Sunday, July 06, 2008

Woke this morning thinking seriously about retirement for the first time in a long time ... maybe ever ... .

Wondering if the time hasn't come when there is a need to begin to fold my tent, pull up the pegs, and join my contemporaries on the BarcaLounger watching reality television?

Not sure why such thoughts on this particular morning. I'm certainly not showing any signs of slowing down. No sense of fatigue. Still feeling the juices of creativity coursing through my veins. I continue to enjoy good health and boundless energy. From what part of my being do you suppose such thoughts arise?

Maybe it's that I'm not sure that I'll ever recognize the best time to leave the stage -- to exit gracefully ... and will I know before it's perceived by others? If not, that would be tragic. Will my ability to sense the subtle signals get lost because I've lost the will or the capacity to receive them?

It may have been such thoughts (rising from a place far beneath the surface) that caused me to leave the SS Red Oak Victory before the fireworks display got underway the other night. This is admittedly the best site in the world from which to watch the Independence Day annual spectacle. And I'm sure that it was that for the many who chose to return this year for another round in this important evolving Richmond tradition. (But someone really needs to explain why we celebrate on the third rather than the fourth of July.)

Dorian and I boarded the old ship just before six o'clock along with several hundred celebrants in holiday colors and traditional white sailor hats. We were to have dinner and music before the show would begin at nightfall. I remembered how much we'd enjoyed it last year -- watching the barge laden with the neatly-arranged pyrotechnics pass within close range alongside the ship -- close enough to look down and watch the fury of activities on the barge as well as the rousing spectacle in the sky! The anticipation was enhanced a thousand-fold by the sight of that barge. What a night!

Nonetheless, long before nightfall (with recorded music playing loudly in the background) I found myself impulsively gathering up my daughter in preparation for leaving the grand old ship for some place where we might escape the chill that was increasing with each minute. The feeling had come without warning. I was with pleasant company and surely enjoying the moment to that point. But something was missing. Then I thought of the children. There were so few in sight. What on earth are fireworks without the sounds of children gasping in awe? The median age of the crowd on board was closer to my own than to Dorrie's and she is surely no longer a child, at least not in actual years.

Dorian was puzzled but cooperative when I told her that we needed to find a place where we could watch without having to huddle against the cold night air; the kind that catches tourists shivering in their tee shirts while we natives sit smugly in our long johns and parkas; a typical July evening in the Bay Area. It was not quite dark at that point and the fireworks were still perhaps 45 minutes away.

We found it; the perfect place. After a short drive we were in
the midst of hundreds of families with excited children of all
ages running about filling the night air with their own kind of music -- a cacophony of sounds of the many languages of this ethnically-diverse city. The late Lucretia Edwards, for whom this beautiful little park was named, would have been ecstatic! Many families spread picnics on the grass. Everywhere we looked there were people wearing phosphorus-filled bracelets and neck bands that glowed in the dark. This was the Fourth of July! Here were the sounds of the children that I'd not recognized as the critical missing element until the moment when we heard the first screams of delight while parking the car. Until that very instant I had no idea why I'd felt the urgent need to leave the ship. I only knew that I needed to fill some unnamed void ... .

Maybe that was the genesis of these feelings ... feelings that clearly draw the line of separation between my worlds. I belong with those who gathered on board the old ship. That is my world; and it may be little more than the persistent hunger for the sound of children's voices and laughter that continues to hold me in the wrong generation.

Do you suppose it's as simple as that ... ?

I'd parked my car deep into the parking lot -- way up near the shoreline where I knew I'd have difficulty getting out at the end of the sky show -- when we all would be headed for homes on the other side of town. It didn't matter. This was a reasonable price to pay for the luxury of being smack-dab in the middle of "Life!" And, yes, when the show ended we spent the better part of another 45 minutes untangling ourselves from the mob of criss-crossed traffic -- but the elation of the experience of the booming earth-shaking sounds of the bursts of color and light arcing against the sky and the delighted shrieks of children remained suspended in the space around me for long hours well into the night.

What has that to do with my feelings of having "stayed too long at the fair"? Not sure. Except that I'm more aware this morning of the distances between my alternating worlds -- and am wondering if I don't need to spend the rest of my years shrinking those so that I don't lose my way -- or my relationship to my own generation... this way could prove lonely ... in time.

The seduction of the laughter of children may be a telling clue. It may be a sign that I'm not nearly as at home in my shoes as I believed myself to be. It could mean that I'm clinging inappropriately to youth even as I protest (perhaps too strongly) of how comfortable I am with the approaching end of existence.

Is this the universal fear of death masquerading as something else? Is my work actually continuing to provide any real contribution to the whole -- or am I merely postponing the inevitable by remaining in the work force for reasons that are no longer justifiable by anyone's standards?

Maybe by the time I must leave for work tomorrow morning I'll have moved past the doubts ...

Maybe not.

Maybe I'm needing to have a frank talk with my co-workers in the hope of some guidance.

But then they've never lived this part ...

I'm in uncharted waters ... .

Maybe this is the place where some decide to marry ... again.

But then ... .

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