It seems like I have spent most of my time in the last two weeks getting lost, which I guess at 85 isn’t that unusual. The reason for this recent misadventure, however, is a good one: I have been busy trying to find places to hold book signings. I have had phenomenal luck in securing places and have come away from this experience with affirmation, once again, that the world is full of very nice people. What I’ve discovered also, however, is that, above and beyond the difficulty of “selling” yourself at my age is the challenge of actually finding your way to new places you’ve never been. I am now completely blind when it comes to reading highway signs (and for the most part, any printed words). It used to be my job to hold the map and point out the way to whereever my husband Bob and I were headed. I can’t do that anymore so I am pretty useless in helping us to get there. Meanwhile, Bob, who is now 87, used to always know what direction he was driving, but that doesn’t happen so much anymore. I suppose this is just part of growing older—trying to find your way from here to there, but it is frustrating to say the least.
Somehow, though, we managed to finally arrive at our destinations through a series of back and forth and turning around. At one point, I told Bob: “Just follow the ambulance.” Since we were looking for apartment complexes for people over the age of 55, I figured it was worth a shot! Sadly, I was right—we came right to the door we were looking for!
This is all a big change from the days when I was growing up in Michigan and always knew about where I was. North was always Lake Michigan – and from that I could always find my way. Even in the very early days of our marriage, when we lived in giant Los Angeles, I knew my way because I knew the ocean was always to our west. I managed to maintain that sense of direction right up until the years when we moved to Ohio, and it all went out the window—lost to a world of flat fields of corn. Unfortunately, the sense of direction never developed on the east coast, despite the fact the Atlantic is not so far away.
Anyway, for the past few weeks, I’ve also been lost in another way: I’ve been trying to find my way around my own computer. Instead of writing new material, I have been rewriting and trying to update my story timeline for book three. That means inserting chapters and keeping everything in correct position, which is not easy when you are almost blind. Oh, I can do almost everything except read what I’ve written. And thankfully, my son Mark installed a program on my computer that reads back to me. Thank goodness for my little man with the British accent who tells me everything I have written. He can be annoying at times, but he’s needed. And I have a new computer coming soon that will even “write” as I dictate. Isn’t modern science wonderful? It used to be that when you reached my age and had my problem, there wasn’t much you could do. Not so today—you can dictate to a machine, which puts your words on paper. Then you can make corrections and even have your machine read it all back!
I guess when I look back at the last few weeks of getting lost and frustrations with my eyesight and computer, the lesson that has been reaffirmed is simply: “Never give up.” Somehow, in spite of the obstacles, there is a way if you just keep trying. Don’t let age keep you from your dreams.
F. Sharon Swope
p.s. from Genilee: My mom is one amazing woman! This is what she and dad have been doing:
Saturday, March 2, 10 a.m. River Run apartments, Minnieville and Prince William Parkway, Dale City, VA
Wednesday, March 6, 11 a.m. Potomac Woods apartments, 2001 Southampton St., Woodbridge, VA.
Thursday, March 14, 1:30 to 3:30 Stafford Gardens, Mountain View Rd., Stafford, VA
We’ve also applied to participate in the Second Annual Local Author’s Fair, Bull Run Regional Library, May 4 and are participating in the Third Thursday Thrillers book group meeting, Potomac Community Library May 16.