A moment in time

I just spent a couple of hours scanning some old photos, and looking at pictures of myself from 20+ years ago always leaves me feeling a little depressed.

PhotoScan (94)I look at that young, innocent face and I feel a mixture of jealousy and remorse because he has his whole life in front of him and doesn’t even grasp the significance of it. He doesn’t understand how beautiful he is, and how much his life will change over the next few years.

He has no idea that twenty years later he will be staring at his own photo thinking about how fast the time goes. Or how quickly looks fade and bodies fail. Or how he might have done this thing differently or that one the same.

He is just thinking about how the photo will turn out, or some boy he likes, or what he’s going to do tomorrow.

If I’m fortunate enough to get another twenty years, I’m sure I will look back on this time in my life with the same envy and the same feelings of melancholy.

I guess I’d better start posing for more pictures.

 

What do you know for sure?

Gene Siskel once stumped Oprah Winfrey when he asked, “What is the one thing you know for sure?” The older I get, the more I think about that question and the implications that really knowing something for sure can have on life and happiness.

We have all been told that age begets wisdom, and I suppose that is true in a sense. We definitely have more life lessons to look back on and learn from, but I realize getting older doesn’t somehow mean that all of life’s answers will suddenly become accessible to us. I worry about that, and I hope I can get at least a few of the big questions taken care of before my time is up.

While I may never get answers to the universal questions that we all have (about life, God, our place in the cosmos), I do know a few things for sure right now.

I know that love is worth the pain.

Opening yourself up to another person is never easy, and anyone who does realizes that doing so will eventually hurt. You hurt each other sometimes, even when you don’t mean to. Under normal circumstances, one of you will die before the other. That is going to be incredibly painful. I still know it is worth it to have another human being who cares enough about you to accompany you on the journey.

Most of us don’t have a clue how blessed we are.

Everything is relative, as they say, and complaining comes naturally for most of us, but if we take the time to look around at those who are less fortunate or those who live in countries torn by war and famine, we will realize we have absolutely nothing to complain about.

All humans are created equal.

You may not look like me, you may not act like me, you may not believe like me, but you are every bit as worthy of life and liberty as I am. And I am just as worthy as you.

We can’t do everything, but we can do something.

Edmund Burke said, “The only thing necessary for the triumph of evil is for good men to do nothing.” That is so true. We may not be able to change the whole world, but we are certainly able to make our immediate surroundings better. Whether through charity, hard work, or old-fashioned activism, there is something for each of us to do to make this world a better place.

Those are just a few of the things that I know for sure. Life, I hope, will teach me more.

No guarantees

One of the main worries I have had over not having children is that there very well might not be anyone to take care of me when I’m old. Most of us rely on our children or grandchildren to make important decisions regarding our health and well being when we are physically or mentally unable to do it ourselves. This is the best case scenario, and like everything else in life, things don’t always go as planned.

I have written about Mrs. J’s son a couple of times over the past few years. He wasn’t exactly my favorite person when he moved in with her several years ago, but I have learned to like the old fart over time. He’s grouchy, selfish, and lazy, but he also has an excellent sense of humor and good math skills. Surely that counts for something!

My cell phone rang last Friday afternoon, but I didn’t answer since I didn’t recognize the number. I googled it a few minutes later to see if it was someone familiar. It turned out to be some medical alert company, so we immediately suspected Tommy was in trouble. Honey started trying to get him on the phone to no avail, so we jumped in the car and sped towards his home, which is only a few miles away. I called the alert company back and confirmed that they were indeed calling because Tommy had pressed the button on his necklace, and soon Honey and I were flying down the highway at over 80 mph with our flashers on.

As we turned into Tommy’s driveway in the quiet little subdivision that we moved out of a few years ago and jumped out of the car, I was startled to hear, “Keep your hands where I can see them! And, you, come here!” I glanced over my shoulder to see a state police car sitting behind us in the driveway, and a uniformed officer glaring at us with one hand on his gun.

It only took a split second for me to get angry. They say no good deed goes unpunished, but it should have been pretty clear that someone up to mischief wouldn’t be driving around with their hazard lights on. I yelled back that we had a medical emergency, while Honey tried to explain why we were there.

“What are you, a medical professional?” the cop sneered. “No,” Honey explained, “but for all we know, there could be a dead man inside this house right now.”

It finally seemed to register with the police officer that we needed to go inside, so he followed us through the door where we found Tommy slumped in the floor, bleeding and incoherent. Honey picked him up, then we carefully walked him to his recliner where he collapsed like dead weight. The officer went outside to call an ambulance while we tried to assess the situation.

When paramedics finally arrived, they checked his blood sugar. It was high. They checked his blood pressure and couldn’t even get a reading it was so low. His mouth was drooping on one side and his speech was slurred, so they began having him raise his arms and legs. It was very evident that something was wrong with the left side of his body.

Because none of Tommy’s four sons live in this part of the country, his wife is dead, and his mother is in the nursing home, there was no one to go with him to the hospital except us. We drove to the emergency room and sat for the next several hours while they ran a multitude of tests. When they finally got him into a room upstairs, it was nearing 10 o’clock and we were tired and hungry. I was also still fuming over our incident with the cop, even though he did apologize to Honey before he left, explaining that we “exited the vehicle in a manner consistent with suspicious behavior.” Whatever the hell that means.

