Recently, I had an unexpected realization while I was patiently waiting as my husband underwent some tests at our local hospital. I am fascinated by people watching, and the hospital waiting area provided some interesting scenarios indeed. I watched the dazed husbands carefully supporting their pregnant wives as they clumsily plopped down in the uncomfortable seats, mothers consoling crying babies, anxious parents hovering over injured children, and the hospital staff scurrying everywhere, some referring to charts as they magically wove their way between the throngs of people hustling through the corridors. However, the individuals who caught my eye with a startling revelation were the elderly men pushing wheelchairs holding disabled wives and vice versa, and the middle-aged children doing the same with their aged parents, all with sombre expressions on their faces. Having recently reached the age of seventy, it occurred to me that I could be staring at a snapshot of my own future. Was it only a matter of time?
Time is the one entity over which we have no control, and I suddenly became aware that a lifetime had passed and I have foolishly spent most of it focusing on the future.
As a child, I remember wishing for the first day of school to begin and feeling very grown up as I walked those two long blocks toward my first destination without a parent in tow. By the end of grade eight, I was desperately yearning to become a teenager and waiting anxiously for the summer to end. I entered high school brimming with exterior confidence, but secretly hiding the insecurity within. It wasn’t long before a certain boy caught my eye and a lifelong partnership began.
Typical adolescent hormones soared out of control as I began to resent my parents for attempting to make decisions for me. I counted the days until I would become independent and in control of my own destiny. All I yearned for now was to graduate, get a job and stroll down the aisle with my true love. I felt very mature, confident, and more than ready for the next chapter in my life to begin, unaware of the joy and innocence of youth that would be left behind.
Still unsure of my competence as a wife let alone a parent, I became pregnant on my honeymoon. It was apparent from the first moment I gazed into the beautiful eyes of my newborn daughter that I would love the role of motherhood. I accepted it with complete confidence. Working full time and raising three children was all consuming as I continuously focused on the future, always preparing for the next day and constantly planning ahead. Without warning, I suddenly became conscious one day that my children were now grown and no longer living at home. As I walked through the silent rooms, a feeling of complete loneliness overwhelmed me. Now that they were gone, I missed them terribly and felt a pang of guilt, regretting the valuable moments I had wasted.
It didn’t take long for me to fall back into my regular pattern of thinking ahead. Of course, I now focused on weddings and grandchildren. I could hardly wait. Feeling young and in pretty good health, I was not aware that the clock was ticking and the years were slipping away. Without any hesitation, in fact with eagerness and anticipation, I began to look forward to my retirement and those much-heralded “golden years”. They came with a vengeance, along with a few wrinkles and aching joints, which brings me back to the hospital waiting room.
There I sat, once again concerned and distressed, contemplating the future. What would I be thinking about next, my funeral? I felt depressed, because so much time had been spent constantly planning for tomorrow that I had missed the enjoyment of the present. Those irritating parents I so resented are now gone, and I long for a chance to give them one last hug, one last kiss, to tell them how much they really meant to me. My children and grandchildren are grown and busy with their own lives. They are no longer the centre of my universe. Too soon, I am seventy years of age, living in the future that I so earnestly yearned for as I now wistfully wish for yesterday. Why was I in such a hurry to reach this destination? Why did I waste so much time worrying about something over which I had no control?
I looked up into the smiling face of my husband and as I took his hand, I thought to myself, it’s not too late. I inhaled, let out a deep breath and made a silent pledge to stop and smell those roses planted in my gardens. I know there will be times when plans for the future will continue to enter my thoughts and I can’t predict what trials and tribulations lie ahead, but I can hopefully learn to savour the pleasure and gift of each new day.