Tuesday, September 18, 2007

The end of the ladder


Men often define themselves in terms of their achievements.
The ladder is a traditional metaphor for their climb.
Career accomplishments measure success and define worth.

This imagery begins in childhood.
For Baby Boomers like me
raised by children of the Great Depression,
the message was clear:
“Study hard in order to gain admission to a good college;
otherwise you will be condemned to a life of manual labor.”

Got good enough high school grades
for William & Mary.
Achieved a “C” average there
while investing real passion into playing piano with a rock & roll band.

After a Navy stint during Vietnam,
began career with the Telephone Company in 1969,
starting as Assistant Manager;
making a living by wits;
achieving one promotion in 29 years.

Married high school sweetheart;
raised a boy and a girl.
Straddled two professional worlds:
one playing music on weekends,
the other 9 to 5 in telephony.
One paid the bills;
the other nourished the soul.

Fast-forward.
Kids leave the nest 1992;
First marriage collapses 1994;
Last parent dies 1996;
Take early retirement 1998,
Ssell everything;
Move to Nashville with 2nd wife;
Play piano full-time for a year and a half,
Tour the country in 1999
with six other people in a 1991 Econoline van at age 53.
Write a book about the experience.

Money runs low later that year;
nine-month job search ends with state job in 2000.

Second wife contracts leukemia in 2002
and dies a year later.

Meet third wife online;
she moves from Memphis to Nashville.

Time marches on.
Now seven years into second career;
four and a half to go until final retirement.

What is there to learn by looking back?
Was good father & husband;
Raised children;
Supported family;
Survived losses;
Made courageous choices
and mistakes too.

Now four wonderful grandchildren.
Great relationship with son;
hope for reconciliation with daughter.

Health good;
mind sharp;
piano skills good as ever.

The ladder comes to an end.
Soon no more rungs to climb.
Not that many rungs were ever climbed anyway.
Never really believed in the ladder;
the stuff you can measure in this way is the most trivial.

Maybe this is the lesson.

Life is complicated and messy.
It is lived one day at a time.
Not for the future
nor for the past.

Only the Now.

3 comments:

Just Suzanne said...

Very well written, my love. :)

obxbill said...

very cool - I don't know what to say. your life has been an adventure. the ladder may disappear, but the adventure goes on.

Karen said...

the ladder may dissapear? did bill just say yer going to heaven? lol

it was well written. im sorry youve hit so many hardships lately. you definitely dont deserve it.