For a while now I’ve been thinking about a concept which compares our lives to the changing of the seasons. To be honest, I don’t know if it’s an original thought and I haven’t bothered to look. If someone has done this already, no plagiarism is intended. Think of it as one of those, “great minds think alike moments.”
The idea is, assuming an average human lifespan of eighty years ( statistics say it’s 77.28 for the average American, so ever the optimist, I’m rounding up ) you can divide those years into four “seasons”, each lasting twenty years.
Spring would be birth until age twenty. We’re born and grow into adulthood, our bodies and minds developing into adulthood.
Summer, from age twenty to forty when we’re in our prime and our lives are robust. The blood runs hot in more ways than one. Some days are calm and breezy and others raging with storms. All of these must be not only weathered, but excepted as well. It’s not so easy at first, but with each passing year, we gain wisdom and experience.
Around age forty, things begin to slow down and as tends to happen on a late September day, there’s a certain feeling of comfort that comes over us. We perhaps look back at our summer days, remembering fondly the fun of the cool breezy ones, and knowing now that the storms we endured tempered our minds, despite what it may have done to our bodies.We see the fruits of our labors in the comfort of our homes, the success of our children. If we haven’t already, we look ahead to the coming winter and prepare.
Around sixty is what I consider to be the beginning of our winter years. Things slow down around us which is good, because perhaps we’re a little slower too. Like the snow settling on the ground, we too are a little more gray. The wind blows cold, but there’s still a warmth inside us and in our homes, where we take comfort and solace in the lives we built and created.
The end of this season for some people could be considered death for some people I suppose. For those who believe in a higher power, death may just be that final step in this world and a first step into a new Spring elsewhere. I have no idea, and no one has come back to fill us in so I guess we have to find out for ourselves. For my part, I’ll wait a bit longer, thank you.
In little more than a week, I’ll turn forty-nine, taking one last trip around the sun before hitting the halfway mark of my own autumn I suppose. Unlike the year or so leading up to my turning forty, I don’t feel a lot of anxiety or dread about turning fifty. As I came to realize, there’s no changing it, so may as well go along with it.
Still there’s some things that are more difficult to accept than graying hair and aching joints. Perhaps the most painful part of getting older is having to watch the generation before you do the same, until the day comes they take that last/ first step into whatever comes next.
I’m at that stage where all but one or two of my grandparents’ generation are still alive. I recognize of course that there are many who never knew, or knew well, their own grandparents and their peers. However growing up and spending a lot of time with my maternal grandparents, I had a lot of exposure to the great-aunts and great-uncles who frequently visited, especially on the weekends, for coffee and conversation. How many families can say they still do that on a regular basis these days? Yet that was normal back then, and I remember those visits and even some of the stories told over cigarettes and coffee well.
Upon hearing of another of that generation passing away a while back, I commented to my wife, “I’m witnessing an entire segment of my family disappear, one by one.” And look, I know full well I am not unique in this, it’s something we all have to endure. We have to accept it, it doesn’t mean we have to like it.
As one generation passes through that last phase of life’s winter, another steps up to take its place. In time they’ll pass on into that Eternal Spring and then it’s my turn. I don’t know what that will look like, and truth is, I’m in no hurry to find out. But as someone once said, “The days are long, the years short.” In the blink of an eye, the feeling of “that feels like just yesterday” looking back will be here soon. I won’t lie, that scares the shit out of me, but I also know there’s no use dwelling on it. To do so is to just waste the time we’re given, so it’s best to live in the now. Still, those thoughts and feelings of dread come from time to time and to offset them I think about what the generation behind us is doing, watching them build their lives and families just as we and the generations before us did.
James Taylor sang, “The secret to life is enjoying the passage of time.” And while it’s not always easy to, the truth it, we have no choice. So like Sweet Baby James says, we may as well enjoy the ride.
Chris Sherwood writes from his home in North Chemung. He is the author of In Times of Trouble, a post-apocalyptic novel set in Upstate New York, and is currently working on the sequel. To learn more, go to cmsherwood.com