Writing for me is a double edged sword. As much as I feel compelled to do it, sometimes I go for weeks unable to sit and focus. I'm coming out of one of those phases right now. It's not that I don't have ideas, or a basis for a project, but more that my brain is full of intertwined concepts with the ongoing dialogue of change and relativity to my life and others. We are all ultimately connected and every flicker of a candle or flutter of a bird's wing slightly changes the outcome of each situation. It's truly mind boggling and minutes, hours and days can be consumed with introspective thought and frequent worry of the world and my destiny in it. And, as much as I am aware that worry is nothing more than empty thinking, I am human and like most chase my own tail far too often.
Most people think I'm the oldest living bartender on the planet, but fact is, like you, I am many things. I am one of the lucky few that work a corporate job that gives consistency, PTO and health coverage. It has also given me an elusive level of flexibility to pursue other interests and try new things. As a single person, I'm not balanced by a partnership that carries the pragmatic benefits to allow me to be completely self employed. I've tried it more than once and as we get older, the teeter totters closer to the side of safety net and just covering my butt. As we get older the concern draws more near keeping what you've got and less of attaining more that causes expense, time and effort. The stress of tripling your income in order to double the social security, the added taxes and procuring insurance is much more daunting in the real world than in your head. If you wanted to live in the same fashion as someone making 80k/yr, it would take close to a quarter million in consistent gross dollars to reach your goal. Think about it. I've lived the life. I've done the math. They call it "starving artist" for a reason. There are many great singers teaching school. Wonderful writers and painters building cabinetry, and amazing designers, yes, tending bar and waiting tables. Timing and connections are everything and for some, it never happens.
I am often told that I should write a book. I have. You should be an interior designer. I do. You should do voice overs and sing. I did. You should......You'd be great at.........Have you ever tried? Yes, yes and YES. We live in a new age that simply putting your thoughts between two pieces of cardboard and a title doesn't necessarily constitute a novel, and recording a top 40 vinyl disc is no longer the end goal. Our world has changed and our comfort levels are morphing. To take a new look at the world we are in, may require standing in a different corner of the room. The view changes as we change our stance. I am approaching the winter of my life and the view is now from the middle of the room to address the dust in all the corners, and the clarity is daunting. Your dirt looks cleaner to you than to someone else and a fresh pair of bifocals can be worse than a trip to the proctologists.
As I'm having my day after Christmas wind down allowing me to write, I let myself propel thoughts forward to the new year. I don't subscribe much to resolutions or delusionnaly thinking that a date on a calendar will change anything that dramatically, so I'm thinking of how different the holidays feel and missing parents and grandparents, I remember Grandma Ellis.
Aleva and I would have many talks over a shared cup of tea, so when in doubt of my future, the world and my place in it, I refer to those moments that have built the basis for my entire way of thinking.
As many of us in my family are Christmas babies, we would often stay an extra couple of days over the holidays to celebrate Grandma's birthday on the 27th. After Mom and Dad were divorced and I could drive myself, I would make the trip alone and spend the day with her and Grandpa. I remember one in particular in '84.
It was Grandpa's last Chritsmas as the two of us looked into the living room at "The Great White Fart", as she referred to him and his beautiful white cotton candy hair while he reclined in his chair watching the Young and Restless. She said he was having an affair with Mrs. Chancellor.
We didn't know how much time he had, as looking back now would be 20/20, but at the moment it was 20/70 as my teens had just passed and she was staring 3 score and ten directly in the face. I had just become legal and she had hit another landmark year. He would pass in the fall of '85.
We would spend most of our time at the kitchen table eating, holding hands and solving the worlds problems. When returning from the back of the house, I noticed Grandma stopped abruptly at the large wall mirror in the living room. As she stood there for longer than I could ever recall except to add lipstick for church, I came up behind her and wrapped my arms around her. She was crying. Not sobbing, but a lonely slow descending tear from each eye. She held me tightly and said, "I'm 70. When did that happen?" She rarely showed weakness, but this was a moment that I was glad to support her heart as she had so often done for me.
She looked straight into the mirror at my reflection, held me tightly and with her warmest Aunt Jemima smile said, "Love Love Love". It's what she would say anytime that the only thing that needed be said and important was LOVE. Her love for all of us was so infinitely deep and powerfully real that the rest of the world disappeared when she walked into the room.
