Years are the traditional measurement for a life. When one is born, we count the usual days, weeks, and then months. A little person’s life doesn’t generally come to be told in years until after the 24 month mark. Until then, it’s 6 months, 15 months, what have you. I don’t want to do the math on what my month mark is right now. I’m blessed that it’s way into triple digits, over 500 now. When one passes away, an obituary lists the age in years, but there are other measurements for a life.
The old besties and I have a group chat. The vast majority of our discussions are complaints about work, what random monotonous form our day has taken, and what’s for supper. We whine; we celebrate; we encourage; we pray, and we share recipes and funny memes. The other day, appliances came to the forefront.
We are all very cheap and take great pride in using things until they completely wear out. I have called a repairman, almost always my brother, for my washing machine, my dryer, my oven, and even my fridge. I have never called him for the microwave. I just get a new one.
After 20 years, my bottom-shelf washing machine is on its last legs, as it makes a funny whine or whistle when it drains the water. My brother Hash, the MacGyver of Nobusiness, has fixed it several times in the past when it was doing this or that. However, he diagnosed this problem as the pump and advised that the cost would be more than the machine is worth at this point. Use it until it won’t work anymore, and then get a new one, he told me. Nothing lasts forever, and as is my habit, we had purchased the cheapest model available at the time anyway, so I reckon 20 years is a pretty good run.
I told my girls about my washing machine and how if it were a person, hospice would be on the scene. It’s hanging on, but the end is near, no doubt. This led my conversation with my girls to discuss how many appliances we have owned or purchased in our trips around the sun. If the count was needed, I am three refrigerators, two stoves and one set of washer and dryers old. Oh, and two hot water heaters. I have owned six vehicles, if you count my grandmother’s VW bug that I drove in high school and college. That number would proudly be lower if not for children and trading when necessary from a single cab truck to a car with a backseat, and then to minivan that would accommodate three car seats eventually. I run cars like I run appliances, until the proverbial wheels fall off. These things are a testament at this point to my age and length of life on earth, don’t you think?
Two new push-lawn mowers have been purchased by me in my time. Maybe it’s three? Two weed eaters. Nothing lasts forever. But how else may we measure a life?
The thought of a measurement in appliances might be a fairly accurate mark of age. If you have purchased none, let us assume you are 25 years or less. This hallmark is though, perhaps, quite boring. How else may we measure?
What if we measured our lives in kisses and hugs? How perfect would that be? An ever increasing number, we hope, as we sprint toward the finish line. Precious, wet, slobbery, milk-stinky baby kisses. Scared toddler hugs with arms so tight pulling your hair that you want to pull back a little, but at once comes the conscious awareness that this is a tender moment in your heart much more. Dark, furtive, Saturday night kisses when you’re 17. Sick, ailing Daddy kisses on the cheek when he’s almost 90. Old friend hugs after a long time gone, with deep sighs in a comfortable neck and exhales that last for minutes. That’s the good stuff. If I measure my life in those, maybe that’s not a bad idea.
What if we measured our lives in sunsets? We all pass one every day, but how many times do we stop and look up at it? It’s the same as shooting stars and four leaf clovers. They’re there all the time, but you’ll never see one if you don’t look. Sunrises? They happen every morning, but seldom do they fall on quiet and peace unless it’s in sleep. If we are up early enough to witness a sunrise, it’s usually on the way to work or somewhere else demanding. Maybe we all need a bit more slowwwww. Slow down and look up. And over.. And all around. How often do we do that? That would be a good measurement.
What if we measure our lives, like a recipe, in cups of sugar? What if the more we used, the better our life was? I’m about three pies in just this month. My boys thank me.
What if we measured our lives in only barefoot steps? Those quiet foot whispers at night to check on a baby. Those running on the beach. Those in damp, cool, green grass, crazy at the carpet softness. Those in the crumbling wonder of newly plowed dirt, falling open and yielding under your toes. A lot of good things happen when we don’t have our shoes on. Let’s measure those steps.
Probably none of us will get to the end of this road and look back and think with satisfaction at a bank account or notoriety. When we lay dying we will think of relationships -- those with family, friends and God. Maybe our best measurement is keeping a check on them.
A teacher and mother, Meagan Morehead Bradshaw lives on a farm in Bland County; contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.