Holding Back The Years
Written by Stephanie Renee on October 18, 2015
I have some very funny memories from the last few years of my father’s life. Most of them involve him making some kind of off-color remark about aging, his youth, or his hopes and dreams (and, jokingly, fears) for his children. A spirit of sass and defiance served him well throughout most of his personal and professional development. But he worried that his daughters, in particular, would suffer under the weight of a smart mouth and lofty ambitions.
How many candles on the cake equal a life well-lived? I don’t think many of us cherish the idea of quantifying how many years will be “enough” once all is said and done with this earthly part of our soul’s journey. For my father, the magic number was 85. That’s how many years his mother lived to be, and he had some kind of competitive need to be sure that he reached that same number. Not sure why he even fretted about it, given the fact that longevity seems to run on his side of my tree. But I am glad that he was able to celebrate 90 years before he shut his eyes for the last time.
I haven’t always been so optimistic about my life cycle. Anyone who loses a parent early in life is probably lying if they don’t admit to having at least a brief period of being completely preoccupied with their own mortality. And, in my moments of supreme geekdom, I was very concerned about the Law of Diminishing Returns. My maternal grandmother was 61 when she passed. My mother was 39. So I had a moment as a teen where I was fairly convinced that I wouldn’t live to see 20. And that fear probably led me to make some risky decisions that may not have seemed so attractive if I hadn’t been concerned with dying early and missing out on some important moments. Thankfully, none of those choices drastically altered the course of my life or shortened it. But I certainly don’t take my time for granted.
Today, I am older than my mother, my brother Donnie and my stepbrother Gary ever lived to be. All for different reasons. Two of the great loves of my life also passed away prematurely. But, unlike my Daddy, I am not looking to a specific number of years breathing to be the measure of my existence. My motto is Quality over Quantity. If I have to count something, let it be passport stamps and occasions when I laugh myself hoarse. Life is such an amazing journey, and I don’t want to miss it while I’m busy counting the days go by. I am thankful for these years, yes. But there is so much more living to do, regardless of the ticking of the clock or the pages flipping by on the calendar.