I have spent much of my life not really planning anything, never focusing on the future. True, I was generally “looking forward,” but the path ahead was swathed in fog and fecklessness. Some might say this is why we have four kids, LOL. From 1974 to 1983, a new little Robinson was welcomed into the world every 2-3 years, and it was all I could do to manage the present and the laundry. Matching socks were an unusual occurrence.
Speaking of unusual, at the age of 83, Al Pacino has become a father again. Ditto for Robert DeNiro, at a sprightly 79. The Lord in his wisdom made motherhood a young woman’s matter, but fathers can be as ancient as Methuselah. I wonder if Al and Bob are pitching in and changing nappies. I am not quite as old as they, but still would not want to deal with dirty diapers again. Been there, definitely done that.
There are some advantages to growing older. I say “no” more often, and am more careful about what I choose to do. But there is also a sharper sense to not fritter away time or treasure. I’m cognizant that “looking forward” in my usual vague way might have limitations.
At this point, what am I waiting for? I’d better do what needs to be done. I have two completed books that are still looking for a home. I would hate to go to my Maker with them stuck on the hard drive, and the third one in the series is not going to finish itself.
Cartoonist William Steig started to write kids’ books at the age of 61, and went on to publish over 30 before he died at 95. Grandma Moses began to paint seriously at 78. She died at 101, with over 1500 works to her credit. The late Frank McCourt was 66 when his first book came out; Laura Ingalls Wilder was 65. Clearly, there’s no age limit to creativity.
But it’s true the words are getting a little more difficult to extract. The days of knocking out a book in three or four months—or even six—seem to be over. When my agent first signed me, she asked if I could write two books a year. I said yes, but might have to answer the question differently today, even if I have the luxury of unfettered time. I may not have a day job or referee squabbles or step on Legos at home anymore, but sometimes it’s hard to sit at the keyboard and ignore the bombardment from the outside world.
It can be…depressing. Draining. Almost dystopian, a veritable upside-down where every day is opposite day and truth is pretty tenuous. I do know how lucky I am that I’m not fleeing bombs or facing starvation. Or prison. But the 24/7 news cycle’s insanity and ignorance contaminate my delicate sensibilities. There are days when I identify with Jane Austen’s Mrs. Bennet and her famous nerves, and feel the need to take to my bed.
I’m easily distracted anyway. Recently, I stumbled across some information about the Farmington Historic District, and down the rabbit hole I went. Procrastinators R Us. Our house is within the area listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It was built in 1878 for Rev. Jonas Burnham, a minister and school principal, who tutored students to prepare them for college right up until a few days before he died at 91. The youngest of 9 children, he was a cabin boy in the War of 1812. After beating the British, he graduated from Bowdoin and taught in schools and academies throughout the state for 7 decades.
After an almost 50-year marriage, he was widowed…but within a year, he married again, the rascal. His much, much, much younger (52 years younger, to be exact) second wife Mary Lovina presented him with a brand-new new daughter in their brand-new house. Jonas was 80. So, he and Al and Bob are all members of the Doddering Dads’ Club.
Let’s hear it for making every day count! Age is just a number, right? Are you a planner in life/writing, or are you going with the flow? What do you want to do before it’s too late?