Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Kosovo: Chapter 9, Scene 2 Waking Up On This Side Of The Dirt

If you ask my mother how she is feeling she often answers, “Well, I woke up on this side of the dirt, so I guess I’m okay.” I guess I’ve heard it enough times, I took it to heart as I approached this milestone birthday. 

Actually, I’ve never been one to shy away from my birthday. I’ve always been afraid that if I didn’t acknowledge it or if I tried to pretend to be younger than I am I would live to regret it. As if I would suddenly wake up and see an old woman in the mirror.

But as I approached sixty-five, I found myself worrying a bit. Okay, worrying may not be the right term. It’s just that sixty-five sounded so old. Much older than I feel. 

Most days. 

Since I was born in early May, I’ve always claimed anything good or fun that happened in May as part of my birthday celebration. 

Beautiful weather? For my birthday.

The school Arts Fair? All for my birthday.

Ice cream on a sunny May day? For me. It is my birth month.

Of course the birth of my first grandson on the fifth of May was a perfect gift. 

And my two youngest granddaughters were both born in May. For me. One was even named after me. 

Kayleigh and I share a
her mom made us a cake!
Taking intentional delight in my birthday has helped me accept the reality of it and find the good in growing old-er.

Then I moved to Kosovo.Six thousand miles away from home. No school Arts Fair. No birthday dinners with my family or parties for the grandchildren. And worst of all was the email from Social Security. 

Yep, Sixty-Five Was Not Looking Promising. 

I had two choices. Ignore the day of my birth or embrace it. Ignoring would be easy. Oh sure, I would receive phone calls and messages from my family. Facebook would plaster it all over the place. But if I kept my mouth shut, I could slide past it with the people here in Kosovo if I wanted. 

Then I remembered my mama. I figured since God has seen fit to have me wake up on this side of the dirt for sixty-five years I should be grateful and embrace it. I decided I’m sixty-five…I may as well “Own It.” 

One thing about Kosovo is that older people are valued. Honored. The country has 1.8 million people and over 50% of them are under the age of twenty-eight. It is a young country with a young population. Still, it is a country that has taught the young to defer to the older and sometimes wiser, to give up a seat on the bus for an older passenger, and to look out and care for senior adults such as myself. 

Birthday dinner with my PHS family!
It is not just the citizenry of Kosovo. I am the oldest person at my school yet the community we have there is amazingly non-discriminatory. Friends took me out to eat on my actual birthday. A new friend took me out the next evening. Another friend took me out on Friday night and on Saturday twenty of my coworkers took me out to a fancy restaurant to celebrate!

It didn’t stop there. There was cake after church and an ice cream treat on Monday after school. I haven’t had to “find” fun things to claim for my birthday. 

As it turns out, sixty-five really is just a number. I don’t feel any different than I did at sixty-four. Except, there is that “full of joy” thing happening.

Join me in Kosova (the Albanian pronunciation for Kosovo) in Southeastern Europe. Each week I share my experiences. Leave your comments and questions below. I’ll try to address each as best I can. And if you don't want to miss a post, simply add your email address in the box on the right where it says "Follow by email." 

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