I don’t know if you’ve seen the new AARP ads. Mixed between paper towel ads and the red hot sale at HyVee, these ads actually caught my attention. It shows people about my age saying “When I grow up I want to ____________.” There is a woman in one of the ads that says, “when I grow up I want to write a book.” I can’t remember the specifics of the others but for personal reasons, that woman echoes in my heart.
It’s a good advertisement. It got my attention. I am not sure what AARP wants me to do after I watch this advertisement. Probably they want me to join AARP. Or maybe they think that I will feel empowered if I join AARP to write a book, open a business or sail around the world.
I actually remember when I first heard about AARP. My father would have been old enough for AARP, if it existed, when I was born. For a while, he and my mother lived in a retirement high rise, OATS Towers in Columbia MO. It was there he saw his first AARP magazine and quickly joined. I don’t know if it empowered him. Probably it didn’t.
Nevertheless, something seems to happen when we get older. For me, it is like going through adolescence all over again. Life is shifting. Life is changing. I am changing. I find myself at times just like the awkward insecure girl I was at 13.
Once again, I am trying to make sense of life. I am trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up? One thing I do know, is that I don’t know very much. It isn’t that I need more education although I still pursue additional degrees and take courses. While feeding my brain is important, I find my heart needs nourishment. It is on the inside, the questions of who I am and what I want to be that are the most urgent. I have found I don’t know myself very well.
I’ve been a mother since I was 17. I’ve been the wife to two husbands. The first husband, an abuser who abandoned me with two children and pregnant, is a distant memory. The other one has been my soul mate, lover and dearest of all friends for 32 years. For most of my life, I have seen myself by my roles and relationships. As the 13 years I once was, I ask myself again, who is Joyce?
My dad seemed to find himself in his 50’s when he became a new dad once again. When my brother’s talk of my dad, the same dad, it sounds like we had different fathers. The truth is, while his physical attributes were the same, he was not the same. Perhaps it was that I was a girl. I rather suspect it was more the person he became with age.
Opportunities of the Older Americans Act opened a new expression of the complexity of my dad. Similar to my mother, who evolved and grew into a very amazing woman, he grew. When he grew up he worked with disabled children. The OATS bus would pick him up and take him to work as a foster grandparent. He worked first at Woodhaven, a home for disabled children.
Later he was transferred to Head Start. For a year of his life, the bus took him to work with economically disadvantaged African American children. My father was born in a foreign country (Norway) the last year of the 19th Century. He had a grade school education, was captured by Germans during World War I, was an illegal immigrant to the US, was a man of great mystery and complexities, who still spoke with an accent. Everyday he would give love and receive love from little children living in the projects. My father would often walk through the neighborhood where these children lived. As he did, children would come out of their homes yelling Grandpa as they eagerly awaited a hug.
Eventually my father returned to Woodhaven. The Columbia Daily Tribune did a feature article on him. Here are the photos from that article.
I wonder what opportunities for growth I will experience here in the Storehouses of Snow. Had my father never moved from Brooklyn NY to Columbia MO he would never have known the joy of loving these children. He might never have become a more loving caring person. He changed; he grew up. Like my mother, he continued to grow until the day he died.
Now it is my turn to grow up. Now it is my turn to find out who Joyce is.
It is time for me to complete the sentence-when I grow up, I want to be ___________. Perhaps the answer is stored here in the snow.
And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion ...