Everyone seems to do one of these, and I figure that the following story should count as mine.
So New Year’s Eve I’m at the retirement home where Heidi works helping out with their party. It’s not all that bad cause they watch the feed from the East Coast and the ball drops at 9pm. So we’re putting up this bag of balloons in the room where the party is going on and I’m looking at this one old guy cause one of the balloons on a string is about to fall on him. That’s when I have one of those “realize your mortality” moments.
This guy, we’ll call ‘Fred’, is 100 years old. He’ll be 101 next month. He’s sitting there kinda hunched over, seemingly unaware of the party happenins. As I’m studying Fred for the moment I realize he looks like he’s wearing a mask. A droopy, frozen look that just seems like he’s waiting for the end. This saddens me and I think, “Oh jeez- the best you get if you live a long time is a droopy mask. Crap.” For New Years this is even more depressing of a revelation than usual.
Then the balloon hits the end of its string in front of Fred, bouncing a bit. Eyes light up. Something has sparked inside of Fred. He’s all a flurry. Out of nowhere he pops that thing across the room. The look of accomplishment on his face is heart warming; as it comes back to him, though he gets a stare of fierce determination- BAM! Each time it comes by he rears his fist back and beats the ever-loving crap out of that balloon. For the moment, behind that mask sits a ten year old. Everyone joins in, but they can’t wait for it to get to Fred so he can give it the what-for.
I’m astonished. That look wasn’t what I thought. He’s not reflecting upon a life that’s over- he’s still living in each moment. Imagine that for a hundred years. All the stories accumulated. Memories of building, of striving, of bursting out laughing, of dreaming and mourning; of giving, of passion and discovery. You know, it turns out that 100 year-old Fred is a pretty active guy who walks several blocks a day, still.
I have no idea how long I have. It scares me when I think about wasting my life. It should scare me out of laziness, but most of the time it doesn’t. I think I ought to take a lesson from Fred, and simply enjoy the act of living. It may seem like it would lead to little, but it’s usually what motivates me to achieve. Worry and laziness waste time, and show that I’m not all that excited about the time I have. Thanks Fred- Here’s to an incredible 2004.