God is a mean boy with a magnifying glass. We age with a slow burn. With the holidays having just passed and spending time with my dad I could see for the first time the years of experience on my dad’s face.
I reminisce about when my dad turned 40. The year was about 1980. Mom and Dad celebrated with some friends. I remember us kids made “over the hill” signs, there were black balloons. It was a casual affair with Willie Nelson playing on the eight-track. My parents and their friends seemed goofy and old to me. I am older now than he was then. Now I am goofy and old. My mom died several years ago so it is good to see dad to celebrate Christmas. Dad drove down from Newbury Park where I grew up and spent Christmas with us and our big extended family here in Laguna. My dad still has a youthful twinkle in his eyes on certain occasions. This year he was introduced to a great alcoholic drink called Fireball. If you haven’t had it I can tell you that it has a picture of the devil on it. Dad really liked it.. Later that night when we all went to Mozambique to see a popular U2 cover band. The large group of us danced and had a good time. At the end of the night my dad offered a memorable critique of the band U2. “They have a good sound and will be successful.” Eyes twinkling still.
Around the holidays I see my home and family through the eyes of my kids. As an almost 16-year-old boy, I remember the collection of Hot Wheels cars I spent my life collecting while at the same time getting ready to drive my first car. I remember the feeling of safety and joy at seeing a neighborhood with Christmas lights. I hark back to my dad teaching me to work with tools and now I teach my boys the same. I remember when my dad was my age and recollect being the same age that my kids are now. I can now see what the rest of time on this planet might look like. It makes me wonder what is so great about youth. Youth is fine but aside from the physical dilemmas, being older is better.
Older folks have experience. There are no big surprises left in life when you reach a certain age. About the time you need glasses to read the Independent you have gained enough life knowledge to make good decisions about almost anything. Most places you go you have a good idea what will happen there. Most scenarios that arise you have experience with. People take you more seriously. The TV news shocks you less because you have seen it all before.
The lack of experience of youth makes almost anything an awkward undertaking. Do you remember the times you drank too much, said the wrong thing, made a stupid business deal etc.? Thinking you knew a lot and ignorant to how little you really knew.
Oblivious bliss makes youth alluring.
A great comedian summarized life this way. In your teens, you feel like you can do anything and you do. Your 20s are a blur. In your 30s, you start a family, make some money and start to lose your hair. In your 40s, you get a potbelly and hear from a girl you used to date in high school who has just become a grandmother. In your 50s, music becomes too loud. You have your first surgery. You call it a “procedure”, but it’s a surgery. In your 60s, you buy a house in Ft. Lauderdale. In your 70s, music is still too loud but you don’t care because you can’t hear it anyway.
The objects of your youth can make you nostalgic about being young. I teared up recently when watching on old Van Halen music video. I still have worthless baseball cards from when I was a kid, a T-shirt I liked when I was in high school and a pair of underwear has managed to stay in my drawer from when I was probably about 10. Why am I saving this stuff?
The young can have youth. As my dad has recently proven, it is possible to still be blissful. Conversely, I got good advice recently “ageing is not for wimps.”
Dad’s birthday is coming up in a few days. I’m raising this Fireball to you.
Roderick Reed owns REEDesign Interiors in Laguna Beach. He lives in town with his wife Kathy and two sons Mason and Jack. http://roderickreed.com/.
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