The photo of me beside this article was taken by my son on the veranda of “The First Lady of Waikiki,” the moniker of a historic hotel on Oahu where I live. He and I come here to sit in the rockers and to watch life unfold. The elderly are sometimes depicted sitting alone on a bench while the world passes them by. It is assumed that because they are still and alone that they inevitably must be lonely. My father was one of those bench sitters. His bench was in Central Park by the sail boat lake. With his outgoing personality he was anything but a lonely old man and his trips to this bench were more about meeting up with friends or making new ones, rather than an expression of isolation and despair. The first time Oliver and I found the rockers was right before he was to leave the island. He was only 7 at the time and we knew it would be a long while before we would see each other again. Rocking together, as countless mothers will do to comfort their babies, was the perfect ritual to mark the occasion – a memory that would sustain us during our separation. If you look at the picture again, you’ll notice the row of empty rockers and pillars behind me. I like to think of these as the benches left vacant by the deaths of my ancestors – my father and mother’s empty rockers being directly behind me. My parents were steady pillars in my life, as I am a pillar in the life of my children. But someday my rocker too will be empty and Oliver will be sitting on the bench without his mother rocking beside him. Perhaps he will take his own children to the veranda and talk story about their grandmother. Benches and rocking chairs don’t need to be desolate images of aging. And aging needn’t be the dreaded waiting room for death. As with all things in life – aging and death is what we make it. Rock on!


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