Special moments across time.
There are some things about growing older that take getting used to. One of them is the relative nature of age. A high school graduate is “old” compared to a kindergartner. This same person is “young” compared to a college graduate. We get used to these comparisons because they are easy to understand and have little impact. They are what they are.
At other times, this is not so clear. I remember a few years ago hearing an older man say to a friend, “I will be going to a party for my son-in-law’s sixtieth birthday.” What? I thought. How can this guy be so old? I was just shy of sixty at the time. Now, I am as old as the fellow I had overheard and am experiencing the reality of that age.
I recently spent a week with my two daughters. Both are in their sixth decade (fifty-six and fifty-four) and their husbands are over sixty. It was just the three of us. The special thing about this time was that it comprised the full fabric of their lives and most of mine. Barriers of time and place disappeared as we reminisced about what happened and where during their youth. Conversations included: “Which junior high were you attending when we moved from …… to……?” “Do you remember when my roommates left me holding the bag when they moved out of the apartment in Georgetown, when I was interning?”. “I remember Robert Redford attending a father’s weekend when I was a camp counselor on Cape Cod.”
I was spending a week with two daughters who were successful at business and also fine mothers and wives and who had earned graduate degrees with honors and who are leading exemplary lives. We reminisced with each transitioning from today to treating each other as sisters of any age, “poking” at times, but loving always.
My advantage at my age was remembering the early years when I was the “water boy” at 2:00 a.m. for a thirsty two-year-old or managing a bulky cast in a newborn whose hip needed to be nudged back in place.
In the present day, I have to insist on being allowed to carry a suitcase and also be willing to relinquish the wheel when a daughter wants to do the driving. “But I have been driving for seventy years—without an accident!” I protest. Had I become a Faberge egg?
In the scale of relative, a person in her fifties can say with disbelief, “My son will be thirty next month. I feel old.” The truth is, she will have more than those years ahead. She could witness his sixtieth birthday—and the list goes on.
Then, there is also a time when age becomes absolute. That hits home for me as I enter the second half of my ninth decade. The next milestone age for me will be ninety! That’s old—except, I suppose, when you get there! Don’t complain; try to enjoy life.
Age is absolute when it comes to counting years. It is relative when considered in proportion to or in relation to something else. That something else can be the life you choose to live. In life, there is joy we appreciate and burdens we endure; things earned and those thrust on us and undeserved; and we deal with all the best we can.
By Gene Helveston
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