Sometimes it was to tell stories, like how he met my mom, the first time he ate grits after moving down South, where he was when President Kennedy was assassinated or when John Lennon met the same fate more than a decade later and what he was doing when he heard that Elvis had died. I remember he always talked about how young Elvis, Lennon and Kennedy were when they died. Kennedy was 46, Elvis 42 and Lennon 40.
The first time I remember him telling us how young they were, I thought, “Young? They were old.” Granted, I was a teenager at the time. Up until my mid-20s, being 40 seemed forever away. I didn’t understand it when 40-somethings would talk about body changes, aching joints, weight gain or how raw vegetables are the new enemy. I didn’t listen when they would insist on the importance of planning for retirement in my 20s. Yada, Yada, Yada.
It didn’t hit me when my older brother and sister turned 40 or when Jay turned 40 –not even when my best friend turned 40. If I’m honest, it didn’t hit me until a few months ago, right before I turned 43. First 10 pounds came out of nowhere. See Nutella on toasted pound cake a few times a week. But it never bothered me before. Then my moods started to go up and down faster than the trading price of Bitcoin. I started feeling like an old lady when getting out of bed in the morning. According to my 20-year-old self, I was an old lady. Jay wasn’t faring much better. He’s plagued with the same stiff joints, but where he couldn’t gain weight as a teen or in his 20s and 30s, when he hit his 40s, he nailed it.
Something else happened, too. The ages of people we knew getting diagnosed with certain diseases were getting closer and closer to our age. Where 40 seemed lightyears away when I was 21, 60 feels like it will be here tomorrow. When musicians Prince, Tom Petty, David Bowie died, Jay and I talked about how young they were.
“Tom Petty was 66, mom. He lived a good life,” is what my oldest said.
When I found out a friend from college died after suffering a heart attack, Jay and I promised to stop worrying about the small stuff and start eating better. Food always seems to be a key ingredient if you want to stick to a lifestyle change. “You only live once. We need to enjoy the time we have now.” That became my go-to affirmation. Unfortunately, I used this affirmation anytime I felt like dessert.
When a parent dies or a family member or friend receives a life-altering diagnosis, or when an accident claims the life of someone young, most of us make those familiar promises that start with “From now on…” Unfortunately, our memory is short, and it doesn’t take too long for us to get back into our usual routine of complaining about weight gain while eating a glazed donut or wishing the week away, because it’s stressful. I think it’s unrealistic to try to live in the moment. We aren’t built that way. Maybe that’s a good thing. Maybe doing your best means staying off social media. Maybe doing your best is skipping dessert. Maybe doing your best is allowing your teenager a buy a skateboard even though your father promised that you would end up in a vegetative state with a cracked skull every time you brought up when you wanted a skateboard of your own.
Comments? You can email Becky Andrews at [email protected] Andrews and Angel Kane are the brains behind Telling Tales, a weekly column in The Democrat.