SWEET BIRD OF YOUTH
This may sound strange coming for a woman approaching 75, but every morning I awake and think how best to live my life. I’ve been lucky in my experiences thus far. My work has been varied and I’ve enjoyed general good health — though there have been moments when I was forced to stare death in the eye. Yet, in the main, I am content and look to the future rather than to the past. My current work as a writer — though one of little note – pleases me and each morning as the sky begins to change from gray to palest blue, I ask myself what next should I accomplish.
By nature, I’m a list maker. Yesterday, I was scheduled to have lunch with an old friend. We spent a pleasant afternoon catching up and as we were taking our leave, my friend mentioned that a mutual acquaintance had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. I couldn’t have been more speechless if I had tripped down a flight of stairs. One feels empathy for the afflicted, of course. But at almost 75 I also think, “What if?”
Remembering one’s mortality is a gift to the old, I suppose. We become more cautious with the life left to us. I drive as if I were the last in a parade of snails, for example. Don’t the young see how fraught with danger life is? I worry for them. In some ways they’re less secure than I. I won’t be asked to risk my life on a battlefield; I’ll never stagger under the weight of college debt or break my bones in a skiing accident.
But I know that neither the young nor the old should live in fear. So, each morning I renew my vows to do no harm, to be guilty of random acts of kindness and to push myself to the limits of my capability. The inner voice of youth is eternal and I intend to honor it. As the poet, A.E. Houseman wrote:
“Days lost, I know not how,
I shall retrieve them now;
Now I shall keep the vow
I never kept before.”