Youth is wasted on the young
I had to attend a wake on Friday night. A close friend’s father passed away. At eighty, he wasn’t a young man but I don’t consider eighty very old anymore, probably since my parents are both in their early-mid-seventies. I’m sure my friend’s dad had much more living to do, and his family/friends were not ready to say goodbye. I know from recent experience that my friend has a long grieving period ahead of her and it breaks my heart. This post is not about the wake or the passing of my friend’s father, but I will get to my point soon—I promise. Between his five daughters, my friend’s father had many grandchildren—at least eight, maybe more—and they probably range in age from about fourteen to twenty-two. All were in attendance at the wake and I couldn’t help but observe them with more than a twinge of envy—not for the loss of their grandfather, obviously, but for their youth. All of the grandchildren were extremely respectful and supportive of their parents’ loss as they greeted mourners who came to pay their respects but I got the feeling that while they were saddened by the passing of their grandfather, they didn’t quite grasp the full-meaning of death. I get that, as I was there once. To most young people, death happens when people get “old” and is not something to be concerned about for a very long time. I was much younger when my grandfathers died and while I cried and missed them very much—I even imagined they lived on the clouds in the sky and could look down upon me—I didn’t give it much thought under the assumption that death is what happens when someone gets old. It never occurred to me that neither of them were very old yet or that my grandmothers’ lives would be irrevocably altered by their death and would grieve the loss for years (decades) to come. While at the wake, I looked at the many collages surrounding the room of photos of my friend’s parents when they were younger and when my friend and her sisters were really young. It made me so sad to think about how those same people who were once young and healthy and just beginning their lives came to be grandparents and how one had passed away and the other was suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and probably had no idea her husband had died. And it scared me that the cycle of life happens to everyone and one day I, too, would be old with an entire life behind me. I know with almost certainty that those thoughts did not cross the grandchildren’s minds because I vividly remember being their age and never once worrying about things like that. My mom reminded me this weekend that I’m not “old” and I have a lot of great years ahead of me, but I’ve lived long enough to have regrets and to have made mistakes I cannot fix. The best I can do is learn from them and try not to make the same ones again. It made me wish to be seventeen again, with a clean slate and my entire adult life ahead of me. On a more superficial note, I also envied their shiny hair and plump smooth skin. Even though I look younger than my age, my skin does not compare to that of a teenager and I pay about $1000 a year to cover my gray hair! I hated being a teenager and it never occurred to me that one day I would look back on those years with yearning. I’m pretty certain the kids at the wake do not grasp that someday they will look like their parents and later their grandparents. I just hope that, unlike me, they know how beautiful they are and don’t waste too much time wishing they looked like someone else. I look back at old pictures of me and want to shake my younger self for not realizing how freakin adorable I was! I couldn’t locate my photo album with photos from high school but I found a few from my college/early twenties that I have posted here. I can’t go back. I’m not sure I’d want to go back—at least not that far—but I do hope to better appreciate this stage of my life —how I look, how I feel, and the opportunities available to me—so that I have less regrets ten years from now.
Thanks for reading! To return to the FICTION WRITERS BLOG HOP on Julie Valerie’s Book Blog, click here: http://www.julievalerie.com/fiction-writers-blog-hop-july-2015
What we would give to go backwards. Totally relate to this post as I sit here and count the gray hairs that I need to cover. Why is it we can’t wait to grow up, and then when we do we want to go back? Great post..
Thank you Annelle. I know – kids are in such a hurry to grow up and sometimes I wish I could start all over again!
Loved this post, I am sorry about your loss. I too struggle with the ‘aging’ process, I’m pushing 40 and have 3 teens close to being ready to leave the house in the next 2 – 5 years and to think about it to much gives me anxiety!!!
Enjoy every minute while they are still young. Or at least try to 🙂
Hearing you on all of this, Meredith! I actually used that exact phrase –youth is wasted on the young– this weekend while trying to convince my almost-16-yr-old to do his summer reading. He simply can’t appreciate the fact that he has AN ENTIRE SUMMER to READ! Can you imagine having all that free time and almost no responsibility? (He does volunteer at a rowing camp every morning, but that’s only for two hours a day.) But when I was that age? I didn’t do nearly as much reading as I now wish I did, either. I was so intent on working, making money, and basically growing the hell up 🙂 Awesome post.
