|I overheard a conversation in the waiting room of our local doctor's office. The clinic has existed in our community for as long as I can remember. According to my grandkids, I'm a classic. Anyway, a delightful elderly lady sat across from me and was talking to her friend. I wasn't trying to eavesdrop, but sometimes they spoke loud enough I couldn't help to hear.
She is over eighty years old and a breast cancer survivor. She visits her husband every day. He doesn't know who she is anymore. In her words, "We're like old friends that haven't seen each other in years." She spoke with dignity and confidence. The sadness was concealed by the well-practiced and rehearsed statements. Her smile lit up her face making a younger shadow of herself visible.
The doctor was running behind as usual. A much younger man was getting more annoyed as the minutes passed. Drinking from a water bottle, he made a display and loud crunching noises crushing the bottle to throw it away.
Jo, the older lady's name, looked at me with an unapproving grimace, quickly changing into a bright smile. She raised an eyebrow, "To be young again." Then turned back to her friend.
The exchange started me thinking, "to be young again?" With or without the knowledge that comes with experience? I wondered, would I make different choices? Would being 17 and indestructible be as much fun if I knew my back would require surgery years later? Or, backtalking a teacher in high school or stealing bubble gum in kindergarten? Would the false satisfaction of the moment be the same? Lastly, would the hurtful words, spreading rumors, or inappropriate innuendos still feel worth the effort and effects?
On the other hand. What would I have the courage to speak to the "little red-haired girl" in school? What about standing in front of the student body giving some grand speech. Maybe, I would appreciate my parents more. Possibly, spend more time with my grandparents?
Mark Twain said, "Youth is wasted on the young." After my contemplation, I am not sure his statement is true. Maybe, "Youth is wasted by the young."
We all equate to the sum of our experiences. Good experiences cannot exist if there are no bad ones. Unfortunately, you have to hurt someone deeply to learn the lesson of how easy it is to do. How difficult it is to undo.
The reality of mortality is acquired. When realizing aging is an adventure. Don't get me wrong. I am not advocating death-defying activities. I am just saying, youth without experience does provide a certain amount of freedom and daring.
The question also entered my mind, "To be young today." I guess each generation feels sorry for the newest. My grandparents told me stories about growing up. Fishing and hunting, or as they like to put it, "grocery shopping." Grandma would tell about getting a pair of shoes each year. She only wore shoes to school and church, not always to school. Grandpa ran a trap line when he was nine. His family used the furs he harvested to barter for needed items.
My parents, aunts, and uncles, their stories revolved more around sports and military service. They talked about gardens and swimming in the stock pond. Riding horses in rodeos or building hot rod cars.
Myself, I carried over a hundred pounds of newspapers on my bicycle twice a week. Or spend half a day mowing lawns for a few dollars. Then the other half at the local swimming pool. Or hang out with friends building a treehouse having imaginary adventures until the streetlights came on. We rode dirt bikes instead of horses.
My grandkids stare at a small computer screen. Dress up in costumes to stay inside watching never-ending TV. They only eat food from packages with writing on the side describing chemical concoctions. The strangest look I ever got from one of these youngins was when I asked them to drink from a water hose. You would have thought I asked them to drink from a used toilet.
"To be young again." Now? Then? Some other time? Do it all over aging from scratch? Or, know what I know now?
Any of the options would mean become a different person. That is another question. Would I be better? How would the butterfly effect change the people around me? Change me! Would the changes be worth a do-over? Are fate and destiny predetermined? Meaning nothing would change.
There is a lesson we can all take from the young. "Enjoy the moment." Children know these moments without knowing they do. That magical moment when a child receives the perfect gift. The scary roller coaster ride. The wonder of watching ants. The mystery watching grandma sew and the awe of grandpa fixes a bicycle.
Maybe what aging takes from us are those moments. They get replaced with time, good times, and bad times blurring the moments. Like any older mind, mine tends to wander around tangents and sidebars. The thought, "To be young again," has brought back those moments I mentioned earlier. Maybe, just maybe, the eighty-year-old was not referring to repeating youth. But, instead, enjoy the youthful moments no matter your age.
Stop contemplating time gone and start reveling in the current moments. Use childlike delight and courageous fear. When you laugh, laugh so hard you cry. And, when you cry, cry so hard you laugh.