And you may ask yourself, well
How did I get here?
While swimming the other morning, I pondered the very young lifeguards (probably local community college students), and wondered what they make of the grey-haired swimmers who populate the pool most mornings.
Given that 40-year-olds seemed impossibly old and barely worthy of my notice when I was 20, I imagine the lifeguards view us (who are well beyond 40) as ancient and not meriting a thought beyond making sure we don’t drown.
I think about these young lifeguards as I prepare to travel east for my 50-year high-school reunion. I will come back to the lifeguards in a moment, but allow me to first share my initial reaction to the notices I received about the reunion.
Astonishment--plain and simple.
How did I get here? How is it possible that I have a history that stretches back 50 years and more? Where did the time go? When I expressed this sentiment to a daughter recently, she insisted that I am still young, and kindly added that I look younger than I am.
I think she may have missed the point. (How could she not? She is 29).
Regardless of how I look or feel (fine, thank you), the years ahead are looking more finite. When I was very young, the end of life was a distant fog. I understood that it would come, but it was so far away—old age itself seemed so improbable--that it hardly warranted my attention.
In mid-life, I had young children and was too busy to think much about the end. It was out there, but I had daughters to raise and a job to go to.
But now. Now, I have reached the point where the end has weight and heft. It is in sight. It may not come for 30 more years – my family is long-lived – but it is clear that it will come.
I do not write about this because I am afraid. I am not. Nor am I unhappy. I am just surprised. Closely following upon my surprise is gratitude. I am grateful to have made it this far -- I love my life.
Here is what those young lifeguards can’t see and won’t know for a very long time. We 60-somethings may not look like much, but my life and the lives of my friends are rich and full of meaning.
And we have something those lifeguards don’t have.
We have time.
Does it seem odd that I say we have time right after saying that it has been 50 years since high school? Well, of course, I don’t mean that we have endless years stretching ahead, but while those years last, we do have time.
If we had kids, they are grown. Most of us have seen our parents through their final years. If we are fortunate, our 30- or 40- or 50-hour-a-week work is done. We can now take up paid or volunteer work that feeds our souls.
We have time to do the things that we love. To write or to garden or to paint. We have time to travel. To read. To take classes.
For me, the two most precious things for which I have time are relationships and the causes that were given short shrift during mid-life. I can hang out with friends or daughters or grandkids. I have time to do things with my husband. And I am delighted to be able to devote time to the social justice activities that are dear to my heart.
When I retired, a friend said to me, “We have had our cake. These years are the icing.” So, I don’t envy those lifeguards their youth. I had mine. And I don’t mind that I am all but invisible to them. I am too busy enjoying the icing, and I intend to continue to do so for as long as I am able.