Much to fix, little time
I live now on borrowed time, waiting in the anteroom for the summons that will inevitably come. And then – I go on to the next thing, whatever it is. One doesn’t luckily have to bother about that.
Agatha Christie (1890 – 1976),
Getting old changes many things. I’ve ranted about many of them from time to time. You get fat. You get clumsy. You look like shit and everything hurts. It is frustrating and there isn’t a darned thing you can do about it. About all you can do is to stay away from mirrors and cameras. You may be able to forget about the ravages of time but unfortunately you can’t do anything about how you look to others. They see you for what you are – an old guy and act accordingly. People treat you like an old guy instead of a regular human being. There isn’t much you can do short of becoming a hermit so you ignore them and pretend you are still 40. You move on.
It’s more than wrinkles.
But your physical appearance isn’t the only thing to change. Something else changes that is much harder to finesse. Deep down in your soul you know the clock is ticking and that the end is coming. You can’t help taking stock of your life. What have you accomplished ? Who will miss you when you move on? What difference did your life make – to anyone? Finally when you discover that you don’t have much to report you ask what you can do before you can’t do any more. It’s not a pleasant process.
In my youth, there was always time. If I didn’t do it now then there was always tomorrow and there were plenty of tomorrows. There was time to prepare, research, abort and start again. Nothing was urgent.
In old age that changes.
Your days are numbered. You finally realize that every day left is a bonus. If you want to add to your accomplishments, you can’t waste a second. If you are ever to accomplish the things you have deferred, you have to act fast. You might have tomorrow but next year is always iffy. You understand that you have to amend the saying ‘If it is to be, it is up to me.” You need to add ‘and it has to happen now.”
I find that there isn’t much in my life that satisfies me. I haven’t been the man, the husband, the father I might have been and wanted to be. What was I thinking all this time? Where were my priorities? I wonder how I could have been so selfish. How can I justify being careless and lazy?
Looking forward, I wonder if I have enough time to make things better. They say that youth is wasted on the young. Perhaps, but it is too late to do anything about it now. What I ponder these days is whether old age is wasted on the old. Will my acceptance that my time is limited rev my engines? Will I finally become the man I ought to be? What can I do with the remaining time I have to move on with the satisfaction of a job well done?
That is the big surprise about getting old. It’s the thing that nobody talks about and the biggest downer.