The beginning of a new me
By Dave Farson
Stranger, I am offended!
The woman was talking to a companion, and I was listening to their conversation. The stranger said, “Harold and I want to get all our traveling in before we are 65. After that, who knows?”
Stranger, who knows after 18, 21, or 30? Regretfully, there is mortality at all ages. That’s why I plan to have lists for after 65, 75, and 90!
The first thing I want to do after 65 is spread a blanket on the evening grass, lie down on it, and look up into the sky. I want to count the stars. When I was a child, I counted the stars and got to 126. My friends said I was stupid. They were sure there were about 500. I have always wondered who was right. Getting down to that blanket will be more difficult than it was at age 7, but I am confident I can manage.
Next on my list is to get myself the most comfortable of chairs and sit outside in the evening. I want to sit there, breathe, and realize that there is nothing I must do. My life is completely my own. I can sit there as long as I wish. I can breathe with the universe. I can count time in monumental moments.
My third desire will be to chase a pretty girl down the street. I will not be able to catch her. If I come close, she will consider me a stalker and miss the compliment I am paying her. She will complain to the police, I will be in trouble, but it will be so invigorating!
The fourth item on my list is to paint a picture. I don’t think I have any talent in painting. I was afraid to take such a course in college. If I failed, it would have killed my GPA! But after 65, I will realize that one’s GPA is awfully small in the galaxy of worries. My GPA will never be mentioned at my funeral or in my obituary. So I am going to take a painting class. And maybe I’ll join a choir. I have about as much talent in singing as I do in painting!
The fifth thing I want to do is see new parts of the world. At its worst, travel can make me appreciate home. At its best, it can widen my vision and deepen me as a person. After having seen the homelands of others, I will better understand how others see the world. If I’m lucky, I’ll come away with a deeper understanding of why they see the United States the way they do.
I want to talk with my wife. She has been my partner for many years and I wouldn’t want to pass without telling her how thankful I am that she has shared my journey. After 65, we’ll have time just to talk. There will be less busyness in our lives and more time to turn off the television and talk. If she is nice to me, maybe I’ll let her sit on
my blanket and count the stars.
I want to make time for friends. I can e-mail those who prefer that method, and I can call those who like to hear my voice. Too much of my life was spent trying to make a living, and sometimes I neglected my friends. From my new perspective, I can see that many relationships could have been deeper if I had taken the time.
I want to read the books I didn’t have time for when I was busy. I want to sit beside a lake with a book and, after 65, I won’t have to use the excuse of fishing!
The ninth item on my list is to stay engaged with my world. As my body counts its days, I want to stay mentally and emotionally engaged. I want to continue to care about the sidewalks and streets. I hope to care about whatever war is being waged at the moment. When young men and women are dying, the rest of us should not have the freedom not to care. The heart of democracy is engagement. The primary role of “citizen” is to keep the conversation going.
Finally, I want to keep making lists. I want always to be open to possibilities. I hope I will resist my limitations and look for ways to build my lists.
Stranger, you were right and wrong. You were right that no one can predict the future. But you were wrong in seeing 65 as some imaginary line where human beings begin the downward spiral. It could be the beginning of a new me. Who knows?
Dave Farson, of Overland Park, taught at Shawnee Mission North High School for 33 years. He is now a freelance writer.