Time alters everything. I remember being a kid, no worries, sure that things would always work out. That idealism defined me. Into my twenties the odds always seemed on my side. Youth, with all that seemingly endless possibility fueled by bottomless energy; it makes any dream achievable. But then you cross a threshold.
What I remember most about my father was his anger and bitterness. The man always believed he was entitled to more and, these many years later I can finally understand why. He came from modest means and he built himself up. This high school dropout worked endlessly to move his family from a trailer to a house, to put his kids in private school, to give us opportunities he didn’t have. But the hell he had to pass through to do it left him perpetually on edge. If we made a mess he went off the handle. If we frowned at a meal he sent us to bed starving. And don’t even think about asking for money. Chores were our way of paying him back and learning the value of everything we had. We didn’t have much but we came to take pride in it. As much as I hated the man growing up,his refusal to congratulate me for my achievements, to find time to share with me, hell, just to realize he knew I existed. But now I look back, see the man I became, and comprehend all that he did for me. The pain fades with the salve of epiphany. He gave so much for me until there was little left and I feel guilty for asking for more than he could provide after so much.
My late twenties saw the dissolution of my life. My wife divorced me and took everything. I lost my job. I was forced to move halfway across the country back into a house I had done everything a decade prior to get out of. The next several years increasingly saw me drowning in pity and liquor. No matter what I did, I couldn’t turn my life around. I blamed myself for everything. I had taken my wife for granted, lived selfishly. I was materialistic, hedonistic, and shallow. The world owed me everything. I squandered everything and some nights pondered ending it before it inevitably became worse. And then one day a chance event enabled me to turn my life around. That opportunity sparked a bit of the old me. I had to work for it, God I worked, but it proved worth it. Since then, I’ve rediscovered the value of everything in my life. My second wife, my home, everything I possess. The worth weighs heavily upon me. I do my best to impress that realization on my children and I understand they have time yet to realize like I did. They likely hate me as much as my dad, but being on the other side, I try hard to let them know every moment I miss I’ll do my best to replace and as tired as I am, I’ll try my best to be there for them.
I’m quite different these days. I’m cynical, dark humored, and at times bitter. There is an anger there believing I deserve more but then I realize there is still time. It isn’t simply going to happen like the old days; I’m going to have to earn it. And trust me, I’m willing. What limited days I have are each a blessing I can’t squander and the legacy I leave behind for my kids is more important than those selfish moments I once enjoyed.
Age eventually takes back what it gives. That loss gives rather than steals value. The older we get the angrier we get. Not by what we no longer have but that the young need to lose just as much to learn that. Life: it’s all about changing perspectives.