Wednesday, July 28, 2010

All of Us

Sitting on a plane today next to a very lovely young woman. Looked across the aisle and saw an elderly woman...and they were the same. Sort of. In the elderly woman I could see the bones and carriage of a young lady who had been a knockout.

That's all of us. Born so small, I used to delight in holding my daughter in one hand. So tiny and fragile. Not human, really, except in potential. Precious, but when you make the list of things that define human, (reason and speech and manipulating symbols and objects) newborns don't really fit the criteria. They are a unique animal.

Then, in a few years another discrete stage- exploring the world, stumbling. Occasionally frightened but more often filled with an awe-inspiring curiosity. Toddlers are funny, darling and cute as the dickens.

Then they become children. Real explorers. Full of dreams and possibility. Right here they can be grown into heroes or shamed into robotic, fearful sheep. If you let them run with the age, they will do and be miracles.

Next the angsty teen, pre-teen and post-teen stuff. Trying to figure out who they are and where they fit. With strong kids, this is fascinating. With weak kids or those with a sense of special entitlement I imagine it would be terrible to parent. Gratefully, I've been spared that.

Then the young adult. Full flower. The beauty of the young woman sitting next to me (my wife has much better legs, though. And shoulders. And skin...) The potential and strength in a young man. Little wisdom yet, but often intelligence. Not always, people can be damaged at any stage, but if they aren't too damaged, each stage has a special magic, a special beauty and a power.

The full adult, moving through the world with confidence. Caring for others, making things better. Righting wrongs and holding responsibilities. A force to be reckoned with.

The quiet years where the torch passes to others and you exist in knowledge (I'm not here yet, so this is speculation.) You watch the seeds of what you have done flourish in your community and family.

Then the slipping into darkness that frankly terrifies me. As eyes go and body and possibly mind...maybe it all seems for nothing. Maybe not. Maybe you forget things that should never be forgotten. What would Lawrence of Arabia have been like in a nursing home, suffering from dementia and incontinence?

Then death, pale skin and flesh of cold and clammy meat.

Then the meat rots.

And it is for all of us. The elderly lady has been the same as the lovely young lady, and still is in a way. We are or have been the same as the children we see discovering tadpoles for the first time. It's kind of beautiful.


VC said...

One Dad to another - that was beautifully written.

Lise Steenerson said...

Very nice Rory.
You are not lucky with your children you raised strong children, human beings.
Getting old is not that scary. Be all that you are meant to be (sounds like an army commercial) and you will have no regrets. If the world is a better place because you were in it, you can't be anymore immortal than that

Steve Perry said...

"Then death, pale skin and flesh of cold and clammy meat.

Then the meat rots."

Aw, c'mon, why you want to sugar-coat it that way?

Ever hear the Hearse Song? Last verse -- and imagine it with a chorus of "Dead, dead, dead, dead/ dead, dead, dead, dead ..."

The worms crawl in, the worms crawl out, the worms play pinochle on your snout/they eat your eyes, they eat your nose, they eat the jelly between your toes/they spread it on a piece of bread -- and that's what happens after you're dead.

Dead, dead, dead, dead ...

I've always though Isaiah 40:6, "all flesh is grass."
Or George Harrison's "All Things Must Pass," to be more elegant, but there is that bottom line ...

Tiff said...

I concur with Lise. Remember, Rory -- lion prints.

I love the way you encourage your readers so subtly; everything you write inspires hope and assures us our flaws are not beyond repair.

Mike H. said...

LIMITED (by Carl Sandburg)

I AM riding on a limited express, one of the crack trains
of the nation.
Hurtling across the prairie into blue haze and dark air
go fifteen all-steel coaches holding a thousand people.
(All the coaches shall be scrap and rust and all the men
and women laughing in the diners and sleepers shall
pass to ashes.)
I ask a man in the smoker where he is going and he
answers: "Omaha."