A friend said something the other day that has clung like mist to the crevices of my mind. She’s soon to turn 70 and this is what she said:
“Sometimes, I lie in bed and think, ‘In 10 years I’ll be 80.’” A worried look crossed the face, as pretty as it was when I was a toddler and she would let me sit beside her on the piano bench as she played for Sunday church service.
“That makes me so sad,” she continued. “How did it all go by so fast? It just seems unreal.”
The early part of our lives seems to drag. Christmas and birthdays are too slow to come and are the only days that pass too quickly. High-school math class is a preview of eternity, and a week of being grounded for some teenage infraction feels like six months.
College years pass, usually easier than those high-school days, and jobs come. The bad ones linger — or rather, malinger — while the good ones with the nice bosses vanish like an ice cube in the Mississippi summer. Young adults struggle to juggle bills and children and build toward retirement.
“One day,” we have all said at one time or the other about one thing or the other, optimistic for easier times and dreams to come. We have no idea, no conception that when the transmission of life’s hours finally shifts, the speed will pick up more dramatically than we want. Times get better, money becomes less of a worry, and we enjoy the moments more. The vacations are better than they once were, but they disappear much faster.
Once, when I was working a job I hated for a person I hated, I lived for the weekends. On Monday morning when I awoke, I set my sights on the following Friday.
During a Wednesday supper with Mama during that reign of terror, I sighed heavily. “Oh, I wish it were Friday night,” I opined.
Mama straightened herself in the kitchen chair and stopped folding a paper napkin, which was her lifelong habit of hers: folding, unfolding and refolding napkins whenever she talked at the dinner table.
“Listen, little girl, you better stop wishin’ for life to go by,” she said. “You’re just wishin’ your life away. You’ll be sorry one day.”
I pursed my lips, then smiled brightly. “OK, then.” I nodded. “I wish it were LAST Friday.”
Even Mama had to laugh at the wisdom of that. It makes me reflective, even sad, to think of the periods of time I wished would hurry by and leave just a memory if it needed to leave anything behind at all.
A friend of mine died at 94, and even he was not ready to go.
“There’s so much more I could do,” he said. “If only time were on my side.”
When I think of that comment, I always think of a line from a Tennessee Williams play where a mother is consoled because her son died as a young man.
“All men, regardless of age, die too young,” she said.
And isn’t that true? For few, if any, die having done all they wanted.
After her daughter’s wedding, my friend Stevie smiled bitter-sweetly, remembering the baby now grown and married. “It all went by so quickly.”
Miss Virgie worked for weeks preparing for a big soiree she was having outside on their patio. The night before the dinner party, a huge storm blew in and brought havoc. Her glass-top tables were turned over and shattered, lanterns blown away, potted plants and shrubs destroyed.
“I had everything just like I wanted, all perfect,” she lamented. “Then, in a flash of a moment, it was all gone. All that hard work and preparation for nothing.”
And so, too, is life. Seems like we get everything set just like we want, and then we’re called away.
Life goes by so quickly.
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