Sunday, August 15, 2010
Special note: The following post was actually written two years ago, almost to the day. I thought I had posted it then -- I don't know why I didn't --but I came across it today in a folder of unposted posts, which I guess are "unposts". Two years have past, and some things have changed, but I still think it's worth posting. Here it is:
One night recently Judi and I were sitting in her Florida room while it rained outside. "Look at the paver-stone walk," she said, referring to the walkway that runs in front of the butterfly gardens. "Does it remind you of somewhere we've been?"
The walkway was puddled, and raindrops were splashing down hard. The accent lights in the butterfly garden were shining in the wet.
Somewhere we've been? We've been to so many places. The someplaces began to flood into my mind:
San Diego, St. Lucia, Lisbon, Atlantic City, Cedar Rapids, Key West, Los Angeles, Curacao, Dallas, Seaside Heights, Chicago, Barbados, Pensacola...
...Palm Springs, Freeport, Barcelona, Binghamton, Bonaire, Miami Beach, Yosemite, St. Kitts and Nevis, Rome, Boston, Tortola, Madison, Daytona Beach...
...San Francisco, St. Maarten, Naples (Italy, not Florida), New York City, San Antonio, Puerto Rico, Santa Cruz, Cannes, St. Thomas, St. Paul, St. Petersburg (Florida, not Russia)...
...Aruba, Napa, St. Barths, Savannah, Provincetown, Las Vegas, St. John, York (Maine), Jacksonville, Nassau, Biloxi, Reno, Sanibel, Venice...
...and how many others? But I watched the lights in the raindrop-shattered puddles, and the memory she was talking about literally bubbled up in my mind. It was a memory from almost twenty years ago:
"New Orleans," I said, and Judi smiled brightly in the dark.
"We were in Jackson Square," I continued. "It began to rain, and we ducked under cover. The rain cleaned off the pavement, and the lights were reflected in the water on the pavement just like that."
The last few years, I've been going through a mid-life crisis. Nothing extraordinary, nothing worth blogging about, just the usual run-of-the-mill mid-life crisis that most men go through around my age. You know: Why haven't I accomplished more with my life? What do I have to show? I had expected so much more of myself, and now I will never achieve it: I'm on the downhill run towards death. Why did I squander my youth?
You know, that kind of ho-hum mid-life crisis.
But recently I've been coming to terms with it (as most men my age do). It started with the realization that if I were to be diagnosed with a fatal disease tomorrow, I would have to admit to myself that already, in my life, I have been to many extraordinary places. Already, in my life, I have seen many extraordinary things, eaten many extraordinary meals, experienced many extraordinary adventures (did I ever tell you about the time...?). Already, I have met many extraordinary people...
...not to mention having had the most extraordinary of them all by my side the entire time.
Already, I have made many extraordinary memories.
My journey to acceptance of mortality isn't complete, but in moments like that one, that night, watching the sharply plunking raindrops send out circles of rapidly expanding light and reliving the warm, hearty memories of that New Orleans night so many years ago, I realize what it is I have, and how much more satisfying that is than dwelling on what I have not.
I haven't lived the life I had thought I would lead. But I could have done worse. I could have done a lot worse.