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Published by: George Kosch 19-Feb-13
'And run, if you will, to the top of the hill Open your arms...' Thoughts on turning 66. 'All the leaves have gone green'.

by  Dr. Jeffrey Lant.

Author's program note. It is 6:31 a.m. The dawn is still struggling to arrive pushing away the chill detritus of a yesterday now gone forever; the only part of that yesterday now extant the clear admonition from God Himself when He turned out (half) the lights at the 2013 Superbowl Game as a warning; viz that we should be more careful, less profligate and capricious about His patrimony, the most verdant of spheres, which He created for us and where we have been so consistently wasteful and remiss; that if we cannot act as required, He will, removing it from us and certain destruction.

Front page today, the subject of massive raillery and embarrassment, no doubt yesterday's clear warning will go the way of all the many such which preceded it. Why worry as the planet, sagging under the weight of our hubris, swoons and dies? Why indeed? After all we have 163 varieties of chili readily at hand; more than ample for even the most finicky of eaters.

But I do worry. It is a sure sign one has reached the age for Social Security, as now with a flourish I have, my first check slated to arrive the 20th of next month, the date some bureaucrat in the capital has decided I will officially exist, the bureaucrats keeping that extra money for themselves, in the way of light-fingered flunkeys throughout the ages.

"Jean" words and music by Rod McKuen, sung by Oliver, from the film "The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie" (1969).

The tune running through the attic of my memory is one I first heard in the fall of '69, that momentous autumn I first arrived at Harvard for my graduate education. No decrepitude, no enfeebling arthritis, no "senior moment" of obliteration and wobbly uncertainty can ever dim the luster I first experienced just short blocks from where I am writing you now.

I arrived with just $100; knew no one; had no place to live; had never been to Massachusetts and had an incipient case of mononucleosis... and was supremely happy.

It is important to remember such grand moments, not just because in a lifetime they are few and fleeting, but because when one passes through the portal of advancing age too many fixate on what wasn't, isn't, and will never be; a sure formula for the carping and grinding bitterness that defines for most "the last of life for which the first was made"; the celebrated phrase of Robert Browning (1812-1889) my mother so cherished.

So far I, at least, have kept this unhappy reality at bay... and I am grateful... and wary. For you see, this state can only be retained by unending vigilance and unflinching honesty... and there are days when there is not a scintilla of either to be had. You will have such days, too, if you have not had them already. "Old age," the wags rightly say, "is not for sissies."

Before we continue, it is time to add some music... a tune for which words like "wistful" and "bittersweet" come quickly to mind and rightly so for this song and its poetic lyrics will move you and remind you, too, that once upon a time you loved not wisely but too well.

It was nominated for an Academy Award as "Best Song" in 1969, when a virtually unknown singer called Oliver rode it to the top, his one time only. Find it now in any search engine and listen carefully. Don't rush the process either as some careless readers on the sunny side of fifty will undoubtedly do. The song is too beautiful, the lyrics too poetic, the sentiments too important for that.

Comfy? Then it's time for "Jean"... and thoughts of love given, received, refused, repulsed, denied, dishonored, abjured, offended, glorified, celebrated, indulged, forgiven, remembered... grateful now for it in every moment and manifestation.

"Dr. Lant, please call at once..."

I was at home in Cambridge when the nurse called, the matter urgent, pressing. I was scheduled to make a trip to Illinois, to give a speech, and, of course, would stop by the nursing home to see my beloved Grammie, Victoria Lauing. Then I got the call... no, not that she was dead, for she was too well bred to leave us so precipitately. She kept her engagements. No, she was not dead... but she would be, the nurse said if I didn't Do Something.

Anxious, I quizzed the nurse. What was the problem? How much a crisis? What must I do?

It seems my grandmother, so desirous to see me, had created, as we humans can do anywhere and at any age, a lurid fear all her own; in this case that I would come... but that she would be asleep, not in her small room smelling of medicine and listless days ... that we would thus pass like ships in the night; never seeing each other, never seeing each other again. And against this threatening prospect, she was prepared to fight... her weapons frail, her determination absolute.

Thus, my grandmother was adamant the nurse told me with a dollop of anguish in her voice, for Grammie's never exhausted store of charm had touched her like all the rest; that she would stay up, fully dressed, eyes fixed upon the door I must enter, ready to greet me properly whenever I should come.

As a result, my darling Grammie, whose succulent meals brought to fruition with care and culinary magic tasty and profound, was dying by inches, starving amidst all the bounty of America's heartland. Could I please talk to  her... at once? The matter was urgent.

Thus driven by fear that I would be too late... and fear that I might say the wrong thing and so in some inscrutable way make a difficult situation even worse, I called.... and somehow love found the words for me for the word smith never without the mot juste needed such help that day.

I told her I loved her, the most compelling phrase in our bounteous language. Then spoke the words of utmost necessity; that she must eat a little something, yes, while I was there, on the phone.... that she must do it for me.

Too, that she must then close her eyes and sleep, sleep; that I would be there soon and we would talk and laugh together. And then I knew she was smiling and that smile was rich, radiant, comforting, containing the promise of still more smiles to come.

Then it was time to end; we had comforted each other as those who know love may do. But she had one more thing to say... and it was this,  "Remember. Remember that while my body may be old, my brain is a teen-ager's. Someday you will know what I mean..."

Thus did the conversation that had begun in fear end in relief for both of us. Then she said, her voice steady and clear, "Good-bye now, Laddie", and I knew she was thinking of me; of those moments so many years ago, so often taken for granted, when she would right every wrong by the simple expedient of stroking my hair, turning my very name into a felicitous incantation, always potent, always available, a healing spell to be summoned at will.

Now I know what she meant.

I looked at myself in the mirror this morning, not a cursory glance but a precise reconnaissance, a necessary event requiring courage and resignation. I was if not old then on its threshold, but not the brain, for it is sharp and ready for any adventure, any mischief and, always, for love and were I to loose all but that I should still be a man supremely happy, like I was that long ago day I arrived here for the first time.

And so I tell you this, and resolutely, too, "This is the prime of Dr. Jeffrey Lant" who will to celebrate go out into the silvery gray of this February day when "the clouds are so low/ You can touch them". For like Miss Jean Brodie, I am "young and alive", running swiftly to the land where "All the leaves have gone green". Come with me. "Open your arms, bonnie Jean. Come out of your half-dreamed dream", and dream the rest with me, for time is short and there is much to do.

 
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About the Author

Harvard-educated Dr. Jeffrey Lant is CEO of Worldprofit, Inc., providing a wide range of online services for small and-home based businesses. Services include home business training, affiliate marketing training, earn-at-home programs, traffic tools, advertising, webcasting, hosting, design, WordPress Blogs and more. Find out why Worldprofit is considered the # 1 online Home Business Training program by getting a free Associate Membership today.

 
 

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