By Bob Chrisman
Last fall, determined to catch the color changes in the leaves, I watched them turn from green to yellow, orange, and red. I would sit on the window seat in the front room and write about the colors.
One day…suddenly it seemed…the leaves had all turned. When did it happen? I had been watching everyday.
I sat in the window seat even more determined to watch the leaves fall. Occasionally a leaf would let go of the branch and float to the ground to join other leaves. I didn’t remember all of those leaves on the ground yesterday. Did they fall during the night so no one would realize that winter waited around the corner?
One morning I looked out and found that almost all of the leaves lay in yards and in the street. Again I had missed the time it happened.
Growing older has worked just like that. One day I noticed a gray hair. The next day a whole head of gray hair greeted me as I looked in the bathroom mirror. A single wrinkle on my forehead disappeared among the many lines that developed overnight. My varicose vein on my right thigh became a veritable road map of veins. My waistline doubled in size.
I felt old, but only in my body. Then older crept into my mind.
A few months before I retired, an employee appeared in my office. “Great music. Who is it?”
“Soooooooo? Is she from your generation?” My generation? I recoiled at the idea that I had joined a generation.
“Don’t you remember ‘Downtown’? ‘The Other Man’s Grass is Always Greener’?” I searched my mind for other titles.
She put her hands on her hips. “No, I don’t know her. And don’t you dare ask me where I was when John Kennedy was assassinated. I wasn’t even born yet.”
Thus I came to the knowledge that many of my cultural references meant nothing to a lot of the people who worked with me. I had grown old.
I never thought I would live past 40, but that birthday came and went. Turning 50 changed the way I viewed myself. No longer young, middle age had overtaken me. I celebrated the 56th anniversary of my birth last Saturday. I may live to see 60.
I am older.
But, you know what? I like it. Despite the aches in my joints when the weather turns damp and cool like today, not feeling like a part of the current culture frees me to do what I want to do without worrying about what other people will think of me. Maybe this “getting older” thing will free me from most of my inhibitions.
The rules have changed. I am old and can do what I want with my life. I don’t have family to account to. My friends won’t be surprised by what I do (well, most of them won’t).
Because I am older, I know now that I have a very short time to live. I must get on with my life’s purpose (whatever that may be), not because I’m desperate, but because I want to do the things I came to do. I want to live each moment regardless of how many I may have left.
Older has become the sand rushing downward through the neck of the hour glass. Older has restored the preciousness of this life. Older is what I am right now.
Bob Chrisman is a Kansas City, Missouri writer whose piece Hands, about his mother’s hands, appeared last month on red Ravine. Growing Older is based on a writing practice that Bob did on WRITING TOPIC – GROWING OLDER.