I said once, in the presence of my father, how I wished to be older. I was, at the time, 12 or 13, maybe 14.
The comment wasn’t necessarily directed at him but more so at the rest of the world. Being older – “grown,” that is – meant freedom unlimited and command. I’m sure that’s what I thought.
Whether he was a contributor to the frustration I felt then didn’t matter. The audible statement had been broadcast for anyone within earshot to hear. My wish was now part of the public domain – like a tweet to a tiny circle of followers, posted with the hashtags #whoslistening #freeme #cosmiccars – and an invitation or plea, of sorts, for reaction.
My father responded almost reflexively. “Don’t wish your life away,” he sighed, as if thinking aloud and perhaps even recalling a much younger version of himself.
The depths of a father’s few words. If I were 12 or 13, maybe 14, he would have been in his mid-50s – about my age now – and retired from AC Spark Plug (earlier than planned due to a medical disability). He might have felt the finish line was now visible on the horizon, however distant. A constant presence like the inescapable gaze of a female portrait whose painted eyes appear to follow you across the room. Possibly in that very moment, the idea of a personal expiration date was too imaginable to ignore. (How many more seasons left on the calendar?)
Take my advice, he said without saying, make the most of your time where you are. Enjoy the beauty, the challenge and the magnificence of the moment if you can.
Contained within his prescient advice – “Don’t wish your life away” – was also a quiet, respectful appeal: “And don’t wish my life away.”
For, the older I got the older he got. He wasn’t ready to breach the horizon according to someone’s else watch. To the extent possible, his time remaining belonged to him.
He would live another 30 years.
(c) Bob Campbell/bobcampbellwrites.com
Bob Campbell, an essayist and novelist, likes his bourbon neat. His debut novel, Motown Man, was published by Urban Farmhouse Press in November 2020.