I had called two of Tommy’s sons on the way to the hospital. One didn’t answer, so I informed the one who did of the situation with their father and asked him to call his other brothers to let them know. Another son called my phone for an update while we were in the emergency room. I explained that he was very sick with poor vital signs and was exhibiting symptoms of a stroke. He said he would call back the next day.

Although Tommy’s blood pressure and oxygen levels improved over the weekend, by Sunday evening he was moved into the Cardiac Care Unit due to a very fast heart rate. The doctors also think there is a blood clot in his left leg, and because he is having problems with mobility, they want to send him to the same nursing home his mother entered last year. Despite all of this, all four of his sons are still nowhere around.

So, what I have learned from this whole experience is that having children is no guarantee you won’t be left to the kindness of strangers in your old age. And I’m sure when I’m old and decrepit, cops will still be assholes.

Running out of time

A friend of mine, who happens to be my age, recently found out his wife is expecting. After he announced the news to me, he confessed that he worries about being too old to have a kid. “Naw,” I said. “If you’re too old then I’m too old, and I don’t like to think that way.”

Maybe I am too old.

The depressing thing is what used to seem like a possibility now seems very improbable, and I have gotten to the age where the window of opportunity seems to be closing. I figure there are only about 10 years left for me to consider becoming a father. After all, I don’t want to be closing in on 70 years old when my child graduates from high school.

My sister, who is two years younger than me, already has a 19-year-old. It’s funny to think that I could be having a child around the same time my niece gets married and starts a family.

I guess I’m pretty comfortable with where my life is right now, because I haven’t made becoming a father a priority. If my or my partner’s feelings change over the next few years, we might go the adoption route. I suppose we could always adopt an older child so that I’m not using a walker when I attend school functions. =)

The point of no return

The universe mocks me when I look in the mirror. I can see the tell-tale signs of a face in decline; eyelids drooping, a relaxing jawline, and a set of parentheses beginning to appear on either side of my mouth. Even though I’m rarely ever satisfied with the image looking back at me, I often remind myself that this is as good as it gets, because it’s all downhill from here.

Age is mystifying, cruel, and devious. It sneaks up on you, and you don’t really realize the consequences of it until it’s too late. I always told myself that age was nothing more than a state of mind, and I figured I could somehow miraculously stymie the march of time by acting/feeling/dressing young. I know, however, that even if I were to dress like someone half my age, I’m still going to feel tired, achy, and irritable at the end of the day.

My worries about aging seem to center around my appearance, but I don’t think it is really rooted in vanity. It’s more like not wanting to get a scratch on a new car or scuffs on a new pair of sneakers. I know it’s going to happen eventually, but I want to put it off as long as possible.

The older I get, the more attention I pay to the elderly. I notice their wrinkles and sagging skin, the way they have difficulty getting up and around, the way that most people don’t pay any attention to them. An elderly man that I knew once said that the worst part about getting older is that people stop listening when you talk. How many times have I disregarded the words of someone because I assumed their thoughts or ideas had passed some imagined expiration date? Probably more than I’d care to admit.

It is with a deep sense of dread that I recognize where life and time will inevitably take me. They say the alternative is worse, but sometimes I wonder if being robbed of youthful looks, health, mobility, friends, and a sense of worth isn’t just dying a slow, painful death.

Even realizing how cruel nature might be to my vessel as I age, I want the experience and wisdom that comes with the passing years. I just wish my face wouldn’t slide off my skull in the process.

Tick-tock

I turned 37 this week. It was, without a doubt, the most difficult birthday that I’ve had thus far. Tears were falling when I went to bed the night before, and still streaming down my cheeks as I drove to work the next morning. Nothing had happened to upset me, but this anniversary of my birth caused me to reflect on my life in ways that I found uncomfortable and depressing.

We all have an idea of how we think our life will go – sort of a road map for getting from youth to old age. Most of us follow a path that closely resembles those taken by our parents. Education, a career, marriage, children, grandchildren, retirement, growing old with someone we love. I realized early on that my life would be much different than that of my parents, my sibling, and my friends. I thought I was okay with that, but the older I get the more I feel that I’m missing out on some of the amazing experiences that so many people take for granted.

I worry that I will die childless and alone. It torments me that at the age of thirty-seven I’m still not married and don’t have any children. When I first met my partner back in 2005, I remember telling him that I firmly believed gay marriage would be a reality within five years. Wishful thinking on my part. I am beginning to wonder if we will ever be able to get legally married in our lifetime.

I read once that a person becomes aware of their homosexuality and infertility simultaneously. Where straight couples might “accidentally” discover themselves expecting a child, same-sex partners understand that reproduction will be virtually impossible. Regardless of the various available options, it really pisses me off that no matter how much time and money we spend trying to expand our family, I will never be able to look at our child and see a combination of our features. Our child might have Honey’s chin or my eyes, but it won’t have both. Not that those things really even matter, but there has to be an element of comfort in knowing part of you will live on in your children long after you’ve left this world.

It still amazes me that people think homosexuality is a choice. As if anyone in their right mind would choose a life so full of hardship, despair, and disappointment. Even so, I know that I am one of the lucky ones. I have an amazing man to share my life with – someone who knows my faults and loves me in spite of them. I have a great job, a lovely place to live, and some truly wonderful friends.

I would just love to have a little person to share it all with, to spoil rotten, to chase around the yard, and to cherish unconditionally. Maybe one day…