Confessions of a 70 year old.
Today is Søren Kierkegaard's birthday. That is note-worthy for this blog as it was Kierkegaard who noted that “life must be understood backwards. But then one forgets the other principle: that is must be lived forwards.”
To put that philosophic thought another way, we have the Pennsylvania Dutch expression: we grow too soon old, and too late schmart.
This year, I celebrated my 70th birthday. I was born in February, just months before the close of World War II. Of course, I don't remember that event, but the proximity of my birth to the end of the last world war helps frame the span of my life. It also means that I was on the cusp of the Boomer generation.
So by now, I should have the “understanding life” part down. I do have a few confessions that perhaps have come with looking back over life and understanding it:
1. I don’t feel 70. While I have no desire to be a 20 or 30 year old again, and while I have certainly matured, my inner sense is not all that different from what it was decades ago.2. I don’t look 70. I recently had a conversation with someone who had come to do some work at our house. In the course of the conversation, I noted that my husband and I have lived in our house for 35 years--whereupon the worker asked how old I was. I replied--70. In response to my reply, the worker burst out--NO WAY. Then he asked how I managed to not look 70. The answer is: good genes; good luck; and no smoking. Of course, I could be like a well-preserved antique car that, suddenly one day, has all its wheels fall off.3. And I feel 70. OK, so this contradicts # 1 above. Let's just say my MIND feels young, while my body throws in an occasional creak and moan to say "Not so fast."OK—enough of confessions.
Here’s another part of growing older. There is a somewhat tired joke that the first thing one does in the morning is read the obituaries—if your name isn’t there, go ahead and make a cup of coffee. Well, I do confess to reading the obituaries. Having lived in one place for 50 of these 70 years, there are many names I recognize. And occasionally, someone’s death is recorded and I write a note to the ones who remain behind.
It isn’t so much that growing old makes you think more often of death—although of course you do because—well, because it’s inevitable. That’s one of the understanding life insights. What I do think of is that the passing of a person from this life leaves behind a void. And for a time, loved ones and acquaintances remember. And then we fade from view.
I want to note in particular a recent death of a blogging friend—Philip Robinson. I never met Philip in person, but through his blog I learned to value this singular person. His blog—entitled Tossing Pebbles (which is still available to read) reveals a man with a wide array of interests. Through his blog I learned that he was a father who raised a son virtually alone; that he was a very proud grandfather to three accomplished grandchildren. I learned that he was interested in and dedicated to subsistence living—I shuddered every year when I read his blog about chopping enough wood to see him through a northern Canadian winter. He was passionate about history and about politics. It was always a delight to read his thoughts in any given blog post.
Now, he has died. He learned in January that he had pancreatic cancer, and even though he had surgery and received good medical care, this aggressive disease overwhelmed the best efforts.
Living life forward, understanding life backwards. Thus it ever was. Or as my Pennsylvania Dutch ancestors might say “too soon old, too late schmart."