When did we get 'old?'
We cycle through the seasons on a yearly basis
caught up in rain puddles, swimming pools,
falling leaves, and ice. Some years swirl by so quickly
we miss the green tinge of new leaves and lilacs--
never noticing that the late frost cooled the bloomings down
until a month later. Autumn approaches and we never
went swimming. December looms and we never saw
the foliage. Missed appointments, viruses, lost masks
get in the way, blocking our vision.
We cycle through the seasons of our lives
without a second thought. College to career,
career to marriage to children to everything else. Back
in my spring, I remember seeing (in passing) old folks. They didn't
hurry through their days, walked slower, wouldn't dream
of random, impulsive cartwheels. They seemed paler,
the exuberance I lived having drained, leaving an insipid
dullness behind. A grey and wrinkled facade that
reminded me of my grandparents. That season
was so far off in the future it didn't bear thinking about.
We missed the summer in raising children to adults
who flew off, leaving their nests without a backward glance
intent on their own springs of independence. Empty
nests reorganized, repurposed to suit changes we
were not even cognizant of. Life cycled onward, passing
with increased speed. I remember youthful summers
that stretched on to infinity, crashing to an end when
Labor Day arrived with new clothes, school supplies
and the new year beginning -- because back then,
September was the beginning of a year; not January.
We missed months of spinning days lost in the clutter
of busy lives without enough time to breathe. Ignoring
changes we hid grey hair beneath youthful colors,
had affairs with I. Buprophen, blamed the weather
for aching joints or migraines. We didn't change.
We were in control of our lives working down mortgages,
planning for that future that was still far off on the horizon.
Friends came and went and came again; catching up
on Facebook, exchanging info a twitter at a time.
We'd learned computers and watched our world
morph and change, rearrange and then realign
with new rules and expectations. Reverting to ourselves
behind closed doors over evening cups of coffee,
the dog at our feet. Long days tired us and bedtime crept
earlier with jokes of remembering never wanting
to go to bed when the sun was still up: lying there
cozied in for the night because the alarm goes off at four.
Friends came and left us far too soon. Family reunions
over funereal food before dashing back into the fray.
Barely were the days noticed getting longer when
they shrank back and time after work was shortened
in the rush to get everything done. Which we didn't
and we'd shrug and say tomorrow. And then realize
that was several months ago. Years seem to pass
as months once did and we talk of the time-stealers
seeking entire weeks away from us because time
now seems to fly on blurry wings. It was just ... and now
it's ... how can this possibly be?
A stroke of good fortune had us off on a vacation
of our lives. Three years between trips flew,
then crawled as we counted down the days to another trip.
The second trip we sipped whereas the first we guzzled down
the scenery with our mai tais. Returning home after
was far more exhausting and we were puzzled.
We simply didn't comprehend, then, that we weren't
thirty or forty anymore. Minds still young caught in bodies
that weren't -- no matter how much we tried not to see.
A stroke between trips scared us into acknowledging
we were on the downhill slide. Can't go out and buy
new brakes for this vehicle. Milestone birthdays
approached us. Thoughts of hitting seventy were
quite literally mind-blowing in their realization. babysitting
a great-grndchild wore us out; reminded us of working
full-time jobs, taking care of kids, and then playing
roadie until the wee hours were morning and that same
day continued for another twenty-four hours without
sleep and it barely fazed us. We shook our heads.
Somewhere along the way, when we weren't looking
and without our noticing that it was creeping, insidiously,
upon us, we were suddenly old. We slammed the door
in its face but it oozed in through the cracks beneath
and slithered in through the creaks in our joints.
Time condensed with a sound far louder than
the biggest clap of thunder ever made. A sonic boom
of epic proportions. We were in our winter
and when spring came it would be in another realm.
Somewhere along the way, even though now we see,
we adjusted. My husband brings me lilacs and we inhale
the heady fragrance. We listen to our granddaughter's
moans and groans of being tired and just laugh.
She has no more clue than we did. We think of our
parents and marvel at the incredible beings they were.
They inspire us anew. And a friend of ours who
is eighty-nine laughs at us. Isn't it marvelous?
Perhaps winter is a longer season than most
in that as we move slower through our days
that time, too, begins to move in smaller increments.
Maybe, it is just that we appreciate the moments
more and don't let them get lost in the shuffle.
We set our clocks to our time, adjust the chores
to different schedules - throw the time-clock
into the trash where it belongs.
Perhaps winter is warmer now. We think so.
We take the time now: him to work on a project
long-delayed, me to write a poem when it sings
in my mind. The important stuff is different from
what it once was. Our time together at the end
of the day is sacrosanct. We smile and laugh over
the little things that grow in importance. These
things were every bit as vital back in the day:
we just didn't realize it then. We do now.