Physically I’m older by the day – intellectually I’m still trying to graduate from some sort of childhood and into some kind of better adulthood. I feel like a teenager gangling along some other dimension of personal growth.
What do I mean? I mean that I’m not ready to leave home quite yet. The job market of Life looks worrying. I haven’t finished all the schooling, and the marks I do have could be better. I’ve failed to complete more assignments than I can count. I’m not so great at remembering my chores. I still need my parents’ patient guidance and understanding.
I’m not ready.
In this world, I have a house (and own a mortgage – a kind of bank loan with additional perceived status). I have a career, and make decisions and products on schedules, with objectives in mind. I buy my own clothes and I successfully pay bills of various kinds, for varying levels of service. I get free small coffees at Wendy’s as often as not, because I have white whiskers, and must look ancient to any cashier under 25. I have been permitted to operate dangerous machinery (cars) at highway speeds for well over half my life.
I am 50 years old. When I was a child, I assumed all 50-year olds were by then more than fully grown. They had different, alien, adult minds, in my mind. They were not the selves they once were – not a single atom (this is perhaps true, I think, but not in the way I might have imagined). At least, these beliefs were some of my many a prioris back then; when you are young, most things are necessarily independent of experience. You take things on faith. You make the necessary assumptions to pin your backdrop in one place, so that you yourself can make some forward motion against a more stable and static set of assumptions about how the world is, where you are going, and what or who might be around for you to hang onto when you feel you’re about to topple.
Now, my experience has confirmed that only this shell (and some of its habits) is rapidly aging. My need to climb into my bed every night, safe from monsters and the mayhem of the world, hasn’t gone anywhere at all. I still speak to God, as though God is most certainly there and definitely listening. I continue to practice faith, and continue to hope that the responsibility of fixing everything in the world is not mine alone. The grown-ups have this. And when I find myself successfully asleep, they mostly do.
My father is at this moment having some of his most important pipes cleaned. Bypass surgery: a now-common procedure, and no less sobering for a son not yet ready to stand on his own feet. I have so many things I still want to accomplish as the child somebody else brought into the world. For one, paying my parents back for all the years of sacrifice and support. I fool myself at times that this is a kind of debt that can even ever be partially repaid. I want another couple of decades to try though.
I lucked out when somebody matched me to my family, and I know that’s not at all how it goes for everybody. The unfairness of this world is in starkest contrast to its beauty – you only have to look around.
When you believe in worlds beyond this one, it is possible to believe in a Long Game of the Spirit being played out elsewhere. We are in some sense not at all old, wherever the greater parts of us reside. I think I visit this place in dreams at times, and feel it in my physical bones at others. That Longer Mike is not getting grizzled in quite the same way where they are, and has more extensions on their homework. They are still in college (or trying to get accepted, depending on the day here on Earth), and are not yet expected to be an actualized, mature being. I am still at Home there. The metaphor of course (to me) explains where the idea of other, higher-dimensional parents comes from. For better or worse, many of us feel this same thing. I come down on the side of it being better. I believe I always have, and always will.
I don’t know how long I have the right to want to stay young here in the important ways, and I don’t know how long it might take to then mature in those others. I can at times only have faith, and then believe that this faith is real. The world has this. God has this. I can still take my time growing up for a little while longer.
My 50-year old self has work to do – the clock now tells me that this is true.
I love you, Dad. and I know that I will see you soon. We’ll go for a drive while your perfect heart is still healing.