Maybe the best years of our life are in the here and now.

I was a lucky person to have four grandparents until I was nearly 17 years old, not too many kids can say that. My sons were five and four years old and my oldest daughter only six weeks when their mother’s father died suddenly aged only 56. My youngest daughter knew only three of hers.

If I could instantaneously travel 51 light years from earth and gaze at those light captured memories of me to a place where I could catch up with my birth. And if I then began to travel back through those light shows and gaze as my life passed me by I wonder if those first 16 odd years of my life would pass by more quickly than they seem to have done in my memories. Because it is an odd quirk that time accelerates as we age, a year as a five year old or 20% of a lifetime then is equivalent in percentage terms to 20 years as a 50 year old. No wonder Christmas and birthdays come around so quickly these days.

And in that travel we could meet again those we cared about and maybe this time thank them for what they did for us. Maybe with the wisdom of age we would better recognize some of those seminal moments that lead our feet, and maybe our fate, in a particular direction. We couldn’t change it but maybe in the retelling we could understand a little better why we are who we are. Perhaps that understanding could see us change our direction again.

But I somehow think that the path of life is probably best taken when the direction ahead is shrouded in fog or maybe obscured just over the brow of the next hill, where the horizon is just a little beyond our sight and the knowledge of what lies beyond remains something we can anticipate with excitement and look forward to the passion which may come from around the next bend. And let it be with eager feet that we face whatever the future may bring and let tomorrow be the gift that constantly delights us.

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Maybe the best years of our life are in the here and now.

I was a lucky person to have four grandparents until I was nearly 17 years old, not too many kids can say that. My sons were five and four years old and my oldest daughter only six weeks when their mother’s father died suddenly aged only 56. My youngest daughter knew only three of hers.

If I could instantaneously travel 51 light years from earth and gaze at those light captured memories of me to a place where I could catch up with my birth. And if I then began to travel back through those light shows and gaze as my life passed me by I wonder if those first 16 odd years of my life would pass by more quickly than they seem to have done in my memories. Because it is an odd quirk that time accelerates as we age, a year as a five year old or 20% of a lifetime then is equivalent in percentage terms to 20 years as a 50 year old. No wonder Christmas and birthdays come around so quickly these days.

And in that travel we could meet again those we cared about and maybe this time thank them for what they did for us. Maybe with the wisdom of age we would better recognize some of those seminal moments that lead our feet, and maybe our fate, in a particular direction. We couldn’t change it but maybe in the retelling we could understand a little better why we are who we are. Perhaps that understanding could see us change our direction again.

But I somehow think that the path of life is probably best taken when the direction ahead is shrouded in fog or maybe obscured just over the brow of the next hill, where the horizon is just a little beyond our sight and the knowledge of what lies beyond remains something we can anticipate with excitement and look forward to the passion which may come from around the next bend. And let it be with eager feet that we face whatever the future may bring and let tomorrow be the gift that constantly delights us.

When an old man dies….

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to claim just one more hour with the men who were in your life. I say men, but it could be women too. But I say men because most of us don’t communicate very well. It seems to me that much of a man’s social contact and interaction is on the level of the superficial, the deep and meaningful is not something we’re good at. Just look at the number of women who complain about that. Venus and Mars maybe, and in my case that has certainly been the case.

Many years ago now I started work on my family tree and was fortunate enough to find that I was descended from at least four Irish convicts who were transported to the colonies for a number of reasons, sheep and cow stealing during the famine amongst them. I say fortunate because in those cases the records are fairly extensive and I was able to fill in some of the mysteries by painting their faces based on the descriptions in the records – protruding brow, pock marked face and other colourful characteristics.

But the personal insights are missing from my knowledge of most of those ancestors. What saddens me more though is that for the most part, so is the personal of those whose lifetimes have intersected part of mine as well. When my grandfathers were around I didn’t think to ask questions that would tell me of their lives as children and young men.

