My mom would occasionally use an expression that caught my attention from my early teen years on. That was a long time ago, but I’ve never forgotten it. “I once was what you are now.” Perhaps it was observations like this and the fact that my parents were “older” by the time I arrived as a surprise; dad was 43 and mom was almost 40.
I have always been fascinated by the “growing older” process. “Puff the Magic Dragon” always saddened me because of the changes in the friendship described in the lyrics. When my friend, Brian, drowned when we were 19, I could no longer listen to the song. Innocence lost. It was 35 years before I listened to it again; growing older and its subsequent changes to life have intrigued me, while also producing a bit of melancholy.
The next phase to mom’s phrase is “You will be what I am now.” Older people were once young; young people will become old. Life is a continuum.
A high school friend and I were sharing emails about our parents a few days ago. I shared with him a poem that I wrote in 1972, influenced by Neil Young’s song, “Old Man.” My poem, also titled “Old Man,” has six stanzas, the first two are:
Old man can you manage
With that cane in your hand?
Can you continue watching
The dropping of the sand?
Do memories plague you
Of the days in the street?
Do memories haunt you
Of the people you did meet?
My dad was 59 when I showed the poem to him; he cried. I read it now, at 66, with different eyes. I have become what he was then, plus some.
Young gain wisdom from the old; old tap into energy from the young. Life is a continuum. Don’t forget from when you came and look forward with hope to where you’re going.