It dawned on me today, that I mark the passing of time in a much different way than I did as a kid. In some ways, I guess it should be obvious, but the notion settled on me as I brushed my teeth so I thought I might share.
It all began a few weeks ago really. I know I have to cut the ogre that is a hedge at the front of our house and while at the best of times it is a daunting challenge, this year it is even more so. It makes me feel old. Last year I tore my shoulder in the process. Don’t ask, the hedge is so deep it requires me to stand on a ladder holding an extendable hedge trimmer which even then doesn’t reach all the way across.
The upshot was an over stretch and a rip to my poor shoulder and of course, I kept going. I did so much damage that even now a year on, I still haven’t got full rotation in my left shoulder. It is so bad that I missed the autumn trim, so to say a trim is overdue would be an understatement. Of course it’s that time of the year again and while I have many faults, one of my strengths is that I am a determined fecker. This means I cannot resist the urge to cut the bejaybus out of that hedge. Capable or not, it has to be done.
Now when I was a nipper, at this time of the year I wasn’t thinking about mundane sh**e like hedges. I was focussing on Easter eggs. Nothing else mattered; we are coming into chocolate season. Once Christmas was over, the dark thoughts of surviving the return trip to school were always elevated somewhat, by the fact that St Patrick’s day was in March and Easter would follow close behind the great Saint’s day.
Now there was the little matter of lent to be managed but even that 6 weeks of deprivation had an upside. We had in typical Irish fashion, wangled a temporary reprieve to break our fast on St Patrick’s day. That was something to look forward to and while we weren’t overly fond of any extra, non-essential Mass, the zealous Christian brothers scored an own goal each lent, insisting as they did, that we traipse up the road to church every morning. On the one hand it was a pain in the arse, but on the flip side, it was an hour and a half including the walk there and back, wasted from our school day…woo-hoo!
Then Easter arrived – chocolate eggs until we puked, weeks of looking at the growing stash of colourful boxes dropped off by our aunties, just sitting there on the side-board. There were carefully planned, egg burglaries in the days and weeks that led to Easter. We would open boxes, peel back the foil, pull apart the two egg halves, slide out a sweet or two, and then put the whole thing back together as if it never happened. You’d never do your own egg unless you were desperate, usually in my case; I raided my sister’s stash. Ssssssh… I was never there..
Easter gave way to the thoughts of summer break from school and we counted every lousy day until we were free. Each glorious summer’s day of freedom was a gallop through the fields as we chased injuns, or a re-enactment of whatever war movie we had seen last. Knees high in the long grass or belly crawling through a neighbours nettle patch, it didn’t matter. Summer set us free and we were loate to let a moment of daylight pass indoors.
But life is life and the shadow of those men in black began to loom large long before September arrived. Back to school with only one thought in our heads – Halloween. Then it would be Christmas and on the cycle of life went and we tick-tocked it’s measure by finding meaning in something to look forward to.
Oh how things have changed. My new seasons are the task that sits most immediately in front of me. Right now, it is the garden and the work that sits staring at me each day. While it is often a pleasure, the creaks and clanks of my aging bones whisper to me. “Bo@@ix to that, leave it until your shoulder is better” but I know I can’t.
As a child I counted the days to free my mind from the awfulness of those parts of my childhood, I long to forget. When time distanced me from the worst of it, I clung to the memories of the best of it. The eternal optimist, I survived the bad bits to revel in the glory of the best bits. I evolved, revolved in my head and turned away from all that might scare me, mar me, or leave me a victim. Growing stronger takes much longer than one might think.
Blessed by the best of it, evolved by the worst of it, I grew from a wildling waif, galloping bare-kneed through the grass, into an older, wiser beast. My energy is not yet deceased. Now I no longer count the days, for I have found happiness in the moments that I collect as I go.
I am still a relatively young man, but it appears that as you cross certain milestones, some other nuisance of a bodily bother, tugs at your elbow and say, “Whoa there chief, slow it down a bit, you’ll hurt yourself if you’re not careful.”
At first I tried to ignore that particular voice. I’m every bit as fit and agile as I was when I was sixteen. At least that was the lie I told myself and if I’m honest, it took a long time for me to admit that maybe I might be … perhaps I was a little bit… well ok. Now I look at the options and I say to myself, “Pay someone to do that, you’re getting too old and you’ll be fecked for a week if you do it yourself.” But then I do it anyway, and guess what…I’m fecked for a month!
The days are perhaps more precious as we age and certainly, my brush with the mysteries of the other side have left me wary of misery, for it serves little purpose. I try to look for the good in what I have, what is in store for me, and in all that has come before that made me what I am today.
I know so many people strung out and hung up on the past. They carry slights big and small with them, like a bag of stones around their neck and wonder why they are afraid to jump into the water. Let it go. Go down to the hardware store, buy some timber and some nails, build a bridge, get over it and whatever the feck, if needs be, buy some matches and some kerosene and burn that fecker as you go. Not that I’m advocating burning bridges, far from it, I think you have to leave them intact, just cross them and move the flip on. But some bridges need to be burned to keep the demons at bay.
Like I say, I try hard to look for the positive and the good that happens. I expect nothing, work hard to achieve the things I want to achieve and if things don’t work out, “move along, there’s nothing to see here.” Now that I have exhausted myself luxuriating in my own bulls~~t, my mind has wandered back to the task at hand … there’s still…that hedge… I really don’t want to…
Haven’t read a Max Power book yet? I think it’s time to pick one up.
Max Power’s books include, Darkly Wood, Darkly Wood II The woman who never wore shoes, Larry Flynn, Bad Blood and Little Big Boy
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