Ya’ know that old trees just grow stronger,
And old rivers grow wilder every day.

(Excerpt from John Prine’s tune “Hello in There”)

Many, if not most of my friends are single, they’ve never been married and have no kids. For the most part, the ones that are married are basically newlyweds and haven’t started a family yet.

I often used to find myself envying the freedom they seemed to have as they moved through life.

I guess, back when I was younger, I was the same way. My thirst for life and adventure seemed unquenchable. If I didn’t like my job, my apartment, my hairstyle or my girlfriend, it was easy enough to pitch it and move on. Things were transitory at best and I lived my life as if there were no roots to hold me down. I always felt as if I was destined to live a form of Horace Greeley’s maxim “Go west young man” and if things weren’t to my liking, it was easy enough to change them.

These days, when I look in the mirror, I see a touch of grey where there once wasn’t. When the sun is right in the sky, I see my middle age paunch cast a shadow that forces me to make a silent unfulfilled promise to get some exercise. There are wrinkles around my eyes that seem to be growing longer and deeper and that provide me a kind of roadmap that whispers to me of the places I’ve been but don't provide a hint as to where I'm going.

Everything seems to have slowed down some too. The games such as football and basketball that I played with a passion and a fury as a youth have been replaced by a leisurely stroll down the golf course. The late hours spent hovering over the bar on the lookout for girls or an argument are now substituted by one or two quick cocktails on the way home. Even the substance of my conversations, once filled with flights of fancy and dreams of places far away now seem to center on what to make for dinner and how to meet the growing stack of bills.

I don’t know if my mid life crisis is coming or has come to pass. While I don’t ever anticipate jumping on the back of a Harley and roaring off into the sunset with the wind blowing in my ever thinning hair, the vision still remains. I think to myself, “How easy would it be chuck it all?”

And then I think of the things I’d miss.

The school plays, the weekend soccer games, the strains of a clarinet, the tinkling of the piano, the strum of a guitar, the smiles and the tears, the first boyfriend, the look of discovery, the lessons to be both taught and to be learned, the report cards, the burying of some pets and the recovery of others, the bumps and the bruises and countless, countless other things. Mostly, I guess I’d just miss being there.

I think that’s what Mr. Prine is alluding to in those words that prefaced this little venture into reflection. That even though we sometimes envision ourselves doing other things with our life, sticking it out is a sign of strength to those who matter most. As for the river growing wilder every day, I guess that’s a matter of definition and there’s still plenty of time to go on that little voyage.

So if you’re walking down the street sometime
And spot some hollow ancient eyes,
Please don’t just pass ’em by and stare
As if you didn’t care, say, hello in there, hello.

Let’s hope so anyway.