This I Believe: Mary Hauser (2013)


My introduction to religious practice in my youth was limited to one year of Sunday School at Macalester Presbyterian Church in St. Paul when I was eleven years old.  My parents enrolled me there, I think, to give me the same experience as the other kids at school had…to fit in.  I am not sure why they picked that particular denomination, but was very convenient, only 2 or 3 blocks from home.  Mother and Dad did not attend that church, or any church for that matter.  I have a dim recollection of sitting in the church school room, but no recollection of the lesson.  I attended regularly for a year, received my gold star and that was that.  I was through.

When I was 17 I met Louis, whose family had attended Unity Church in St. Paul for decades.  Louis is a third generation Unitarian.  I began attending Unity with Louis here and there and became hooked on the sermons of Arthur Foote, who was the minister at Unity at that time.  We continued to attend Unity for years.  Louis directed the junior choir and sang in the adult choir, I volunteered as Christmas Pageant coordinator and the annual Bazaar.  We stayed with Unity for quite a while after moving to White Bear Lake and occasionally attended the old WBUUC on Mahtomedi Avenue as well.  One day I was visiting with my old friend, Isabel Rife, who was the chair of the WBUUC membership committee.  She said, “It is time for you and Louis to join the church, I need the numbers!”  So we did.  That was in 1989 and we never looked back.

As I say the opening words each Sunday, the service commitment we make to each other makes me smile.  What fun it has been to be a part of the church where you can help to make things happen.  You work with the most interesting people and develop a special relationship with them that lasts forever.  And you do not have to do these jobs forever.  Waiting in the wings are the next generation of doers who add vigor and rigor to the committees.  How grateful we all are to those who step in and take over so that some of us can gracefully slip to the sidelines.

I am now engaged in a new adventure.  I have somehow just recently realized that I am getting old which has certain benefits or, as Doris Lessing once said, “And then, not expecting it, you become middle-aged and anonymous.  No one notices you.  You achieve a wonderful freedom.  It is a positive thing.  You can move about, unnoticed and invisible.”  I was first introduced to the aging thing when some years ago, I had a fainting spell at the theater.  When being transported to the hospital, the EMT taking care of me in the ambulance called ahead saying she was bringing in an elderly woman.  I looked at her and said that I thought there were only two of us in the ambulance, where was the elderly woman?

I am still going strong and am fairly energetic (good genes account for a lot).  Every day I count my blessings, which are many.  Just last month I had lunch with some friends of over 50 years.  We all commented on how many in our generation have been extremely fortunate.  We talked of how we may be the last to have lived in this golden age when opportunities abounded and many of us had the luxury of seizing them.  When I looked at my old friends, who are all older than I and had suffered tragedies of one kind of another, all were enthusiastic about their lives.  They were all so busy that setting a date for lunch was difficult to arrange.

Being old has its pluses and minuses.  You have the long wonderful memories and you have time to reflect.  Sometimes you are sought out for advice, which is flattering but dangerous.  You remind yourself that you are no longer the center of the universe and are grateful for that.  There is time for friends.  There is time to notice the beauty of changing leaves and light.  There is time to do nothing and not feel guilty about it.  Ann Bushnell expressed it well in “Ode to Unexpected Gifts.”

The best gifts given
catch us unaware.
We smile at such surprises,
add them to our pleasures.
Remember them for years.


Letter from an old friend
found deep inside
the mailbox bundle.

Small green points that
gleam from all-hope-gone
garden tangle.

Sudden scent of cardamom
that carries us back
to memory’s kitchen.

Or a quick-caught glimpse
of familiar family face
on youngest child.

And an old song whose
slow melody and words
release old tears.

Such unexpected gifts are
coins of delight
carried in heart’s pocket
to be fingered,
lingered over in the night.

The down side is that as you age, so do your friends and family.  That, I think, is the hardest part of getting old.  You feel helpless as you watch loved ones suffer physical and mental problems associated with aging.  Your own good health seems somehow to be offensive, as if in contrast with the ill health of your loved one.  What I have observed with wonder is the pragmatism and thoughtfulness and bravery of those who are afflicted.

I don’t know if I can be so adaptable when my time comes.  And that is one thing I can be certain of.  My time will come.  For now, I consider myself very blessed.  I have a wonderful loving mate who is a lot of fun and makes me laugh often.  My children are independent, very attentive to Louis and me, and live close by.  I have this church community that sustains and renews me each Sunday.  This is a community I can count on to help if and when adversity strikes and also count on to help celebrate the good times.

I would like to close with the poem by Robyn Sarah:


It is possible that things will not get better
than they are now, or have been known to be.

It is possible that we are past the middle now.

It is possible that we have crossed the great water
without knowing it and stand now on the other side.

Yes: I think that we have crossed it.  Now
we are being given tickets, and they are not
tickets to the show we had been thinking of,
but to a different show, clearly inferior.

Check again: it is our own name on the envelope.

The tickets are to that other show.

It is possible that we will walk out of the darkened
hall without waiting for the last act.  Some people do.

But it is probable that we will stay seated in our

narrow seats all through the tedious denouement
to the unsurprising end—riveted, as it were,
spellbound by our own imperfect lives
because they are lives
and because they are ours.