A detour, not a roadblock

February 3, 2019

Anticipating the road closure on Beaver Dam Road, I was on Fisher Road yesterday, waiting at the stop sign to turn left. Another vehicle came plowing down Beaver Dam Road at 50 miles an hour and came to a screeching halt within inches of the large blockade.

Of late, roadblocks seem to be central subjects in our lives.

All of us were affected by a huge obstruction called the government shutdown. I felt angry at our government, embarrassed for our nation, and powerless to change anything or anyone.

I was inconvenienced by a shuttered state park while on holiday. I didn’t have to worry about whether or not I could feed my family. And what does not knowing day to day whether you go to work or not do to a person’s psyche?

Finally, the road is passable again, and maybe we have learned something about ourselves, or maybe not.

As seniors, we have experienced more detours and mishaps than we want to remember. Because we have experienced life’s injustices, including surviving the death of loved ones, we have a perspective some younger people don’t have yet.

Last week, my beautiful 31-year-old niece died of cancer. She leaves her husband and 6-year-old son, and her mother, family and friends to find a way to live life without her. It seems impossible to imagine a different life.

I know how unfair and unjust life is. My aged heart knows that as a family, we will survive this loss and learn to live again on another path of discovery just as every family has who deals with death.

Practice says to note the positives. The elementary school has awarded a scholarship for before- and after-school care for her son. Relatives and friends who were before absent have made contributions for the funeral expenses. Family will reunite from miles away to pay tribute to an archangel.

There will always be detours, yet our nation is fixated on blockades. Easier to build a wall than to have a conversation about how we can exist as neighbors. I am reminded of one of my favorite poems, titled “Mending Wall,” published in 1914 by Robert Frost.

In this poem, Frost questions the need for his and his neighbor’s fence.

“He only says, ‘Good fences make good neighbors.' … I wonder If I could put a notion in his head: ‘Why do they make good neighbors? … Before I built a wall, I’d ask to know what I was walling in or walling out, and to whom I was like to give offense. Something there is that doesn’t love a wall, that wants it down.’”

We can model listening. Can we ask our friends and loved ones, “How can we help you mend?”

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