April 30, 2019 (883 words)
My passport recently reached its ten-year expiration date, and being the world traveler that I am it was absolutely imperative to have it renewed immediately. So last week I sauntered into the local post office to have a picture taken and get the paperwork started.
Because I pretty much know what I look like at this point, seeing myself in the odd family photo or driver’s license renewal no longer causes any alarm.
But when the friendly gentleman at our sleepy little post office handed me the small, two-inch head shot that will eventually appear in the re-issued document, the guy staring back at me was decidedly older-looking than in previous pictures. As if the wear and tear of the last ten years is now right there on my face.
It has been an eventful decade, this going from age 54 to age 64. On the home front I’ve had to contend with an ongoing betrayal perpetrated by our children, who in a callous display of pique and ingratitude have one-by-one decided to grow up and go out on their own.
On the work front, my small company began this last decade suffering a series of harsh reversals that nearly did me in. Like many other commercial enterprises in the wake of the great recession, my lemonade stand of an operation walked a financial tightrope for a few harrowing years.
Then just as the dark clouds were beginning to lift, my father died in December 2012, followed six months later by my mother. While the grief was heart-rending, the memories are precious. Softening their departure from this mortal coil has been those precious memories, with an extra kick.
My father seems to be intervening from the grave on my behalf. After so much tough sledding, my fortunes at work took a dramatic turn for the better once he died, and have continued on an upward trend these last six years.
Also clearly visible in my new passport photo is the inevitable genetic tribute, as my resemblance to the old man is becoming more pronounced with each passing year. And, I might add, this resemblance is not limited to mere outward appearance.
Because he lived with us the last eight years of his life (as did my mother, for the first four of those years, before entering a care facility for the final four years of hers), and because we shared an evening meal most every day of those eight years, his mannerisms and speech patterns have been stamped into my DNA to an even greater degree than is typical of parents and their grown children.
Now that I find myself instinctively mimicking his every move, it feels as though I have literally become my father.
And not just in a good way. The physical deterioration we must all cope with someday has suddenly started for me, maybe a little ahead of schedule. Dad was twenty-seven when I was born, and some days it feels like I have aged twenty-seven years since he died. But bodily decrepitude does yield its share of wisdom, and I like to think my array of minor maladies is not without its ancillary benefits in the perspective department.
Appling this new-found perspective I find myself doing a lot of ruminating, thinking back on all the people I used to know, all the people I have crossed paths with. It’s these encounters with others that teach us about human nature, and help us to know ourselves.
That includes all the honest and considerate souls I have worked for and with over the course of the last five decades. It encompasses the disingenuous, manipulative, and downright dishonest “players” in the business world who have done me wrong, and most everyone else they have ever come in contact with.
Certainly in these musings there is an emphasis on my own parents, and on the immediate family I was born into. But my inner vision extends to the family each of my parents was also born into. So too all those long-ago teachers, classmates and school chums, and the families that shepherded each such mentor and friend into this world.
The resulting tableau might be referred to as “the family of man,” or my own personal heavenly host.
One eventually comes to realize we are all on a journey of self-discovery – the honest and considerate, the disingenuous and manipulative. The best possible outcome – the satisfactory completion of life’s course – is to experience a sense of gratitude for all the good gifts that have fallen in one’s lap, far beyond what we could ever have warranted based on merit.
Depending on how you are wired, this sort of thing naturally leads one to forgive all slights, forgive the blatant failings of others. As we ourselves hope our failures and shortcomings will also be forgiven.
It’s good to get older. It’s good to age out of the “acquisition years,” when advertisers realize your pre-occupations have changed, making you no longer worthy of their attention. Many of us older folks have moved on to more important considerations. Too bad the busy world of noise and fury is caught up in its immediate cravings, and pays our perspective no mind.
Robert J. Cavanaugh, Jr.
April 30, 2019