To age is to live out the plot of a story. First, there is the exposition. You are born, brought into a new world. You develop your personality, your likes, your dislikes, your temperament. You learn of your antagonist, a challenge that you will be fighting throughout your course. This could be a broken family, an illness, or even an extra head—everybody has something.
Next is the rising action. You suffer the mood swings of adolescences, struggle to find your first job, marry the person you choose to spend the rest of your existence with. You trip over bumps in the road, but you have to be careful not to let them knock you down for the count, because your prime has yet to come.
The highlight of your life is the climax. You start a family, reach the height of your career, buy that sports car you've always dreamed of. You either defeat or succumb to your antagonist. You carry on the abuse you suffered as a child, get the surgery you've always needed, overcome your shyness, or learn to live with your twin who's—literally—attached to you. At the end of all your conflicts is the resolution. You die either a peaceful or laborious death, hopefully surrounded by the ones you love. Then it's over. You're done.
But between the climax and the resolution is the part many novelists often skip over—the falling action. This is the point in your life when everything is behind you, all the thrills, trials and triumphs. Your body starts to fail you, your memories dim, and your activity level plummets. If you're lucky enough to have grandchildren, then great. But if you don't, hope time flies quickly. It certainly isn't for me.
At sixty-eight, my hair is graying, my eyesight's blurring, and my skin's starting to sag. I've gone through two unsuccessful marriages, neither one of them resulting in children. I'm a sad, lonely man, who has nothing better to do than shelve books at a library. Right now I'm sorting the Ms into alphabetical order on one of the circulation carts. Woo-hoo.
As I put each book on the cart, I check the inside front cover to make sure they have arrived at the right branch of the library system. As long as they have an SL they're good to go. I found a couple of them that have a DM so I put those into a separate pile to bring back into the office. As I open up book after book, a folded piece of paper floats to the ground. I pick it up, unfolding the blue lines. On it is written:
To the next reader of this novel,
Beware. This piece of literature is particularly depressing. I, myself, have come out from the pages of this book a much more somber person. Although many exciting events unfold through the course of his life, the main character ultimately dies a lonely, grim death after his years as a career politician. This novel leaves one with the feeling that life eventually tapers out, even while we are still living. It seems to imply that with old age comes a dismal existence, one full of foreboding and despair. But this, I tell you, is simply not true.
Life is always full of wonders. No matter what God has put on your plate, you can always find contentment and happiness, even if they are through the most rudimentary joys, such as reading a good book or going for a walk. Never take for granted the beauty of the universe that you are blessed to thrive upon. Look outside and take notice the soft petals of a flower or the creamy paintings of clouds. There is always something to appreciate, and better yet, something to live for.
If you think I lack the experience to testify about this subject, then have in mind that I am a ninety-five-year-old widow whose child the Lord has chosen to take home. I know what it's like to spend days on end in an empty house with nothing to do but fiddle with one's thumbs. If you have the means and capability, there's always something fun to do. You just have to find that something. Trust me.
A Very Old Lady
I refold the letter and stuff it back into the book. I proceed to shelve, continuing to open covers and set the titles in their correct places. The text of the letter swarms through my mind. Life is always full of wonders, the voice rings, tempting me to believe the words. There's a bingo place a couple blocks from my house. Maybe I'll join it.
About the Author: Madison Koch is a high school freshman living in Florida. She's dreaming of a varsity letter for girls' basketball.
Photo Credit: Elisabeth Clem/Poppy and Pinecone