Growing Old in Baja

stace-31-215x300FROLICKING WITH MY DOGS

L to R – Tootsie, Daphne, Jack, Rufus, and Oliver

 A few months ago I met a friend in San Diego I hadn’t seen for a couple of years. “You’re still a pistol!” He e-mailed after our soiree. At eighty? Good to hear…”a little frail and you seem shorter,” he continued.

“The doctor said I was 5’5”, I used to be 5’8” or pretended I was.”

My mother grew old in a cottage by the sea. “I am not going to move to some damn retirement home with a bunch of old people,” she’d said. I admired her for that. She was born in Sri Lanka on a Coconut Plantation, the 13th of nighteen brothers and sisters. She married my father, the philosopher and they immigrated to the United States. I settled in Baja and as it turns out am growing old here.

Growing old in Baja is okay. Growing old is not, but if you have to pick a community to grow old in — this is a fine place. A charming Mexican village filled with children, teenagers, old-timers and babies, living next to Indians, cowboys their wives and extended families.The weather is dreamy. In the near thirty years I’ve lived here there have been no earthquakes, hurricanes, snow, hail or ice storms, much I faced growing up in New Jersey. We have no major mishaps except maybe the lack of rain, but when it does come I a get a chance to dance and sing. Just hearing the pitter, patter of raindrops on my roof get my feet moving and my heart thumping.

The beach is often empty especially during the week. Horses are tied along the board walk waiting for a rider. Venders sell coconuts overflowing with shrimp and mangoes and freshly squeezed limes with a sprinkle of chili on top, a refreshing treat for a lazy afternoon.

Walking along the shore I dream — memories flood my mind like foam from the little waves licking my ankles. To prevent myself from falling I curl my toes in the sand and grab hold, pulling myself upright, stretching my back, I stand tall. If I do fall, which I have on occasion, primarily after showing off trying to kick a soccer ball like I used to when I was young, the sand becomes a welcoming carpet. Rolling around I giggle at what a sight I must be, my white hair flying like Einstein. It’s my damn waist that’s bigger than I like… but what can I expect? I can’t be perfect at my age, can I? However, being an old show girl, I try my damnedest, which takes time and energy.

I keep getting my brother Noel mixed up with my son Michael. Noel and Michael. Michael and Noel… they blend into each other and become one. They looked alike. Both had a receding hairline and blue, blue eyes the color of the sea on a sunny day. Noel was twenty-six when he was killed, he flew jets off the carrier USS Midway. His Fury Jet FJ-4 crashed into the East China Sea near Okinawa some sixty years ago. His bones have turned into sand by now.

Michael died when he was thirty-nine. Some of his ashes are on the mantle in my living room in an antique silver tea container, but most are inside a small blue tomb in a red Chinese jewelry box on my back patio surrounded by shrubs and flowers. A bush of Floral de la Trumpet blooms fragrant yellow blossoms all year long and clumps of pampas grass with their long creamy plumes swing gently in the breeze. Angels painted pastels lie around the wooden cross on top of Michael’s sepulcher overlooking the sea. Mum and Dad’s ashes are scattered off the Southern California coast somewhere in the Pacific.

Michael was six when Noel died. He was supposed to stick around to take care of me in my old age. As he lay dying he taught me about love. In spite of that terrible tragedy, life’s been good to me. Today I have a kind and gentle young Indian lad with a loving heart and warm hands. He assures me he’ll keep my animals safe after I’m gone. He and his eight-year-old son, Isay, cook and share meals, do dishes and walk with me along the beach. They assist me on my small ranch gathering eggs, raking the corral, repairing fences, trying their best to keep things tidy.

Daddy’s laughter remained until a white light from heaven came bursting through his window and carried him off. He asked someone standing beside his bed to pull down the shade so he wouldn’t be blinded by the light. Was that God? I’ve always imagined it was. Then I read somewhere that when air is cut off from your brain everything turns white. But I like believing it was God.

When that beam of light finally dances through my window and steals me away — darkness will come. I’ve had plenty of laughs and fought hard to always love my fellow man. I have a few regrets, but who doesn’t? It’s been a long and eventful journey finding this hideaway by the sea, and realizing that growing old in Baja is a lovely happening.

 

23 comments

  • This is a beautiful post, Jen, and I love, love, love your imagery. You are very blessed to have found such a wonderful place to grow old. I like to think that when the time comes for me, I will be by the sea… somewhere. They say that salt water is the basis of all life, but I think some of us never strayed as far from from it in our souls as others.

