the rusty years

Even if you’re not a New Year’s resolution kind of person, it’s hard to escape this time of year without some self reflection. This morning I was appreciating every inch of my 6’4″ stature as I was awkwardly cutting the cheeks of stretcher tenons at eye height. This afternoon I was pushing a wheelchair and helping my disabled mother get an ID card at the DMV.

“People say these are the golden years,” she joked, “when really they’re just rusty.”

Sometimes when I’m with my mother I worry a little that I’m sneaking a peek at my own future. Given how long my dad and grandfather lived, I’m well past middle age already. I should have had my crisis by now. Maybe I have, but instead of a sports car I bought hand planes.

There are always two sides to the nickel flip that is life. I guess it’s just a matter of finding a way to live decently and fruitfully in between. The Apostle Paul calls this “redeeming the time” or in more colloquial translation “making the most of the days that you’ve got”. By this I understand him to mean something different from the sort of Carpe Diem / YOLO thinking that rears its head every once in a while. It’s not about gathering your rosebuds while ye may.  It’s about doing something worthwhile when you have an opportunity.

We’re all going to get rusty someday. The most frustrating rust-buckets I know cannot accept this fact gracefully and spend most of their oxidizing years grasping at what they used to be in a sort of self-delusional superiority.  I hope that’s never me. I hope when I finally realize that am no longer that strength which in olden days wielded saw and plane that I will still be able to offer whatever I have left. I hope that I will find ways to contribute – to make the most of my time now and redeem what is left when it grows short.

And, when the day comes that they return this quiet searcher to the soil, I hope someone will raise a glass in my memory and then sit it down on the table that I’m building right now. At least that would be something.

 

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7 thoughts on “the rusty years

  1. Your post is most timely and appropriate as my own mother is in a similar situation and we have a lot of the same kinds of conversations that you must be having with your mother. Thank you for expressing much of what we have tried to, ourselves.

    I have meant to comment on previous posts, your writing is so thoughtful and well written. You have a skill with observation and communication that I envy. Keep up all your good works.

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  2. As I approach my 60’s I often think about the time I have left and what I want to achieve with that. I guess that I have most (really all) the hand tools I need now but just need to keep making stuff. Would’t it be great to have my grandchildren using something that Grand dad made so long ago. Love your blog and it is one of the few that I read all the time. Great topical themes and really interesting topics to keep the interest up. Regards Mike (from NZ).

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  3. Great reflection on life. If only most of us could be as productive as you! I often wonder what is it that drives us to make furniture and hope it will be used by our descendants. Is it some sort of immortality we seek? Either way it matters not, this is a satisfying pursuit and a productive use of time.

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  4. Good thoughts. My dad and I had a similar conversation last week when we got together for Christmas. His mother (my grandma) is in her 90’s and falls into the “frustrating rust-bucket” category, and he’s learned quite a bit from that. Discussing that along with my dad’s own age (just short of 60) has me pondering these sorts of things as well as I start on a “30 before 30” list for the next year. Paul’s words (“Pay careful attention, then, to how you walk — not as unwise people but as wise — making the most of the time…”) are indeed very poignant.

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