Dear Terry at 46 ~
It’s your 85-year old self here. I was reflecting today on our life and my mind wandered back to our 46th birthday. I remember how you’re feeling. Really I do. I know it well. Too well.
That time when life felt like a spin cycle that never ended. Unable to really catch your breath …
We spent our last meal as a 45-year old person at a Ruby Tuesday in a mall. Jackson decided to have a dinner consisting entirely of croutons and bacon bits.
We entered the mall on a Saturday evening at around 5:30 because that aversion we normally have to malls lay dormant. We paid $12 for the privilege of riding a train around the mall because The Dumplings went running up to said train and got in. Their smiles were so massive and happy — what’s $12?
After the ride was over they let us off in front of a Victoria’s Secret. There was something creepy about this. James darted off towards the stuffed animals on wheels. Meanwhile there was a man getting arrested in the play area! Jackson was not phased, he wanted to help the mall cop. For the first time you were fully exasperated and ordered harnesses off of Amazon while in the mall — all the while thinking, “Don’t judge me until you’ve tried it.”
As you in 39 years, the only thing I want to tell you is to slow down. Breathe. We get there. The days in the mall dining at Ruby Tuesday are few. There is so much more out there to show the boys and when we slow down those things come to us. Rest assured, the boys outgrow the need to ride mall trains and stuffed animals on wheels. They outgrow the circles going nowhere. The next two decades of your life will be full of all sorts of places you would probably never visit if not for the Dumplings. Savor it. You’ll want it back.
I wish I could tell you it will be your last Ruby Tuesday-like dining experience. Or the last time you will put a dollar into stupid rides like this one — just to see their joy at the newness of it all. It won’t.
As Abraham Lincoln famously said, “In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count, but the life in your years.” He only got 56 years in, and managed to pack it quite full — saving the union and all. He did not have all of these technologies to distract him. He just sat and taught himself the law by candlelight. One book at a time.
Can you imagine? Not really.
Perhaps if we went back and talked to our college self she could help us remember microfiche reports. Life before Google seems so long ago — especially for me! Life was easier to bring into focus with fewer distractions. I know you’re struggling with this a lot lately. Being only your 85-year old self, I can’t tell you if you make it to 108 — but I can tell you an occasional Dr. Pepper over good ice will not kill you.
I can feel you agonizing over not getting it all in before it’s over. You’re running so fast you forgot where you were headed.
I remember this time.
This is when we started to realize we’re all headed out of here one way or another. We try to outrun time. Check it all off. The kids are little. Life is moving like a high-speed train. Sleep feels like an inconvenience. Eating is an afterthought. Showers are often enough, but somehow unsatisfying. There is no lingering. You and Jonathan are dead last. Stop it.
On your 46th birthday you went to a Starbucks — alone. You ordered a Venti iced green tea and a birthday cake pop. You savored both. Alone. You read a real book. Alone. You went to the bathroom. Alone. You left your phone in the car and hoped the world went on fine without immediate access. It did.
Sometimes loneliness is bliss. We all need it. You need it.
There was a swirl margarita and a plate of sopapillas for the birthday girl at dinner. The Dumplings ate sopapillas dipped in honey double-fisted. You did not drink the swirl margaritas double-fisted. People might talk. #motheroftheyear
I am here to tell you, as the sun sets on the first day of your 47th year of life … only you can stop the spin cycle. Only you know how to push it in and stop it — and when you do so much more comes into focus.
Trust me. You get this far and what a ride it is. Now go to bed — you need it.
Terry at 85