“Just like that! Just like that!”, he would say, snapping his fingers and shaking his head. “You won’t believe how fast the time goes . . . just like that!” Snap!
Early on in our married life Angie and I would take our boys to see the Mosley’s – Angie’s grandparents on her Mom’s side of the family. At first, of course, it was just Ben when he was a baby and, Ernest Mosely, Angie’s grandfather, would hold little Ben – bouncing him on his knee – and often say those words to us. “Just like that! Just like that!” He said this quite often and I’m sure I was mostly thinking, “Yeah, right, old man. That’s just what old people say.” It’s not that I didn’t love and respect him, it’s that at 24 years old I simply could not understand what he was feeling and trying to say. (I hadn’t been on the roller coaster very long at the time.)
Life is funny that way. As the years have passed I’ve found myself observing that it seems like you spend the first 16 years of your life waiting to get your license (which was a BIG deal for my generation) and the rest of your life wondering where the time went. I’m pretty sure I didn’t say that until about 40, though. Someone explained it like this. When you are 10 years old, one year, in proportion to how long you have lived, takes on a larger perspective because it represents 10% of your life. That would make it seem quite long. Whereas, when you are 50 a year is only 5% of your life lived and, therefore, seems to move by faster. (With the speed and the twists and turns of a roller coaster.)
In my mid-fifties, now, I totally get this. I understand what Mr. Mosely was trying to say so many years ago. And I wonder where the years have gone. I look at my grown sons and try to remember what it was like when they were little. I look at the pictures and videos we took and try to “feel” what it was like to play with them; wrestle on the floor; read stories before bed. That’s not to say that I’m not happy now. I thoroughly enjoy my adult sons. When we are together we laugh at the same things, debate the politics of life and enjoy being together. Likewise, when I look at my beautiful daughter I can barely remember the curly haired angel that she was, and yet, I am so proud of the beautiful young woman she has- and is – becoming.
There’s another thing you don’t understand at 24 or 25. It’s that you never really get much older than that. Even as our bodies’ age, for the most part, our minds stay about the same. Sure, we get a little wiser over time, but once you get to the age of “you” you’re pretty much that same person for the rest of your life. This has been confirmed time and again by my older friends. In college I used to walk back home from class past Mrs. Brown’s house. She would often sit on her porch and wave at the young men who went by. She told me once that even though she was 98 years old, she still felt like she was 18 – and sometimes she would act like it on that front porch! One comedian explained it this way when talking about how strange it is to still feel young on the inside – while aging on the outside. He said, “Remember when you used to take your girlfriend to a restaurant and there was that creepy old guy in the corner booth starring at her? Well, I’m that creepy old guy now!”
Last year I wrote a song that sums up, for me, the way it feels getting older. In it you’ll find the twists and turns of life; friends with cancer; changes in the world that I would never have believed possible; the memory of an old man’s wisdom, and the feeling that things are more fragile than we know.
Well, life is like a roller coaster, I can’t seem to slow things down
And everything is moving faster and the years just roll around
When I was young I did not believe what my Granddaddy said to me
“Life rolls on!”
I’ve got friends who are facing danger, seems this would is full of doubt
And everything is getting stranger, this old world will wear you out
When I was young I did not believe what everyone was telling me
“Life rolls on!”
When you’re young you look into the future
Saying, “Let the good times roll!”
Later on you stand there wondering –
Just where did the time go?
I’ve got friends who are twenty-something, they’ve got life by the tail
I know people in there thirties and forties, running smooth upon the rails
But my older friends know just what I mean
When I say, “This life is killing me!”
Life rolls on!
“You won’t believe how fast the time goes . . . just like that!” (insert finger snap here)