New Experience: Returning Home at Age 60

Sixty-something, but who cares about such a minor detail? Here I am again on the beautiful island of Saint Kitts in the Caribbean, after living abroad for forty years. There have been a few changes in my neighborhood.

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I have a new interest in the yellow bells and other flowers in our yard
I have a new interest in the yellow bells and other flowers in our yard
I have a new interest in the yellow bells and other flowers in our yard | Source
  • The building structure of my house has changed.
  • The little girl who lived next door is now the mother of her own little girl.
  • The children who pass by in school uniforms (added to school life while I was gone) greet me with “Good Morning” but they don’t know my name.
  • More than half the people who live on my street think that I’m a stranger, and I think that they’re the strangers, because they and their houses were not here when I left.

So I have the responsibility to re-establish myself in my neighborhood. I get to begin again as the newcomer. I have the opportunity to forget the person I used to be, and become the person I want to be. I ignore the cultural habits I dislike under the pretense of forgetting; and I undertake new adventures fearlessly, having the privilege to say that I am new at them. One such adventure is gardening.


-------------Bouquet by my mother------------- with flowers from our yard
-------------Bouquet by my mother------------- with flowers from our yard | Source
One of our papaya trees
One of our papaya trees | Source

Gardener? Not Really

Beginning again at sixty-something, I could call myself a gardener, but I’d rather not. When I lived abroad, all I ever wanted in yard space were steps leading to the front door.

Now, thanks to my mother in her abler years, I have fruit trees—sugar apple, banana, papaya, guava, noni, pomegranate, lime and possibly more. Ferns dot the boundary of the yard all around. In the front, there’s a flower garden to be re-created. I want it to look as great as it did when my mother took care of it, and I’ll try, but I’ve made sure that everybody knows it is a new adventure for me.

Gradually, I’m learning, and surprising myself at how much I love it. I’ve had help planting, but I do the transplanting, the weeding and the watering. I’ve grown to love the feel of the wet soil between my fingers. I love the sight of tiny blossoms, and the sparkle of lingering raindrops on the colorful leaves of plants I cannot name.

To most people, not knowing the names of my own flowers may seem strange since the flower seeds come in labeled packets. Well, in my neighborhood, very few people—and only the very serious gardeners—buy flower seeds. Most of us benefit from the expertise of the experienced gardeners who know how to cut flower slips from their growing trees. Or they’ll give the seeds from the dried flowers.

We’ll scatter the seeds in our garden and enjoy the thrill of watching the tiny plants break through the soil and grow. From the gardening websites, I have identified some of the plants and flowers in my yard. By their unscientific names, they are known as the red ginger, the hibiscus—red and white, the yellow bell, chrysanthemums, the orange lily, a variety of crotons and soon I’ll know them all.


Noni leaves are richer in nutrients that the fruit or the juice.
Noni leaves are richer in nutrients that the fruit or the juice. | Source

New Learning Opportunites

Beginning again, I have the opportunity to learn something I regretted not knowing while I lived abroad—the names and uses of the different bushes which grow in the yard and in the neighborhood. Bush tea is a popular habit and most Caribbean old folk know which leaf is good for what use. That will be one of my special projects while dabbling with plants. I am already nursing a few plants.

  • Basil

Good for flavoring and also for making tea. Fresh basil leaves provide antioxidant and immune-boosting properties. It helps the body combat viral infections including colds and flu. Just picking it produces a pleasant therapeutic scent.

  • Aloe Vera

Also known as the miracle plant, it is used externally for skin problems and hair treatment. The more popular use is as a drink for detoxifying the body.

  • Cattle Tongue

The cattle tongue bush is used to make tea. The Plants of the Eastern Caribbean Study by the University of the West Indies (Barbados) offers no information it, but the local people say it is good for colds, fever and diarrhea.

  • Cinnamon

The cinnamon leaf makes a very healthy, good scented tea. The oil in the leaf promotes the growth of healthy bacteria in the gastrointestinal tract which aids in digestion. It contains vitamins and minerals and strengthens the immune system.

I’ve pulled up some of these plants thinking they were weeds, and I’ve watered some weeds thinking they were useful plants. There’s so much I don’t know, but I’m beginning again and learning some of the facts I should have learned years ago.


Saint Kitts-Nevis National Anthem

The prideful lyrics of the National Anthem (adopted 1983) is something else new for me to learn.

