Thursday, June 7, 2012

What were we like?

It seems difficult mentally to watch a cute little three-year old and imagine myself at that age.  If I am busy being appreciative and protective, I don't have a tendency to recall what I have heard and pictures I have seen of little Billy Kirby.  

I have a daughter, two granddaughters, and four great-grandchildren.  So, I have plenty of chance to view people at ages younger than 10, ages 10 to 35, ages 50 and up.  I do think there are differences in the same person at different ages and they are not just physical.  It seems right that up to maybe 20, we tend to need help with life.  At the other end of life, most people need help with some of the same basics: eating, walking, reading, certainly paying bills.  My mother couldn't write a legible check with she was in her late 80's and needed help from her daughter who was younger than little Billy at the time of the picture.  

When I hear that Eisenhower was the main person responsible for the D-Day landing or that Jane Austen wrote several novels, I usually wonder early on, how old Dwight and Jane were at the time concerned.  I know there was a time when they were too young to do those things and a time when they were too old.  I realize there was probably not a single day when they could lead armies and armada or write stories that they couldn't have the day before or after.  That's not how lives and time work.  The relation is indistinct, unclear, not abrupt.

Listening to "The Book of Secrets" by Deepak Chopra, who is a physician (endocrinologist) as well as an author of spiritual books, I hear him point out that while Mommy and Daddy worry about little Billy's speech or his multiplication tables, his body is carrying out operations of unfathomable complexity, making his body grow and his mind expand.  The little cells carry out amazing feats of chemical production and cooperation with a sophistication beyond the comprehension of Mommy and Daddy or anybody else.  

When I see a frustrated mother trying to calm her squawking baby while checking out of the grocery store, I like to try to find a moment, maybe when she is leaving, to ask her if she behaved that way at the age.  When a teen-ager is unwilling to put down the smartphone and have a direct conversation, I like to find a civil moment to inquire if the irritated parent was distracted (maybe by cars or sports) when he was a teen.

Often, the parent has little idea of how they behaved at younger ages.  I certainly know little about young Billy.  Sure, much later, say graduation from high school, one hears from parents and grandparents snippets but they are of course sifted and mellowed bits, not the details of some irritation or misbehavior.

I think it is very difficult to look in two opposite directions at once.  With a child, we are naturally aware of the future.  With someone over 70, we naturally think of the past, not so much because it was rosy or rotten but because it was so full, so long and may contain surprises we had no inkling of.  It is fun to realize that we are all floating through the stream of time, inside and outside of our bodies.
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