A friend told me he hoped to go on a safari before he died.
Feeling kind of sad, I responded, “I would have loved to go on a safari but don’t see that happening.”
“Why not?” he asked.
“Too arduous a trip at my age. I can’t imagine sleeping in a tent.”
Laughing, he replied, “Tents aren’t what you imagine. They are air-conditioned, regular beds, all the conveniences of home.”
“Still too much for me,” I said, ending the conversation.
Our chat caused me to reflect on things I’ll never do for the first time. The first kiss, the first time I fell in love, the first best friend I had. How could I ever duplicate the feeling I had when I saw live theater for the very first time, watching Yul Brynner on stage dancing in “The King and I?” And my original trip to Radio City Music Hall to see the Rockettes! What a thrill. For years I dreamed of being a Rockette.
Seeing the Eiffel Tower the first time or driving to San Sebastian in Spain or seeing an enchanted dollhouse museum in Portugal were magical journeys.
For a moment I felt melancholy that there weren’t many things left to encounter for the first time. Never again would I feel the thrill of holding the first book I wrote in my hands. Even though each subsequent book brings me joy it cannot compare to “Kiss My Tattoo.” Has time changed me — perhaps hardened me?
Feeling sorry for myself, a thought emerged: What about each of my students publishing for the first time? Isn’t that a thrill for me? Of course! Each time one of them brings their published book to class, I am rejuvenated. Our combined book signing at the Oro Valley Library is Nov. 10. How’s that for a spectacular first experience?
That led to other thoughts. Even though Charlie and Toots aren’t the first dogs I’ve had, their personalities are unique and I love them madly. Each day brings new reasons to laugh with them.
Another “aha” moment arose when I focused on the fact that I can now celebrate the last time I did something. The last time I saw my mom, the last time I visited Italy and the last trek to New York all hold abundant memories.
Life becomes more precious each day. Little things I took for granted, such as being able to walk my dogs, see a film or meet a friend for coffee are important to me. There is no way to know how much time is left to enjoy the beauty and pleasure of my life. But I do know there are a lot more years behind me than in front of me.
So what if I don’t have the opportunity to decorate another home? The one I have now is whimsical. Friends abound. My health could be better but I’m still conscious.
I’m surrounded by beauty, including flowering cactus, mountain lions, rattlesnakes and gorgeous cardinals. Sure, some of it is scary, but I love it all.
I’m grateful to continue living even though there aren’t too many “firsts” left, because my recollections of the breathtaking things I’ve experienced for the first or last time are all in my head.