  • Lovely, peaceful take on life and its passing. Thank you, Jen. You have been blessed, and you bless us all with your words.

  • Wonderful writing Jennifer. I loved your Mom dearly and she was very kind to us when I first arrived in the USA in 1972. Michael was the Best Man at my wedding and our relationship was way too short. I am writing this from Negombo, Sri Lanka, and want to say to you ‘Long may you run’ dear friend……..

    • So glad you made it and am always anxious to hear about Negumbo… you’re so lucky to be there… somehow I always felt that being here in Mexico brought me close to my mother’s land.. Thank you for your kind words… I remember well Michael as best man at your wedding… we had pictures showing his top hat and how handsome he was… it was a splendid occasion… kisses and love to you and bravo for your wonderful work!

  • I loved this post, Jen. Thank you so much for sharing the wisdom of your years and the peaceful joy that you experience with the small things of life. A true paradise you have found to grow old!

    • Thank you Sirena… keep in touch I’d love always to hear of your new found spot in the world, and your new accomplishments and friends… bravo to you!

  • I think it was God too, Jennifer, that your father saw. People who are hit on the head or otherwise deprived of oxygen don’t have the ability to talk about the curtain and the light. He wasn’t oxygen-deprived when he said it. I’ve seen enough in my life to think it was God.

    I love your book and I love this blog and I’m so happy that you are there in Baja still loving life. I’ve been to Baja, when my brother and some friends opened a restaurant in Ensenada. It was quite a sight for my eyes. I’m so happy you are there.

    • I always love hearing about my book and that you’ve read it… thank you for your comments and attention… I have found writing is a great way to express so much to so many and so often:-)

  • Hi Jennifer – Very nice sentiments, Jennifer. The sea is a wonderful place to be, to enjoy the passing years, and reflect on years gone by. I really loved my four years living near La Mision, walking on that same beach, and making wonderful new friends such as you. I’m enjoying your progress as a published author, and looking forward to seeing you when I’m back in Baja this fall for a quick visit. Best regards.

  • Jennifer–this is so wonderful. I know you prefer to hear intelligent, erudite, constructively critical comments–but this just pierced my heart.

  • Keep it up, “OLE GAL”,
    Lovw Ya……….. Len

  • My dear Jennifer,

    What a treat to read about your life is such a beautiful and expressive way. I have so enjoyed the reconnection with you and all the Knockers. Peace and Blessings on you, love…Lisa

  • Beautiful “take” on the essence of age and the continuing journey to the final chapter. Your honest, colorful words come straight from your heart to ours. It’s a lesson to us all in embracing what life has offered and… taken away. Love you Jen.

    • My mind keeps flashing to you DD Rescher,,, my long lost love… the girls, Becky and Marilyn are planning a trip here next week, Marilyn is bring her dolls and all and maybe Robert will photograph them, I hope so… thank you for your kind comments… we’ll meet again soon…. xoxoxo

  • Such a precious soul you have, Jen! It has taken me awhile to find this blog, but I am so appreciative that I happened by it this morning. You have an awesome way of using words to perfectly describe your thoughts and feelings. I actually sit here in tears, remembering ‘yesteryears’ in Princeton! I love knowing how you’re enjoying your days in Baja. Lois and I talked about making a sisters trip to see you at one point, unfortunately we never followed through. Growing old is certainly not for the less than courageous! Each day is still a lesson learned. Don and I continue to enjoy our ‘Utopia’ in South Florida. Of our combined NINE children, two have left this life to join God in Heaven, three live near-by, and all are in constant, if not daily touch on phone and Facebook. Life is GOOD! Take care of yourself. Sending big hugs your way, and lots of love! ????????????

    • Dear dear Bevi… my dearest and oldest, not in years, but in time we’ve known each other, from so long ago in Princeton… I loved you and your family so much…Our days in Princeton touched our souls, yours, mine and sister Lo lo, your mom and dad always so dear to me… Lo lo was a sweet dear friend gone much too soon… It’s my birthday today… I turned 81… it’s amazing to imagine I made it all this way… one day we’ll meet again, maybe in heaven we’ll see our beloved children again… how we miss them, but I’m so grateful for my health… I just got up and off my yoga mat and feel pretty spunky for living so many years… happy and content and excepted and excepting of life lovely and airy here, it’s been very hot here actually… see you one day soon again, I’ll betcha’ love and thanks Bevi for writing… love having you on board with me …. and love to Don and all your beautiful children… xoxoxo love, jennie

  • P.S. Those question marks are hearts! xoxoxo

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