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Just dropping by... In the autumn of my life

Yevet Tenney Published on 25 October 2010

The yellow leaves of autumn are sprinkling the trees. Soon they will be full-blown orange and red. The world will be a panorama of beauty. Summer will be forgotten, and thoughts of winter will come with the chill of breezes that shake the dappled trees. It makes me think of a Shakespeare sonnet I memorized in an acting class when I was in college.

Back then, when I was young, I didn’t think too much about the autumn of my life. Now it is a daily thought. My hair is laced with strands of silver, and I move with a certain precision. The energy of summer is gone, and I long for my pillow at night. Oh, I’m not old, if you compare me to the mountains and the stars in the sky. I am a spring chicken, but I certainly feel the coming of winter.

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Shakespeare said it well in Sonnet 73.

That Time of Year Thou Mayst in Me Behold

That time of year thou mayst in me behold
When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang
Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,
Bare ruined choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see’st the twilight of such day
As after sunset fadeth in the west;
Which by and by black night doth take away,
Death’s second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see’st the glowing of such fire,
That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the deathbed whereon it must expire,
Consumed with that which it was nourished by.

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This thou perceiv’st, which makes thy love more strong,
To love that well which thou must leave ere long.

Let me put it in modern terms. This is how it would read.

You can see autumn in my life,
Where a few yellow leaves cling to the empty branches.

The birds of spring and summer are gone
as I stand in the twilight of my life.

The sun is growing dim in the west and soon the darkness
will wrap all nature up in the sleep that mimics death.
You can see in me the glowing embers of a fire

My youth is only ashes and rests on the coals of a deathbed
where it must forever sleep.

Memories are all-consuming, but thoughts of tomorrow

make me keenly aware that love is the only thing that matters
And it grows stronger because soon I will all be gone forever.

As I look back on my yesterdays, I have very few regrets. My childhood was a time of sweetness where I was clasped in the arms of family love. We worked together in the garden. We gathered wood, ate together, played and prayed together. We roamed through the forests building pine-needle castles, and imagining that the world was a safe haven for every child and creature of the earth.

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We thought every story ended in happily-ever-after. We made paper dolls, and had a thousand children made of sticks. We never looked at the neighbors and wished we had what they had. They had what we had. We didn’t have a television to make us envious. We simply had what we had and we enjoyed it. We were alone in the glorious pages of our imaginations. We sang together and thought we were the new stars of tomorrow. We swam in muddy tank water, and splashed in the puddles after the rain. We curled up in corners to read the latest Western novel by Zane Gray or Louis L’Amour.

We told stories and listened to our parents tell stories that had lived for generations on the tongues of our ancestors. We were connected to nature as the stars are connected to infinite space. We cried when the mare broke her leg and had to be put down, but were delighted to feed the colt on a bottle. We found joy in the yellow puffs of newborn chickens, and cuddled the runt of the litter when the sow gave birth.

We went on cattle drives and camping trips. We had family reunions and played with our myriad cousins. We watched sunsets and sunrises. We knew the stars and the constellations of the sky. We watched the billowing clouds bring the thunder and saw the flash of lightning illuminate the sky, and were glad for the blessing of a house that through love became a home. We watched the winter fill up with snow, and saw the flicker of Christmas lights on the silver whiteness. We knew we were snuggled in the arms of a family who cared more about people than things.

My teenage years were lonely, because I started to learn that there was unkindness in the world. I felt the persecution of classmates, and saw them make choices that would one day cause them great sorrow. During this time, I found my pen. I began to write the imaginings of my dreams. I saved scraps of paper and brown paper bags to tell the grandiose visions of my mind. My family was my kind audience. They always told me in glowing terms that they loved my stories. Today I read my writing and wonder how they could see such magnificence in such ordinary stories. They saw with the eyes of love.

The changing seasons changed me from a child into an adult. As I traveled, I watched the world change from blankets of love to barbed-wire fences as the definition of the family began to be more “tolerant.” The family no longer meant father, mother and children. It meant from live-in-friend or significant other, to strangers living in the same household. I was glad that I found a traditional family to marry into.

Reg Tenney and his six children were a ready-made family who did not adopt the new definition. As years went by, I saw how the new definition of the family was destroying individuals. We brought five adopted children into our home that were a product of that new definition. We could see their pain and their disconnectedness, and try as we might, we could not give them the feeling of security and love that I had known as a child.

Their childhood had been irreparably tarnished by the choices of people who believed moral traditions were old-fashioned and the family is only a place to be born. Perhaps in the end, we will have given them enough love to help them see the difference between a traditional family and a new morality family. Only time will give us the answer, but right now it is hard.

As years slip away and I see the winter of my life approaching, I glory in my yesterdays. I bless my God for giving me a family and allowing me to grow up in a society where love is the golden thread that ties loved ones together from one generation to the next. I glory in the fact that I grew up with Christian parents who believed that God is the creator and nurturer of the universe.

Grammie molasses cokkies receipe

I am glad that they were not confused about the origin of man and beast. They knew that they were a part of an eternal plan designed by a Master Builder.

When the yellow leaves come in the fall and flutter to the earth and winter comes with ice freezing the world in gray darkness, I am glad that they knew that spring would come again, and life would go on as God intended.

When my autumn turns to winter, and finally I sleep in the quiet tomb of yesterday, I am glad that I know one day I will rise to a new spring of life with my Savior.

He will wipe away all tears. He will comfort those who grew up without the blanket of a family and will heal their wounds with his atoning blood, but until that day, I will reach out to the little ones, and teach with my last breath that the traditional family can never be replaced with hand-written definitions scribbled by the short-sighted ignorance of man without everlasting negative consequences. PD

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