Those Years I'll Want Back


To waterski on Halloween is heaven and a miracle.

The way I feel when my ski cuts across the wake and I make the turn again and again leaving mountains of spray at my back is as close to enlightenment as I believe I will get.

Yet I can't believe it. Is this a dream?

Is this life a dream?

So many people feel the same way:

Alexander McCall Smith, The Comforts of a Muddy Saturday - 

"And I am real, thought Isabel, and this life, this delicatessen, this problematic young man beside me, are all real and immediate - part of the brief, sparkling privilege that I have of consciousness..."

Marilynne Robinson, Gilead -

"...I want your dear perishable self to live long and to love this poor perishable world, which I somehow cannot imagine not missing bitterly...Remembering my youth makes me aware that I never really had enough of it, it was over before I was done with it...Oh, I will miss the world!"

Lee Smith, Dimestore

"Summer, Mid-1970s: A party on Stinson Street....Stinson Street has constant parties, constant yard sales. Anyway, at some point during one of these parties, I go outside to get some air and wander across the street to Leonard Rogoff's yard sale, where I stand transfixed before a chest of drawers with a mirror attached to the top of it. I stand before the chest and look into the mirror for a long time. The mirror is tilted so that I can see a tree, the moon, my face. Oh no, I think. This is really my life, and I am really living it. I remember thinking that then, on Stinson Street."

G.K. Chesterton, Notebook - 

Here dies another day
During which I have had eyes, ears, hands
And the great world round me;
And with tomorrow begins another.
Why am I allowed two?

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, Textbook -

"I have this vivid pictorial memory of being 9 years old, sitting on the sidewalk by my house and thinking, There is nothing special about what I am doing right now, but I want to remember this moment, perfectly intact, for the rest of my life.

I no longer remember the fine print of it - like what I was wearing, where my siblings were, if there were worms on the sidewalk - but I have a carefully preserved recollection of the certainty of my mission, of sitting there on that suburban subdivision sidewalk, feeling adamant about carrying the moment with me into old age. I swear I feel like I could just plop down on the curb next to that girl, she seems so close.

Hi there, 9-year-old me. Can you believe it? Here I am, that middle-aged me you imagined. And here we are together. And here is that moment, just like you wanted.

Yes. And what about the very old and very gray 80-year old us? Is she coming?

I believe so. I hope so. Let's sit and wait. I have a feeling she will be here in no time."  

Hourglass Half Full
Hourglass Half Full

I am almost halfway to 80 myself. Almost daily, now, I think on my mortality. These are those years I'll want back.

How many more times will Sailor want me to hold her and sing "Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star"?

How many more times will I get to help Bauer study for a math test?

How many more South Carolina summers of waterskiing do I have?

Batman Makes Five
Batman Makes Five

How many more Monday mornings will we stand in the chiropractor's office, waiting to be adjusted?

How many more October sunsets will I bear witness to?

How much longer will I make Bauer's favorite meal of BBQ Tofu and Cajun Rice?

How many more times will I help Story brush her teeth or unbuckle her life jacket?

How many more letters will I write?

How many more Sausage and Potato Crepes from Tandem will I eat?

Post Bike Ride
Post Bike Ride

How many more bike rides on the Swamp Rabbit Trail do we get to take?

How many more times will I be summoned by Cash to look at a Lego build?

How many more times will TJ and I go on a date to Tijuana Flats and listen to Coldplay on our way?

How many more Christmas trees will we put up?

How many more gardens will we plant?

How many more trips will we take together?

I suppose this might sound a little dramatic, as I probably still have many years and many times of most of these things left.

But it is somehow good and right, I believe, to "feel homesick for the event while it is happening," as I read many years ago in Douglas Coupland's Generation X.

It helps to think on Halloween, while waterskiing, I shouldn't be allowed this much pleasure in one life. 

Princess and Goblin
Princess and Goblin

I remember my one Big Great-Great-Great Grand God (I'm currently reading George MacDonald's The Princess and the Goblin, and yes, I'm drawn fiercely and mysteriously to Princess Irene's great-great-great-grandmother, who has given me a glimpse of God).

I remember the One who made the lake I ski on, who gave me the breath of life one hot summer day some 37 years ago, who gives me visions of my mortality so I can live a more present life now, who teaches me to number my days aright so I may gain a heart of wisdom.

And because I love this life I know I shall love death as well. -Rabindranath Tagore