I’ve spent quite a bit of time lately thinking about age. About getting older. Dealing with my own mortality. Not a particularly sunny topic to think about. Four days from now I will take my turn at blowing out the 50 candles. I honestly don’t know what to think or how to feel about that.
Life as you have lived it is more than likely half over. That’s a weird thing to wrap your mind around. My time here is half over. More than half really. Maybe I have 20 more years, hopefully 30. I can still see myself playing baseball in the street with my childhood buddies. Hell, that was over 35 years ago, yet feels like yesterday. Thirty-five years from now? I hope it doesn’t go by as fast as the last thirty-five.
If the glass is half empty, then life is half over. If the glass is half full, then well, just be happy to still be here. I used to look in the mirror and cuss every new grey hair on my head. Now, I’m thankful that I still have grey hairs growing and I still have all my hair.
So many thing race through your mind as you get older. Conflicting thoughts. Some happy, some sad. We spend our entire life racing to get to the top of the mountain. If you are lucky enough to get there you stop and look back at the paths that you took, the choices you made, the lasting impressions you’ve left behind.
I have yet to reach the mountaintop. Don’t know if I honestly care that much about it anymore. But, as I look back at the past fifty years, I truly don’t like what I see. The paths I have chosen aren’t filled with glorious triumphs and thrilling achievements. I haven’t accumulated immense wealth, nor have I made the cover of Rolling Stone. I look back and see a path of destruction left behind in my wake. I’ve made more than a few messes. Made some poor choices. Some not so proud moments flicker on the screen.
Does your past define who you are as a person today? For the sake of sanity, I sure as hell hope not.
“Why do I do the things that I do?
Was I born this way or am I a self-made fool?
I shoot the lights and curse the dark.
I need your love but I break your heart….
I had to work to become the jerk I’ve come to be.
It ain’t easy being me.”
— Songwriter Chris Knight
My past hasn’t been entirely bad. I am the father to four terrific children, which I hope, will become the lasting memory of what I accomplished. My oldest daughter is in her first year of law school. Another daughter married this past summer to an upstanding young man. He is a United States Marine, and they are currently living in California. He will deploy for the second time this December. I pray for the two of them every night.
I have a son who just turned ten years old and another daughter who will turn nine in a few more weeks. My son’s first day of Kindergarten was also my oldest daughter’s first day of college. Quite a gap in there. The joys of fatherhood and being a proud parent are the most rewarding things life has to offer. But the joy just as quickly turns to guilt. I was an older dad when my last two children were born. My father is still living. So is my mother. And man, there is not a day that goes by that I don’t feel blessed to still have them. Yet, I have cheated my two youngest children of ever feeling that same joy. When they turn fifty…well…I probably won’t see it. I have to cram as many memories of life with me into their little minds as possible. Time is not on our side.
The joys conflicting with the guilt.
I still have much I want to accomplish, and much to teach my children. I just don’t have as much time to get it all done. Life was a marathon. Now it’s a race – a sprint. The hourglass is tipped over. I have so much to do, and so little time. There is not a day to waste.
As the next four days inch closer and closer I have concluded many things. Despite the grey hairs, I refuse to give in to Father Time. Just because, I need reading glasses and my hearing sucks, doesn’t mean I have to act like an old man. I will remain young at heart. I will still do the silly dance with my children in public and not give a damn what others may think. I will still make up my own words to songs and sing in the shower. I will play catch with a football or baseball for as long as my son wants to. I will download new music onto my computer but still prefer the sound of a record playing on my early 1950’s record player. I will never believe in political correctness. I will always believe that “old school” is still way cool. Faded Levi’s and a t-shirt are better than a coat and tie. I will always prefer to sit around a campfire with close friends drinking cold beers than sitting around a conference table in a boardroom with a bunch of robots wearing suits. I will always play my music loud and if you don’t like it then buy me hearing aides.
“He’s a walking contradiction
Partly truth, partly fiction
Taking every wrong direction
On his lonely walk back home”
— Kris Kristofferson
My perspective on life may have changed with age, but that doesn’t mean my attitude has to. I’m old enough to know better, but I’m still young enough to do it again. Or in the immortal words of Billy Joe Shaver, “The devil made me do it the fist time, the second time I done it on my own.”