I feel as if I walked a long road from one end to the other, and as I was walking, someone held the ends together. I stepped from a time far past and distant into this moment today. Back then, before I crossed the fold, I was one of the younger generation. Back then, I had years in my pocket and dreams in my heart.
I am one of the old folks now. My pockets are almost empty.
I remember that past, that past so distant, the one I lived before I took my final step across the fold. I remember how it felt to live in that world, to have that mindset, to possess time. I remember it so clearly, so vividly. I feel it in every particle of my body and deep within my bones. I remember almost nothing in-between. I fact, I often wonder if I, like Rumpelstiltskin, slept through those between years, waking old and confused and dreamless.
Back then, my grandparents were the old folks. At some point, they handed the baton to my parents and they stepped out of the fabric of this world, through the veil and into the next dimension. I vaguely remember my parents becoming the old folks. But I am still unsure when most of the generation before me departed or how I came to wear and walk in their shoes. I don’t recall the moment when the baton became mine.
I believe it has something to do with the way I have survived. “Let me get through this, and then, then I’ll start living…” I have hunkered down, braced, shielded myself with mighty walls I built to protect me. I have guarded my innermost being as I walked through each minute, each week, each month, each year, hoping only to get through what that minute, week, month or year held. Hoping only to get to the other side mostly in one piece. But the joke is on me. There is no other side. There is only the end.
There is also no such thing as surviving in one piece. Mostly or otherwise.
How strange it is that I feel that young girl intimately close to me now. Now that she is so very far away from who I am today. So far in the distant past. Yet I feel her breath on my neck. Her nimble limbs that could run fast and strong stir mine now stiff and weary . I can almost touch her hope for the future. A future where abuse would be a distant memory and love would become a reality. She walks with me, reminding me of all that has been lost. All that never came to pass. All that has fallen to the ground in shattered pieces and perished in the dust. I feel her, but I am not her any longer. I remember her, but I do not resemble her. I am one of the old folks now. My time has come and gone.
Were I given the chance to go back, to become that young girl once again, I would do a million things differently. I would not stay with those who told me I had no worth. With those who hit, rejected, used and abused me. Those who judged me and found me lacking. I would not cast my vision toward some distant future where everything would finally be set right and where everything would be set right in the end. Where happiness supposedly waited. Instead, I would grasp each second, grasp it with both hands, and milk it for every thought, experience and emotion it held. I would not stop my eyes from crying or my heart from feeling pain. Because in numbing the pain and drying the tears, I also stifled the laughter and choked the joy. I would live the now. The good and the bad of it. And I would not seek only to get through to the other side. I would not so easily be tricked into frittering my hours away with only the goal of surviving. I would not trade living for existing. Nor would I walk across the folded ground between then and now to spare myself everything I hoped to avoid between youth and aging.
I look back at this point with the same longing I once had when I was always looking forward. I look back with such longing because there is so little left ahead. I am one of the old folks now. All that is left for me to do is to pass the baton and step over the next wrinkle. Into that place where time is no more. Where the old folks go after they reach the end of the road. Pockets empty and turned inside out.