On Dad’s side I wish I’d asked my Pa about the mud of the Somme and the desert of the pyramids in World War 1, of the reasons why he ran away from home as a 13 year old, of how he found his way by boat to New Zealand and worked as a sleeper cutter. I would love to know why he joined the New Zealand Army and why after he was wounded in the War he came to Melbourne instead of going back to Dunedin in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

On Mum’s side I wish I’d asked Grandad what it was like to be a Rat of Tobruk, or a labourer on the Great Ocean Road during the depression, and why his family left the bush for the city when he was 17 years old and how it was to work on the wharves in the busiest port in Australia.

For me they were always old men, strict and angry at times, smiling at others, backs bent and legs no longer straight, voices croaking with age, hair thin and grey, rheumy eyes peering wearily through spectacles, at times way more interested in my life than I was in theirs or that I had any right to deserve. If I had one final hour with them, I’d want a week, then year, to pose the questions of why and when, where and how, of long ago lost loves and feelings of elation and despair that must have littered the volumes of their lives.

It is true as the old African proverb says that “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”

When an old man dies….a library burns down

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to claim just one more hour with the men who were in your life. I say men, but it could be women too. But I say men because most of us don’t communicate very well. It seems to me that much of a man’s social contact and interaction is on the level of the superficial, the deep and meaningful is not something we’re good at. Just look at the number of women who complain about that. Venus and Mars maybe, and in my case that has certainly been the case.

Many years ago now I started work on my family tree and was fortunate enough to find that I was descended from at least four Irish convicts who were transported to the colonies for a number of reasons, sheep and cow stealing during the famine amongst them. I say fortunate because in those cases the records are fairly extensive and I was able to fill in some of the mysteries by painting their faces based on the descriptions in the records – protruding brow, pock marked face and other colourful characteristics.

But the personal insights are missing from my knowledge of most of those ancestors. What saddens me more though is that for the most part, so is the personal of those whose lifetimes have intersected part of mine as well. When my grandfathers were around I didn’t think to ask questions that would tell me of their lives as children and young men.

On Dad’s side I wish I’d asked my Pa about the mud of the Somme and the desert of the pyramids in World War 1, of the reasons why he ran away from home as a 13 year old, of how he found his way by boat to New Zealand and worked as a sleeper cutter. I would love to know why he joined the New Zealand Army and why after he was wounded in the War he came to Melbourne instead of going back to Dunedin in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

On Mum’s side I wish I’d asked Grandad what it was like to be a Rat of Tobruk, or a labourer on the Great Ocean Road during the depression, and why his family left the bush for the city when he was 17 years old and how it was to work on the wharves in the busiest port in Australia.

For me they were always old men, strict and angry at times, smiling at others, backs bent and legs no longer straight, voices croaking with age, hair thin and grey, rheumy eyes peering wearily through spectacles, at times way more interested in my life than I was in theirs or that I had any right to deserve. If I had one final hour with them, I’d want a week, then year, to pose the questions of why and when, where and how, of long ago lost loves and feelings of elation and despair that must have littered the volumes of their lives.

It is true as the old African proverb says that “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”

When an old man dies….a library burns down

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to claim just one more hour with the men who were in your life. I say men, but it could be women too. But I say men because most of us don’t communicate very well. It seems to me that much of a man’s social contact and interaction is on the level of the superficial, the deep and meaningful is not something we’re good at. Just look at the number of women who complain about that. Venus and Mars maybe, and in my case that has certainly been the case.

Many years ago now I started work on my family tree and was fortunate enough to find that I was descended from at least four Irish convicts who were transported to the colonies for a number of reasons, sheep and cow stealing during the famine amongst them. I say fortunate because in those cases the records are fairly extensive and I was able to fill in some of the mysteries by painting their faces based on the descriptions in the records – protruding brow, pock marked face and other colourful characteristics.

But the personal insights are missing from my knowledge of most of those ancestors. What saddens me more though is that for the most part, so is the personal of those whose lifetimes have intersected part of mine as well. When my grandfathers were around I didn’t think to ask questions that would tell me of their lives as children and young men.

