I’ve read Matt Appling’s Life after Art, and been going back over it, looking closely at the questions and exercises at the end of each chapter.
One question caught me up short. Actually, several questions clustered together caught me up short.
What would I like my life to mean when it is over? What do I want my life to say about me? What legacy am I building? What will I leave behind that will tell people about my life?
I’m not sure how I’ll ultimately answer those questions, but I know that I’ve already started the process of answering them.
I’m becoming more aware of time.
Specifically, I’m becoming more aware of my time.
It’s getting shorter.
When you’re 20 or 30, the time in your life stretches into infinity. You rarely think about time at all, in terms of the time allotted for your life. It beckons with possibility.
I will say this: my time still beckons with possibility. What time is left is shorter than when I was 20 and 30, but it’s still filled with possibility.
I started riding a bike when I was not quite 53. I published a novel when I was 60, and a second novel at 61. Would it be too much to say that there are at least 10 novels left inside my imagination? And a collection of four long stories. Two novellas. And this non-fiction book that’s well underway, and looks like it just might make its manuscript deadline of July 1?
But that’s only a partial answer to those questions. Perhaps the smallest part.
What will I leave behind that will tell people about my life?
I know most of the answer to that question.
My two sons. Travis and Andrew.
They’re eight years apart. Travis gave us such a run for the money that we thought he might be an only child. But eventually Andrew came along.
They’re both adults now, and I can see elements of myself in both of them. I hear their words and expressions, and I’m struck with amazement at how much I hear my own father. How did that happen? I hear them tell a story, and I hear myself telling a story.
But that business about screaming at the television set during sports games? That’s their mother. I am not making this up. They’re louder than she is. But they get that form their mother. In fact, they inherited all of their sports genes from their mother.
I look at my two grandsons, and I see another part of the answer. I am part of their lives, both carefully and wildly.
Wildly, in that with them, I am ready at any time to try anything and do anything. Grandchildren suggest a kind of freedom for grandparents, oddly enough, freedom to be a child again and no one thinks you’re an idiot.
And carefully, because I will not crowd out their father. They need him in ways they won’t fully understand until I’m long gone and he’s waving his cane at his own grandchildren.
So those are a good part of the answers to those questions. There’s more to tell, but for now, they’re sufficient.