Saturday, January 21, 2012

Bird in the window

That's Life

These are the best of times, and the worst of times. Every day that we wake up there are lots of things that fall into both of these categories.  And that’s life.

The best of times: I was invited to attend a 60th birthday party in Las Vegas for a friend I’ve known for more than 40 years (but haven’t really seen all that much in the past 20 years). His wife planned it as a way of making a bunch of 60-somethings feel something different than being 60-something.  Lots of ways to do that (I guess), Vegas being one of the best (or maybe the most popular).

There were two distinct groups of attendees: the first included a small number of friends and relatives who knew the birthday boy from years ago, but not so much now; the second were guys who are and have been contemporaries during roughly the last 20 years. Amazingly, all of us got along like we’d known each other the whole time. And also amazingly, the friends that he’d attracted then and now were exactly the same. Lots of what we did fell under the heading of “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas”, but not everything. We roasted the birthday boy at dinner one evening – everyone getting up and telling personal stories about experiences they’d had with him. Interestingly, the stories from long ago from the rear view mirror were strikingly similar to those that were contemporary as seen through more current window panes. The point I’m trying to make is that real friends stand the test of time and can easily slip back into the bonds of friendship even when time intervenes.  It’s the lucky ones who have this, and have the opportunity to see that this is in fact true.  Having an experience like that is the best gift anyone can give, or get.

The worst of times: I was also going to Vegas to see my Mom and her ailing boyfriend of 9 years. It’s interesting that as our parents live longer, some go through the experience of losing long-term spouses and establishing new relationships for comfort and companionship.  It’s a bit confusing for the families, but in the end it’s interesting to see how our parents start acting like our kids and how we deal with role reversals like that. In our case, Mom and Jerry lived a more than active life and had more activities and friends than we did.  So it was hard to see them start to slow down. And then I got a call as I was boarding the plane that Jerry died.  Good that I was going.

We met his kids, all of whom are grown and live around the country.  They had a memorial service there for all of Jerry’s friends, and while funerals can be somber, this one was a rollicking celebration of life. His kids told of growing up with their Dad, and everyone was polite as they learned more than they’d known. And then, one by one, the friends got up and told stories of dinners, and dancing, and learning and playing bridge, and movies, and attending a weekly classes for seniors at UNLV, and all kinds of other activities that would exhaust much younger people.  If ever there was an example of 85 being the new 65, this was it.  And while we most often dismiss those kinds of clever claims as less than realistic, this one seemed very real.  This group showed how living life to the fullest was a great idea.  Not a theoretical idea, but one that was real and inspiring to all.

As I flew home on the redeye Sunday night, all of these thoughts swirled through my tired mind. Life really is a mixture of good and bad; life really does present us with daily challenges and opportunities; and life is something we need to treasure and live to its’ fullest every day. Trouble is, every day is bogged down with the mundane things of life that often get in the way of or blind us to the greater things about life that are all around us.  And it usually takes an event, or in this case, a couple of contrasting events, to shake us into recognizing that if we don’t live our lives to the fullest we’re apt to miss something both good and important.  In any event, birthdays and deaths shouldn’t be the only times we connect with those who mean the most to us. Take time today to reach out to those you love – don’t let another day go by without telling them and thanking them.  That’s life.

My message this week is about taking responsibility for the things that are important and mean the most to you:

Arte Nathan“Be careful how you live; you will be the only Bible some people ever read.”

-William J. Thoms

William John Thoms (1803 – 1885) was a British writer credited with coining the term "folklore" in the 1840s. Thoms' investigation of folklore and myth led to a later career of debunking longevity myths. Hence, he is the "father of age validation research" to demographers.

How will you live today?  And how will others perceive how you live today?  When you own something, everyone seems to keep an eye on you.  When you were in school – people probably watched how you kept your desk or locker.  Today, if you own a home – they’ll watch how you keep the lawn.  When you own a car – they’ll watch if you keep it clean.  And at work – they’ll watch whether you keep your work area neat and clean, and what your desk looks like, and the quality and timeliness of your work.  We are responsible for, and thus own, all these things, and how we keep them and deal with them will be watched by people around us.  Our actions will always be read and noted, so be careful what you do with the things you own – these will be the tales that people will read and remember about you.

Stay well!

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