It's something I do approximately 2 times per year. Well, ok... I guess it's technically a lot more times than that, but only for approximately 2 occasions. Once to put Christmas lights up and once to take them down. David did the ones "way up" in the eave of our porch (and some of the others in the putting-up process), but due to his angry feet/ankle issues, I do the lion's share of the ladder climbing these days.
And before I go any farther... yes, yesterday's date was January 16. Perhaps some of you are more punctual about removing your outdoor Christmas decor, but I don't mesh well with freezing or rain or gale force winds or any combination thereof, so ye olde twinkle lights... they stayed put way past Christmas and New Years and Epiphany (or whatever the Catholic holiday is some people want to leave their stuff up until). There's no rhyme or reason to my decoration removal other than, if it's the day after Christmas, I want the inside stuff gone and, if there's winter weather involved, I'm likely going to be inside and in my pajamas and under a blanket or four. I think I already covered that in a previous post, though.
Last year was the first time I attempted the ladder scaling. I'm not a fan of heights, you know. When I was just a little thing, I thought that my uncle's acrobatics in the rafters of the tobacco barn looked so neat and begged to go up with him. Anticipating my response, my grandparents hoisted me up to one of the lowest rafters where I promptly clutched onto my uncle's leg and refused to move until someone got me down. That's what I do with heights... I clutch things. So, as you might have concluded, my experience with the ladder last year wasn't pleasant.
I was shaky and awkward. My whole body was sore the next day from how tense I had been. My calves were especially upset since I insisted upon moving the ladder between practically every staple I needed to pull out thereby lessening any necessity to lean, so I went up and down a lot. I also made sure Scotty knew how to call 911, just in case.
"Now, you know, if Mama falls and is laying on the ground, you need to run in the house and get the phone and dial 9-1-1. Now before I go up, recite our address to me..."
I'm sure that will have no emotional repercussions at all.
Today's ladder experience wasn't so bad. The sun was shining, the wind wasn't blowing too much, I was already outside after running an errand. I was ready to get this thing done.
And so I did.
I just hauled the ladder out, found my pliers, and went right up that ladder. All told, the whole thing took about 30 minutes, I guess (with David's help on the scary eave, don't forget).
And while I was going up and down the ladder (not quite so many times, mind you... I'm getting braver about leaning), it occurred to me that things won't always be so easy.
It won't always be such a non-event to just decide to carry a fairly heavy ladder out of the garage and across the yard. Climbing up and down a ladder 20 or so times won't always be just a quick sidestep in my afternoon's plans.
What I'm talking about here is growing older. That dad blamed aging process, which I'm already beginning to see signs of, I'm sorry to say. Those little folds over my knee caps that didn't used to be there. The aches and pains after I sit in the floor that didn't used to happen. The face-distorting squint when I look at the television that prompts David to say, "You should really wear your glasses." Those little creases that linger around my mouth and eyes after I smile. And most curious of all, the fact that they've got kids working in all the stores now... I'm not kidding...literal children.
I know I'm not old and I don't feel old, but I know someday I will, if God grants me the years to get there. And I sincerely hope that I do get there.
I spoke with a lady who I know through church connections last night and we were discussing how God uses our life situations sometimes to change the ways in which we serve Him. She said something that resonated with me: "Sometimes God just wants us to be still."
Right now my life is go go go. It feels relentless and overwhelming sometimes and there are days when I just long for stillness. I think about the peacefulness of my parents' house and my in-laws' house and how they can settle into their chairs and watch TV or read and then get up and walk across their livingrooms without wanting to commit a crime because of the Lego that just became embedded in their foot.
And I wonder what God has in store for the time in my future when it's my turn to be still.
For those days when I have to call a grandson or granddaughter to come put up my Christmas lights and take them down. Or mow my yard. Or move a piece of furniture. Or get the conflabbed television to change channels!
For those days when climbing a ladder will be out of the question because climbing into and out of my bed will be a chore.
I don't dread those days the way I once did because the quiet realization washed over me recently... that we don't ever lose our strength.
Our strength just changes.
We don't ever stop being useful. Our usefulness just looks different.
We don't ever stop being needed. What we're needed for just evolves.
In some ways, I guess growing older is a lot like climbing a ladder in itself. You need that physical strength to climb, but once you near the top, it's best to just be still. And someday when I'm an old Granny, I hope I can sit near the top and help those who are still climbing to use the strengths they have to keep from toppling over. That may be a silly analogy, but it makes so much more sense to me today than it has in the past.
And I think I must have some of the strongest people in the world sitting above me on my ladder. I'm so thankful for that.
The glory of young men is their strength: and the beauty of old men is the grey head. (Proverbs 20:29)