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Mon, Feb. 24

Williams: The end of things

I didn’t realize it at the time, but I began wishing my life away at an early age.

Back in Fort Wayne, Indiana during the 1950s being 10 years old wasn’t good enough. As soon as I could document it, I was “10½ years old”, then “almost 11.” Aging was the same as validation, I suppose. Needless to say, as a student each year, I desperately longed for the last day of school in the spring. In some years, I even longed for the beginning of school since summer boredom had set in.

Reaching my 16th birthday was a meaningful goal. Until I reached it. As soon as the candles cooled on the cake, I yearned for the grand entrance into adulthood on the 21st birthday. Of course, I celebrated my 21st birthday on KP duty in Army basic training. So, there was no real entrance, grand or otherwise that year. Up to my knees in peeling potatoes, I wished to return to the barracks for some sleep. I spent the next three years wishing for civilian life.

During my working years, each Monday morning, I began wishing for the following Friday.

At the end of each NFL football season, I looked forward to the kick-off of the next one.

I also wished to meet someone special to share life. Twice I discovered that my selections weren’t as special as I hoped they’d be. Apparently, my ex-wives came to the same conclusion about me.

On the other hand, there are things that we don’t want to end. The saddest page of a good book is the last one. And the last bite of a chocolate cake is the least satisfying.

I dislike seeing the ending credits roll on a really interesting movie or on a TV mini-series. Mini-series end just about the time the characters become part of the family and daily routine. Then they’re gone.

The worst goodbye is the final one to a relative or dear friend. It occurred to me recently that both are like library books — we can only enjoy them for a while before they must be returned. And they can’t be renewed.

At what point, at what age do we stop wishing for the passage of time and focus on the time we have? I think that happens when most of the sand is at the bottom of our personal hour glass. I no longer want the week or the month or the year to speed by — the passage of time has already accelerated to a blur on its own.

With only 10 minutes left in a good movie, I probably won’t rush out to the concession stand for a refreshment. In the same vein, I’ll probably keep the car I have rather than enjoying the smell of a new one again. We’ll stay in our house, I suspect, instead of relocating to some exotic clime elsewhere. New shoes may not be a wise investment. Might not even buy green bananas. (I’ve gotten a lot of mileage out of this line from George Burns.)

Now is a concept that I haven’t paid much attention to over the years. It’s been pushed to the curb by the allure of what was coming next. Now is the time, I think, to think of now. I don’t know how long it will last.

I want to stop and look at the colors around me. I want to really see the wife with whom I’ve shared my most recent years. I want to read that book I’ve saved on the shelf. I want to thank God for my life. For my wife. For my now.

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