Generally we age day by day, but there are times when you take a giant leap, like yesterday when I felt I’d gone back to the future.
The occasion was a celebratory service for my dad in Great Yarmouth (where I grew up), which was attended by dozens of friends, contacts and even family members I had not seen in ten, twenty or even more years.
The odd thing was that everyone was clearly the same person, but they’d just aged. People of my parents’ generation were now old people and my own contemporaries have spread into middle age.
As one woman said to me: “I wouldn’t have recognised you; you used to be such a skinny little girl.” Of course, I am no longer the seven year old schoolgirl that she pictured – but I don’t remember her as an old lady either.
Babies are now teenagers or have grown up and have babies of their own. That’s how life is.
We know this and generally accept, or don’t even notice, how we and those around us age. But when confronted by giant leaps back to the future, it is quite a shock. It feels as if some conveyor belt is shuffling us along without our knowledge and we are replaced with newer, younger stock.
These new shoots see only how you look today and ask “who are you” in voices that show they don’t really care. You can only answer “I used to be…” whilst wondering to whom they belong.
I know that once we’d told the story of my dad in memories and music, many of these young people were crying as much as us. We had made that old man come to life. He was the boy who used to ride a bike and get into trouble, the young man who fell in love with my mum, the proud father, the man who worked hard and helped make the lives of others better through his charity work with Lions International.
He was the man we all loved – and they could see he was worth caring about, if only for a few moments. In looking back, we can see our own future – in looking at the young people, we see our own past.
In life we come across so many people who may inspire us or contribute a fleeting memory. But then we move on and don’t really find time to think about them. Our paths cross, our family trees entwine – and sometimes we find a place where we can look forward and back to who were were, and who we yet want to become, before the conveyor belt moves us along another generation.