It’s easy at 62 to look backward. Most of my life is behind me. And wistfulness seems to increase with age. As a younger person, I used to be amused by my older relatives who talked about a loaf of bread costing a nickel and the good, clean fun of a high school sock hop. Too, I was disdainful of the white-haired patrons in the grocery store, who’d congregate in the aisles to prattle on about their latest medical procedure. Surely, I thought, not without smugness, you have something more interesting to discuss.
As always, karma has the last laugh. Now, I remember when a gallon of gas cost thirty cents, and I told someone just the other day about the bone spur on my left knee! I catch myself reminiscing more and more frequently and sometimes wonder if this means that the joy and optimism of my salad days are truly gone. Sure, retirement planners encourage people my age to enjoy our “golden years,” but is that just a euphemism for a settling into a Florida condo with a cocktail in one hand and a shuffleboard cue-stick in the other?
On the good days, which are plentiful, I do know life has more in store for me, and vice versa. One of the plusses to being a writer is longevity. As long as I can see and type and use my brain, I can write; I won’t age out. This doesn’t guarantee relevancy, but it certainly gives me something to do every day.
On the handful of not-to-good days, I can dwell on that relevancy, that elusive sense of purpose. I’m running out of time, I tell myself. Am I doing what I want to be doing? What is even available to me now? I’m not going to start a new career at my age. I’m not going to run a marathon. What, if any, avenues are open to an older person in a youth-centric culture?
And then I opened the New York Times one Sunday several months ago and read an article by popular blogger Tim Urban: https://www.nytimes.com/2022/02/25/opinion/covid-pandemic-depressing-math.html. When I first looked his graphic, I saw the black-inked life pathways that are closed to me, and thought about all the choices I didn’t make or take, some for a reason and some by default. This saddened me – momentarily. Because my eyes quickly found the green-inked side, with the numerous life pathways still open to me, and I immediately saw and understood just how many options are available. The graphic, which I cut out of the newspaper and taped to my computer screen, tells me – tells all of us – that we have choices, lots them. Like the branches of a tree emanating from a single trunk (or moment) and reaching into the sky.
If I’m here twenty years from now, I’ll still have choices, no matter what the cost of a loaf of bread.