The Future (08.29.2018)
A group of us are at a friend’s house for an annual Parsi new year party during which their little boat hooks up with another friend’s boat in the middle of the lake. It’s the golden hour, just before sunset. Wine is being poured — or Pepsi — take your pick. The smell of freshly baked kebabs is wafting in the air. In this soft summer light, everyone on the deck is as beautiful as they will ever be. It is impossible not to feel the good fortune of being here at this moment. The boat rocks gently. The hills surrounding the lake are glowing.
This friend- one of our close friends — has bought a home on a lake property that is distinguished by a long stretch of private forest. As we stand on the deck within view of the overlooking property, he points it out to me.
“Our children will play together on that rock,” he says with pride, and with almost certainty.
I smile and think about how things will be someday. As I squint in the evening sun, I can see them. Two or three of them — our grandchildren, running in the mud, crouched down with some toy guns, collecting pebbles along the lake’s edge. He has the vision of it, I realize. He and his wife probably imagined that future when they decided to buy that big of a house. Their kids are still about to go to college but they are preparing for it — an eventuality that I don’t know if it is so but for their sake, I wish it was. They are preparing for a time which is down that road but will be here before either of us knows it.
I look across the group of people and spot Ana. She is wearing a blue flowing dress, her ballooned dress sleeves flying in the wind. Her hair is slightly flowing in the breeze and she is wearing those elegant shoes that she just bought from goodwill last week as a New Year gift for herself. She has gone through a lot this year. As she smiles, I see glimpses of that carefree girl from years ago. I want to reach out to her and hold her hand — to tell her it’s all going to be ok.
Will we ever think much beyond tomorrow or at the worse the end of this week? Our lives as we live it are lived in increments — increments of days, weeks, months — Definitely not decades. What’s on our calendars between now and thanksgiving? When will it be bonus time this year? When will it be August so I can go back to India and unwind the knot that’s been in my heart for months now? Does Jen need her infusion next week or is it the week after?
I still cannot envision my old age. I look at my mother and Ana’s mother and cannot even hazard a possibility yet of what it looks like. I have seen them have days where they feel useless, unworthy, under-appreciated and basically struggling to understand what they are living for. I wonder what will come of me once I am no longer the breadwinner of the household. Will they listen to me? Who are they and what are they listening to? Will I be more inward-looking or would I turn into a bitter old man who has opinions that no one now wants to listen to? “Life, if well lived — Is long enough,” Seneca wrote in a poem in which he reflected on the afternoon of life.
Our world will narrow as the storm of time washes over us too. It will bleach us, expose our knots, and whittle us down like smooth old driftwood. It is this narrowing — not uncertainty which is inevitable, undeniable a fact. The narrowing — it may not happen today, nor tomorrow. Not this year, nor next. Not this decade, nor — perhaps — the one after. There is an amount of luck that is also involved here, of course. But there are things that are bigger than luck that is in play here.
The boat continues to glide past the lake, leaving behind our future grandchildren and their small curved backs as they forage for treasure in the mud. I want to call out to them. I have a feeling that I almost know their names.
I want to reach out, to let them know that I intend to be on that lake when they are ready –
Sitting on that rock under the great old tree.
Watching them from a spot in the shade.