I'm identifying more than I'd like with Ian Howarth, the wintry, middle-aged English teacher who is the best friend of the protagonist of R.F. Delderfield's To Serve Them All My Days, perfectly played by Alan MacNaughtan. His last recorded words, near the end of the book,
are "that bloody cough," and that's kind of what I'm feeling now.
OK, I'm being overdramatic; Howarth was dying of emphysema, brought on by a lifetime of compulsive smoking, and I have a bad cold, or, at worst, bronchitis. But still, I admire MacNaughtan's performance all the more as I grumblingly hack away these chill spring days.
The thing is, you see, in a little over two weeks, I'll be 50. And, as usual, the best-laid plans of mice and men have in fact gang agley. The place I wanted to hold a celebratory dinner has been closed, due to vermin and health issues (can I pick 'em, or what?), and I'm coughing and wheezing like a consumptive in a bad 19th Century novel. Oh, and did I mention that I had a haircut before the Easter Vigil, and the barber, looking down at the mass of hair he cut from me, shook his head with a small smile, saying, "lotta gray, there, John."
I used to, when I was in my 20s look forward to middle age. Because I'd be settled, and comfortable in my skin, and all serene.
But serenity doesn't come with age automatically after all; we have to earn it. Each day. We only have a day at a time, and that cliche became one because it simply expresses a profound truth.
And I look around me, and see all the riches in my life--la Caterina, first and foremost, family and friends, my affectionate felines, work I truly am dedicated to and enjoy, the privilege of serving in the Church.
I was right to look forward to middle age, but not because it would be easy; it isn't.
It's just incredibly worth it.