Two days ago Facebook reminded me a year ago I had the first fire of the season. The Christmas issue of Cowboys and Indians had just arrived in my mailbox. Wrapped up in a western fleece blanket made by a friend and sipping a hot toddy, I enjoyed that fire letting time stand still and dreamed. A year later, it is 80 degrees and I am on my second week of celebrating age 60. It is only October and my birthday is not until the 25th of November. My new job requires I work the entire birthday week of Thanksgiving and the entire Christmas week, so we are working in celebrations when we can.
Two weeks ago my family planned a surprise party. We gathered on the farm in southern Indiana and I had my first ride in the combine to harvest corn. My dream is to be a farmer’s wife and darned if my own mother is living out MY dream! I don’t think she gives two hoots about farm life and heaven only knows she had no time for animals, but she not only fell in love with her farmer, she seems to have taken a liking to his dog Barney too! Phone conversations now consist of how mama kitten Double Ugly is doing with her kittens. A phone call out to the field operations summons me to the house as my cousin Mark has arrived as yet another grand surprise. Facebook also reminded me two years ago, Mark and his mom, (my aunt Donna and mom’s only sister) came to the farm to see mom’s new life as a farmer’s wife. Mark just turned 60 too so it is a double celebration but there are some significant tugs on the heart strings as we reflect on Aunt Donna’s untimely passing earlier this year. Most likely she knew she had an inoperable brain aneurism and she told no one and we are trying to come to terms with her not being with us. As I leave the farm, I wonder if we will ever pass that way again.
My sister calls me once we return from the farm to announce my special birthday gift has just arrived. My goodness, the surprise party and week of exploring Jasper and Vincennes was exceptional and the perfect gift. She has orchestrated another surprise. She followed my Facebook posts as an artist friend generously made it possible for me to own one of her angel paintings. She contracted with Sandy Storey-Moon for a special piece of art for my 60th birthday. It is a double duty piece which is both vase and wine bottle holder. Jill knows that flowers and wine receive many “likes” in my book. The vase features a dragonfly with little inlaid gold crosses. The dragonfly symbolizes a change in perspective and metamorphosis in mental and emotional maturity and understanding. Perfect to reflect the transformation of a life now dedicated to following Jesus Christ.
My dearest friend of 35 years is Helene. Her Polish name is Halinka and her American name is Helene. For all these years I have butchered her name calling her Helina. We met through our first husbands who were the first non-Mormon graduates of Brigham Young University (too long of a story for this writing.) Both husbands tossed us aside for other younger models and we have been there for each other as we each made our way alone with considerable ups and down into the independent women we are today. Helene felt I needed a celebration for my 60th birthday.
She is a world traveler and she probably thought we needed to climb a mountain in Nepal but I chose Bloomington and Brown County just 48 miles from home. As we drove through winding roads admiring the brilliant Fall color, we contemplated if we would have actually been such close friends if we actually lived in the same town. We both doubted it and laughed at our unusual friendship. I have her on speed dial on my cell phone and am continually amazed how I can talk to her in Poland like she is across the street. She passes through on her way from Florida to Chicago and spends a few hours with me.
We are as opposite as any two people can be. She walks too fast, breaks wine glasses with regularity, is continually surprised when she burns the food and God forbid, she smokes. She has a heart of gold, will do anything for you, truly is a fabulous cook and she climbs observation towers in heels. She has lectured me for years on planning better for my future. On our southern Indiana tour, she counted up all the outrageous financial losses I have had. “You know Polly, you went completely over the edge when you bought that second helicopter. Never have seen a person drop so much money on such crazy schemes. You could be retired by now if you had not lived so large.”
Thankfully she has lived long enough to see me change my ways and live frugally (frugal by my standards, not hers!) She also never thought she would live to see me hiking and bike riding and I actually kept pace with her for a mile on the Rail Trail. She remembered my 30 years of pain and asked how it was possible at age 60 I am now hiking and biking like a kid. Her eyes opened wide when I told her God healed me when I accepted Christ and started living a new way. It was a sweet time driving the backroads and discovering we had a thing or two in common. We reminisced over 35 years and all we had shared long distance. The best part for her was my support and admiration of her success from living smart and she is comfortably wealthy and retired as a result. I am wealthy in other ways.
I have learned a little something about serving others. Ten years ago I finally got the picture and realized I was doing a lousy job of running the universe. I turned my pathetic life over to Christ and have been attempting to model His love, care and service to others ever since. I took a new job working with people with disabilities.
I have been working with Miss Rita. During my daily hikes, I pray for her. When I met her she was a woman stuck in a wheelchair with many demons haunting her. She said I was different from the revolving door of staff she regularly chewed up and spit out. She said she could tell I truly cared. She said if I had been her parent growing up, her life would have been something other than the hell she endured and she could have had a different outcome.
She was on her way to the doctor in order to get an electric wheelchair. I looked her in the eye and encouraged her not to give up on her legs and to consider some physical therapy. This planted a seed and when the doctor told her that she could walk again if she was willing to try, she conquered her fears and mustered determination to walk. I was with her several weeks later the day the physical therapist put her on a walker and said “walk.” She walked 100 steps that day unassisted. We were overcome with this miracle. We screamed and shouted, I cried and praised God. She knew this was a miracle given to her by God. Then she told me I was an inspiration and she felt her life started over that day. When I asked her why she had waited three years to try physical therapy, she said mostly because no one told her she could walk. Never underestimate the effect of a word of encouragement. Never underestimate the power of prayer. Never underestimate the effects of simple care and compassion.
Other things happening making me certain things are going to radically change, my mother is now on Facebook. Her friends are some of my greatest Facebook fans. I think they have encouraged her to see what her daughters are up to! I hope she still likes me when she finds out who I am!
The cold front blew in today and the rain was non-stop. Helene and I cut our trip short. We had packed in plenty of adventure in two days plus she had an unexpected funeral to attend in Chicago. I read a Facebook post last night about an obituary a woman wrote for herself. It was a celebration of life. Of course, being a writer, I needed to write one for myself. Realizing at age 60, we are closer to the end. With parents in their 80’s, we might not pass this way again.
I went to the mailbox to find my autographed copy of Texas Stready’s book I helped edit. It is the story of transformation from 28 years of drug addiction. Celebrating life and choices and the healing that comes from faith in Christ.
Built a roaring fire as the rain came down. No coincidence the Christmas issue of Cowboys and Indians was also in the mailbox. Tom Selleck was on the cover. He is 71 and has graced the cover five different times.Everyone I know is getting old. We may not pass this way again. Tuned the world out for a little while and reflected on just how rich I am. I have family who love me. I have amazing friends who encourage me at every turn. I am impacting lives living a simple good life letting Christ live through me. If for some reason we celebrated 60 early and I make it to heaven sooner than later, this can serve as my final story. It took me 60 years to figure things out. I ended up wealthy in what counts most. I am happy and loved and would not change a thing. There is Triumph in the Trials.