Six LDS Writers and A Frog

Friday, February 22, 2008

I Can Hear the Bells

Did you hear that?

I didn’t think so.

I’ve heard it said that when a person approaches a certain age it’s as if an internal alarm goes off, waking them to the realization that it’s time to re-evaluate their lives. I’m not going to name that age, but I’m pretty certain it’s the one staring me in the face every time I peak under this month’s calendar page. I might as well admit I’ve hit the snooze button more than once already. I’m just not ready to admit that in my heart I know perfectly well for whom that bell tolls.
Frankly, I never saw it coming. This morning I tweezed a stray hair out of my Great Aunt Polly’s double chin, slathered a tube-and-a-half of cream on the crow’s feet around my grandmother’s eyes, and used a red Sharpie to try to keep the color from bleeding off my mother’s thin lips. Then—and only then—did I realize I was looking in a mirror! I knew at once what had happened. Sometime, somehow I’d wandered too close to the outer limits of the twilight zone. You guys, somebody ripped out my still-beating ingénue’s heart and transplanted it in the frumpy old body of a crone!

Well, that or I missed a decade or three the last time I tabulated my turn on earth.

The fact that I have a child who is older now than I ever remember turning is a frightening indication it might be that second thing.

Where was I going with this? (Old people have a tendency to lose their train of thought.) I remember now! I was about to relate a meaningful metaphor about life being like a trek up a hill. (In the snow. Both ways. You young people don’t know how good you have it these days!) Or maybe I was about to admit that being on the brink of Rob’s age times two, minus the number of children Julie will have with this newest baby, plus Stephanie’s shoe size, minus the number of books Sariah will publish this year, plus the number of fingers Jeff is holding up (old people have a tendency to ramble) is very much like being in steerage on the Titanic. (Old people have a tendency to exaggerate.)

Okay, it’s not like that at all. But it is very much like pausing at the top of a hill to look over your shoulder. If you like the view of where you’ve been thus far, it’s easy as pie (old people love even older adages) to proceed gracefully on over the hill and down into the valley of the . . . oh, dear! . . . I don’t much like where that was heading . . . let’s just say you move on confidently with life and leave it at that. (Old people don’t have enough time left to fret over fixing run-on sentences. But old people do tend to have psalms flash into their brains at inappropriate moments, probably because they were around when David first sang them.)

But if a person looks over her shoulder and isn’t convinced she’s really accomplished much of what she’d set out to do in life, is that when she dyes her hair platinum blonde, invests in a tanning bed, and persuades the milkman to run off to Bali? (No, I don’t remember ever meeting a milkman, but memory is the first thing to go when you’re old.) Gosh I hope not! (About the blonde thing, I mean.) Not only do I freckle in the sun and not know a milkman, I have too darn many real-life crises going on right now to even consider squeezing in one of the mid-life variety.

Tell me then, what’s a crone to do?

When the going gets tough, I generally go to the movies. Last weekend my husband and I went to see The Bucket List. Possibly not a brilliant choice, considering my growing obsession with tolling bells and Light, but I must admit it was glorious to watch Jack Nicholson and Morgan Freeman on the big screen. (Compared to them I feel like a babe . . . in the woods, of course.) But then I sobbed at the end (which washes the cream out of my crow’s feet) and spent the next week compiling my own bucket list.

It didn't exactly shock me to discover I'm as boring as I feared. I have no desire to go skydiving, mountain climbing, or even to spend 2.7 seconds on the back of a bull, no matter what its name. World travel? Maybe, but I’d probably be equally content to watch Planet Earth on BluRay and call it a day.

My bucket list, then, is a simple one, better explained by 85-year-old Nadine Stair than I:

(Note: this has been around for a long time, in various forms, and usually without attribution. Mrs. Stair does, however, seem to be the original source.)

“If I had my life to live over I’d dare to make more mistakes. I’d relax, I would limber up. I would be sillier than I have been this trip. I would take fewer things seriously . . . I would eat more ice cream and less beans. I would perhaps have more actual troubles, but I’d have fewer imaginary ones . . .

“You see, I’ve been one of those persons who never goes anywhere without a thermometer, a hot water bottle, a raincoat, and a parachute. If I had it to do again, I would travel lighter than I have.

“If I had my life to live over, I would start barefoot earlier in the spring and stay that way later in the fall. I would go to more dances. I would ride more merry-go-rounds. I would pick more daisies.”

