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Life’s clock continues eternally ticking

Carlton Fletcher

Carlton Fletcher

So we while away the hours in our ivory towers, ’til we’re covered up with flowers in the back of a black limousine.

— Joe South

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Remember how when we were 16, 17, 18 we thought 30 was old, how we bought into that bromidic “Never trust anyone over 30” slogan hook, line and sinker?

But 17 became 20, 20 became 30, 30 somehow turned into 40 and one day we looked up and it dawned on us: Hey, 30 really ain’t all that old.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

The world kept right on spinning, and 40 became 50 so we paused for a moment to take stock of our lives: Maybe for the first time we noticed the hair that had somehow turned gray — was it overnight? — or started its inexorable crawl up our foreheads (now fiveheads and sixheads); we noted that the illnesses and ailments that afflicted our parents and their generation suddenly had become a part of our everyday conversations; we considered the lost hopes and dreams that somewhere along the way grew less and less significant, less and less attainable and finally disappeared.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Without warning, the children we were so proud of and always promised we’d spend more time with were out of diapers and walking, and then one day we turned around and they were graduating high school, going to college, and getting jobs. It didn’t seem possible, but there they were with children of their own, and now we were vowing to be better, more attentive grandparents.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Now we look with the wisdom that time has afforded us at our children’s generation as they settle into adulthood, into real life, and we see them making the same mistakes we did. And the wide-eyed wonder that lit up their little-boy and little-girl faces and brought us such monumental joy has been replaced with a cynicism born of their own scars and scuffles.

We’re beset with pangs of guilt as we listen to the sarcasm and distrust, even the meanness, in their responses, all too aware that it developed from their mimicry of conversations they heard us engage in. We wonder how we had been so oblivious to the reality that children really do take their cues from the people who raise them.

We offer the gentle rebukes that are a part of our arsenal, the guilt trip-inducing words of correction that we feel we’ve earned the right to call forth as compensation for the times we spent in the trenches ... the diaper changes, navigating the ever-longer car pick-up and drop-off lines at this school or that, paying off the “cops-just-have-it-out-for-me” speeding tickets, buying the never-quite-got-the-hang-of-it musical instruments ...

Even as we spring this unsolicited advice on our now-grown offspring — advice that we’ve endured for decades in the never-ending parenting “Circle of Life” that Sir Elton didn’t quite sing about but should have — we know it will go unheeded.

That’s one of the funny things about life: No matter what wisdom is made available to us, no matter how accurate the advance blueprint we’re given, only a very, very small number of us are smart enough to listen to sage advice. Indeed, most among us resent such “meddling.”

Life remains about doing, about choosing our own paths, making our own mistakes and either learning from them or repeating them until we finally mark a lesson learned. Yep, life’s funny that way.

Tick ... tick ... tick ...

Email Carlton Fletcher at carlton.fletcher@albanyherald.com.