My old Rose of Sharon bush has bloomed its heart out this summer, despite the heat and lack of rain. How hard this lovely plant struggles to hold on to its beauty as it ages, as all women do. I planted this bush in 1992, with a twin nearby which died suddenly a few years ago. Somehow this bush has grown far beyond my imaginings, and I have begun a process of selective pruning each year to tame her wild limbs, and encircled her over the winter with a support to keep her aging limbs from breaking with the weight of snow. She is a work in progress -- as I have culled old limbs, new ones have begun to grow, straight, healthy and filled with new blooms this year. When you plant gardens and watch them grow, the individual trees and plants become dear to you.
As I snapped this photo today, I was also observing how badly the old wicker chairs and the porch deck need a new coat of paint. As we age, so do our beloved homes, and unfortunately, our energy level also begins to wane. Just as the house and the gardens begin to need more and more time and effort, I find I can accomplish only so much at a time. On Friday morning I was up early and out in the garden to weed with high hopes and high energy. However, by 10:30, I was wilting from the August heat and humidity, feeling dizzy and somehow unsteady. I had completed most of the front yard, but was forced to leave the back yard gardens for another day.
It is frustrating!! When I was raising my children, cooking, gardening, cleaning, entertaining, and working from home I never gave thought to the day when I wouldn't be able to accomplish one third of the work I did then. Now, when I rise early in the morning I feel a stiffness that slowly subsides as I open the windows and make a pot of coffee. Last week when I took my grandchildren to a local amusement park, it was with deep regret that I found I can no longer ride The Scrambler -- my all-time favorite ride. My neck muscles cannot handle the stress. How disappointed I am. Inside is still the free spirit who loved the thrill of hurtling through the air, but my body is no longer cooperative.
I recall the years I have taken such care with old things -- antiques, old houses, old pets, old people. There is a fragility to old things and they must be tended to gently and patiently, and with much love. And now, slowly I am realizing that my own body is becoming one of those "old things". It shocks me, but when I look back in time to when my grandparents were my age, they seemed old. Maybe because we baby boomers have grown up with the belief that we are somehow invincible, aging is difficult to comprehend. We color our hair, moisturize and apply makeup, stay active, and expect to stay young. But there is a point when we each realize that we are slowly moving from "middle-aged" to "elderly." It shocked me recently when one of my friends was described as elderly. How can that be?!
Alas, nothing stays new or young forever. Just as I so carefully tended to all of the old things and old people I held dear, I will now put more effort into taking care of myself. I will listen to my aging body and be gentle in my demands. What I once accomplished in a few hours will now probably take a couple of days, but it will get done. I will still cook and garden and take care of my grandchildren and dance my heart out, but I will do it with care. I just need a little more tending, as my lovely old Rose of Sharon does.