Time flies when you’re having fun! I celebrated my fiftieth high school class reunion last October. This year marks the fiftieth anniversary of the Beatles groundbreaking masterpiece Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Heart’s Club Band. I’ve been attending countless seventieth birthday parties for friends. We are nearing the time when it will have been half a century since we traveled to the moon. News clips from my teenage years look like ancient history, and I find myself explaining what life was like back then to my grandchildren as though I am speaking of the Middle Ages.
Of course all of it seems like yesterday to me. I can’t imagine where the time went or how my contemporaries became so gray. I remember my biology teacher telling me that one day I might begin to shrink as my bones aged. I found his conversation to be bizarre at the time but now I measure my height and find that I have lost two and a half inches to the effects of osteoporosis. The arthritis in my knees has caused my legs to bow. My hair is thinner than it once was. My face is beginning to wrinkle. Time has visibly changed me and my long time friends, just as it has done to people for centuries. Our aging is as inevitable as the rising of the sun.
I do my best to stay in concert with the times. I had a great role model for that in my grandfather who read voraciously and interacted with the young people from his church often enough to keep his fingers on the pulse of the world. I myself attempt to be informed by staying involved with friends of all ages. I like to travel and observe. Much as my grandfather did, I read constantly. I talk with my grandchildren to learn about the current state of things.
Still I have a very difficult time accepting that I have traveled through so many decades. In my mind everything happened to me only yesterday. I suppose that I view myself as a fresh faced twenty year old rather than someone nearing her sixty ninth birthday. I literally forget that I am old in the eyes of most individuals until I experience the deference that people so respectfully give to senior citizens. I realize that nobody needs to check my driver’s license anymore to determine if I am of age. I often shock myself when I glance in a mirror. It takes me a second to recognize the older woman whose image is reflected in the glass. My brain and my body seem almost to be at odds.
What is the most remarkable to me is how quickly I have rushed through the many phases and milestones of living. I have been so busy that I hardly took time to notice the clock or the calendar. I’m still mentally sitting in a rocking chair holding my babies and singing to them, but the reality is that both of my girls are middle aged women with children of their own who are rapidly nearing adulthood.
I remember my first day of teaching as though it happened only minutes ago. I can see my students sitting expectantly in front of me not knowing that my heart was beating with fears that I would not be able to provide them with the guidance that they needed. One group after another came to me and I poured out my knowledge and my love in the hopes that I might somehow make a difference in their lives. All the while the clock was ticking and I never took note until one day I was walking away from a career that I so loved and handing over my responsibilities to a younger generation.
Wasn’t it just last night when I married the man who has been my best friend for decades? When did we come to think in tandem, so much so that we complete sentences for one another and read each other’s minds? How is it that he still makes me catch my breath now and again when I see him and realize that he has loved me faithfully for so many years? I can’t believe that I have lived with him longer than I did with my parents.
The world keeps turning through its twenty four hour cycles, its three hundred sixty five day years. We work and play, celebrate and grieve. We are but a small part of a history that moves relentlessly forward. What seemed like forever when I was a child now feels too quick. I want to squeeze every single drop out of time and all too often I feel rushed in my efforts. There is so much more that I want to see and do and experience. I worry that I won’t get to everything on my bucket list. I tell myself to slow down and linger longer over the moments that I have.
I more and more find myself enjoying the slower quieter times. Spending a few hours with my father-in-law seems like a gift. Sitting in my garden watching the birds is more exciting than attending a concert. Perhaps this is a sign of age, or maybe it simply means that I have learned to value simplicity and the true essence of living.
I think of walks that I took with my grandmother in the hills behind her farm. We did little more than stroll under the shade of ancient trees listening for the songs of the birds and breathing in the fragrances of the grasses and wildflowers. We were quiet and deliberate in our personal journey as though ours was some sacred quest not to be rushed or intruded upon. My grandmother was in her eighties by then. She had developed a wisdom that I did not yet completely understand or appreciate. It would be years before I would look back on the simple conversations that we shared and understand their importance.
Each day, each minute is precious. We take time for granted when instead we should treasure it. It won’t be long till we are wistfully looking back and wondering where it all went. If we have used our hours well we will also be able to point with pride to the purposes that we have fulfilled.