For the past few years, four native American women in their seventies have been meeting to share their life stories, their tragedies and joys, their concerns about aging, about children, about death, and the goals they want to accomplish in this last part of life. Two of the members are leaving, and the group is now disbanding. The author dedicated this poem to the intimacy and comfort the women found together.
We sit as council on our lives, searching backward to find the roots of our being; looking deep into the core of what brought us to this time.
Together, we stare at old photos, trusting we will find threads that, strung together, will answer the questions that remain.
Splinters need pulling to expose raw truths.
We tell our stories to each other, harvesting their meaning one by one to make sense of our seventies, the weavings of substance to create a tapestry of each life.
It is a secret confessional.
A sharing beyond sharing. Beyond shame or guilt. Not a place for cowards, this place where souls are bared and tears are the currency of trade.
We are healthy and handsome and humbled by this time together.
A time to harvest our lives — to peer through the lens of coming old age, to choose our most valued possessions as keepsakes for our heritage chest of memorabilia.
Only our most sacred memories and nubs of wisdom will dwell there.
We are strong now. Full of energy honed with years of caring for our bodies. Yet we see creasing skin sagging over muscles, hair turning ashen.
We chart each sign of aging, of memory loss, of fatigue, the wear and tear that scrolls its record in the furrows on our faces.
We are more careful now. Careful of our bodies, our money, our relationships. Careful with our children.
Too soon we will be their children, trusting that they will be careful mothers and fathers.
Then it will be time to open our chests and offer their inheritance, hoping the gold of our lives will be their treasure.
The author, Ina Albert, lies in Whitefish, Montana.