Mix of the Old and the New

The neighbors who knew me previously wait to see if I am the ardent churchgoer they used to know. Thank God, I still am. Coming home is an alternative to the Holy Land pilgrimage. It motivates me to re-examine my faith and strengthen my beliefs in the God of my childhood.

Relatives with whom I have not been in touch come by expecting that we will automatically reconnect; and it’s happening. We recall old incidents, retell old jokes and share old pictures. The old love rekindles and my family circle suddenly grows bigger.

They expect me to attend funerals which seem to happen so much more often than I remember they did. The number of villagers from the past is dwindling and at the services, I get the opportunity to meet their offspring and be introduced as an old friend.

Re-establishing myself is so much easier than I thought it would be. It’s a new world with familiar people, in familiar surroundings. It’s a new me at sixty-something.

© 2013 Dora Isaac Weithers

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Comments 41 comments

Rochelle Frank profile image

Rochelle Frank 3 years ago from California Gold Country

What a beautiful time of life to bloom again. You are very lucky to live in a place where all of those wonderful things grow. I'm sure your garden will be outstanding in your neighborhood.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Wonderful and peaceful, this was very uplifting and serene. Thank you


Frank Atanacio profile image

Frank Atanacio 3 years ago from Shelton

a very good hub Dora.. what made me laugh is when you said you watered weeds, and pulled plants.. I laugh because my grandmother years back water and raised a maraijuana plant thinking it was a garden choice she made when in fact neighborhood kids dumped the seeds into her yard.. oh the city headaches she got when the plant grew over six feet LOL


Eunice Stuhlhofer profile image

Eunice Stuhlhofer 3 years ago

This is beautiful MsDora. I could almost smell the freshness of your garden as I read through. And I love the flowers too! Wishing you the best of health and blessings as you settle down in your old new home. Voted beautiful!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Eunice. It's raining right now--it would be good to smell the flowers right after.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Frank, thanks for making me laugh too. That could easily have been me, not knowing the difference between good and bad plants. I bet your grandmother could identify that pant forever after.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, so glad you like the piece. It really helped my mood too.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Rochelle, thanks for your kind comment. Yes, I'm falling in love again with the place where I lived then, and live now. I hope your wish for my garden comes true.


RonElFran profile image

RonElFran 3 years ago from Mechanicsburg, PA

Good hub, MsDora. I could sense the joy of rediscovery as you pick up threads from your old life, while at the same time moving into all that's new and changed. What a privilege to be able to come home again!


billybuc profile image

billybuc 3 years ago from Olympia, WA

Wonderful truths in this article. How strange it would be to return to the house of my youth. I love the lessons you have written here....you can go home again, right? And new memories are being made daily. Beautiful work here my friend.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Ron, I love the way you state it. Your comment sounds like the lyrics of a song.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Billy, you're right. You can go home again. Strange only at first. You adjust gradually.


BobMonger profile image

BobMonger 3 years ago from Carlin, Nevada USA

I love the way you put yourself out for all the world to see what's going on inside. Believe it or not that takes a great deal of courage as a writer. I do envy you, a little, for being able to go back to the place where you grew up-whatever changes have taken place. The places I knew so well as a child are all gone now-taken over by new housing developments and shopping malls, not even the ghosts of the past are left. I think you'll do just fine in your new life.


Michael-Milec profile image

Michael-Milec 3 years ago

Hi msdora.

Engaging . What a beautiful Hub. Life begins at 60. The Lord said, your days will be a hundred and twenty years.

You've made me wondering: when a master gardener ( you ) says " there is so much I don't know," what would rest of us to say ? Gardening is one of the most rewarding and pleasurable pastime. Have a great success .

Be blessed , healthy and prosperous .

Voted up and beautiful .


samazi profile image

samazi 3 years ago from United Kingdom

An uplifting hub, thanks for sharing you can write in that beautiful garden for the whole day and never get bored.


grand old lady profile image

grand old lady 3 years ago from Philippines

Thank you for sharing a slice of your life with us. I very much appreciate this piece:)


Sweet Epistles profile image

Sweet Epistles 3 years ago from From the Heart of God

Nice! No one is too old or young to learn something new. Time is always right when something interest us. I love flowers and plants too. I just started growing some plants at my backyard and it just feels good when you see them starting to bloom and bear fruit and buds.


