It’s a drop past 11pm here on the East Coast, and just a few minutes away from my Fortieth birthday. I usually don’t let big, decade birthdays consume too many of my thoughts – age is just a number, as the kids say.
But it’s hard not to think back on this night ten years ago and reminisce. I had just driven back to my hometown, Walters, Oklahoma. I had finished up my law school and doctoral years in Tucson. With no job and an uncertain future, I left the Old Pueblo and headed for home with my nearly one-month old newborn son, and then wife in tow.
It had been a predictably long drive. God knows the drive between Tucson and Walters is long. But we made it safely. The photo below, marked the first time that there would be four generations of Fodder men all in the same place. It was also the first time that my Grandfather would get to meet his Great-Grandson.
Now my son is ten. My Grandpa has passed on. And life seems far more complicated today than it did back then. But it’s hard not to be thankful. My baby nephew is now playing football. My Dad is well. I’d say we fared okay, all things considered. I hope that we will be so fortunate in the next ten years.
It seems like a lifetime ago, and yet it seems like yesterday. I remember how tired we were after the drive. How great it felt to be home. How excited and nervous I was at the thought of being a parent. It was all so new.
But it strikes me that each milestone year is like that. Ten years from now, I don’t know what I will be doing on this night. I don’t know who will will be by my side when the next picture is taken. For all I know, it could be my Dad holding his latest Grandson. Stranger things have happened.
What I do know is that I don’t want to take a single moment of this next decade for granted. To paraphrase Thoreau, “I want to live deeply and suck out all the marrow of life.”
If I had had this perspective ten years ago, I would have cherished each moment when that photo was taken. I would have basked in the company of family, and relished the excitement of welcoming a new life into the world. I would have been satisfied with a weary body, tired after closing an old chapter and excited to open a new one.
But the past is done.
Like the tree above, we all inexorably shed our old leaves no matter how vibrant they are in order to reset, rest, and to welcome the new.
In five minutes or so, it will be time to turn the page on my 30s and see what comes next.