XXXVII

Photo by Cat Chanler
Photo by Cat Chanler

I should shudder at the mention… that I am now older. Mortality’s pang has indeed grown more insistent, I do admit, but so too has my resistance to its particular dread.

Another year older. Another cosmic sojourn around the Sun. Another day removed from my birth. Another day closer to my death. Another year of life, and another chance to turn it all around.

There is one thing that stands out more than anything else about this year, how fast the years pass. I know I’ve thought and felt this repeatedly with each passing year, but my word! The time does move quicker with age! There are moments where I catch myself, where I consider internally the day, in a vain effort to hold back the onrushing tide of seconds, minutes, hours, days, weeks, months, years.

But it is a futile gesture, at best.

The changes in me are subtle. There are benefits and drawbacks. Like life itself, growing older is a series of trade-offs. I’m more patient than I used to be — more tolerant of others’ foolishness, though growing oddly impatient with my own. There are actions and behaviors of mine I would’ve rationalized in my younger days that I no longer accept.

Staying up and sleeping late is one of them. I’ve come to appreciate the great value of arising early with my household and getting a head start on the day — that a more prudent use of my time during waking hours is much preferred to stretching one day into the next. There is the occasional breach, however, but not enough to disrupt a disciplined schedule of rest.

Good grooming is another.

Though I would argue I was never too unseemly in dress and coiffure, in the last couple years I’ve developed a more sophisticated and mature outlook on how I present myself to others in appearance. Shorts and a t-shirt are fine for sports or working in the yard, but rarely elsewhere. Unless I am participating in an event involving some manner of physical labor or athletic exertion, I make it a priority to present a comfortable but cultured style.

Another aspect that continues to be driven home within my spirit is my relationship to others.

2013 Overton fireworksThe scowling and quick-tempered youth of XXVII has become a more poised and sanguine elder man of 37. For me it seems age continues to polish my rough edges, even as it sharpens the precision of my thoughts and actions. I am, I feel, more keenly inclined in my praise and criticism, growing generous with the former and tender with the latter.

I also cannot help but become more sensitive to the sensibilities and longings of others. Whether that is the advancement of age or the by-product of being a father to five young children (or both?) I am uncertain. I can only say that I feel its growing tremor and swirl in my thoughts and emotions. It is a golden thread that connects almost everything I do.

What have I learned in this past year? Oh me, do I dare to even list such an account!

The lessons have been many. Countless tiny and delicious agonies, untold sublime triumphs, and innumerate glorious moments of bliss and heightened awareness. I have become a wealthy, wealthy man in this past 12-month span… and the days ahead seem to contain such riches that I cannot even express the joy I feel within.

I have a great love in my life: Candace, my radiant one, my luminous beloved. I have been passionately in love with this woman for almost half of my entire life, and it shows no indication of lessening — or even leveling off. The more I know her, and the deeper I love her, the more I want to know her and the deeper I want to love her. Our love for each other seems an inexhaustible well, that gives a greater thirst even as it quenches.

I have 5 fascinating and abundantly blessed children: Gaelynn, Irael, Sophia, Liam, and Xander. Though I know it is tinged heavily with paternal pride, I sincerely believe them to be uniquely gifted people. They are five of the most extraordinary people I’ve ever known, and I look forward to knowing them more. Never a day goes by where I am not thankful to be their father.

The turn of the years continue to bless me in new and unexpected ways.

Since returning to East Texas some four years ago, I can only marvel at the change in my relationship with my extended family. A change that has taken a new turn over this past year.

Yes, God has been merciful and wholly gracious to me.

On a regular Sunday morning at my place of worship, it is not unusual to see my father bellowing along to young Levi’s performance with his own resonant baritone. Sitting not far from him is my youngest brother Joshua and 80-year-old grandmother. In another aisle my cousin-brother Chris sings with arms aloft and the tear-stained eyes of the penitent.

Yes, in an answer to a long-secret prayer, my children will grow up in a church surrounded by their family, as well as their Family. Indeed, there’s a running joke among the elder board that, eventually, the church will need an entire section of seats just to hold my family.

Good Lord, may I live to see such a glorious thing!

Of course, I cannot talk of this day without thought and mention of my mother. She and I have shared many talks leading up to this day.

“I should throw you a party,” I told her yesterday, “while this is the day of my birth, it’s also a celebration for you: on this day 37 years ago you became a mother!”

She adored the sentiment, and we spoke of how far we’ve come as mother and son.

There have been bumps along the way, to be sure, but we have found such a peace and joy in each other now. I have no more zealous a partisan, for she takes great pains to praise and celebrate me in all that I do.

…and my cheering section has increased o’er the days.

It’s been another abounding year for me in personal and professional pursuits. My colleagues and peers have extended accolades too embarrassingly numerous to bother about. My reputation as an editor and writer within my region continues to swell — and with it many glowing opportunities to collaborate with others, as well to pursue projects of my own.

I am in the closing chapters of my third completely-written book, though it remains as rambling and unkempt as its two predecessors — to say nothing of the disjointed collections of poetry I still hold ambitions to print. I remain at a loss as to precisely when/how I want to go about publishing these sprawling tomes.

Oh, but I do digress…  yes, I shall have to write more about this peculiar hindrance later.

The redolent and sultry Summer days in East Texas sear themselves into my skin and brain. My leopard-spotted skin has taken on the deep golden hue of afternoons spent lazing about the pool or jogging down the road. Even as my beard and brows shows the glistening frost of my age, I still feel able-bodied and burly. No, I am not ready to be put out to pasture.

I played on both sides of the ball during this past Winter’s triumph: the alumni football game. I blocked and tackled, hustled and bustled about the field. It was marvelous fun, and I look forward to competing again this coming January — both in the aggressive training leading up to the event and the game itself. My thirst for battle was not slaked at all, in fact I was surprised at how quickly my body was able to recover from the pounding.

While I will make a few physical concessions about growing older (decrease in natural endurance, increase in length of recovery time), I have also found that other parts of my body respond to exertion like an old leather strap. Resilient, and battle-hardened with constant use.

I continue to run regularly (albeit, due to time constraints, not as I regularly I would like) and it feels like, the harder I push myself, the stronger my body responds. For example: just a few days ago I pushed myself at an 8-minute mile for over 8 miles, showered and slept, ate a big meal, and then made love with my wife for two hours. The next day I worked in the yard for most of the morning, then swam laps in my sister’s swimming pool for the entire afternoon.

The point I’m belaboring is that, while I know I’m getting older — and losing the natural benefits of simply being young — my physicality remains supple and sound with a constant regimen of varying exertion.

Yea verily! I feel as strong as I’ve ever been. I can still participate in sports with men younger than I am. While I may have to stretch longer before and after a rousing game of “21” no one chases this “old” man off the court.

Again, I digress…  <laughs> how’s that for the ravages of time?

.

So I lift my eyes, and let my gaze fall upon the near windowsill. I see the diaphanous light of the sun illuminate the first gossamer day of my thirty-seventh year of life on this earth.

I have come so far…  my God, have I come so far.

The fires I first felt in my youthful pursuits has kindled into a raging blaze that neither cools nor ebbs. Ah me, what a burning hearth churns deep within me!

May the Lord grant me the strength and wisdom to reckon my days well, to serve and glorify Him in all things, and all things to revel and rejoice in the days He has made for me.

Quod praeteritum est initium.

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