My grandmother is in town. Ramona. She is 85. The first thing we did when we found out she was coming to town was run down to Albertson's and buy a case of Coca-Cola. Ramona is a diabetic who has had two bypass surgeries. She is as full of defiance, opinion, and love as I ever remember her. Today she had two demands of me. The first was to stop getting tattoos on my arms, and the second was to get married and start having kids.
It is really hard for me to imagine that I am at an age where anyone would think it a good idea for me to have children. I feel entirely too immature. I am still too young to want to put any boundaries on my life. I am 34 years old. When I spend time around other people who are even my age, they feel old to me. They seem like they are too old to identify with me. And to look at someone who is 85 and imagine that someday I will be dealing with a body that is full of pain and the scars of age is too much to comprehend. I know it is happening already. Life has a funny way of giving you all the clues, but keeping you too busy to know what the storyline is. I suppose it is better that way.
One of the only clues in my life that leads me to the conclusion that I have learned anything during these past 20 years is that I feel gratitude for the people who have graciously consented to share their lives with me. When I was a teenager I had no time or patience to listen to my grandparents and I missed out on a lot of chances to enjoy their company and learn from them. It is frustrating to think of all the pain and disappointment in my life that I could have avoided by following the guidance of more experienced people who loved me enough to tell me what I should be doing. I could have had a lot more fun if I would have stopped pretending I knew everything, shut up, and done the next indicated thing. I guess youth is wasted on the young.
Spending time with two other generations of my family also gives me a great insight into the patterns that form in relationships. I watch my mom and her brother argue over things in a loving way that mean next to nothing. I watch my mom show a level of service to my grandmother that is truly remarkable. That gratitude that I am just now starting to feel aware of is demonstrated in every action that my mother performs in the presense of her mother. When the conversation turns towards my recently passed grandfather I see the deep reverence and respect that we all feel towards a man who sacrificed so much of himself to guide us all into the best things in life. I feel lucky to be a part of this family.
Every year of my life seems to go by a little faster. It seems that in the blink of an eye I will one day be remembering the lessons I learned from these amazing people without the benefit of having them so accessible. I suppose I am fortunate to be aware of this fact while I can still do something about it but the powerlessness and weight of it is difficult sometimes. It is days like today that I would love to freeze time and keep the loved ones I have now forever in my life. I would love nothing more than to spend as much time with these people as they could stand just so that I can learn everthing I can from them and show them how very important they are to me. I can only hope that in the limited time I really do have that I can convey that love and respect to them. Sometimes I really doubt I do a very good job at that. I suppose I can start trying harder now.
It doesn't have to be true that we never realize what we have before it is gone. It doesn't have to be that we never are able to show the people who comprise our family how much we love them. But it can't be done while worrying about the things that so commonly trap us into doubt, self pity, and fear. We can live our lives in the present moment and serve those around us in such a way that makes the wold a better place. I believe this. I just have to figure out how to do it.
Maybe it is growing older that teaches us how to do things right. Maybe it is the humility that comes with the the loss of youth that causes us to be better human beings. That would seem to be the case with my family anyway.