|Top Row: Ian Allen, Victor Allen, Azalea Allen Middle Row: Doc (William) Stodden, Molly Allen, Heather Allen, Eleanor Allen Front Row: Lori Allen, Mica Allen, Mallary Allen - Photo by Sam Wormley|
I am a headline reader. One headline has led me to ponder my children as my replacements when I am gone. This, in turn, has led me to wonder if my ancestors looked at their children and imagined them as their replacements? I can't help but believe that in recent generations, this may not have been a comforting thought. I felt my parents and grandparents (and probably generations before) were judged not only by their parents and grandparents, but by a society that called for repression of feelings and conforming to expectations set out in laws and norms. Maybe the world is still that way and I am living in my own idea of how the world works. . . . which is another topic for another day.
If there is a stream of consciousness that extends from my ancestors through my grandparents, parents, and now me - how do the departed ones regard me? Did feel sorrow at the darkness that I tried to mask with being funny as a child? Did they cringe at my sexual profligacy as a teen and young adult? (It was the 70s you know.) Was it their voices, disguised as my own, who kept asking "what are you doing?" before each marriage? Or was it them silencing my questioning by feeding me mantras of "You can change, You can change him. Then love will grow"? Now, do they recognize my aspirations of becoming an artist and writer as the beginnings of a delusional old age?
I may be delusional about how the rest of my life will unfold, but I hold no delusions that, like me, my ancestors were no examples of perfect mental health themselves. I would like to think that if there is some kind of residual self that continues after death, that the post-earth selves, the ancestors, have opportunities for emotional and spiritual growth - just like those of us who are still earth bound. I hope the chuckles I sometimes hear in my self-talk are part of a chorus of the ancestors, I hope they have all developed a sense of humor.
Though I laugh at myself from time to time, I do not think I am now, or ever will be, irrelevant. I just think my role is shifting from accomplishing and doing to mentoring and being. I am so much less judgmental of my children and their partners than I was of myself as a young parent. My admiration for them comes from watching them navigate parenting, challenges, missteps, dreams, embarassment, and accomplishments like the bosses they are. I celebrate their joy mostly from afar, I try to respond to the hard parts with "you've got this" a thousand times more than with "let me give you a different way to look at this." If I have ever said, "here's what you need to do . . ." I am sorry, so sorry that I am blocking it from my memory.
I also ponder the lives of the children who will be replacing my children, that is, my grandchildren. It is easy for me to let go of any anxiety about their futures. I feel confident that these young children will grow to enhance, cast off, or integrate the gifts of their DNA - from all the various families of ancestors who are watching them.
I do not know if anyone in my direct ancestry line has or will set anything in motion to save the world. Or even a small part of it. That would be nice. But in lieu of reversing global warming, curing diseases, or negotiating a lasting global peace - I hope that those people who come into our circles will be compelled by our love for one another, our service to our fellow travelers, and our joy in creating as much beauty as we can.
Now get out there! You're replacing someone, too, you know. When you are very silent and still, you can feel their gaze upon you.