Peg Schulte, the author of www.pegoleg.com, describes herself as “an insurance agent, married, and mother of 2 college students who engages “in the struggles of daily life in a small town in Illinois” and who writes about “daily life from the Everywoman perspective.” I would describe her slightly differently: Peg is a woman who writes things that I wish I had. Damn her.
A horror movie I saw as a teenager left a vivid impression on me. The premise was that the doorway to hell was an actual door in what looked like an apartment building. The only thing that stood between the world and all the demons of hell was a single, ancient man sitting guard in a folding chair in the hallway outside the door. The young heroine of the movie had done something terribly wrong, like taking someone’s life, and she was offered a way to atone and save her soul: she had to take the Guardian’s place. She said yes and as soon as she sat in the chair, she turned into a decrepit, grizzled, crone.
Welcome to old age.
At 53, I’m still relatively young by today’s standards. If statistics are to be believed, I may have 30 more years of life left. Yet the last 30 years disappeared in a blink of an eye and time seems to be gathering speed as I get older.
This was brought home vividly to me this past Christmas.
My husband, our kids and I went to spend the holiday with my parents. They’ve had an escalating series of health challenges lately, and my Dad ended up spending the week in the hospital. When I tiptoed into his room I found him sleeping. It felt like I had stumbled into a time machine.
I flashed backwards more than 30 years. The man in the bed then was my grandpa. He was at the end of his long battle with the illness that would shortly take his life. He lay there open-mouthed, breathing labored, obviously very sick. Flash forward again. My Dad looked uncannily, frighteningly like his own Dad.
“No!” I wanted to shout. When did my Dad become this old man? My big, strong Daddy who could chase away mosquitoes and monsters, could unravel any math problem, could navigate by the stars? Where did all those years go?
I’m happy to say Dad is back home now. He and my Mom are both recovering and getting stronger every day. I guess the good Lord isn’t ready for them yet.
I’ve often thought about that movie of my youth as a metaphor for life. The doorway in my musings doesn’t lead to hell, however; it leads to death. The oldest generation is who is sitting in that chair. They are the barriers keeping death away.
My Dad and my Mom, my aunts and uncles are at the tail end of what many consider to be the Greatest of generations. Many have already passed away. When that generation is gone it will be time for the next to take their turn in the chair. And that, my friends, is you and I.
All too soon it will be our turn to sit in that folding chair and guard the door to keep death away from our children and our grandchildren.
We’ll do it. We’ll rise to the challenge and we’ll do it because we have to, because that is the natural and right order of things.
But while the circle of life thing is beautiful and makes a really catchy song, I’ve got to say the whole business has me a little freaked out.