As I too had chronologically hit a big year, she once again imparted a level of wisdom that I carry to this day.
She said, "Davo, what I see on the outside is not a true reflection of how I feel on the inside.
As you get older, you will always see yourself about 30. Your adult self won't change much for 15 years or so, and you won't notice the gradual differences till faced with a mirror and a life of experience and memories." As I had almost a decade before 30 coupled with always appearing more mature for my age, looking back a decade from the other side has deemed this to be more than accurate. These pearls of wisdom have stayed with me and over the years, and as they aren't always 20/20, this year they seem to be more double nickels 55.
Later in the day as the mood had lightened, we discussed being 70 over every homemade item from the stove. Grandma and anything edible from the holidays. It felt more like re-celebrating my birthday. Nothing has ever tasted the same since.
I was eating a plate of homemade chicken and dumplings and not feeling the same way about them as I had as a child. I was seeming to gravitate to items that I had previously not cared for as much. As always, she had an explanation steeped in Lipton and life path.
She said, "you know that your taste buds change. Seems to be about every 7 years or so, and since that is the same amount of time that all of the cells in your body regenerate. Every seven, give or take, you are a completely new body trying to navigate a relatively stagnant state of mind. She was an older more centralized version of herself, yet her body said differently. She was different. I was different. I am now different again, yet infinitely the same as we choose those in our lives for what they have to teach us as the cycle regenerates and we become the teacher.
I began this over a year ago and so much has changed in that rotation around the sun. How can we know what will happen from day to day, month to month, and year to year in this ever changing political, social, environmental, and self individualizing climate? How would our forefathers have navigated the oceans of possibilities and how do we predict the outcome of our decisions in the present for the flowchart of outcomes for our future? I would ask all knowing Aleva, but alas she is gone. Only a memory, a scent, a shadow on the imprint of my soul.
I've made decisions that I have to live with. I have created a trejectory that I must follow. Yet I have the opportunity for tweaking and change on a daily basis. How far do we go? When do we stop? How old is too old? When is enough, enough? As the rules change................the rules change as we create them. There's a fine line in living in the past and perpetuating a future based on the lessons that we have learned from it.
We reach a point when it happens. We grow up. As much as we think we reached that point decades ago, the rules change. If they didin't, we would not continue to grow, to experience, to change in the present direction of our world in order to suvive it. We are a product of our times, yet have the power to wind the Rolex, if you're lucky.
I still smell the scent of Grandpa's old Spice and hear his voice lovingly call me Sonny Bub. I can taste the lard laden crust of the cobbler made from my fruit stained fingers at Grandma's table. I reminisce with Johnny Carson re-runs first watched on the make shift "hobo" bed on late night unconditional love visits. I lament on family four part harmony at the old country church before religion was a political statement, and the pillar of family women that made home made noodles, rolls and pies in the rectory basement for weddings and funerals.
Now I am a man. I can't deny it. It's a destination that I can't excape. I've always been adult.........but now I have to own it. The good, The bad. The accoplishments. The failures. The secrets. The dreams. The one person that we can't lose to in the race is ourselves.
But, as our cells regenerate, so do our options. Time doesn't leave us behind unless we chose to live in the past. Honoring our former self is the first step in collecting our experiences in order to propel our unique self towards a future that is waiting reverently for us.
Life isn't a destination to be retired into, it's a journey to be anticipated. No matter what age you find yourself at the moment, 20, 55, 70 or beautifully Betty White, the reflection in the mirror is what you want it to be. As much as your current face is what other's will see, we have the ability to present any and every level of our lives through our words, actions and memory of those we have loved to propel wisdom, truth and love to others.
I feel peace. It's no longer necessary to apoligize for what I like. Who I llke, What I want to do and when to do it. The birthdays will come and go and we are lucky to say that. As we believe it becomes at a certain age to hold others up, let us not forget there will always be a child inside that needs protecting, holding, and nuturing in order to be the adult that is strong enough for the masses. Maybe as much as I believed that Grandma was always there to protect me, perhaps at that moment she had raised a man that held her up in her time of need. I learned that an entire lifetime can culmiate in a single moment.
I have a birthday approaching. 36 years have past since that day with Grandma. I will also look in the mirror and possibly shed a tear in memory of Aleva and for Sonny Bub. I will reflect. I will dream, I will smile. I will cry, but will mostly be grateful that all things in life good and bad will only last...….for a moment.