I am a bona fide baby boomer. The phrase "I remember when" floats in my head fairly often these days, a sea of memory. Like time itself, those recollections expand and contract. Expand to include all of my life, contract to make it feel like only yesterday I was young.
Life used to be more is than was. Is was more immediate and -was- more recent. People and places were present tense. Life was present and future tense.
Plans were future tense. Tomorrow, next year. Everything, including me, was going to last forever. All those tomorrows stretched out endlessly ahead of me with all those endless possibilities. Lots of time to do.
Past tense crept up on me. Stealing more and more of my present and future tense. Sometimes gradually, but more often suddenly. More was than is and will be in conversation. Am I the only one who hears them? Bold text in my head.
Was. Were. Had.
People and places that were present tense, became past tense. What is, became what was. They were and then they were no longer. They had and then they didn't have. Nothing lasts forever. Not people, not places, and not things. The pace of loss has steadily increased with each year. With it, a resilience has settled in around all that uncertainty. The inevitable is there but I can stare it down. It's a monster smaller than me just now.
People I've known have gone from present to past tense. Some suddenly, and some over time. There are famous people and unknowns too. Someone else whose words or music are forever silenced. Some older, some younger.
That causes all sorts of questions and realizations. There they are, those people, all done with living.
No more sunrises or sunsets, laughing, loving, and simply living life. It's all done. What hopes and dreams for the future were unfulfilled? What did they wish they had done or not done? None of that matters now. They are no more.
Nothing left but a smiling picture, a person once full of life and living, staring out at me on the computer screen. Sometimes there's a list of accomplishments and beloved family members that survive. Words written with a purpose to highlight a life well done.
Other times it's only a few words. No picture. A very small marker for a whole life lived. Who mourned them?
I know that life for all those people has become- was. Comparisons and what ifs are inevitable. Compassion coupled with relief. Still time left.
Lurking around in a corner of my mind is the other question - how do I keep that destiny at bay? I contemplate the macabre that slips unannounced into my thoughts. How will I be remembered? Who will eulogize me?
Flitting around the edges of my mind is an increasing clarity of that inevitable day or night. I wonder what it is really like, how it will happen -- the end. When I become something that was.
Our longer lives mean some people have gone in other ways. Past tense because we reached a crossroads with them, went our separate ways. People change, lives change. People that once fit like a glove in our lives, don't anymore. Loss in one form or another, whatever the circumstance.
For some of those people gone out of my life by choice, I can ask myself -why- over and over without any real answer. All I do know is that it happened. And I still do not understand some of those reasons.
Some questions that will forever be in the present tense of my life.Why is it this way?
That leads me down a path of thought that needs some weeding. I need to pull out the negatives, the comparisons, the criticisms and just deal with my own reality. That- was -their decision. It is not an insurmountable challenge to duel down those negative thoughts just yet. But I know I will always wonder why. The lesson is elusive.
Then there are all those other memories, personal errors that can never be erased or backspaced. Some days it is definitely more of an effort than I would like to admit -- keeping my life in perspective, staring down those mistakes made in the past. That task becomes a unique little mountain of its own on occasion. Memories that hurt.
Choices that changed my life in one way or another. No going back to unpick a knot in my lifeline. It was. It happened.
For now, I use past tense sparingly. There's an immediacy I have embraced for all those dreams I might have put on the shelf in any previous decade.
"You only live once," Mae West said, "but if you do it right, once is enough."
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