The best decade

going home

A friend once told me that when he reached his 60s he enjoyed the best decade of his life.

His 60s, he said, felt like a reward for years of raising children, building a career, and working hard. His boys were married, having children of their own and enjoying successful careers. His long-term marrige was stable – and, though you can never be absolutely sure about these things, seemingly happy. His career was at the point where he could slow down a bit and work fewer hours, while still enjoying his role as the founder of his professional practice. With all of that, his health was good too.

And – I almost forgot – he had a nice place at the lake to which he and his wife retreated most weekends for reading, walking, and quiet evenings by the fireplace.

So, good for him, right?

As I enter my 60s – reluctantly, but without much choice in the matter – I find that I am enjoying a few of those same things. Not all, but some. (Going away for the weekend has, in my line of work, never been part of my life.)

But here’s the thing, and if you’ve read this far, you must have anticipated something like this: It’s not all good.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I am more grateful than I can say for everything I have. I am blessed in ways I could not have imagined. I am in the rare position right now of being able to live a lifelong dream. But – how do I say this without seeming ungrateful? –  it’s not all good.

In fact, I am beginning to wonder about that idyllic picture of this stage of life that my friend once painted for me. I don’t think he was telling me everything.

I had a moment yesterday that I should have ignored, but I couldn’t. It was a moment of grief and sadness. More than a twinge, it was more like a wave that washed over me and left me feeling unexpectedly low.

My girls who for 20 years were pretty much my whole life are now gone. They are doing all the things I dreamed for them – and more – so that’s not the problem. I am prouder, as a matter of fact, than anyone can possibly imagine. The problem is that chapter of my life is now closed, and I miss it terribly. I miss them. If I could, I would do it all over again, including the worries and sleepless nights that are inevitably a part of raising children.

But I realize that those times are now gone. They are not coming back. And I know that I’m terribly selfish for wanting them back.

I try to live in the present. I want to be grateful for this moment and all of its wonder and potential. And mostly I am.

I am beginning to see, though, that at this stage of life the losses become more apparent. They add up and accumulate. The little ones, the big ones, they can’t be ignored.

They don’t diminish the joy, but they certainly balance it.

About Doug

I have been a writer ever since fifth grade when I won second prize in a “prose and poetry” contest. I am also a Presbyterian pastor, and for several years toward the end of my career I lived and worked in Zürich, Switzerland. I am now retired and live just north of Holland, Michigan, along the lake.

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9 Responses to The best decade

  1. sandy steffen October 17, 2014 at 6:32 am #

    Hi Doug, I’m glad someone else is feeling the exact same way I have been for the past several years! Miss you & Susan. Sandy

    • Doug October 17, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      Miss you too, Sandy.

  2. Theda Williams October 17, 2014 at 8:27 am #

    So, so true. But grandchildren make up for a lot of the loss.

    • Doug October 17, 2014 at 11:23 pm #

      They do! Or in our case I should say, “She does!”

  3. mike October 17, 2014 at 2:16 pm #

    Hello Doug…
    You, no doubt, left quite a few heads (a lot with at least a little gray) nodding in agreement with that post. That post, not surprisingly, reminded me of a song that was waiting for me to remember it, again. And for what it’s worth – K. Chesney’s lyrics in “Don’t Blink” are better heard than read. Thanks for the memories.

    • Doug October 17, 2014 at 11:26 pm #

      I can always count on you, Mike, for a music reference. Thanks for this one. I actually thought of you this fall when Lia went off to university. Our kids are always so happy to go, aren’t they? Leaving mom and dad to wondered what just happened.

  4. mike October 18, 2014 at 12:02 am #

    Here’s an update on one of our pride and joys. Looks like Lia is going to be volunteering with FirstPres in DeLand. They have a Youth program that needs cultivating. She said the pastor is really cool and they had some nice chats – he rides a motorcycle (oy!). But she said she has a special place in her heart for “Dougie Fresh” – but you knew that. Thanks for being a reference.

    • Karen Parkinson October 23, 2014 at 12:23 pm #

      Doug, I feel the same way about missing my children and their dependence on me. Many people say you are lucky your adult children are not dependent on you. I do feel Blessed they are independent, but I miss them in my home. The years Ericka was at Princeton were some of the best years. It was always wonderful to walk the Campus and visit classes with her. I remember the quiet campus on Saturday nights. Losses are hard at this time of my life too. Karen Parkinson, Wheaton

  5. Barb Keith November 1, 2014 at 5:26 pm #

    Doug,
    What a beautiful and thoughtful message!!
    We’ll said,
    Barb and Tom

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