We all have those moments when we stop to take stock of our lives. We try to evaluate where we are, think of where we want to be headed, and then our mind travels back again to where all our data is stored, our memory. At a meeting about aging recently someone made a quip, “Hey, at our age all we are is memory.”
I just turned seventy-six. I remember working on plans for the Bicentennial in San Jose in 1976. I swear it seems like just yesterday, I can almost smell the paint we used to prepare the stage for the Bicentennial play I had written and was directing. All of us involved kept talking about how cool it was to be a small part of the 200th birthday of our nation.
I felt very mature at the time. I had been married for thirteen years already and my three children were all in school. I was almost matronly. When I was sent a letter from the Library of Congress stating that my play, entitled Time, had been accepted and placed in the library as part of the Bicentennial, I felt I had achieved the pinnacle of my life. I was twenty-nine. That was forty-seven years ago.
I am sure we all have moments that stand out with some sparkle, where you say, “Wow, that was a good time.” Had I been asked to foretell my future then; I’d have said that it would have been out in space. I had no clue what would happen. Not knowing our future is a good thing because we can’t ask to just see the good parts. If we knew we would probably tend to focus on the bad and the sad, therefore suffering prematurely. The older I get the less I want to know my future.
These thoughts were part of a very lively discussion I shared in this past weekend. The question being, would you want to know when you were going to die? One person said that they absolutely wanted to know because they could plan better. Heck, they said, if they knew when they were going to die, they would party heartily until the end.
Another person said they also wanted to know, but their reason was because they would want to prepare, to have their lives in order, be physically responsible and make sure their mind would be at peace. Yet another said they would defy the prediction by doing everything to take care of their body. They would use all possible safety precautions.
I said I just plain would not want to know. Rather than be consumed about whatever may come, I believe in the fact that I ‘m going to live until I die. But I’ll be careful about it. I admit I enjoy going fishing in my nostalgia pool where I can relive ages I have been, and enjoy once more all my firsts. I can relive my children’s childhoods with only happy moments allowed. I can fish to relive my first love, to feel that unbelievable sensation that comes so mysteriously and too often, leaves the same way. I could see my childhood neighborhood all decked out, carolers roaming the streets and my heart racing wondering what Santa would bring me. I could recall the sensation of freedom that I felt when I rode my childhood horse, Narcena.
I would smile, warm with nostalgia, edited of course, showing me only the high times, reminding me of all the good. I work very hard. Now I am in my seventies, to not rewind bad memories, or memories of anger, tears or grief. The anger I have long since dropped. The grief is a part of me, nothing needed to be called upon. It just is.
As to the present? I will make an admission here. My mother died at age 76. That has weighed on me a lot. No logic to it, but as the days drew closer to my birthday, I felt a chill. Then I finally slapped myself in the face, metaphorically speaking, and said grow up. There is nothing to fear.
I had said I did not want to know my future but my fears were trying to predict it anyway. Maybe tomorrow will bring the best bit of future nostalgia I have ever had. Who knows? I would rather think about that, have an occasional pina colada, and dream there may even be a prince out there I’m trying my best to suck all the goodness out of life today. And with any luck, I will be here to write about my 77th birthday next year, with lots more good memories.