Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Death, Taxes, and the AARP Letter

"Half a century" sounds impressive. It brings to mind thoughts of durability and images of growth.

But turn the phrase on me, and it feels different.

I'd say "I'm not that old"--but creaks and blurs swear to a certain lack of durability in a 50-year old body.

How about growth? Is there more of me than there used to be? (Yes, but I'm trying to lose that weight.) Well, I'm wiser than I used to be. The relics of earlier years remind me of what I valued, so it is easy to compare. Not so many years left to use wisdom, but that's life.

What have I accomplished? That's the uncomfortable question. Recall the story

In a small township a traveler noticed one farm where the fences were perforated with bullet holes, each perfectly lodged in a bulls-eye. He sought out the sharpshooting farmer, and congratulated him on his skill. The farmer said "Well, I just shoot first and draw the bulls-eye second."

And that's a terrible danger. Some of our dreams we chuck because they're just not possible. I was never in danger of becoming an astronaut. Some we discard in favor of other things that we learn are more important. A trip round the world turns into a college fund for the children; writing a great novel gives way to evening walks together with your wife. But other dreams we lose because we were unfaithful to them; we let distractions and lack of discipline eat up the time dreams need to take form and become real. And so, unachieving, we're tempted to take what we've got and call it good.

I find a tension between the warning that "from him to whom much is given much is required" and the call to be faithful in the little things. It seems as though I often fall between the two, satisfying neither requirement. Which I suppose makes me like everybody else.

I have much to be grateful for: a wonderful wife, five fine children (some grown), a roof over our heads, an interesting job working with intelligent people who are generally easy to get along with, some friends, an understanding mind, and an extremely patient Savior. I can't say I've earned any of this--we'd never have the home if my mother-in-law hadn't helped with the down payment. My wife spent the greater amount of time with the children, and deserves the greater credit for how well they're turning out. Everything is gift.

I've made no breakthroughs in my field, though I've found some ideas that don't work. Most of the things I invented to solve problems here and there were thought of before. I'm still working on my writing skills (feedback welcomed).

There's no Ferrari in my future; nor plans to become an itinerant preacher. But with less and less time remaining, I have to sharpen up my foci and lay aside distractions--or nothing will be done right.

I celebrated my 50'th birthday by taking the day off so that my wife could get some R&R at a friend's cabin in the woods. I spent the day scraping paint off the windowsills. No, the job isn't done yet.

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