So this is what I have on my bucket list thus far: eat ice cream; go barefoot; dance; ride the merry-go-round (and while I’m in the neighborhood I’m darting over to Pirates of the Caribbean!); dance; pick daisies.

That’s it, but I’m open to suggestions.

In fact, I’d bore you even longer with my struggles with mortality (old people love to talk about themselves), but I can hear the bells again. Rob, you can have the hot water bottle. Julie and Sariah, the thermometers are yours. (I have two.) Stephanie, you need a raincoat there on the coast more than I do here in Arizona. As for the parachute, I’m going to have to give that to Jeff for when Farworld makes the top of the NYTBL. (He might want to drop in for a visit.)

Wow. I feel better already! Excuse me, will you? The greenhouse has a sale on daisies and I don’t have all the time in the world to waste.

Not at my age.


At 2/22/2008 1:10 PM, Blogger Tristi Pinkston said...

Great list, Kerry! Thanks for sharing!

At 2/22/2008 2:51 PM, Blogger Marsha Ward said...

LOL! Kerry, you're spot on. But, I have one question. Where does one find merry-go-rounds these days? Do they exist anymore outside of state fairs and traveling carnivals? I'm not going to wait until Fall and beard the gangs at the ASF just to find a merry-go-round, but I'd love to ride one again.

At 2/22/2008 3:03 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

If only you'd asked last week! There was a beautiful carousel at Superstition Springs mall in Mesa. I took my kids there almost weekly for years. Alas, I saw on the news that they dismantled it to make way for a new one coming next fall. But, hey, we can both hang on THAT long, right? The tokens are on me! I'll race you to the purple pony!

At 2/22/2008 3:33 PM, Blogger Jennie said...

Thanks, Kerry, now I really feel older than dirt. My husband has the grandkids convinced he had a pet dinosaur when he was a kid; that helps a lot too. Now I've got to think up a bucket list too? I can't even find time to get my taxes done.

At 2/22/2008 4:01 PM, Blogger Kerry Blair said...

Jennie, I'm sorry! Neither of us is old. Perish the thought! With my genes, I'll probably live to be 150 -- we'll hold off making our bucket lists until 2058, okay?

Really. My mother is still working full time . . . at 80! For her last birthday her coworkers did a Photoshop thing of her standing in front of the Sphinx. The caption says: "Shirley Wolfe visits the grave of her first husband." I laughed so hard I fell off the chair. My mother has yet to see the humor in it.

Sorry, sorry, sorry! I didn't mean to depress anyone. Read Rob's blog again.(And don't go see the movie.)

At 2/22/2008 5:02 PM, Blogger Worldbuilder Robin said...

There's a nice merry-go-round here in tiny little Rexburg, Idaho. Sometimes, it's even running. I've ridden on it once.

Were I to write a bucket list (and I like to think that I'm still too young to do that), mine would be pretty short, too. It would have stuff like get my novel published, visit Legoland, meet Simon Furman (he's a big name in writing for Transformers), stuff like that. No skydiving or anything. Though maybe a trip to the Rockies wouldn't be so bad...

At 2/22/2008 7:27 PM, Blogger Karlene said...

That was hilarious--and so true. I'm at that looking back stage and trying to decide what I want to do with the rest of my life.

At 2/22/2008 7:55 PM, Blogger Cheri J. Crane said...

I saw "The Bucket List" last week myself and enjoyed it thoroughly. It reminded me of the classic, "Do not go gentle into that good night . . ." I don't plan to, myself.

Loved the blog, Kerry, as always. ;)

At 2/23/2008 12:44 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't know, Kerry. It just seems to me that if we really want to do something, we don't wait and put it on a list, we do it! You may have guessed I'm not one for lists--they generally bog me down rather than help me accomplish much, and I'm always afraid I'll miss the thing I really want to do because I'm so busy trying to check off all the things on the list. As for the bells, I've pretty much planned my funeral so it's not that I don't think of such things, but I don't have time to think of a list because I am having too much fun just doing and I don't want to keep myself from doing what I really want now because I'm doing something I wanted to do before. Neither do I plan to "go gentle into that good night..." but when I am there, I hope to find it gentle because I have accomplished so much before I go. And, so far, at a half a century plus a half a decade plus, I find myself thinking of myself more as a much younger person. That started when I realized I was an individual and I could choose what I was and wanted to be. Personally, I'd rather have sky blue delpheniums and red monarda than daisies. I'd say don't worry about the bells and the lists, just enjoy what comes your way and trust the giver of it all.

Thought provoking idea, lady. Thanks



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