My father is 91 years old and I talk to him every day at 5:00, and because we speak each day we often struggle for new conversation. He’s elderly, somewhat frail, and we’re in the midst of a global pandemic, so it’s not like he goes anywhere. (for that matter, neither do I) We focus instead on what he’s read, what he watches on TV, and what he had for dinner. Most days the conversation is predictable, but every now and again he catches me by surprise with how really ‘with it’ he is for 91. He follows current events and sports, providing intelligent comments around both, but what truly amazes me is his recollection of things. Life, actually, his recollection of life. It is startling detailed.
My father can recount the details of his life 75 years ago, more even. He knew a time without cars, microwaves, washing machines, and he remembers with vivid accuracy the events of world economics and politics at the time. Most recently, when I marveled at just such a conversation, I noted how he recounted these memories as though they were yesterday. Time seemed to disappear and he was ‘in the moment’.
Yesterday, as I went for a walk through my own neighbourhood, I passed a house with 3 young children. They were playing on the driveway and their mother was sitting in a chair nearby supervising,,,,exactly as I did some 3 decades ago. My children, all in their 30’s now, have their own children, but I could swear only 2 weeks ago they were playing on the driveway where I sat watching. How can it be that so much time has elapsed?
Like my father, I can recall the details of the most mundane events 25 years ago as though it was yesterday, and while it’s delightful to revel in the memories, it’s also a stark reminder of just how quickly life goes by. Events you think leave a permanent etching in your brain eventually fade, until something triggers the memory and suddenly you’re reliving it all over again….in your mind. Where did the years go, and why did they go so fast?
I’ve always believed we are here for a reason, our own predetermined life and learning path, and that includes an expiry date. It’s baffling to comprehend why some die so young, or so tragically, or why some seem to suffer a life fraught with loss and pain. Then I remind myself, we all choose our path, and perhaps these are souls who’ve elected to come into this world in a role of suffering to facilitate the learning path of another. There’ve been cases where I just can’t justify it in any other way. These are the lives most challenging because the memories they recall are often difficult, but necessary, and I wonder do they too recall events of years past with vivid detail and accuracy?
The older we get the faster life goes by which is ironic because it is in our later years we want to take the time to reflect – slow things down. We stop sweating the small stuff. We laugh at the things we would’ve been shocked by. We lament all we neglected to do or say. And we berate ourselves for things we did do or say that we now regret. (seems we’re awfully good at beating ourselves up)
Listening to my father recount the details of life 75 or 80 years ago reminds me to ‘stop and smell the roses’. Now when a memory of something my child said 35 years ago springs to mind, I welcome it, let it linger. And as difficult as it is, I also let in the harder memories, because they too bring comfort, even if it doesn’t make me smile, because any thought that tells me my brain is working is a good sign (If we didn’t suffer the lows, how would we recognize the highs) and often recalling painful memories helps bring closure.
Life really does go by in the blink of an eye so all we can do is reflect when we need to, regret nothing, and live in the moment, because all too soon we leave this place and our opportunity to effect change is lost.
Life really is so very good. Celebrate in it.