“You’ve told that story before.”
“I’m sorry, I wasn’t sure he’d heard it.”
“Well, you bring it up and I think somehow it must still bother you.”
“To be sadly honest, it’s probably just me getting older and forgetting.”
“But there must be something lingering or you wouldn’t think about it.”
“I never do think about it. Something I see like this cartoon will trigger the memory, and since the cartoon is so similar to the joke he told which started the whole thing, it reminded me. That’s all. I’ll remember not to retell it aloud anymore.”
How to tell a person who is much younger and still inclined to heightened emotional perception that quite a lot of what you think about is just triggered by keywords or pictures, linking themselves to the past like a phrase someone says which reminds you of an old song? Because each link is a little different, you don’t always realize before speaking that it is merely the same non-fascinating story to someone else. And that is, I suppose, why some older people bore some younger ones so often. We still make new stories, new memories, but we relive many of the old ones as our brain works to keep everything fully accessible and operational by alerting us to parallel situations. It's strengthening pathways, keeping us on top of things.
It’s unlikely I’ll repeat that tiny tale again, but it is a certainty I will repeat others.
I never had the luxury of learning to be patient with my parents as they aged. My mother did not age much past where I am now. And I moved far, far away from my father, so I didn’t see the developing process. I saw the conclusion of it, and regretted the loss of all that space between. The Dad-shaped hole in my life isn’t because of his death, but because of the fifteen previous years we were apart.
I am not sure my kids will see the aging process in me as something enriching for their own lives. That worries me a little. But everyone forges their own path as they can. I am preparing now to understand impatience I might face, but I also expect to not be treated like a child, or a fool. My thoughts are already a little slower sometimes, but they are also a whole lot deeper. Not deeper like discussing Kant and Heidegger. Deeper like soup that simmered for a good long time and has developed layers of flavor, nuanced richness, satisfying comfort. I hope I get to simmer for many more years, because there’s still a lot to take in and to share.