As “Hey John” has morphed into a gen-u-wine counseling column rather than just a weenie weight “advice column”, should the situation arise that the email requests are blank (like this week), I will present you with hopefully significant events to contemplate. This one has added to my existence. I hope you find it useful. – js
Part One: The Visit
I walked in the door, having completed my eight-hour shift as a bartender, and my hour commute back to San Jose. I was greeted by my eight month pregnant wife and her mom and dad who had journeyed from Austin to come visit us. I was complaining that one of my regular customers, Connie spent his sipping time at the bar to whine about how unbelievably slow AAA was at responding to his flat tire call. When I asked the 45 year old why he didn’t change it himself during his two-and-a-half-hour wait, he responded, “Hell, I’m getting too old to do that”. Too old?! My father-in-law Claude somewhat misunderstood my story and explained to me: “You know, when you are young (I was 23), everything seems possible. But, as you grow older, you begin to realize that your age is a limitation to some dreams. Think of the great college basketball player who dreams of being a pro. Now he’s 35 and he realizes he’s now too old to begin a professional career. Take me for example. I wrote my book for my dissertation many years ago. I have planned on writing a second book ever since. Now in my mid-fifties, it’s too late to begin such a momentous task. It’s a bit of a sad reality coming to grips with the fact one is too old to do something he had dreamt about for so long.” Although it made sense, it was a little depressing to think our time is always running out on our dreams.
Part Two: An Interesting Combination Of Events
Many years later, our firstborn Justin moved in with his grandparents, Jeanne and Claude in order to limit the costs of attending Austin Community College. We gave Justin our office computer with an old (and difficult to master) word processing program, Bank Street Writer. It took me quite a while to show him how to use it. After his first year at ACC, he got an apartment with a friend and left the old PC at his grandparent’s house. Jeanne began calling me on a regular basis about using the computer, as she had never used one before. To make things more complicated yet, she was getting instructions, one at a time, on how to use Bank Street Writer. She decided to transcribe the thousands of nearly illegible little notes Claude had written over the years into the computer. It was a seemingly an impossible job. Week after week, month after month Jeanne typed and Claude dictated information he both knew and researched about The Black’s role in the Civil War, Slavery and Reconstruction. He finally exhaustedly submitted his work- and was rejected. He revised it over the next few months, submitted it, and was rejected again. He made revisions again, and on June 1, 2001, McFarland Publishing put Claude’s book on the shelves. Although Claude generously gave credit to numerous family members for their assistance, it was his and Jeanne’s very late-in-life completion of a long lost dream. He figured it was out of reach in his mid-fifties, and he proved himself wrong. He was eighty.
So the obvious question presents itself: at what point in our lives do we know things are no longer possible? Can we re-start ourselves at fifty? Work at doing something we had previously given up on in our sixties? What about at eighty? Knowing that there is a possibility of achieving old dreams, or for that matter, new dreams regardless of our age is a lesson to be considered as we grow older.