Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Wrestling With An Angel....

In the great Pete Hamill's memoir "Downtown:  My Manhattan", which should be required reading for every English-speaking person currently alive and residing in these United States, Hamill wrote, "Time itself is long, even if the time of man is short."   Twice within this past week, my ears were filled with the sound of his words ringing true.  

The two instances referred to above involved stunningly different individuals and circumstances.  One was a man a few years older than I am who I have known for most of my life.  The other was an elderly woman of ninety-three whose health had been in decline for some time.  Whether death is a surprise or a not entirely unanticipated event matters not.  It probably never has.  A loss is a loss.  Even when you think you are prepared for it, upon its arrival you learn the folly of your position. 

I know that I am not a young man any longer.  I need merely a moment staring at my reflection in the bathroom mirror in the wee small hours of every morning to re-learn that fact daily.  Crevices etched into my face around my eyes and whiskers of gray and white tell the tale.  Yet more often than not something happens during my day-to-day such as a song coming on the radio or some such thing that awakens an echo from a long-lost time.  And when that occurs, I remember myself as a young man.  And when I look backwards through my mind's eye at the memory and see myself in the frame, the "me" I see is a young man.  And the people around me are young as well.  Our youth survives as long as our memories do I suppose.   

Juxtaposed against the "forever" of one's memory is the harsh reality of the here and now.  In the ether, one can laugh and run and jump and sing indefinitely.  Fatigue is never a factor.  However, reality not only beckons.  It reminds us of our limitations, our frailties and our infirmities.  Worst yet, it reminds us of our mortality.  Reality is often harsh and frequently unforgiving.  

Yet it remains not only our best option but our only one.  There is no place else in which to live.  It therefore remains incumbent upon us to do what we can to maintain a level of connection or contact with those who bring meaning and value to our lives:  those we love and those who love us.  Is that easier said than done?  In my experience, sadly the answer to that question is "Yes".  I always mean to become better at it.  I simply never seem to fulfill that goal.  Your goal should be to be better at it than I am....

There are simply too many people to ever know them all,
to unravel all of their secrets. 
Nobody in such a vast and various place can absorb everything.
You know the people you love and the people with whom you work.
The rest is glimpses.

No matter how much you may want to live forever, reality shall not permit it.  And since it shall not, be mindful not of the ride's length but of its breadth.  Jam it full of all you can.  For the more you jam into it, the more you can squeeze out of it.  And at journey's end that is all that any of us has....


-AK 

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