I am forty-six. I say it not as an indictment of the age, but merely as a fact.
I can remember as a teenager when I realized that my parents were in their forties. I remember that, at forty, the aging process took hold. White grew at the edges of your hair. A certain sullenness set into newly formed creases. The home, your home, grew a little smaller, snugger, with accumulated items. There always were hurdles.
Of course, as a teenager, I viewed the transformations through teenage eyes, undamaged, immature, reckless. Stress hung difficult on the house.
I am forty-six now. My parents have walked through the valley that I find myself in now. I look in the mirror and recognize the white hair forming at my temples, blending into the colored hairs. Movement is sometimes painful. I walk through hours of stress, paying bills, robbing Peter to pay Paul. I don’t have any children now, but it only makes me understand how much more difficult rearing a child is.
I look at my parents now no longer in their forties, but past that, emerging into a joyful age.
... they work on things that people enjoying a life at ease from work enjoy, gardening, woodworking, sewing, painting, photography. In fact, moving through the forties valley seems to have forged a bond between them, a bond which I believe others, including myself, should envy. It is a stress-free bond.
I am forty-six now.
Some mornings, when I am taking my shower, I calculate in my head my age of retirement. I tried to imagine what it might be like to be retired what place where my wife and I will end up. I wonder if I will be transformed in the way that my parents were transformed. My parents wear calmness and patience, something I don’t remember recognizing as a child. At forty-six, I wear self-destruction, rough T-shirts, dirty shoes, jeans every day I can. I style my hair like I would have when I was a teenager, shorn except for the long bangs.
Even the way they talk resembles the speak of a guru. I visited them recently, spent time talking with them together and separately, sometimes touching on past sins, other times speaking about intellectual pursuits. Nothing though was too serious. Rather, I should say it felt like they discussed each matter with me as if they were tending a garden, gently shaping the talk but allowing growth in an organic way. Both of them were skilled in this dialoguing.
Mother laughs a lot more. Father appears more reflective. I walk with them now, if that makes sense, not behind them. I sit with them instead of next to them. There has been a release, and with that release, a growing acceptance of how I’ve turned out.
In the shower, I calculate always twenty years to retirement, if the retirement age holds steady. Fifteen years until my school loans are paid off. The same for the mortgage on my house. In three years, the car I bought will be paid off. In the meantime, I collect a number of things which have been unaccomplished, books unread, art incomplete, places unvisited.
I should say that I enjoy my job. I don’t want to rush it. There is satisfaction in it. But I see the glow of the sun that one can see on the faces of my parents, a sun hidden by the valley walls. And that is the problem with walking in a valley; it is hard to see what is beyond its walls.
I am forty-six now. But I know there is a joy when you walk out of the valley in your sixties.