Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Grappling With the Ghost of 82

It was a dark and fearsome thing. Lurking, haunting, it hid often in the shadows, emerging only when clouds gathered on the horizon; near or far. It seemed to me it was waiting for something; an event, a person, or just time to pass. I feared it would pounce and smother me with its heavy, airless robes, for I knew it was me that it hunted. No one else distracted it from its prey.

I had noticed it first out of the corner of my eye a few years ago as a shadow stalking me on occasions when I was lost in thought, far away. It sent a shiver down my back and I felt a moment of cold. But it would quickly scurry off as I became distracted with all that was happening around me. It seemed less intent, less focused back then. But steadily as the months passed I found its hooded gaze slowly burning holes through me, as if I were a paper cup full of hot coals. It was only a matter of time, more frequently as life wore on, before it shuffled into view. I began recognizing its seemingly rightful place over my right shoulder that ached whenever it was there.

And now it resides in the dark corners I encounter along my path most days, rarely out of sight for long. And I tremble and get stiff partly it seems in reaction to its searing gaze as it crouches, leaving me wondering when it will come for me.

It reminds me of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol". I always feared the ghost of Christmas Future the most. The ghost of Christmas Past was simply a tangle of memories, crisp and curled like cold bacon long since abandoned. And the ghost of Christmas Present was too immediate and familiar to frighten me for long. But that ghost of Christmas Future half crept, half floated; first slow, then with the speed of a shooting star as it spoke of serious things to come. Every time I see the movie I realize that there is a reason we should not know the future; we could not bear it. We were meant to live one day at a time, each one separated by a night's repose, fitful though it may be sometimes.

My personal ghost of Christmas Future flashes pictures of me like my father would have looked at 82. It is not an appealing advertisement for some magic panacea or pill, or a vision of me vacationing in the south of France in a villa by the sea where I walk long miles by the shore. No, the snapshots reveal a darker scene and the ghost speaks, "This may be so.".

So I fight the spectre and its portrayal of my supposed future at 82 (or sooner). I demand that it not occupy my present, and if it does it must be clothed in bright colors of hope and faith, enjoying with me the day I have been given. The Bible (Matthew 6:34) quotes Jesus as saying, "Do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own." The future truly is an apparition. I am not my father and will not, in all likelihood, follow a similar path to the one he walked.

I must grapple with the ghost of 82 by fully investing in each day. As Jim Elliot, the missionary who, at 29, literally gave his life to the Aucas in the far reaches of the Amazon, said, "Wherever you are, be all there."

I say we must banish the ghost and his pale and poisoned prophesies of tomorrow. We have today to embrace and live out; positively Parkinson's.

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