What a difference almost a decade makes! Going through my files, I found the following written, as you can see, in 2008. I was asking then what I had to show for my sixty-five years of life. And here I am approaching my 75th year way faster than I ever thought I would! Still, I am wondering, what do I have to show for my life! Well, reading through this, I am even more grateful now than I was then! I’ll save the why of that til the end.
Here we are in the year 2008, the year I turn sixty-five. I have already received my Medicare card. It seems impossible that my life has come to this point so quickly. Where did all the years go, and what have I to show for them? That is the question on my mind, and a worthy one for pondering.
You know, in my head I do not feel that differently than I did when I was, say, forty-five. Age forty-five comes to mind because I believe it was the age of maturity for me. I certainly was not mature by the magical age of eighteen. Nor at twenty-one. In my thirties, I was submerged in the lives of my children, feeling young and hopeful, often confused, sometimes frightened, always resilient. I recall actually growing up with my children.
A mother of two by the age of nineteen with not much to guide me but instincts, I frolicked along with the kids, enjoying adventures and activities I had longed for as a child, and could not experience due to the socio-economic conditions into which I was born and raised. As a young adult, I pushed the reality of my own “retirement years” so far back into my perception of the future that it hardly seemed a reality at all. Cerebrally, I knew it would happen, of course. That I would grow old someday, that my hair would turn white, that my body would sag, and expand and ache, that my knees would probably hurt like my father’s did, and that wrinkles would appear, that my memory would fail, that certain aspects of my life would vanish completely into forgetfulness. I certainly knew that countless other changes would take place in my body, and in my life, as time moved on. But, did I really believe it when I was thirty? Do any of us when we are young, really believe we will be old, like our grandparents were?
By my 45th birthday, I was a grandmother, twice. Having grandchildren put my life, and its relentless procession of events, into a more mature perspective than anything else had thus far. But, how much older my grandparents seemed than me, at the same age! Did they feel the same way too, when they moved into the “grandparent slot” of their lives, as they watched their own parents move closer to the edge of existence, heading toward life’s greatest unknown?
We are all in line, moving along in procession, some of us more aware of our own place in the changing and the passing of time than others. I watch my grandchildren now and recall my own naïve youth. Life for them stretches endlessly in front of them, they think, just as it did for me. What a different place the world is now, than when I was their age. A different reality encompasses their lives.
How can my life have meaning in any way, other than through them, in our personal interactions? In the end, all that is left are their memories of me, of the things I have done, and said, and taught them. Hopefully, they will pass something of my influence on to their grandchildren, whose life experiences will be even further removed from their reality than mine were from my grandparents. Each generation has its on realism, and for that generation, for a time, it seems a certainty. But only for a time. The briefest of time, really. A lifetime, fleeting, elusive, so fluid, yet so mysterious in its trickery. For we are all tricked by it, by the speed of its passing. Lulled into the secure immobility of each moment, like the proverbial frog lowered slowly into the pot of warm water, oblivious to the graduating increase of heat, until we, like he, are cooked. Or almost cooked!
But another reality exists: many I have known never reached sixty-five. Yet here I sit, talking about how quickly I’ve arrived here. And feeling not a day older, in my heart, than forty-five. Still planning for the future, which stretches out into the distance, in front of me, in some ways as far as it did twenty years ago. But the difference between now and then is in the details of each day, in the defining moments of each hour, and in the clear urgency of not wasting a single minute. I wish I could teach my grandchildren that, but I know it is impossible. That kind of certainty can only be realized through lifetime learning, and each one of us learns at our own pace, in our own way, and for our own reasons.
That brings me full circle in my rambling ruminations. What do I have to show for all the years? Well, I have NOW. We all have NOW. I have my home, and my family. I have my work, my writing. I have truly genuine friendships, and somebody whose name I can’t recall, said that one true friend in a lifetime is exceptional. So, I’ve done exceptional, more than once.
I have my grandchildren, five of them. I know that each of them will live out their own realities, and pass through life the same as the rest of us, unaware too often, and unprepared for sure. None of us, no matter how careful we are to prepare for all things, is fully prepared for the unavoidable fact that our lives are too soon mostly behind us. But to find myself in the here and now, still feeling that the present, in its own unique actuality, is the best time of my life, means something. Everything, really!
It is a good feeling, and I’m very happy to be here.
℘ ℘ ℘
Today, August 21, 2017: It dizzied me a bit to unexpectedly read how I felt ten years ago, or almost ten years ago! I won’t be officially 75 until next March, so there’s that!
Life has rocked along on an even keel for the most part, as I sit here thinking about it, nothing has rattled my personal world beyond the expected, although I have to say Planet Earth has moved into some very strange and scary territory, the likes of which I have not seen before. But that is for another time. NOW is about me, inside my egocentric universe spinning exclusively inside my own unique bubble of brief lifetime existence.
The last decade, Mother made her great escape. She was 91 and ready to exit, although she assured us all before she became too ill to say it, that as much as she hated to leave us, she was ready to go on home. Home for her was a place she called Heaven. The place where all of her siblings had already gone to live forever with their parents, departed spouses, and friends. Mother longed to join them. So, after a brief illness, she did, just before Christmas two years ago.
Our three children are maturing interestingly, each in their own way, and a little like each other, still different, from one decade to the next. Well-seasoned, thoughtful, kind, intelligent, educated (one formally, two self), fun, opinionated, establishing their own unique time bubbles revolving around each of them, in their minds, the way mine revolves around me. Maybe someday they will write about it.
Husband and I are still happy companions, we talk, we love each other, we play, and sometimes we argue, sometimes loudly. But this is as it has been for the past 60 years or so, since our paths collided. There is that!
Time goes on. Four grandchildren are grown, healthy, living their separate productive lives. This decade brought us our first, and only (so far) great-grandchild. He is a brilliant beautiful red-haired boy, already nine years old! Our family has also expanded by two grandchildren-in-law. The youngest grandchild, not yet old enough for college but already making her life plans, will flourish, leave her mark, whatever she chooses to do. All the while, from afar in some cases as we live in different states, I relish each of their experiences whenever they want to share, take part in them whenever we can. My grand kids probably do not know how well-loved they are, or how proud of them I am, but they are mightily and deservedly loved!
All of us remain in relatively good health, with hopeful expectations. Life inside my little bubble is safe for the moment. And I am still happy to be here! So, there is that!
Today, we had a total solar eclipse occurring only over the USA. No other country experienced it, and I am not sure when the last time this particular phenomenon occurred. We will have another total solar eclipse in 2024. The path of this one is to be right over my little spot in Texas. That is not quite another decade away, seven years from now, but I plan to witness it. Husband and I made a pact, we will be here for it! We will be 81 years old! OH WOW!
May the Force stay with us!