“Life has always stretched ahead like a sunlit path,” I said to my cousin. “And now there's a stop sign ahead.”
Middle age has stretched like an elastic band with plenty more give. And now, snap – we're old. Does one laugh or cry?
And for the first time in human history we will leave our children and have no picture of their lives ahead. Granny, though surprised to find a man on the moon after a horse and buggy childhood, could be pretty sure that our small village would drift on, with market day and friendly shops. My parents, pinching themselves at regularly flying the Atlantic, could still see our lives continue on track, season melting into season.
Now I will leave kids – and grand kids – with no idea what they face. There are clues as Hurricane Sandy floods New York and the nightly news lurches from floods to forest fires. Every night there seems to be another disaster zone.
All I know is that it will change. I can't imagine how the world will be by the time our grandchildren are our age.
So it is disquieting to leave an unsettled world – and what does one make of growing old? A great contentment as one day melts into another. But also how strange that one day I won't be there to witness life. After all, I only know it is here at all through my senses. I process life through my eyes and ears, through the flutter of breeze on my skin. I watch dreamy clouds meander across a wide sky and life is so immediate and vivid.
“When a tree falls in a lonely forest, and no animal is near by to hear it, does it make a sound?” asked Charles Riborg Mann and George Ransom Twiss.
So, if I am not here to witness, the world goes on, but my take, my perception, my emotional response makes my view unique. No one will ever see the same world as you or me, the same hues or hear precisely the same notes. When a friend dies, I can feel a minute change in the world, as their unique flavour is subtracted. And the world is truly a poorer place.