On Dad’s side I wish I’d asked my Pa about the mud of the Somme and the desert of the pyramids in World War 1, of the reasons why he ran away from home as a 13 year old, of how he found his way by boat to New Zealand and worked as a sleeper cutter. I would love to know why he joined the New Zealand Army and why after he was wounded in the War he came to Melbourne instead of going back to Dunedin in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

On Mum’s side I wish I’d asked Grandad what it was like to be a Rat of Tobruk, or a labourer on the Great Ocean Road during the depression, and why his family left the bush for the city when he was 17 years old and how it was to work on the wharves in the busiest port in Australia.

For me they were always old men, strict and angry at times, smiling at others, backs bent and legs no longer straight, voices croaking with age, hair thin and grey, rheumy eyes peering wearily through spectacles, at times way more interested in my life than I was in theirs or that I had any right to deserve. If I had one final hour with them, I’d want a week, then year, to pose the questions of why and when, where and how, of long ago lost loves and feelings of elation and despair that must have littered the volumes of their lives.

It is true as the old African proverb says that “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”

When an old man dies….a library burns down

Have you ever wondered what it would be like to claim just one more hour with the men who were in your life. I say men, but it could be women too. But I say men because most of us don’t communicate very well. It seems to me that much of a man’s social contact and interaction is on the level of the superficial, the deep and meaningful is not something we’re good at. Just look at the number of women who complain about that. Venus and Mars maybe, and in my case that has certainly been the case.

Many years ago now I started work on my family tree and was fortunate enough to find that I was descended from at least four Irish convicts who were transported to the colonies for a number of reasons, sheep and cow stealing during the famine amongst them. I say fortunate because in those cases the records are fairly extensive and I was able to fill in some of the mysteries by painting their faces based on the descriptions in the records – protruding brow, pock marked face and other colourful characteristics.

But the personal insights are missing from my knowledge of most of those ancestors. What saddens me more though is that for the most part, so is the personal of those whose lifetimes have intersected part of mine as well. When my grandfathers were around I didn’t think to ask questions that would tell me of their lives as children and young men.

On Dad’s side I wish I’d asked my Pa about the mud of the Somme and the desert of the pyramids in World War 1, of the reasons why he ran away from home as a 13 year old, of how he found his way by boat to New Zealand and worked as a sleeper cutter. I would love to know why he joined the New Zealand Army and why after he was wounded in the War he came to Melbourne instead of going back to Dunedin in the Land of the Long White Cloud.

On Mum’s side I wish I’d asked Grandad what it was like to be a Rat of Tobruk, or a labourer on the Great Ocean Road during the depression, and why his family left the bush for the city when he was 17 years old and how it was to work on the wharves in the busiest port in Australia.

For me they were always old men, strict and angry at times, smiling at others, backs bent and legs no longer straight, voices croaking with age, hair thin and grey, rheumy eyes peering wearily through spectacles, at times way more interested in my life than I was in theirs or that I had any right to deserve. If I had one final hour with them, I’d want a week, then year, to pose the questions of why and when, where and how, of long ago lost loves and feelings of elation and despair that must have littered the volumes of their lives.

It is true as the old African proverb says that “When an old man dies, a library burns down.”

Lawncutter – from Journal 1 04-11-1984

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies”, my grandfather said. “A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way, so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do”, he said, “ as long as you change something from the way before you touched it, into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching,” he said. “The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there for a lifetime.”
– Granger to Montag; Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury 1954, p.152-153

Lawncutter – from Journal 1 04-11-1984

“Everyone must leave something behind when he dies”, my grandfather said. “A child or a book or a painting or a house or a wall built or a pair of shoes made. Or a garden planted. Something your hand touched some way, so your soul has somewhere to go when you die, and when people look at that tree or that flower you planted, you’re there. It doesn’t matter what you do”, he said, “ as long as you change something from the way before you touched it, into something that’s like you after you take your hands away. The difference between the man who just cuts lawns and a real gardener is in the touching,” he said. “The lawn cutter might just as well not have been there at all; the gardener will be there for a lifetime.”
– Granger to Montag; Fahrenheit 451 – Ray Bradbury 1954, p.152-153