I have been looking back a lot lately. My 50th high school reunion is coming up this summer. Moving from the midwest to the east coast 40+ years ago, I have not kept in contact with former classmates, and the only reunion I attended was 20 years ago. I remember being shocked by how old some people seemed when we were in our late 40’s and how others appeared so young. What will I find in June?
When does old age arrive?
My maternal grandparents always seemed old to me. They were in their late 60’s when I was in my teens. Gram’s ankles were always swollen. Gramps vision was very poor. They worked hard around their home keeping it unbelievably clean and everything in working order. But walking was difficult. Climbing stairs was slow. They went to bed quite early, and didn’t seem to do anything just for fun.
I’m in my late sixties, am I old?
Fortunately, I have wonderful friends who listen to my ramblings, and we frequently share tales our aches and pains and remedies. But we look forward. From 35 – 70+, we all have plans for a stimulating future. Creating art. Building businesses. Learning new something. Exploring our limits.
My bucket list is way too long for me to be old. So after three knee surgeries, I have been pushing to be able to walk a few miles and get back on my bike. I’m even taking up golf (sort of). I love my rocking chair but am not ready to spend entire days there.
So why do I keep looking back to those teen and early 20 years? Why am I digging for old memories that have not concerned me for 50 years? I certainly don’t want to relive my past.
The easy answers are 1) I needed to write a brief summary for the reunion book and 2) I hope to connect the people I meet in 2016 to the people I knew in 1966.
But I’ve discovered that there is more value in finding those memories.
Philosophy is perfectly right in saying that life must be understood backward.
But then one forgets the other clause — that it must be lived forward.
Writing that 50 year summary for the reunion book, made me examine my past. It illuminated trends and behaviors that I was oblivious to as I lived through them. Now I think I have a much better understanding of the how and why of those 50 years.
Maybe – hopefully, I won’t have time for old age to arrive because I will be living forward with more purpose than I had anticipated.