The Weight of Age (Written February 7, 2019)
I’ve seen hours grow to days and eventually years,
Seen kids grow up and start jobs and conquer their fears,
Watched trees that once were as short as me grow tall into the sky,
And sometimes that passing time shows in my tired eyes.
But if even one so young as I can feel the years press down,
Can feel the many memories at times pull my smile to a frown,
If just my few goodbyes I’ve said can tug my heart like this,
My so few yeaterdays leave so very much to miss,
Then what must it be to grow to a ripe old age?
To see years turn to decades and lives turn their final page?
To have seen trees grow old, cut down, and built into a home,
And to see that home grow old itself, and plant new trees of its own?
If the weight of the few years I’ve lived can make me tired, and sometimes sad,
From just knowing what has ended for me, both the good things and the bad,
Then what must a person think and feel when they’ve lived so many more years,
And what, I wonder, must it be for them to carry their sorrows and their fears?
“Is it fair to have given us the memory of what was and the desire of what could be when we must suffer what is?” -Neil Jordan
I was thinking about this the other day. The choir I belong to went caroling at a retirement home during Christmas time and we got to talk to this man who was 109 (I think?) and who had been all over the world and done all these amazing things. Then, the other day, my little brother was watching a WWII documentary, and it just got me really thinking.
Even for me, and I am still quite young, I feel how much the world has changed during my life. When I was a kid it was very uncommon for a student to have a cellphone, even up through college (where I was, at least). The internet was not really a big deal, and you certainly didn’t spend a lot of time on it in a normal day. If you went outside on a sunny day you were likely to run into, or St least see, most people likewise enjoying the weather- barbequing, playing catch in their front yards, things like that. Personally? We used to play foursquare, and anyone passing by could join it. (Foursquare is the perfect game for that, by the way. Super easy basic gameplay, and no huge advantage to being bigger or smaller. Plus, if someone was having a drink while enjoying the sun, that didn’t stop them from playing.) It was tons of fun.
Now, given the world of electronics having expanded in the truly explosive way it has, it is more common to find people enjoying a movie on a nice day. There is a whole new world to explore in the internet, after all, perhaps even many. So society adjusts to that.
So. If that massive shift is something that is continuing to strike me, and I am still quite young, then what must it be for someone who has lived 50 years longer than me? How many other things have shifted during their lives?
And it’s not just societal shifts that matter, either. I’m not notably social, and I’ve grown up somewhere where my classmates were with me from kindergarten through college, and their parents went to the same school, and so did their parents. Most people I’ve known are people my kids will know, too. It’s not normal for people to totally drop off the map. And even in a place like this, even when I’ve hardly had two decades to build and lose relationships, I still feel the weight of all the goodbyes I’ve had to say. So how much greater is that weight for someone 10, 20, 30 years older than me?
Not just goodbyes, either. I had this pair of shoes that I really loved. They fell apart, eventually, despite my best efforts. Or, we used to have these Christmas ornaments that looked like bubbles, and my brother dropped the last one and broke it. When I was in middle school the discipline system was based off demerits, and the kids now weren’t even sure what those were. There was this show that we used to watch called Survivor Man, and I thought (still do, in fact) that it was the coolest thing- none of my students even know what it is.
Things change as time goes by. Stupid, simple, pointless things. But they build up, don’t they? And all the sudden you notice all those unimportant little things that changed were actually all the things that made up something really important to you, and you just couldn’t see it until they were all gone. And if I’ve already experienced so much of that, then how much must my grandpa have experienced?
I wonder what it must feel like to be old enough to feel the world turning?
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