Well, to repeat a phrase I’ve used so many times over the past half-century: “That’s it then; another year is staggering to its close; another birthday – the 97th has been posted – and the 98th is a distant shimmer somewhere out there in the mists of time.
It’s been many years since I first wrote: “It’s been a long hike since my first plaintive cries shattered the post peace and goodwill of Christmas 1923 on a bleak December 27th morning. My mother would later recall the event when showing me off to relatives and friends as “a nice lad, even if he did ruin my Christmas.”
It was a bright tale and always told with the warmth and love she had and openly demonstrated for all her children, warmth and love I never really appreciated until I became a parent myself. Her example has served me well when set alongside my father, a badly wounded First World War veteran, always strong, always taciturn. And it still will, I hope, as I head down another unknown stretch of road marked 2021.
Other than a calendar-marked starting date, the future “road map” is, as always, blank when it comes to details and destinations. I still know only one thing for sure: Like the stretches already travelled, there will be rough spots; some hills will be tough to climb; others will lead to valleys of despair. But, as many have and hopefully more will, the journey will lead to summer-lit meadows warmed and made pleasant by the shared love and support of family and friends.
I have no more idea of how long the next leg of my journey will be than I had when I made what I’m told was a noisy and fragile debut a little more the 97-years ago. I just hope I can head over the last hills with a minimum of fuss – and that I don’t ruin any festive occasions with my departure.
Since I marched past my 90th birthday close to a decade ago, I have often been asked how much longer I intend to keep writing my Old Islander blog. The question is usually asked with raised eyebrows as though publishing weekly thoughts and opinions in my 90s is, well, just let’s say – not talked about in mixed company.
My answer remains honest: “I have no idea” – but this is spoken with less conviction than it used to be. I still enjoy the weekly challenge, but it gets harder to meet my arbitrary deadline, and it takes longer to write. And, every now and then, an afternoon nap becomes more important than my self-imposed duty. On such days, my editors regularly save me from the embarrassment of muddled syntax. It’s a good mental exercise for me but a reminder that my mental candle doesn’t burn as brightly as it once did. Regardless, I carry on with the abiding hope that occasionally, my blog brings some joy or sparks a rebuttal challenge from readers.
So, with a bit of luck, I can maybe publish another re-run of this piece a year from now. That marker looks a long way down a road yet to be travelled, but then so has each New Year I’ve experienced since I was old enough to wonder where life was taking me. It has always been a far distant, often nervous, unknown journey since 1923.
At 97, time – never fully guaranteed – is measured with less certainty; energy fades dramatically, and modest talent shaping words into understandable English is more difficult to quantify.
So, for now, I’ll just puddle along with a gentle weekly ramble in low gear and hope you keep reading until an unwelcome map maker puts up a sign “ROAD ENDS.”