55! Stay Alive!

Me with sweet 3-year-old Ro last week

Do you remember that highway slogan? My cousin’s husband was the creator (is that the right term) of the 55! Stay Alive! campaign when he was a highway patrol officer in Los Angeles.

Although Bob had driving in mind, I’m applying it personally as I’ve managed, barely as of late, to stay alive for 55 years. Today (Oct 1st) is my birthday. I’m 55. Depending on who’s reading this, it’s a Goldilocks moment: Really Old, Really Young, or Just About Right.

I remember when 55 sounded really old (that would have been as recently as yesterday). Gosh, I remember when 25 sounded really old! I also remember when you got to order off the senior menu at 55.

Not so much anymore… They start sending pretend AARP cards at 49. I can’t see that there are any special perks at 55 – but maybe they’re yet to come!

At age 50, everyone has the face he deserves.
~ George Orwell

There are quite a number of things that surprise me about where I am at this age and stage of life.

For one thing,  I’m surprised at where I am in life at 55. I never, ever, would have guessed I would be in Texas. Texas is a lovely state, but I’m a Yankee. I don’t like hot weather. I’m incredibly arachnophobic. I’m not terribly fond of snakes, scorpions, cactus, caliche or Tabasco.

I’m equally surprised to be a Level II Security Guard since I was always one of those too soft, touchy/feely types. I hated my first job after college as a correctional worker and left it to become the counseling director of a crisis center. So much more my style.

Always talking and always active, the quiet life of a gate guard has been a big change for me. Possibly the biggest surprise  at 55 is that I really like the peace. I think it stems from something that happened on my 40th birthday.

My friends paid for me to go on a 5 day retreat at Our Lady of the Mississippi Abbey in beautiful NE Iowa. Because my birthday is in the fall, the hills were a mass of golds and greens and reds and oranges. It was very beautiful and very quiet!

The gift was supposed to help me learn to slow down and to be quiet, too. Nothing too subtle there!  😀  It was a surprise trip, not only because they dropped me off without telling me about it ahead of time, but also because I’m not Catholic!

Adding to the surprise, it’s a cloistered Abbey of Benedictine Sisters (I’d never heard of cloistered or Benedictine) so all my chatter was greeted with a smile and a nod. It was very lovely and very quiet. Did I mention that it was quiet there?

With nothing else to do, (no phone, no TV, no radio – you can see how this prepared me for gate guarding) I began going to services in their little chapel. Vigils began at 3:45 a.m. Once again, preparation for being awake when everyone else is sleeping!

I fell in love with the quiet and with the Sisters.

For the next 10 years, Heidi and I went each spring to help with a week of spring cleaning in the guest houses and again each fall for a week of retreat to write our next seminar.

By the way, the Sisters support themselves by making the most wonderful caramels. They ship all over the country. If you’re interested, see the OLMA link above.

They recruited us to help at the candy house one fall, but I was a complete flop when assigned to making the trademark swirl at to top of the caramel. I kept making curls instead.

We stopped by OLMA last week on our way from Minnesota to Iowa. We went to Vespers and Compline and had a grand reunion in between!

The Sisters, who aren’t always quiet, provided the pizza and Pepsi and an hour and a half of joy!

Of all the people we saw while back home, they may have best understood why we love our job. Funny, huh?

So here I am, waving in mud trucks, passing out donuts to drivers and counting my blessings. I’m guarding a gate, packing a BB gun, and assuring the circling buzzard that I’m still alive at 55!.

Life is full of the unexpected, isn’t it! 😀

Birthdays are good for you. Statistics show that the people who have the most live the longest.
~Larry Lorenzoni