Monday, March 7, 2011

A Strange Place in Life

My son comes home for spring break this week, the last one of his college career. I’m not quite sure how I should feel about this. Part of me is eternally grateful that the tortured years of relentless tuition bill paying are drawing to a close. Another part of me is feeling a loss of something. Maybe once the last college bill is paid I will no longer have children. I will instead have a grown son and a grown daughter and that feels like a loss.

I am at a strange place in life. I seem suddenly aware of the march of time and its effects on who I am. There is a physical dimension to it, I have more wrinkles, more gray hairs, and I notice almost daily some new rude diminishment of strength or agility. More troubling however are the changes I notice in the world around me, both real and perhaps imagined. I have watched the painful physical and mental decline of my father, a man of legendary strength, energy and good cheer who now shuffles along in silence lost in his thoughts. The thought occurs to me as I watch him that perhaps I am glimpsing my future.

A strange place in life. Ten years ago most of the joy and vigor were supplied by the excitement and fury of raising teenagers. Every week it was something else. Life was a boisterous stream of concerts, baseball games, projects, mission trips, homecoming games, proms and birthday parties. I had no time to ponder new wrinkles. Any spare time I had was devoured by youth group activities, summer camp and golf. Now I find that I have a bumper crop of spare time with nothing to fill it. All of the things I dreamed of spending more time doing when I was younger now simply don’t interest me. Golf is fine, a nice 4 hour walk, but I don’t care about it anymore. Although I still love baseball, it becomes harder and harder each year to find the passion I once had for the game. It doesn’t help that I noticed the other day while watching a spring training game on television that three consecutive commercials aired extolled the virtues of a retirement community in Coral Gables, adult undergarments, and a male sexual aid. What a fascinating demographic!

I’m starting to believe that everything comes with a shelf life, and mostly I’m grateful. My addiction to bubble gum was thankfully brief. My infatuation with side burns came and mercifully went. My devotion to Mad magazine eventually waned. My youthful attraction to socialist politics vaporized the first time my tax return was audited. But some of the things that I’ve lost interest in bother me. Church has become a painful hour, a festival of boredom. My work in the investment business has become so utterly unfulfilling it makes toll collecting look positively erotic by comparison. I’m good at it and my income would be envied by most but even that is nothing more than a trap. Although I hate the business I’m chained to it by the income it produces.

All is not lost. I still love my wife and adore my family. The awkward tediousness of this moment will pass since it too has a shelf life. I need to recreate myself, find some new interest. I must recapture a jest for life and its great possibilities. I’m 52...not 82.