Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Time out

Quiet contemplation seems appropriate when another birthday passes into the used column of the ledger that records such occurrences.  Those birthdays are inevitable.  Whether we celebrate them or deny them, the only way to really appreciate the gift they are, is to embrace them and accept each one as a milestone as it is entered into the diary of your life. Time waits for no man.  Those sometime dreaded birthdays are going to keep coming, but considering the alternative, we should welcome them as a mark of distinction.  We've made it this far navigating the twists and turns and directional choices we made when we came to each of the intersections along the road of life and that is quite an accomplishment.

As I enter into the 70th year of my current life, I am able to look back with amazement that I have made it this far down my life's timeline. I don't come from a family whose longevity is anything to brag about. My father died at the age of 58 and my mother lived to nearly seventy, but using them to gauge my anticipated life span would be making a mistake since neither one of them died of "natural" causes. Both died after lengthy illnesses and much suffering. If we look at both sides of my extended family, the picture isn't bleak, filled with short lived people, nor is it exceptional for containing above average life spans. My father had two older brothers, one who lived into his late seventies and died of heart failure (I think), and one who was murdered when he was about 73 ( that is a fascinating story, one I will share with you some other time) I had one cousin among my paternal relatives who died in his sixties (at least I think that's correct.) But using him as a judge of life expectancy wouldn't work, since he was a smoker and a heavy drinker, and we all know what those two bad habits can skew the average Iife-time equation of the rest of the family.  On my mother's side of the family we find a similar pattern of shortened lifespans that will make the average skew lower than we would hope it to be.  My mother was one of six siblings, all of whom died after a bout with cancer of one kind or another.  Both of my maternal grandparents lived long and mostly healthy lives--my grandfather, I think, was in his late seventies when he died and grandma lived to age 93. Given their long lives it is comforting to think that my two older sisters and I could expect to live long lives as long as we avoid the bad habits and illnesses that claimed the generation before us.

Time marches on ignoring our complaint that time isn't marching, it is flying.  We would like to call a time out on occasion just to get some rest and get our timing back.  We can look back in time and see where we went wrong, or right, while we have no choice but to realize that hindsight is always 20/20.  Sometimes  20/20 agrees with our memories of time gone by. But often our memories are at odds with our hindsight, leaving us to wade through the ever growing pile of regret every time we look back in time.

When I think of all the decisions I've made during my tenure among the current crop of beings, I can't help wondering how different my life would have been if I had made a left turn instead of a right turn back at that intersection I encountered when I was 12, or maybe it was when I was 16, or 18.  The point is that we all make decisions every day that have a bearing on the rest of our lives. Hundreds, no thousands, of like decisions that followed that one fateful turn in the road and made me into the creature that stands, for good or bad, before you now.

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