I do not remember having deep conversations about life with my parents as I was growing up. Like osmosis, however, I now see I absorbed attitudes that have served me well as I watched them and their friends in their day-to-day living.
I grew up around people who were comfortable with the cycle of life — living, loving, hurting, changing, aging and dying.
No one was in a hurry to rush toward the end, but they did not seem to fear death. Rather the emphasis was on embracing the blessings and the possibilities of the present moment.
At least once a month we gathered with friends to “count our blessings” aloud. I learned there were good times and painful ones. There were joys and sorrows.
There was no expectation that one should feel good in every moment, but neither did one need to feel threatened by difficulties.
So as I celebrate my 74th year, I draw on what I learned growing up, plus I have additional help from an American writer, painter and sculptor named Brian Andreas. Most notable of his works are the StoryPeople — deliberately crude folk-art-like shapes that display bright yet soothing colors and shadowy amorphous faces accompanied by some simple prose.
In my kitchen there is one of his drawings — a stick figure doing a lopsided, happy dance and the words:
“When people asked how old she was, she would say 1,009,365 more or less because she was so glad to be alive that she counted every day a birthday.” And then further down is written: "She had some disagreement from her knees about the actual figures though … ”
I see it every day and every day it makes me smile. Just how did these knees get so cranky? I'm used to the pain and inconvenience of them, although I suspect some day I will trade them in for new ones.
At age 74, I assume aging and cranky knees are normal, but in spite of them, I can still walk, still work, still live a full life and count every day a day to be celebrated.
Charlotte Lankard is a licensed marriage and family therapist in private practice. Email her at email@example.com.