Averyt: Buy Green Bananas
A month ago I embarked on an adventure to share the birth of a new granddaughter and help smooth the transition for her two-and-a-half year old sister. But it turns out her sister didn't need much smoothing, she's already pretty good at transitions. That left me time to reflect on changes of my own.
I've always thought of this time of year, late in November, as a time of transition. A time when, reluctantly, leaves abandon the trees, birds join in a southern pilgrimage, green seeps to brown and the sun slips into hiding.
It seems the transition of seasons feels even more poignant now, in this the autumn of my life, like time passing in slow motion. There was a time when my generation wore flowers in our hair, danced to the music in a muddy farm field called Woodstock and carried placards as we marched through the streets, believing our passion could affect social change. The '60s and '70s defined us.
Now, in a new millennium, those numbers carry a different meaning. We, the generation who once believed no one over 30 could be trusted, are now mid-way through our 60s, and many are turning 70. It was mid-way through the 1970s that writer Gail Sheehy gained fame chronicling life's transitions in her book Passages. She gave us a road map to help negotiate what she called the "Predictable Crises of Adult Life", the ones bubbling to the surface in our 30s, our 40s and 50s.
Later, she updated her roadmap of passages, moving us through menopause, men's later life and the life challenges of care giving. Sheehy, now herself in mid-70s, was so adept at transitioning to each new stage of life that she forged her career on it.
In my mid-30s, with the enthusiasm of youth, I wrote a book entitled Successful Aging. In it, I quoted Deane Davis, who served as Vermont's governor in the early 70s, when he was in his early 70s. Davis used to tell the story of a man he knew who was so ready to die that he never bought green bananas.
"That's not the way to live," Davis said, "go buy green bananas". His message was keep alive anticipation, foster expectation. "Make sure," he said, that "every day is full of life, full of adventure..."
I’ve noticed among my friends that accepting the transition, easing through the passage into later life, has its unique rewards. Although we close the door on what has been, we open ourselves to what is in this moment and that can bring not only satisfaction but joy.
Right now, it's the immense joy of holding my newborn grandchild or opening my arms to a goodnight hug from her sister, who lights my world when she smiles and says, "I love you Grandma".