Middle age’s continental divide

Don Rogers

A siren heralded an ambulance racing up to Eby Creek Mesa that night. Oh, oh. That can’t be good.Sure enough, a friend of our 16-year-old son had come home to find his dad dead. Terry Gillis’ heart stopped. Of course, that also broke lots of hearts, starting with his family, including three sons.A couple of weeks earlier, an e-mail from my hometown brought news of a classmate’s death. A heart attack felled Bill Hoist. The Los Angeles School District administrator left his wife and four children. My high school class in suburban LA is making a deal out our 30th reunion. They even reached me, a kid who stepped on a plane for Honolulu within the week of graduating from South Pasadena High School. I haven’t set foot in town more than a couple of dozen times ever since. And only once in my children’s lifetimes, after my mother moved to nearby Pasadena. You could say I moved on from high school pretty quickly. Hardly looked back.Now I’m hearing that call to return, at least for the celebration in August. I’ll skip the golf, still not nearly mature enough for that. Maybe I’ll take the tour of the high school. If “my” gym is still there, and not some gleaming renovation, maybe I’ll try to steal some time to shoot around like I did back when, when the janitor used to let me in after hours. Basketball is the only real bridge for me between then and now.For awhile I stayed in touch with a few classmates. But we all got busy with our next adventures. College. Careers. Spouses, pretty soon families.I was more restless than most, I think. I’ve hopped across the country, finally landing here, where I hope both my children will graduate from high school. High school for me now is cheering them on, worrying about their grades and, oh god, how we afford college.The reunion sounds like fun, and I am curious to see how my classmates turned out. (I hope they wear their name tags.) But there’s something else, too. Middle age is a long phase in our lives, starting about when “29” becomes a lie. But where’s the apex, the tipping point, Continental Divide between youth and … what? Old age, decline, senior citizenship, maturity? Depends on your mindset, I suppose. A 30th reunion is a solid candidate for this symbolic marker. As is our children graduating from high school. Or that round age of 50, halfway to 100. Or when we notice eternity beginning to chip away at our peers, sand through the dial. Our castles, however carefully or haphazardly constructed, now face the tide.Inevitably, how we look at life must change right around now. We’ve begun to notice the clock ticking and understand that there truly are no guarantees we’ll even reach old age. The path ahead is looking shorter than behind. It’s only going to get shorter from here.So what to do with this vantage? Claw back toward youth? Certainly can try, even if that tack ultimately is futile. Hustle toward yet unmet goals? Look for ways to give back? Take it easy? Whichever way we go, this is new territory. I’m dimly becoming aware that as big as graduating from high school will be for my children, it will be bigger for their mother and me. They’ll move on, hardly looking back. Off to college. Careers. Their own families, if they are lucky. We’ll be staying in place this time, considering the passage of our youth and our new life’s phase ahead. It will only get harder not to look back, I suspect. Managing Editor Don Rogers can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 600, or editor@vaildaily.comVail, Colorado

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