Too soon old, too late smart
My dad adopted an expression, “Too soon old, too late smart”. As a teenager in the ’60s, I didn’t really give it much thought. When you’re sixteen years old, there’s a whole world of things to do and people to meet. I wasn’t conscious of learning. I was more into sponging. I lived at home. I had three meals a day. I had laundry service. And up to the first day of my first part-time job, I got an allowance that was generous enough to pay for my bus tickets and an occasional order of fries with gravy and a Coke at the local hangout. (If my mom had known about the Coke and fries, I would never have heard the end of it.) I didn’t know who prepared the fries or how they were cooked. I didn’t know how the Coke was made, I assumed at the soda fountain with a pull of the lever. I cared little about the people who owned the restaurant and even less about the people who worked there. It’s the way you are when you’re sixteen. Surrounded by yourself.
And then? Well, and then I woke up one day and I was on the shady side of sixty. No longer grooving to the music of the sixties. No more homework. No more part-time jobs. No more curfews. I could have paid more attention in school. I could have pushed myself harder. I could have saved more. I could have bought more real estate because, as my smart father used to say, “They aren’t making real estate any more.” But I am what I am. The interesting thing is, Dad was absolutely right. I am too soon old and too late smart. I didn’t invest wisely. In the sixties I had a bank account only to allow me to cash my part-time job pay cheque. I may have spent too much time in the sun. I may have skipped classes once or twice. I may have dragged my heels when it was time to go to college. I may have eaten too many fries and too few salads. I didn’t floss—who did in the sixties? Working out was something I did in Physical Torture class, and only because I had to and was afraid of my teacher—and was thrilled that I didn’t have to when I was older. I read a lot, but didn’t pay attention to what was really going on in the world. The newspaper, the evening news and the morning radio news were things I snoozed through while I waited for my oatmeal to congeal.
Suddenly, in my sixties I find myself playing catch up. I’m more aware of the cost of living, possibly because I no longer work fulltime. I’ve become the cheapskate I accused my parents of being when they were my age. I’ll spend more time researching a new product before spending money on it. I recycle the living daylights out of everything and I nag my family about lights left burning, showers that take too long and doing laundry at peak times. I used to tease Mom and Dad about wearing clothes that were a bit dated, and here I am, about to dig out a winter coat I purchased in 2002. It still keeps me warm even though there’s forty pounds less of me, and my heart breaks when someone suggests my running shoes need to hit the heap. My kids ask what I’m saving my money for, and I’m still looking for ways to cut my budget. I am too late smart. And, as my brilliant granddaughter pointed out one day, “Grandma, you’re more than halfway through your life.” I’m too soon old.