The other day, while I was bemoaning the damage the sun has done to my skin, my son said something to me. It got me thinking and I decided to reflect on getting older. I wrote this letter to him and perhaps myself.
You said yesterday, “Well, at least you still have hair. You can be happy about that.”
I had to think about it for a while. I am happy I still have hair. But I can’t cling to that, because if I live long enough I won’t have hair . . .
In fact, as I age, I continue to lose things. If I spend time mourning their loss, I will spend a lot of time in mourning. If I spend time clinging to what’s left, I will spend time clinging to a slowly shrinking life raft of happiness.
I choose not to mourn. I choose not to cling.
I choose gratitude for what I had. I choose gratitude for what I have and I choose gratitude for what is to come.
I am not as strong as I used to be, but I was strong enough to travel the world. I am thankful for that.
The skin is starting to go, literally. The doctors will continue to take pieces bit by bit. They will caution me to stay inside more, to stay out of the sun. I choose not to mind. This part is just paying the rent due for having a body and living a life. The rent is cheap actually.
I knew this rent, this payment, would come. You can’t grow up and watch your parents and grandparents age, and pay their rent, without knowing that your rent will come due soon enough.
When the knees or hips go (they always do if you use them and live long enough) I will be grateful for the mountains climbed and the races run. I will cherish the memories of going for runs with my friends and racing you kids on the beach.
As my eyes get worse I will thank them for the wonderful things I have seen. Albatross in the open ocean, the stars of the Southern Hemisphere and landfall in New Zealand. And you.
I will be thankful for every year, and each year as I pay the rent, I will even be thankful for that.
For it is a cheap price to pay for a life I literally could not have imagined when it began . . .