Monday, May 23, 2011

The Fall of Life

Life is what we make it ... 

A Short Story
by CJ Heck 

Anna was signing a birthday card for her oldest daughter at the kitchen table and enjoying a late morning cup of coffee. 

The card was lovely with a beautiful verse. She had spent a lot of time in the card store yesterday, crying over the sad ones, laughing at the silly ones, until she finally found the right one, the card that captured her sentiments exactly. 

This was truly the perfect card, all about motherly love, and the pride she felt in the woman and mother Chelsea had become. Then something suddenly occurred to her -- Chelsea was turning thirty-eight.

Then a thought caught Anna by surprise, like a sucker-punch -- not that Chelsea would be thirty-eight. No. It was more than that. Anna was exactly twenty years older than her daughter, which meant that Anna would be fifty-eight this year. 

I'm now in the fall of my life, Anna thought … how the hell did I get here so quickly? Wasn’t it just yesterday that I was young and crouched at life's starting gate, waiting for the race to begin, with all of my plans and my hopes and dreams stretched out before me? 

Wasn't it just yesterday that we were awaiting the arrival of our first-born, Chelsea? Anna's thoughts turned melancholy and they reached back, just for a while.

As a child, she remembered looking up at her grandparents and feeling such awe. These were her daddy's parents. Back then, she had thought they must be as old as the trees. Their hair was snow white and they always came with bottles of pills, which they lined up in a long row on the kitchen counter top.  

Being so old, she had thought, they were probably very wise, too, so she always listened closely to what Grampa shared. He told her stories about what it was like when he was a little boy and there were more horses on the streets than there were cars. He said they didn't have TV's back then. 

They read books and played games at the kitchen table when it rained, and when it was sunny, they played fun outside games, or climbed trees, or went swimming in the pond. She remembered the wonderful way grampa explained things so she could almost see everything he was describing, just through his words.

Yes, Anna thought, they were old, but I adored them and I saw them through eyes full of love. I loved hearing all the stories about when they were young. I remember going for ice cream cones at the dairy store with them, and hearing grandma hum while she baked pies -- and grampa puffing on his curved pipe that smelled so pungent and good. 

Then another sobering thought hit Anna. I am now older than these wonderful grandparents were when they passed away.  Oh, how I miss them, and suddenly she realized something. She wanted to be just like them.

Time moves so quickly. No, not in our youth. Then, time only gently pushes us forward towards the finish line and we hardly notice time at all. Then, slowly at first, then faster, life grows full and gets busy and things change. Where time used to stop us in our tracks, we suddenly learn just how fast it really goes -- like the thirty-eighth birthday of a child.  

Here in the fall of my life, time has simply caught me off guard. I have a few regrets, Anna thought. There are things I wish I hadn’t done, things I should have done, and things I wish I had done differently. But there are the many wonderful things that I’m happy to have done and glad that I had the chance to do.

Anna took another sip of her coffee, which had turned ice cold in her cup. I don’t know how long my fall will last, and I certainly have no promises that I will ever see winter, but I do know I've enjoyed a full life ... and damn it, it’s not over yet! 

I’m going to treat every day from now on with renewed appreciation. There are things I still want to accomplish, dreams that can still come true and children and grandchildren to hug and tell my stories to, and I'm fortunate to have a wonderful husband in my life to share it all with.

Anna remembered something her mother used to say, "Life is a gift, baby girl. How we live it is our gift to ourselves." Now that saying makes perfect sense, she thought, with a silent thank you to her mother. 

She decided to pour another cup of coffee, call her daughter, and then start opening more of her gift ... 

(from the book, "Bits and Pieces")

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