl=Rock Star Mench); Grouplove (Love them! Gotta prep for their concert in December.).

I almost always have a soundtrack going on in the background as I go about doing whatever it is I’m doing (though interestingly, I don’t listen to music while I’m running. I listen instead to the birds and the sound of traffic in the distance and to what my mind is up to).  Sometimes the soundtrack is internal, inside my body; sometimes, like today, the soundtrack is filling up the car or the house and can be heard by whomever is occupying space with me. The only whomever right now is Happy-the-dog — Izzy’s at a party — and if his behavior is any indication, he preferred the NPR programming and the Foo Fighters (he retreated to the backyard during most of Grouplove and was in my bedroom asleep all through the Coldplay album).

I decided to take today, the day before the Thanksgiving holiday, as a vacation day.  I wanted to have part of the day with my daughter Isobel, who will be with her father from Thanksgiving evening until Sunday, and with whom I experienced some pretty intense turbulence yesterday. We have so little turbulence in our relationship that when we do have it, it is a shock to my system and it thrusts me to the very edge of my capacity as a mama. Twice yesterday I found myself at a point of decision, and you may know the point I mean, the one where you ask yourself if you are going to breathe and wait before responding and ask questions rather than saying what’s what, or are you going to, well, not.  I’m glad to report that we resolved the turbulence last night but the emotional aftermath was pretty intense and I felt an overwhelming need to just be here when she woke up this morning, if for no other reason than to be in the same space with her. 

(What a great soundtrack! The song playing right now has the lyric “Love will save your soul.” Indeed.)

I also wanted to have a head-start on the errands and the cleaning and cooking-prep chores in preparation for Thanksgiving tomorrow.  I’m hosting again this year, though my motivation is flagging a bit. I love to cook beautiful food and offer it to my people, but much of what I’m cooking I can’t even eat. And I’m really tired so all the chores and tasks seem overwhelming.

Two Sundays ago I had a significant relapse of the “twisty guts” condition I’ve had since 2007, and it has only been since yesterday that I could eat solid food without significant pain upon digestion, and I’ve had only three nights of solid sleep in the past week and a half. Pain is tiring enough, but when you can’t really eat and rest, well, the situation can easily get out of hand.  The good news is that while Monday I was still only operating at about 75% of my capacity; yesterday I was perhaps at 80% and actually ate a respectable dinner; this morning, I managed to have a 3 mile run —  in between rainstorms — accompanied by a waterfowl-soundtrack, and eat some solid food for brunch. Hooray!

(Happy just came back into the house and plopped on to the couch—I think he may like the song that’s on now: Colours, by Grouplove. When I got up to dance to the song, he jumped off the couch, stood in front of me and smiled.)

As I’ve been cooking the things that can be made ahead of time (roasted peppers, eggplant, sweet potato soufflé), doing the laundry, washing dishes, tidying  the front room, scrubbing the bathroom, I’ve been observing the thoughts drifting through my mind:

Past Thanksgivings, what I cooked, who was there, what the vibe was; my father, from whom I’m estranged and with whom I’ve not celebrated a holiday for more than half my life; aspects of my life that I’ve written about and aspects that I’ve not written about and may never write about, and why it is that some things become externalized in writing while others do not; my life with my daughter and how rich it has been and how we are in a transitional phase—only this year and next year and then she’s off into her adult life; the men I have loved in the past and the man I love now and how it is different, and not; how some of the regrets I carried with me for so long have seemed to lessen, and wonderment about how that is the case, the lessening; the smell of sweet potatoes cooking; what I learned from what took place in class yesterday – there was a student-led group presentation on mindfulness and “unity consciousness” – and what questions I’m still pondering in the aftermath; nuthatches at the bird feeder; and my embodiment, how it feels to go through this life in the body I have, the body I am, what I’ve learned, am learning, from physical pain and impairment, and whether my now multiple decades of problematic embodiment will serve to prepare me for what might lie ahead as I continue to travel through the life course with a body.

Past, future, present. I’m a time traveler, but I know that the best time of all is the time I’m in right now, even when I am tired and in pain.

One of my colleagues told me yesterday that he always takes the day before Thanksgiving as a vacation day so he has plenty of space and time to enjoy the preparations and have some time to get into the holiday vibe with his partner; I think I may adopt his practice henceforth, and not just as a damage control stratagem.  Another colleague, one of my newest, shared with me some really exciting news about his professional work and his personal life, and offered to support work that I’m embarking upon; what an honor to behold and witness the uniqueness of other beings! In class yesterday, one of our students shared stories from her past that were raw, strange, and moving. I was in awe of her courage! My sweet little fantastic mommy spent the afternoon, after a long day working as a caregiver,  baking the best pumpkin and pecan pies on this planet; I won’t be eating any turkey tomorrow, but you can bet I’ll eat some pie, if only a bit, and I’ll look forward to being in my mommy’s presence. 

As if my soundtrack weren’t already perfect enough, guess what’s on now? A song with the following lyric:

“There’s a song inside this heart of mine, and I’d like to sing it to you.”

 Giving thanks.

About Jenny Sasser, Ph.D.

I am a freelance educational gerontologist, writer, community activist and facilitator. I am former Chair of the Department of Human Sciences and Director of Gerontology at Marylhurst University. I joined the faculty as an adjunct member of the Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies program in 1997 and since that time, I've been involved in designing many on-campus and web-based courses and programs for adult learners, including in Gerontology. As an undergraduate I attended Willamette University, graduating Cum Laude in Psychology and Music; my interdisciplinary graduate studies at University of Oregon and Oregon State University focused on the Human Sciences, with specialization areas in adult development and aging, women’s studies, and critical social theory and alternative research methodologies. My dissertation became part of a book published in 1996 and co-authored with Dr. Janet Lee--Blood Stories: Menarche and the Politics of the Female Body in Contemporary US Society. Over the past twenty (or more!) years I have been involved in inquiry in the areas of creativity in later life; older women's embodiment; sexuality and aging; critical Gerontological theory; transformational adult learning practices; and inter-generational friendships and cross-generational collaborative inquiry. I am co-author, with Dr. Harry R. Moody of Aging: Concepts and Controversies (now in its 10th edition!) and first author, also with Moody, of the recently published Gerontology: The Basics, as well as author/co-author of several book chapters, articles and essays. I am on the Portland Community College Gerontology Program faculty.
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3 Responses to Gero-Punk Contemplation: Thanks-giving

  1. Roger says:

    Thank you for giving for sharing your thanks.

  2. Erica says:

    such an inspiring mix of Thanksgiving reflections. my sweet mommy made pumpkin and pecan pies, too. xox

  3. Nicola Bemister (Cox) says:

    This was beautiful to read. I make pumpkin and pecan pie for my girls as its part of my past in the US and I want them to share that even though they’ve never been there, yet. It reminds me of my childhood with my mum. Thank you.

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