I love the series of ads Dennis Hopper does on TV about retirement, when he holds up his fist and says, “You need a plan!” I think to myself, “Right!” and then continue on just the way I always have, meandering now into the distant edge and beyond of middle age.
My mother lived to be 87 which means, if I follow her lead, I’ve only got 21 years left. When I think about that, a kind of anxiety sets in that rattles me. Not that I have a huge plan because I’ve no major goal other than to write an incredibly insightful book that the world applauds. But that doesn’t keep me working like a fiend which is what needs to happen if I’m ever going to get the thing finished. No, I work at a leisurely pace as if I’ve got nothing but time. I’ve added pounds, wrinkles, gray hair, but if you ask me how I feel, not all that different. In fact, I expected by now to have more of the answers to life’s secrets. Instead I find myself still struggling to make sense of an elusive world that becomes more, rather than less, complicated each year.
The year my mother turned 66, I wore size 8 bell bottom French jeans, flashy silver jewelry with my hair parted in the middle and hanging to my waist while Steve’s curled in a four inch Izro around his very thin face. By then, we’d all become partial vegetarians in support of his massive weight loss regimen. “Does this mean we’ll never eat lox again?” Josh lamented, distraught over such deprivation. If I close my eyes, I can see our Schiller Street apartment, the launch of Van Gorder Walden School, Matt wearing an eye patch, Ben dragging Barnaby, our Irish Wolfhound, around the block, Josh racing to the corner grocery for a licorice. It seems impossible that thirty five years have been swallowed whole.
When I was a young mother, I believed that if I invested my heart in each of my children, if I spent the time and energy to know each of them as individuals, if I learned to appreciate and honor each of their strengths no matter how foreign they might be from my expectations, if I treated them with respect, that when they became adults with families of their own, we’d be friends, we’d enjoy a peer relationship, a true and honest friendship. We’d trust in each other, depend upon each other, enjoy each other’s company, have fun together, understand each other, appreciate each other, help each other.
Whereas I’ve been wrong about a lot of things, it’s wonderful to realize that perhaps this most important wish I had for the future came true, a fine gift for a 66th birthday.