September 8, 2009

Decades: An Autobiographical Sketch


DECADES: An Autobiographical Sketch

Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

 This is the second of two autobiographical sketches done by my mother. To read the first sketch, done in a different style, click on: MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius  

 Ten was a lovely age. It was preoccupation with swimming in the ocean, fishing for frogs and pollywogs in the creek, lying for hours on the beach painstakingly writing initials on our skin with sand and letting the sun tan around the sand. It was following the glamour of the movies and movie stars. It was the Ginger Rogers-Fred Astaire age of romance. It was hours in the library, or curled up in Father’s great chair with a book and an apple. It was a winter of sledding, popping corn and roasting hot dogs in the fire place while the snow swirled and the wind howled outside. Ten was not too old for playing paper dolls (at least sometimes) and was the perfect age for exploring the outskirts of a small town and learning to row a boat in the river. Friends were never as close as at ten. It was whispering and giggling and slyly looking at boys, all the while pretending they were our enemies.

 Twenty loved the excitement of the city. (To view picture, click on:  ) Twenty endured World War II, you know, The Big One, and learned to live in a world devoid of young men. Twenty was being crushed at negative news of the war. It was watching closely the lists of local boys injured or killed in battle. It was missing the father who was working in Pearl Harbor, an entire world away (To view pictures, click on:  &  ), and missing a brother who interrupted high school to do his bit in Navy. Twenty was being married and entering the life of a Navy wife, being homesick in Rhode Island, homesick in Florida and in Virginia. It was being too young and inexperienced to cope with part-time marriage on the run and the confinement of raising two small girls alone. Rationing was not a problem since making do with less had been a way o f life during the Depression. Twenty was the bummer that led to thirty.

 Passing through thirty was relatively easy. Youth was still on my side. Wrinkles, arthritis, shortness of breath and memory loss had yet to make its appearance. It was the ending of a first marriage and the beginning of a second marriage, the strength of which was to take me through the next several decades. Thirty was the beginning of financial hardship and sacrifice and simultaneously the beginning of wealth beyond compare. That is to say, the births of four of our  five children—three girls and a boy. Thirty was moving to Buffalo, New York, the start of a new life. It was also re-entry into the life of worship and work at church.

 Passing through forty seemed as easy as passing through thirty. Although our financial circumstances had improved somewhat, it was perhaps a bit more hectic—not having time to think of age or looks or career. It was living through an unwanted pregnancy, carrying an unwanted child for nine months and at his birth being washed with God’s love, making him a very special event. Forty was gaining a bit of insight into life—real life, not dreams. It was a time of regret for the wasted years, a gradual letting go of self-centeredness and a realization of the pain and loneliness in the lives of others, the seeds of a developing need to help. Forty was not slow. It skipped by so fast it seemed there were no years between thirty-nine and fifty.

 Fifty was a bit of a struggle. It was the realization that the hill had been climbed and there would be little time left before beginning the descent. The children were no help—they delighted in telling me I was “a half century” old. Fifty was an active decade in a different way than thirty and forty. It was doing ceramics with my closest friend, going to movies and plays, playing cards with friends. Fifty was learning to play the piano, having time to read, wondering if the restlessness would pass. Fifty was feeling way behind the world and wondering if there was a way to catch up. It was having time to read the newspaper and watch the news and realizing not much was missed during the preceding decades—most of the news was unsettling or bad. Fifty was having major surgery, going through some unplanned for and difficult times (emotionally) with the children. It was having to make wise decisions when I didn’t feel wise, having to be supportive when my own support had been kicked out from under me, having to comfort when I felt ill at ease and needed comforting. I can readily say that fifty, of all the decades, was the most difficult, as well as the beginning of many blessings.

 Sixty slammed in like a locomotive. It was struggling and fighting and worrying that there would not be enough time to catch up. It was the beginning of college and hoping there would be enough time to finish—to get a degree—to learn—to hear and see and smell and examine. Sixty loomed large and frightening—and at the same time, comforting.

 At this point, my mother’s piece ended. It might have been because the health of her husband, Hugh Lipsius, demanded more and more of her energies and emotions. She spent the years of her seventh decade caring for him.



MY AUTOBIOGRAPHY: Nancy Briskay Cornell Lipsius

CANDIED VIOLETS: Remembering My Mother on Her Birthday

IN SEARCH OF THE ARABELLA: A Story of Two Boats (Nancy’s mother was probably on this boat)

Reflections on motherhood


IF I COULD CRY (written by Nancy’s son)


Why Neckties?

Dropping the Stick


Honey’s Coming Home! Our cat must recuperate

Honey went home—She’s romping in animal heaven

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