As a child, I thought my Aunt Angie knew everything.
When I looked up at her and asked how it felt to know everything, she responded with a burst of laughter. At age eight, I didn’t get the joke. What was so funny? Grown-ups are supposed to know everything — even my mother, who was several years younger than Aunt Angie.
Ah, the dispatches from growing up. Why does this memory stick in my mind? Maybe it was the shock of realizing my preconceived notions about adulthood were untrue. Grown-ups don’t know all there is to know. At the time, the thought was crushing. When do we know all there is to know?
And if we did, where would the fun be in the journey?
It’s All About the Journey in Life
My generation followed a script. We weren’t the rebellious sort. I was too young for Lawrence Welk and too old for Woodstock, and already a married woman by the time Dazed and Confused hit the screen. House, kids, and responsibilities galore.
The only brazen step I ever took was to go back to work while my children were young. I bought into the messaging that women could have it all — husband, children, and job — and achieve fulfillment in the process. What a crock!
There was never a time when I felt my life was in balance. There was certainly no leisure time. Lesson learned: For every decision made, there is a road not taken. For every choice made, there is always something given up.
Aunt Angie knew this, but would I ever have listened and understood? In retrospect, these were some of my very best years and some of the worst. The brightest spots are my children. The jobs? They were just “jobs.”
An “A-ha!” moment occurred upon learning that people I thought would never change do in fact change over time.
One old friend, Beth, lived only in the present tense when I first knew her. She was the life of the party: She drank, laughed a lot, and held no worries about the future. She worked, paid her bills, and partied. That was enough for her.
She moved away several years ago, but we kept in touch.
Realities of Aging
Recently, Beth and I met for coffee while she was in town. She still works full-time, now while juggling caring for her mother who has Alzheimer’s disease.
She’s slowed down to meet her mother’s needs. Having no children herself, Beth worries about who will take care of her as she ages.
It’s a familiar story. The realities of aging catch up with all of us eventually.
Aunt Angie was the “wild child” in my mother’s family. Beth and my aunt could have swapped some raucous stories.
Both transformed into conscientious adults who would laugh out loud at an eight-year-old thinking they knew everything there was to know.
Passing On an Heirloom
My grandfather clock has rung every hour and half hour since it first arrived more than 50 years ago. It belonged to my grandmother and stood in her front hall since the early 1900s. I’ve rewound and reset it ever since she died. Soon my son will take the clock to his house in Missouri.
How do you know when it’s the right time to pass something along? I cannot explain it, but just know it’s time to do so. I would now rather have the memory of this beautiful clock than the responsibility of caring for it. Perhaps Aunt Angie could’ve told me I would feel this way someday. But it makes me happy to know it will bring my son’s family joy.
None of my children or grandchildren have asked me if I know everything. I’m imperfect and still on this voyage we call life.
One day I’ll meet Aunt Angie again, and we’ll both laugh at that earnest question from my childhood. My aunt could have told me a lot way back then, but she knew I had to learn for myself.
That’s as close to knowing everything as we ever come.