Looking back from 60

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, July 18, 2012

“There’s a big white house on a leafy street on a summer day in 1963

A station wagon’s parked in the drive with dents on the fender and wood on the side

There’s kids and dogs in instamatic hues squinting hard in the sun…”

Those are lyrics from a song by Mary Chapin Carpenter and they sound like a description of Park Avenue when I was growing up in Opp. We had the station wagon with wood on the side parked in our driveway and the air was filled with children’s voices.

I smiled when I heard those lines because it brought a rush of memories. That is reason I asked my friend Sandy to sing the song at a birthday party.

I grew up in a big white house surrounded by brothers, sisters and neighborhood friends. Saturday during the party, Jim Richburg and I took a walk down memory lane revisiting our days roller skating and riding bikes all over that neighborhood. It was nice to share those memories with someone who lived them with me.

However, if you go deeper into the song, another message emerges, the other reason I asked Sandy to sing it.

“There’s kids and dogs in instamatic hues squinting hard in the sun

Not just yet but one day too

They’ll be chasing what’s already gone…”

As Jim and I talked, I thought about the people from that time in our lives who are already gone — his parents and his brother, my Daddy. All of them sweet memories.

And the song goes on.

You grow up tall and you grow up tough

Try to never admit not feeling good enough

They tell you find your passion then you’ll find your way…

…and it seems to happen nearly overnight

Life shows you who you’ve become

When there’s no more mystery in the fading light

You’re just chasing what’s already gone…

Here was something I stopped to consider. At 60, what or who have I become and am I chasing what is gone rather than looking to what is here now? Interesting questions.

“Like the line that spells the far horizon

Moving with you as fast as you can run

Half your life you pay it no attention

The rest you can’t stop wondering what you should have done

Instead of chasing what’s already gone…”

As I heard those lyrics, I could honestly say I don’t spend much time wondering what I should have done and I don’t think I do much chasing what is gone. My friend Sandy said it well when we talked later about the song.

“It’s fine to visit the past,” she said, “just don’t take an overnight bag.”

It is the end of the song that brings tears to my eyes, why I’m not sure.

“I saw my father in a dream last night.

He was smiling and saying you’re going to be all right…”

They are not tears of sadness, just a longing for my Daddy who isn’t here and because I know he would say not just that I’m going to be all right, but that I am all right right now in this moment.

“…But I keep on going and I hope I’ve learned more of what’s right than what’s wrong…”

I’d say that expresses well my hope as I look back at 60 years of living. So, I celebrated a birthday and now it’s time to get on with life. For that I take a lesson from my Mother who is moving into her late 80s.

She says she doesn’t think about age or dwell in the past. Memories are nice and she likes to recall pleasant times, but that isn’t where she lives. No, she said she gets up every day and says to herself, “what do I want to do today?”

That’s what I plan to do too. Or as the poet Rumi said so eloquently:

Grow from the past,
But grab hold of now.
Now is always evolving.