This is the eternal lament of all the world's older citizens I know. But it is worthwhile to tell it again for any younger people in the audience who might be inclined to listen - or who believe it will never happen to THEM! I will tell it from my own personal perspective.
When you are a kid, something that is a month away seems an eternity, but when you get older, it is only a couple of good naps and as many good meals! Christmas took forever to get here when I was a kid, but now it rolls around again every other month, it seems.
I distinctly remember my mom telling me when I was about 10 or 12 years old that I "might" live to see the year 2000, but that was still 50-odd years in the future - an Eternity.
I could not even comprehend it. Now the year of 2000 is so far in the past I do not have any clear memory of it! I can only look at an old dog that was named "Milly" in honor of the Millennium without having one single definite memory of that year - except for the dog. I even have to stop and do some grade-school arithmetic to decide how old I was at that time...
Then - many years later in 1957 - while in the US Air Force - I was assigned to the 1999th Airways and Air Communications Squadron at Sewart AFB, Smyrna, Tennessee. In 1957 I used to contemplate those numbers, "1999", and they made me think of a year then so far in the future it blew my mind - except that it came just before that enigmatic year of 2000 that my mother had told me about. There were still the 1960's, 1970's, '80's, etc, to contend with first, and I wondered if I would ever see that year of 2000 face-to-face...
Those intervening years between 1957 and 2000 represent the bulk of my working life - and are now so far in the past that everything seems like one garbled jumble of total confusion. I actually have to sit down and write stories like this one to reconstruct and straighten out what actually happened, and in what order. It is like the proverbial can of worms.
I now work at my artist's desk at least four hours every day, seven days a week. As I work - usually late at night - frequently into the wee hours - I listen to the radio and cannot believe how rapidly those shows like the Friday night "Red Zones" come around in football season! It seems like every other day there is another set of football scores to listen to. Monday finally comes, followed immediately by Friday, and weekends are usually so confusing I am happy to see Monday get here again!
So, you see, I guess my main point in writing this is to tell you that Time likes to play tricks on us, and we can never be exactly sure just what stage of life we are in! Some of my one-time closest friends are no longer around. Most, in fact! Some of those I always imagined to be much stronger than me physically are now gone! (I remember when my dad was going through this same stage of life how he would talk about all his closest friends having died off - and he lived on without them until he was 92!). I have a few ailments to be sure, but my painting keeps my mind active, always planning new work, which keeps me from dwelling on the bad stuff. Most importantly, I have been blessed to have a good wife for well over 50 years who takes good care of me! All people should be so lucky as to have a spouse as good as "Miss Pat" (Patricia) Parnell Martin - of Red Bank!
My plan is to simply keep going as long as I can and hopefully never get caught up in those "institutional" situations where old people sit around and compare their physical ailments all day. I am still looking forward, while enjoying writing these Memories where I look backward for a few minutes at a time. I feel as though I am following old Charles Dickens' recipe laid out in "A Christmas Carol" - about living in the Past, the Present and the Future. "Milly", the millennial dog (above), now 15, is still enjoying life - and so am I!
(Chester Martin is a native Chattanoogan who is a talented painter as well as local historian. He and his wife, Pat, live in Brainerd. Mr. Martin can be reached at email@example.com )