We are in toasty San Diego and I am pleading. “This will be our Phase Three”. At least I’m hoping that as I try to ease my husband into less work. He has all ready admonished me that he will never retire and even when he is ready, he will still work 6 months a year. So there. Maybe the Whole Food Smoothie of acai, spinach and mango isn’t quite working its breakfast magic. He makes a face and says it makes him feel sick-even sitting on a glorious sun- dappled patio.
But here we stand, researching condos in a place that is warm, and within 10 minutes, we can stroll along the beach at Torrey Pines, gawking at body surfers, and small children running to the edge of the waves, dipping their toes and quickly retreating to the safety of the shores. Above us the cliffs loom .I can imagine the children’s delighted laughter as it bounces off the cliffs.
That was Phase two for us: the kids: their growing up, their schooling, their move towards independence and their own families. Those years stretching for a very long time. Those were the years where all our energies focused on their needs.
Our first sabbatical in Europe was three months long so we could introduce them to art galleries, foods (even though the youngest ate only French fries and chocolate bars),castles and culture, so that they might use their French immersion skills nicely gleaned at Allenby. I remember how smoothly they launched into their second language, and how haughtily the French shook their heads at us, the parents, when we dropped our cool and decided to interject into the conversation.. Better to smile than to speak. And I recall our son miserably leaving his friends In Toronto, pitifully weeping; and how he cried again- bitterly- when he had to leave Paris and return home.
When one of our girls plunged into drama and the other to opera, our eyes were refreshed and we were allowed to see again as children. Saturdays we dragged ourselves from warm beds to wander St. Lawrence Market while the eldest took classes at Young People’s Theatre. No surprise she became a writer. For the younger, still hooked on fries, it was chaperoning trips to Salt Spring Island for CCOC productions of the Snow Queen. As I write this, it is as if I am looking through the wrong end of a telescope as I observe my now grownup children as once small tikes in sunhats, sandals , consuming rijstoffle in Amsterdam, pizza in Montbuono, and freshly baked chocolate croissants in the Loire Valley. Those years feel so distant now.
Later there was focus on which universities, which grad schools, which flowers for which weddings: white lilies or green orchids? Satin or lace? McGill or Queens? U. Penn or London? Decisions, letting go, providing advice (most often ignored), being supportive, reflecting …
Phase Three, as I call it, resembles Phase One a bit: when we first started out together, more than 40 years ago when we were young, perky, flirty, full of dreams for a life together, brazen and bold, daring, dipping our toes, retreating, going forward, unabashed.
With only $75 in the bank but a promise of a new job, we bought our first house. We flew at new adventures, never believing that one day we would move into this phase. As the Baby Boomer generation, we scoffed at old age. I would wear my hair in braids that swung down to my love beads; and he would continually wistfully tap his pipe and engage in thought-provoking discourses as he charted a better world. There were new journeys and we embraced it all, sailing away from the world we dismissed as being manageable and controllable.
And in Phase Three, it is somewhat similar, but now, the pace is slower, more contemplative: our aches more, our optimism less strident, for life and its burdens could not help but weigh us down; our once fierce optimism tempered by the eventualities of life’s numerous struggles and politics; becoming wise at the cost of painful realizations, comprehending the ways of the world, sadly.
And now we stand here at the threshold of being refocused, of being able to re-invent ourselves, gather the sunshine lost during an oppressive winter. Maybe this is where old hippies come- not quite to Berkley, but to California dreaming of what it was like to be young.