Wednesday, February 22, 2012

The Big One

I'm not clear that babies exactly get the concept of The Big One even though they are almost constantly experiencing this phenomena. First tooth, first step, first word. Babies experience The Big One when they finally drink from a cup instead of a bottle, use a fork and knife, sing the Alphabet song all on their own. Maybe since life for babies is all about The Big One, the idea of achievement doesn't seem extraordinary.

Once children are old enough to go to grade school, they know all about The Big One. Winning the spelling bee or Science Fair, excelling at sports, playing an instrument at a recital, the first slumber party, walking to school unattended, memorizing The Gettysburg Address - in middle childhood there are many opportunities to achieve what was inconceivable earlier in life.

In adolescence, it's all about hormone-driven Big Ones: love, mating, finding "the one," or sex, conquests, notches on the belt, depending on the temperament of the adolescent. The notches on the belt might indicate sexual partners or Debate Club wins or martial art belt color, it depends. Teenagers expect themselves to excel in some way, but believe they must also fit in perfectly, have the right hair, clothes and friends. They're between a rock and a hard place for most of a decade, they really are. Adolescence is a bitch! I don't EVER wish I were that age again.

Young adulthood Big Ones have to do with expanding one's fiefdom or professional status, making more money, buying real estate, producing children, acquiring stuff, or at work acquiring staff, travel and exploration, status, reputation and glamour whenever possible. Later in adulthood there are Big Ones that have to do with planning for retirement, retiring, dealing with the empty nest, becoming grandparents and dealing with aging.

In old age, there is only one Big One. You know what I'm talking about, the mystery we all face at the end of our lives. They call him the grim reaper, but it's only grim for the ones left behind. I feel that in my heart of hearts. Still, walking one step closer each day to the final Big One is unnerving! People of my age who do not have a connection to the life of the spirit in a way that suits them have a very hard time facing The Big One. Death can't be vanquished or conquered. Earlier in life it seems possible to triumph in every situation that involves The Big Ones pertinent to that era of life because like bees, ants, beavers and other busy animals, we are an overachieving species. But Death? That one is out of our hands.

It's humbling and awesome in the true sense of that word. Whew. Bette Davis was absolutely correct when she said old age ain't for sissies. It ain't.



jeanette from everton terrace said...

I don't know if I fear it or not really. I don't think about it too much. I know I love my life and can't imagine not being here with my husband and daughter and I hate the thought of them being sad missing me (assuming of course they would). Much still to do and see. Life is so magical it's hard to imagine anything better waiting somewhere else.

Reya Mellicker said...

I don't know what happens after, but I think there is a sense of relief when we finally let go. I guess I'll find out!

Washington Cube said...

I wonder if I could ever write about sitting in a room with death and not sounding crazy. I know I was very pragmatic at the time.'s funny you mentioned that Bette Davis quote because I was just thinking of it last night.

nerima roberts said...

Reya, As we face any birthday that end with a zero, things get weird. Thirty was depressing. Forty was exhilarating. Fifty was mixed.

How old are your close family members? I ask because my twin died at age 32, and my beloved Dad died at 49. both tragic losses. Now it's just me and my mom. She is 73. As for me,reaching 53 is um..., a blessing...and a privilege.

I try to not think about my own death. Too scary. But I have a funny feeling that as we age, we become more accepting of death. I think I read that somewhere in a Kubler-Ross book.

steven said...

death? think of it as an easing between states . . . the body drops and on you go!!! you're a beautiful strong good person . . . keep moving reya!!!! steven

Anonymous said...

Hello Reya,
Just found your lovely and thoughtful blog. And the found post is timely, as I've just come down off a weekend dealing with two aged parents (who only last year didn't seem old at all!). I guess I've passed into the Caregiver Big One. It's sad and strength-giving at the same time.

ellen abbott said...

I'm not afraid of death but I'm not ready to quit life any time soon. I think it's sort of like birth only in reverse. We start to live when we breathe in for the first time and we stop living when we breath out for the last time.

Jo said...