Thursday, April 20, 2017

Older and (Maybe) a Little Wiser

My birthday is this week and I'm staring straight down the barrel of 40. I'm not there yet, but it's getting perilously close.

Let's face it, this is the halfway point of my life, if I'm lucky. Making it into ones 80s is no guarantee and reminders of this fact are coming more frequently.

Given that you're reading this on a computer, you're probably like me in that you're inundated daily with news about deaths and misfortune. Thanks to Facebook, that news is often about people you know and hits a little harder than your average evening news story. So, mortality seems to have taken on a higher profile these last few years.
Yes, this is actually a thing. And yes,
it's clearly warranted. 

It's times like these — and an age like mine — that a man considers his current purpose and gauges himself against the expectations for his life. If he likes what he sees, he maintains his course. If not, well, isn't it time for a hugely drastic change of direction to right the ship and point it toward the desired port?

I think so, and it's with this reality in mind that I'd like to announce that I'm embarking upon a multi-year odyssey of spiritual enlightenment which, in my case, requires extensive first-class travel, a sudden love of extreme sports and a tattoo of Che Guevara across my chest. I might get a red convertible and/or Harley Davidson, we'll see.

I've yet to tell Mrs. Blackwell about these plans because she'll no doubt start throwing around terms like "mid-life crisis" and "attorney" but, I'm sure she'll come around and be totally cool with the new, hipper version of me.

I keed. I keed.

I'm not the mid-life crisis type. I'm more the steady-state-of-low-key-despair type. Why bottle up existential anxiety when you can sprinkle it around and infect every, single moment of your life with it, right?

Kidding again. I'm not desperately cleaving to my youth, nor am I frantically working to ward off old age. No as this birthday approaches I'm not feeling older necessarily but I am feeling the passage of time more profoundly.

My two boys are changing daily. Just a couple days ago I noticed the top of Master Blackwell's head as he stood behind the counter in our kitchen. When did he get taller than the counter? Master Blackwell Version 2.0, is a little man mountain who growls and runs and can flip over kitchen chairs — sometimes all at once.

I've heard and read that aging is a lot about having perspective. It's funny then that I can turn to my youth to find some. 

When I was a little kid, my family visited  my Great Aunt Katherine's home in New Bern, North Carolina a few times. She had a stately, old victorian house in that historic town complete with a room they used to call a parlor.

On our visits to Aunt Katherine's, the adults would convene in the parlor while the kids would run around the house (she had two stair cases, one of which was a spiral that my brother and I would run up and down).

They're getting bigger by the day. Seriously, you should see
how much milk we buy. 
I remember a few occasions pausing from our play to listen to the conversations in the parlor.

At the time, it seemed quite boring, adults catching up with each other's lives, exchanging stories about people I'd never met. But invariably discussion would turn to people who'd died.

I didn't know these people and, as a kid, my thoughts didn't extend much beyond a vague sense of sympathy before I'd head back to that stairway.

Today, I look back on those times and think that parlor conversations seem to be happening more frequently — and in more places. So, as is often the case, the kids had it right.

We adults have all got to spend some time in the parlor but life's magic happens in between those visits.

And Facebook's never ending stream of misfortune notwithstanding, there's just too much good happening in the world to want it to slow down or reverse the clock.

In the coming months, I've got a birthday party to attend for a little guy who's turning five and another one for a little guy who's going to be two. I've got soccer games to be at. Drum recitals to attend. Looks like I've got a wedding to go to at some point too. I've got great beer to drink and a losing hockey team to cheer for.

In short, I'm going to do my best to enjoy the simple things like that old spiral staircase. I can't control getting older or the consequences of age, but I can control that.

Happy birthday to me. Hope to be back soon(er).

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