ready or not

by Kristen

I watch the preschool set darting around the playground. I can’t hear them from inside my office a hundred yards away, but I can sense their unfettered joy. A summer morning at the park with a dozen other children—bliss.

They race up the steps, down the slide, on to the swings, off the swings, across the bridge. Constant motion. Full-body exertion. So much energy. So little thought to the future.

I’m a few decades ahead of them. In life and in thought. But I spend a lot of time at a retirement home where my thoughts get pulled farther and farther ahead. I witness the aging process, and I wonder what my role is. How do I accompany those ahead of me in the process? How can I infuse their diminishing realm with honor and dignity and purpose? How do I learn from them and apply the lessons I’m learning in my relative youth both to live well in the present and in preparation for the decades ahead?

The future weighs on me. The generation two above me—the one I visit in skilled nursing—deserves more than a waiting game. The generation above me—the one I will someday be responsible for tending to—is older than I want to admit. And my generation . . . who will care for us? Who will visit me and smuggle treats to me and ask to hear my stories? Who will monitor my medications? Who will tell me I’m not a burden? Who will sit beside me and hold my hand and understand that the minutes stretching by for the longest half hour of their day are racing by as the fastest half hour of mine?

Tentative, deliberate motion on the playground catches my eye. I watch a mom teach her little one how to go down the slide alone. And the voice in my head screams, “I’m not ready!”

I’m not ready to climb another rung on the ladder of generations. I’m not ready to slide alone.

But ready or not . . . here I come.

 

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