From the Editor: We received this email from one of our members, it's beautifully written and we think it should be shared. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did.
My name is Arthur and I've been a reader of this site for a few years, and I've always wanted to write you this letter seeing as you often deal with matters of age. I'm now 83 years old and I just want to say that I don't understand it when people complain about getting older. For me, each decade of my life has had something to teach me. I intended this to be a short story, but I think I'll just tell it like it is. This is why I have personally loved each and every decade in my long life:
I don't remember much of my first five years of life, but I could see the love my parents had for me as a little baby boy. The love shined from their faces like bonfires, warming me as I grew into a short little toddler. My first memories then are of warmth, protection and blind trust. Not a bad way to begin a life.
From five to 10, I remember testing my first limits, learning my first physical limitations as I ran, jumped, fell, and cried - then ran some more. I learned the sheer exhilaration of a young, fearless body yearning to discover what it can do. And by Jove, I certainly did that.
It was a time of magic and wonder, when legends seemed as true as the sun above me, and empty houses were haunted by ghosts of the past, waiting to devour little boys. Magic was in the world, and I was a part of that mystical sensation. I loved it.
...I became who I AM inside. The core of me, you might say, is made up of my teenage self - looking out of the window, pondering the questions of life and trying to make all the pieces of the puzzle fit together in my mind. I dreamed of grandeur, riches and fame.
I felt the first quickening of my heart at age 12, looking at a pair of sea-blue eyes across my 7th Grade classroom. Looking back, I had my heart broken for the first time when I was 14. I found true love at 17, and lost it before my twenties. I still think about her sometimes, wondering what would have been if I took that other path. Nevertheless, I'm happy with the one I chose.
I learned about true friendship, and how one must sometimes sacrifice and compromise in order to accommodate true friendship. I learned it has enormous value, and that being loyal to a friend is a thing to be proud of.
I learned the rudiments of being a man during those years - how to respect my elders and give assistance when it was needed by those weaker than myself. I also learned the importance of protecting my family and its good name. Furthermore, I learned to always be kind to strangers, that is unless they showed me that they may have ulterior motives. These lessons were the ones that came to define me.
But during my third decade (between 20 and 30)...
...I BECAME a man. I worked harder than I ever did before - not because I was told, but because I wanted to build a life for myself. I discovered what strong motivation it was to work towards my own dreams and my own ends. I found true love for the second time, and this time it stuck. We got married before I was 25, and I was the happiest man for miles around. I found satisfaction at work, but also discovered the burning ambition in me driving me forwards. I worked hard and complained sometimes, but I never quit.
Most importantly, by the time I was 30, I had built my most prized possession - my family. My wife and three children. Two girls, one boy. They are four people who I would die for if I had to, but it also goes without saying that they are the people I live for. They're not perfect, but I would never dream of replacing them with anyone else. I watch my children as they discover the world like I did 20 years ago, feeling that rush of the first decade of real life.
...passed as if in the blink of an eye. My beautiful family ripened around me. My boy growing taller and more self-assured with each passing year. My daughters become smarter than me quite quickly, and grew lovelier with each day as they found their way to maturity.
I worked hard during those years, and after the children grew, so did my wife. As a result, our children wanted for nothing, but also learned the value of what dedicating yourself to work can do for you. I saw my wife growing in years and wisdom, and I felt so grateful to have this woman by my side for so long - her steady hand keeping me from falling.
My body started to hurt more, and I couldn't do the same things I did as a young man. I can't say I've enjoyed that, but it also became comfortable, like a familiar old friend with limitations you've come to accept out of love.
I got to see my children choosing and following their paths, falling in love and discovering their own limitations and abilities. I was so proud of them, and I still am.
...it seems like the years passed even faster. The face looking back at me in the mirror started to change quite a bit. It became old - a face full of wrinkles, like a history map etched into my skin, marking so many years of memories, conversations, experiences and dreams.
My body ached, but my heart soared as my children created families of their own. I also became a grandfather, delighting in two generations that sprung from the love of just two people. I feel honored to be the patriarch of our family.
I finally stopped working so hard and allowed myself to sit back and enjoy the time I had left. Playing games with my grandchildren, sharing in the burdens of my worried children, and sharing the last moments with my wife as cancer slowly took her away from me. I won't lie - those were hard times, and I don't know if I would have made it through without the support of my family. They were there for me, and we had such a great life together. In the end, I just had to let her go, knowing in my heart that I'll join her someday.
I am now 83 years old. I still feel like I have plenty of time in this world, but as I look back, I can say that I have fallen in love with each decade of my life so far. I wouldn't trade any of them, as each made me who I am, gave me pleasure, and taught me about life. I feel thankful for each year of life, each morning I greet and each night I bid farewell.
My wife is constantly with me in spirit, and I often hear her remarking about things I do. I don't mind it. My children are now getting into later age themselves, and are learning many of the same lessons I learned. I smile and watch them go through it, knowing it will be all right in the end.
I have interests and hobbies, and enjoy what life brings me. I let my dear old body rest when it wants, and it kindly manages to do most of the things I want when I ask it nicely. My old fears and anxieties, and the things that sometimes made me sad, are dimmed now. I live more in the present than I ever did, even though my memories walk besides me. I am alive, and I have a rich, full life to ponder.
I am quite content.
That's my story. I'm sorry if I sound a bit sappy - it happens when you take the time to look back. I hope others will understand and will learn also to love each decade with all their hearts.
God bless you all.