A few days before the new chapter would unfold. The new year was beckoning. The old one was not even looking back. We would mark our mortality with another wrinkle while defying time with toasts and happy wishes. Still, when the last drop of champagne had been consumed, a sobering thought cleared the shortening road. Each one must pass.
The young and the dreamers contended that years were but numbers invented by men who thought they could measure life. The fallacy of trying to understand the riddle no body could even ask. Was age the stick to fathom the depth of one’s life? Or were years contentious mileposts at the mercy of waves, wind and merciless fate?
In the midst of food, laughter and merry making, a question was asked: “When did you grow old?”
A young woman of forty said she measured her years after she turned 21. So at forty, she is 19 years old. Still too young to consider age.
A mother said she is old at 65 because her body told her so. That physical deterioration and sickness made her realize that time had passed.
A daughter tearfully said when her father got sick. That age showed in all its might and foreboding that it could take anybody away, even one that she loved so much.
A doting mother of a seven year old said, she had done so much, experienced so much, traveled to a lot more countries than most of her peers, got married, had a child, divorced and had gone thru a lot more before she turned thirty. Was she old at 34? Age was experience. It was living. To live fully each year was growing old.
A young doctor who just turned fifty said he was old when he realized his mother was dead. That he was old when he grew up not knowing how to have a mother. And damn that question for being asked.
The almost emptynester mom said no she was not old yet. She did not feel it nor thought about it and punctuated such with a hearty laugh.
The newly retired doctor said he grew old last week when his boyfriend of years said he was leaving. That he was not happy and that he wanted to go back to New York. The doctor said he would not stop him nor beg for him to stay. Love could not be forced and life must go on.
The college kid said he was old when he realized he was depressed at fifteen. That accepting the circumstances, the why’s and the causes was the first step in finding a cure. He was old beyond his years.
The only son’s mother said she grew old when he left to chart his own life. That as a mother, the hardest decision was to let go. That she as a parent desired success and academic achievements for him not realizing that such were primarily for herself. That now, all she wished and prayed for him were that he be happy, content, self-sufficient and honorable.
I looked back to who I was to answer the question. I was old at seven when I first heard from my uncles and aunts that I better make something out of myself or my siblings would be out of luck. I was the first born. By virtue of my birth order, childhood was not part of my life. Still like the song, if “youth did not happen in your young time, have it when you’re old”. So I would have youth in my granddaughter’s search for wonder and her unfolding innocence. I would try to catch dragonflies in the summer and would lie on the green grass gazing at the heavens while making wishes for every falling star. I would fall in love with my only one everyday, every second without restrictions, without reservations, in total abandon. And I would always see my two daughters and my only son as my babies regardless of age and circumstance. I might had grown old a long time ago yet the fading light would only result in the darkness if I closed my eyes. Such would still be my choice.