At the beginning of time, the clock struck one.
Down dropped the dew, and the clock struck two.
From the dew grew a tree, and the clock struck three.
The tree made a door, and the clock struck four.
Man came alive, and the clock struck five.
Count not, waste not, the years on the clock. Behold I stand at the door and knock.Eric Lomax – 1995
There are times in our lives when inevitability and expectation crash together and we’re forced to accept that it’s inevitability that has the best odds. In a fleeting moment, circumstances and life take a sharp curve at a bad angle and suddenly we’re not as surefooted as we may have believed we once were. People in our lives, no, important people in our lives die, and we’re left behind trying to figure out what it all means to us, what we’re supposed to do, and more importantly what are we still capable of doing without them.
In the outrageously short span of a couple weeks, someone in your life who is outwardly strong, weakens and dies. My mom’s husband of thirty-two years, Bill, died last week. He’d been a part of our family story far longer than our own deceased father. There were some good memories and some bad too but this is not really a story about Bill; its about me and you.
Emily, my wife, is probably reading this right now and saying, “of course, its about you”, and she’d be right of course, but I’m still determined to move forward with the usual piles of babble and gibberish I normally produce anyway, ignoring all the subtle innuendo and eye-rolling. Without any benefit of having a cadre of literary fans, I’m merely forced to live up to my own expectations which aren’t really all that high – so read this at your own risk.
So if Bill isn’t the subject of this blog, why are we all here; all seven or eight of us? Well, it’s complicated. The easiest way I can explain it is that I’m a person who normally lives in my head and right now I really need to be living inside my heart. I think a lot of people, like myself, go into our heads when we’re sad or wounded because we think we’re smart and we need answers, or we want to take prisoners and need to build places to put them.
But sometimes a person just needs to get out of their head and into their feelings. The problem is that my feelings have grown an entire pant size since I last wore them. Alas, at the age of 54 I’m suddenly realizing the true value of stretch pants. I should be thankful that hearts aren’t made to stretch like old-man-jeans or else I may be tempted to live more comfortably in my heart, defeating the purpose of being born with a Y chromosome.
The overriding and principle motivation for this blog being that I really just want my mom to be OK. This is her second husband to leave her behind and I can’t imagine the experience of uncertainty and grief that she must be experiencing right now. If your life is lived a certain way, perhaps very independently, and something like this happens, it turns your world upside down because you can’t help but to visualize your life exactly as it has thus far been lived – only without your partner in tow or pulling the plow.
Those are valid thoughts and for many people who don’t have children or family to step up and into new roles, these kinds of fears can become our realities. But losing a spouse at an advanced age doesn’t necessarily put you in some predetermined box, especially if you have important things you want to do or say or be. You’re only limited by your thoughts; its the same for 8 year old’s as it is for 80 year old’s.
While the moment is emotionally overwhelming, yes, time itself is not necessarily definitive. Who better to reinvent or reinvigorate their lives than a mature person who could give a rat’s ass about what other people think of them? Sometimes, you don’t need a plan, you just need to breathe, let go, and see what happens.
Maturity is the great equalizer isn’t it – you can finally take advantage of it. If life isn’t or hasn’t been giving you things to look forward to, do things or say things or write things that frame what precious moments you have left of your life in a way that is truly worthy of how you want others to know you – and look forward to whatever new beginnings you choose to cultivate.
Crisis need not be the catalyst for growth or change, but it sure does bring things into perspective. The selfish side of my personality is excited about having my mom all to myself again but the nicer of my temperaments ache for her as she so obviously craves some higher level of acuity as to her near and distant futures. It’s a challenge to find the right words sometimes, when you know someone you love needs to hear something they can cling to – or most importantly, believes.
Did I mention that one of my best life-long friends passed away last week too? Yeah, that one was a real kick in the gut. I think he deserves his own blog so I don’t want to wallow around in the emotion of all of that in this story and I don’t want to diminish the importance of the message I’m trying to convey here either. Everything in its own time right?
What can I say, I was moved by the Eric Lomax poem above. Even more so, after reading about his amazing life, his struggles, and most importantly his ultimate answer to the chaos that haunted him for years.
I don’t want to spoil the story yet, so I’ll let you discover this interesting fellow/poet on your own. His words were just so poignant to what I’m attempting say here. I’m challenging you to read that poem 5 times in a row when you’ve finished this blog, just to let the words sink deep.
Poems are like song lyrics, they mean different things to different people; each of us clinging to the crypto-dubious words and our own truths simultaneously. I could go on to tell you that there’s a religious experience buried in there but that’s just me. Regardless of where it grabs you; let it grab you.
So let’s sum this thing up so that Emily will actually read the whole thing. We’re all getting old. Time is ticking for the 5 year old and it’s ticking for the 50 year old’s. Although the damned clock continues to tick, it also tocks…, tock rhymes with rock so lets rock shall we? There are only so many summers left and I intend not to waste them being old.
I don’t want you to waste yours just being the old chic either. Don’t be old, be vast and brilliant and expressive. Or you can be one of those fake palm reader persons, OR, you could be an old lady prostitute if you want, just be and be happy being. Life is short; so damned short, even on it’s longest days. Life and time are not about existing, it’s about living. You can do this; we can do this together.