Paul Kuehn profile image

Paul Kuehn 3 years ago from Udorn City, Thailand

MsDora,

This is a great hub and I'm happy you are back home and adjusting again. If a person is willing to reinvent themselves, adjustment should be no problem. Good luck in the gardening. Voted up and sharing.


donnah75 profile image

donnah75 3 years ago from Upstate New York

MsDora: I often wonder what it would be like to buy the house I grew up in. My parents moved on years ago and strangers are all around. You have taken on the adventure and your description is beautiful. I will be sharing this with my students next fall when we write a descriptive essay focused on their homes. Voted up, beautiful and sharing!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Donnah, for your contribution to this article. Glad you could find some use for it with your students.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Paul, "willing" is not what I was at first. I never wanted to come back here to live; but when I made the decision to come, I was at peace. Now that I'm here, I think I am adjusting rather easily. Thanks for the votes and for the wishes for my garden.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Sweet Epistles, so you can identify with the joy of a beginner gardener. Thanks for your input.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Grand Old Lady, I'm glad that you appreciate the piece. Thanks for letting me know.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Samazi, thanks for the idea. I could try that, and I might even learn to write about gardening.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Michael-Milec, your comment is very encouraging. Thanks for even suggesting that I could be a Master Gardener. I'll take that as a prediction and work towards it.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Bob, thanks also for prediction that I'll do fine. I took the risk of writing in the first person after I read an article by Billybuc. You, my kind hubber-friends, have really encourage me. I am very grateful.


whonunuwho profile image

whonunuwho 3 years ago from United States

Never too late to start over, my friend. I commented the other day, I once had a photo of when I was about two years old taken and now I'm aged 66. In the picture I am wearing sandals, much like the ones I wear now for diabetes problems. The big wheel of life keeps on spinning around. Thanks for sharing. whonu


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

You're right, Whonu. We come full circle. Let us be grateful that we have lasted as long as we have, and still able to learn. Thanks for your input.


PegCole17 profile image

PegCole17 3 years ago from Dallas, Texas

This is the age of our new beginnings, MsDora. Time to finally stop and smell the roses as my old Dad used to say often. Finally we can put aside other priorities and get in touch with nature. Bravo for your new beginning and enjoy the gorgeous fruit of your efforts. Loved your pictures too.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, PegCole. It's a blessing to live long enough to begin again. Thanks for your input.


HendrikDB profile image

HendrikDB 3 years ago

Thanks for this trip down memory lane! Now that I am getting a wee little older, I just love my trips down memory lane - I visit all the places that is dear to me and helped me made what I am today!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Hendrik,those memory lane trips keep the enjoyment in our lives. Need something to keep you feeling good? Remember the good old days. My sympathy for those who were not so fortunate.


faythef profile image

faythef 3 years ago from USA

I so enjoyed this article..I love to garden , It is a lot of hard work in the beginning...But once established we get the pleasure of watching it bloom, or produce and very quickly learn what it should or shouldn't do.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Fathef, thanks for your kind comment. I hope I can learn as well as you do. I've seen some of your gardening hubs and they are awesome.


rajan jolly profile image

rajan jolly 3 years ago from From Mumbai, presently in Jalandhar,INDIA.

We are learning all our life and should continue to do so to maintain our interest in life. Do we ever retire from life or learning? Lovely read and beautiful photos. Plants are wonderfully soothing to work with.

Voted up.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Thanks, Rajan Jolly. I have been learning so much from you. Thanks for your support.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

I am glad I left this on follow. I needed a boost yet I am not yet 60 I feel like 80. And am happy to have new friends.


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, perhaps you feel like 80 because of the amount of work you have done, and the big bundle of wisdom in your head. Have a great weekend!


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Let us smile at age and embrace it for the love it gives us!


MsDora profile image

MsDora 3 years ago from The Caribbean Author

Eric, friends like you make any age seem wonderful! Knowing you makes it easier to smile.


Ericdierker profile image

Ericdierker 3 years ago from Spring Valley, CA. U.S.A.

Am I wrong to comment further? I want to be more like you. MsDora and the great hats, have lifted me up. A turmoil you share and it directly is one I need help with. Last I looked it up,,, that is a friend indeed.

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    MsDora profile image

    Dora Isaac Weithers (MsDora)946 Followers
    257 Articles

    MsDora, former teacher and counselor, is fascinated by the study of healthy aging and loves to share the health habits she learns.



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