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Life: Four Seasons of Living

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I am eighty-nine years old and in the winter season of my life. Just as there are seasons—spring, summer, autumn, and winter—in nature, there are seasons in the human life. Of course, this simple analogy is far from being a new concept, but it is a concept about which many words have been written.

I will try to keep my comments as pithy as possible and not go on a tangent (or as a friend of mine likes to say, start “chasing rabbits!”).

When we’re young, time seems to stand still, and we can’t wait to grow up. When we’re old, time passes at a whirlwind speed, and we look back longingly at the earlier years. In between is the fullness of our life—the longest and most important season.

As I see it, the spring season, starts the cycle same as nature’s spring. The beginning of the renewal of life, this period will run for about twenty years—the time it takes an infant to go through the process of becoming a young and inexperienced adult.

This will be the most exciting time in life for this child, and for the parents too—for parents are carried along on the ride of their children’s lives as well. For the parents, it’s akin to boarding a roller coaster as it’s pulling out of the station for a twenty-year ride. The experience is exhilarating, yet terrifying. We hang on for dear life, hoping we make it through the twists and turns, and the ups and downs that come with raising children to be responsible adults. This baby of ours is a tabula rasa in every respect. What an awesome task we face as parents—a task that many take way too lightly.

The spring season starts when the baby emerges from his soft and comfortable human cocoon with a cry of shock at the harsher environment he finds himself thrust into so unceremoniously. As mother hugs her little baby to her breast, and its tiny and perfect little fingers curl around Dad’s huge index thumb, each of them are overwhelmed by the gush of feeling that sweeps over them. An indescribable tenderness melts the heart, and the lifelong parent-child relationship is born. Regardless of how old that child lives to be, in our minds he/she will always be remembered as “our baby” in our hearts. 

Having learned to communicate to an acceptable degree, to walk, and the biggie—potty trained—by the age of two, they’ve far advanced from the helpless baby stage. Parents are constantly amazed at their children’s budding minds that are growing by leaps and bounds. Our little darlings have become individuals, and to our consternation, have learned the word “no”—which they love to test our patience with by using it often! Only the teen years will prove to be more stressful for the parents than this period.

Then come the school years. We learn another hard lesson—outsiders now influence our innocent babes. Suddenly, Mom and Dad don’t know anything, or just don’t understand what it is to be a kid! Sometimes such unacceptable words come out of their mouths, we have to wash them out with Ivory soap! Yes—some parents still do that.

Before there were preschool and kindergarten classes to prepare small children for school, the first day of school was a heart-wrenching experience—not only for the child, but for the mother as well. When my firstborn went off to school for the first time, she was visibly shaken and upset. I knew the butterfly feeling in my stomach was the same as hers. We went in to greet the teacher, and as I turned to go, the expression on my baby’s face was torture for me. Her little chin was quivering, and she was looking at me—trying her best to be a big girl and not cry. She felt like her mother had abandoned her. I had to force myself to close the door and go home—the tears streaming down my face so much that I could hardly see. 

I don’t have the energy to even think of the tumultuous teen years, much less relive them. So, I’m going to leave it to each of you to relive your own experiences of this period. Lying awake at night until your teen is safely home is the rule rather than the exception. These are the years they say “you’re payin’ for your own raisin’!”

Spring is over and summer is upon us. Are those young men and women in their caps and gowns our kids? It can’t be! Why, it was only yesterday that …

Their faces are radiant with youth and they’re bubbling over with exciting plans for their future, as they move into the next season of life.

Chests puffed with pride, we humbly realize that somehow, we’ve managed to raise some pretty good kids.

The summer season in the human life span is the longest, covering the period from about twenty years of age to the average retirement age of sixty-five. In early summer, young adults are busy raising their children—concentrating on the present. Our lives are in full bloom and going full speed. But the finger of time moves on. The nest becomes empty, after our young have ventured out on their own and have started raising their own families. Late summer finds us focusing more of our energies toward retirement planning. But in addition, many find themselves in a very stressful situation dealing with family issues.

Often referred to as the “sandwich generation,” many in this group are caught in the gap of caring for their grandbabies and elderly parents in the same time period. One lady made the remark it was evident to her that she was in this situation when she fastened her grandchild in his infant car seat, and then turned to help her elderly father into the car and put his wheel chair in the trunk! For others, throwaway diapers for baby and Depends for Mom in the same shopping cart is yet another sign of this stressful time.  

Too often, it’s the season we are so busy looking forward to, our autumn season, or backward at our spring season, we forget to truly live and enjoy this season. It’s the one we have the most regrets about when we grow old, and start reflecting on our lives.

When the elderly reach the autumn of their lives (retirement age), it is called the “golden years.” Still healthy, it’s a time to enjoy the great grandchildren and the fruits of our labors. It’s generally a good time, if we have nurtured our family lovingly, and made our retirement nest comfortable. As wine mellows with age—so have we. We seem to draw closer to our loved ones, and we now have the time to pursue hobbies and to travel. 

The next and last season of life is winter. We are truly old. The gold in our hair is replaced by silver, and we think we have resigned ourselves to the wrinkles covering our entire body. We inadvertently see ourselves as we pass the full-length and unkind mirror, and we beseechingly cry: “Thou golden time, o’ youthful prime, why comest thou not again!”

Winter season is also the time we like to sit in our rocking chairs, lost in time as we travel back to the past. Most of the memories are pleasant ones that we get comfort in reliving. But sometimes, our reflections bring on poignant regrets. Who has not asked himself, the timeless question, “If I had it all to do over, would I do everything the same way?”    

Though, at the end we are suffering the infirmities of old age and facing the final curtain call of death, it is not a time of defeat. We are sustained by our promise of eternal life with God. Without that promise, it would be depressing indeed. But as with nature’s seasons, human spring season will surely come again, when a new generation is born to start the cycle anew.


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