I enter my lagniappe years on August 13. Lagniappe, meaning something extra, good, and unexpected, is a special word I learned when I lived in New Orleans. Reaching 70 years old is worthy of that designation. Of course, in the retirement community where I live, I'm still just a kid among the many in their 80s, 90s, and even 100s. But, to me, I've reached that special time in life when I hopefully have some time and health left to enjoy the wisdom I've accrued over 7o years of experiences. I've arrived at old age.
The past 70 years have been a heady mixture of good and bad, happy and sad, for me personally, and for the world in general. Born during World War II in military housing in Florida where my father awaited deployment, I was exposed early on to horrors I didn't have to personally endure, but learned about and felt vicariously. Nuclear war and Cold War were words in my vocabulary that gave a certain tenuous quality to my growing up years. And wars have followed me into old age.
My first experiences as an explorer came during my elementary school years. We kids wiggled under a fence meant to keep us out of a wild, untended buffer zone between our homes and an air force base. My love of nature started there, and continued through a rugged Girl Scout camp, on to incredible trails in magnificent places, and watching campfires under the starlight.
My teen years were happy. I loved school. I loved my friends. I fell in love at the tender age of 13 with the man I married 7 years later. My personality and my nesting years were irrevocably shaped by the idealism of the 60's and 70's. I didn't realize how much so until I went to graduate school 15 years after my 1965 bachelor's graduation. My class assignment was to explain William Glasser's Reality Therapy that started in 1965 to my classmates who were in their early 20s. The gap was wide.
When I could no longer ignore my restlessness for a wider world, I painfully broke the bonds I had so carefully tended. My hummingbird wings lifted me up and away — to live in Israel, China, Taiwan, Macau, Korea, and to many nooks and crannies along the way. No dreams of traveling the world and exploring other cultures came close to the reality of the adventures I had flinging myself into the unknown for well over 16 years.
Two books later — "Memoirs of a Middle-aged Hummingbird" and "Out of Step: A Diary To My Dead Son," I've turned 70. I've outlived my wanderlust and restlessness. I feel less and less engaged in a society that spends its time looking down at technological gadgets instead of observing the world around them. I miss those naive assumptions I had about politicians and so-called "public servants." I loved teaching, but never earned much money, so I cannot relate to the "money, buy, consume" world of today.
My world is now quite small, simple, and sweet. Staying healthy is a time-consuming priority. I never tire of the exquisite beauty of the sea nearby, and the little garden that surrounds me. I have friends, 7 Chinese grandchildren from my former students, and many activities in the retirement community where I live. And, I've begun a third book. This one will be quite different from anything I've ever written. It will take me back to things I've been thinking about all my life, and onward to fascinating unknown planets of my imagination.