By Scott Funk
There are turning points in everyone’s life, as in Frost’s poem “The Road Not Taken,” times when what we did or didn’t do made all the difference. Sometimes, it isn’t even what we did or didn’t do, but the wisdom, kindness, or indifference of others. In any case, it shifts us toward a different destination, even though we might not perceive it at the time. A magical moment in which we begin to be a different person.
As I look back over my life, I can see some of those moments more clearly now, from a distance. At the time, the rush of events was too great. I was in too big a hurry. Pushing forward, always late for the next place, not quite comfortable where I was, anxious to be somewhere else. With me, it was always a little farther down the line.
My speaking of this is not to suggest my experience has been unique. The very opposite, in fact. My expectation is that your life has played out much the same. We have each experienced miracles of grace or tragedy. Such magic is commonplace generally, but also incredibly individual. Now, I am at an age where I can appreciate it, even if it is too late to express my gratitude appropriately.
First was a fight between my mother and father over whether I should be allowed to wander the canyons near our home on the outskirts of San Diego. This meant danger and my father was keenly aware of it. Rattlesnakes, scorpions, gila monsters were all potentially deadly, mountain lions were still rumored to roam the area, and any misstep could have left me injured and alone, lying unconscious in the desert heat. Thankfully, my mother won the fight and I was allowed to be a free-range kid, wandering miles from home without adult supervision, beginning at about the age of five.
Why was that so pivotal? Because I encountered the unknown and learned to rely on my instincts from a remarkably early age. It nurtured a wanderlust that has taken me to three continents and led me into a life filled with adventure and blessed with the unexpected. I do not doubt that if my father had won the argument, I would not be writing this article, sitting in my study in my home in Barre, Vt.
Then, there was the boss who got my attention after repeated attempts. He’d find something I’d done wrong, would point it out, and I would make an excuse. Each time he would say, “Scotty, it doesn’t matter why you did it wrong. Your excuses just tell me you aren’t learning and will do it wrong again. Stop making excuses, accept you were wrong, and start doing it right.” Wow, getting caught wasn’t the problem; being wrong was the problem. From that day forward I’ve always appreciated having my mistakes pointed out. It is an opportunity to do better in the future.
My point here isn’t the experiences I’ve had, but those we’ve each had. What blessings in our lives, even if the only blessing was that we survived! That, too, is a great lesson and a pivotal one: still being here today after all that happened yesterday. This is not stuff we understood growing up. This we only appreciate in the rearview mirror.
How wonderful we made it so far. What a wonder, the way we made it!
Aging in Place, it doesn’t happen by accident and we didn’t get here on our own.
Scott Funk is Vermont’s leading Aging in Place advocate, writing and speaking around the state on issues of concern to retirees and their families. He works as a Home Equity Conversion Mortgage reverse mortgage and HECM for Purchase specialist. You can access previous Aging in Place columns and Scott’s blogs at scottfunk.org. His e-book is available on Amazon.