I cannot imagine having so much free time! I miss summers off so badly. I’m glad you liked the post. Thanks for commenting!
I mostly wish I could have the energy of a teenager. I’ve been attending relatives funerals since I was just under a year old, when my grandpa died. My parents didn’t want to shield me from death, and I think the first time someone’s death really hit me was a family friend when I was eight. When I was in college, I met people who’d never encountered death, or had even been to a funeral. They honestly didn’t know how to handle their emotions, and it was really sad to watch.
Youth is definitely wasted on the young. If I could go back and make different decisions, I would. Don’t know if I’d be happier or not, but I never would’ve met someone who made my life a living hell.
I consider myself blessed to have made it to 40 without ever really, really being pummeled by the death of a loved one. I’m so sorry you were so young. And I’m so sorry someone made your life a living hell. I’ve had some bad eggs in my life too. But now I wish I didn’t give them so much power!
Amen to wishing that you didn’t give them enough power. It’s amazing what happens when we let negativity live rent-free in our heads. Madness!
You still look fabulous. I still think you’re way younger than you say you are. 🙂 I don’t miss being a teenager, but sometimes it would be interesting to see what choices I’d make this time around, knowing what I know now.
Thank you Melissa! That would be a great book, although I know it’s been done before – many times 🙂
I look back now only with fond memories. To wish I had shared my twenties and thirties with my second husband would be futile, so instead I value all our special times together. My parents never told me I was pretty, it’s an Irish thing, but I’m sure I would have had a lot more confidence if they had. So now I enjoy telling people how pretty they are and it always makes them smile. You are young and pretty Meredith, so laugh, dance and sing your heart out.
I think you’re pretty Elaine! And you made me smile by telling me I was young and pretty. XOXO.
I love this post and since my SIL’s mom passed away last week I have had a lot of the same feelings… She was 94 and something the rabbi said really hit me… No matter how old someone is, or how long a life they had, when you love them their time with you is never enough… It is sad how so many bad things happen and how we never know what tomorrow brings. We really need to try to enjoy the now
And speaking of now, YOU LOOK AMAZING!
Sorry for the late reply – I agree, time with a loved one is never enough. I’m writing a few words for Alan’s unveiling now and I say just that… And thank you for that last line 🙂
Mind if I come right out and say it? Freaking gorgeous writing in this post, Meredith. OMGosh. Such a beautiful tribute to your friends’ father. His life, his grandchildren, your thoughts as they lead you to contemplate your own journey on earth. Youth is wasted on the young. Why didn’t I know what I had when I had it? Great photos, too. Really enjoyed seeing you in your prom dress!
Thanks so much, Julie! I’ve been so contemplative lately, I figured I should put some of it in writing. Glad you liked the photos – that was actually from my sorority formal in college 🙂
Great photos. We don’t ever truly appreciate any stage of our lives,because we are too busy with whatever it is we are doing at the time. As teens, thinking about getting older is the last thing on our minds. I have lots of grey, but you’d never know it because I’ve been getting my hair colored for close to thirty years. I have more wrinkles than a map has roads. If I had to pick the best years, I would say my thirties. My children were young enough that problems weren’t an issue. No one was driving yet. The college bills hadn’t started rolling in, though we did wonder how we were ever going to meet the cost for all three of our sons. Life was good.
A lot of people have told me their 30s were their favorite years, including my mother and sisters. I’m hoping my finest decade is still ahead of me…
Such sweet photos. And you still look gorgeous.
I definitely don’t want to go back to my teenage days, but I sure could do with some of that energy and fearless approach to life I had back then.
Fearlessness would be nice! And thank you for the compliment!
Can totally relate, Meredith, although I’ve been grappling with death my entire life–I come from a huge Italian family, and funerals were as frequent as birthdays and weddings. What I regret most was, when I was younger (teenager, early 20s), I was embarrassed by my big, loud extended family and longed for a nice, small Anglo one like my boyfriend’s. Two quiet parents, maybe a sibling–sedate holidays and no need to constantly go to family gatherings nearly every weekend. Well, now almost my entire family is gone, and my cousins and I have sort of lost touch/are in our own little worlds. And I would give anything to have that insane throng of rowdy Italians back. (Oh yeah–and I don’t want to have to color my hair anymore either!)
My family is definitely not quiet and sedate, but the extended family is pretty small. Your upbringing, minus the funerals, sounds like it was a hoot. Good writing fodder!