There’s an old saying that I heard when I lived in the Pennsylvania Dutch Country decades ago:
“Too soon old. Too late smart.”
I spent a year there when I was nineteen, still young enough to believe that these words held no relevance for me—then, or ever. The old folks who quoted the saying (who, now that I think about it, weren’t nearly as old as I believed at the time) would often accompany it with a chuckle and a rueful shake of the head. I, armored by my youth, would feel somewhat superior and amused at the corniness of it all. With no earthly clue what they really meant.
But now, on the cusp of being eligible for Medicare, I think I’m finally starting to figure it out. A contented heart is way more important than . . . stuff. Than convenience. Than proximity. Or at least, that’s what it comes down to for Glen and me.
The other day I texted The Daughter that her father and I have been getting a lot of enjoyment out of life lately. Largely because we spend as much time as possible with each other. With increasing frequency, when there are errands we can combine into one day trip to town, we do them together. Usually it’s Costco, the grocery store, the bank, the post office (sometimes three banks and two post offices), then lunch before heading back home to the country. (After a quick stop at the feed store. Those cows have to eat.) Occasionally there will even be medical appointments. Yes. Astonishing as it seems to me, my husband and I have reached the age when we go to the doctor together.
Then in the late afternoons, we put that busyness behind us and sit out on the porch with our drinks. We watch the cows and the birdlife, study the clouds. We talk about what we accomplished that day, and what the next day might hold. Dull as it sounds, we’ve even been known to bring up the price of hay and what steers are fetching at auction. But it’s not dull, not to us. It’s peaceful. And restorative.
“Hear that?” Glen asks me, when we’ve had a chance to let the quiet settle over us.
“No, what?” I say. “All I hear are the birds.”
He smiles. “Exactly.”
Eventually we go inside to eat something simple and delicious. Dinner is often a collaborative effort. He does the grilling and smoking. I cook in the “freaking working kitchen.” We’ve always got homemade bread on hand, and during the hot months of the year, there’s homemade ice cream. Glen provides much of the meat in the freezers. There’s venison from the whitetail deer and the elk that he hunts, and Black Angus beef from our own steers that he raises. In the fall, there will be dove.
There’s nothing complicated or fussy or elaborate about the meals we make, nor about this new life we live, but it feels luxurious to us. And the more deeply rooted we become, and the more we count on each other for everything that nourishes us, the more distant our old life in the city seems. The conveniences. The easy distances. The stuff. All less necessary than we’d believed.
Too soon old. Too late smart. But give me a little more time. I’m learning.
“Hear that?” Glen will ask me.
“No,” I’ll say, “just the birds.”