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Yes, Ms. Simon, these are the good old days

Out of My Head

Posted: April 12, 2008 2:51 a.m.
Updated: June 13, 2008 5:03 a.m.
(Editor's note: This memorable column originally ran in 1999.)

Once upon a time, chanteuse Carly Simon told me, and millions of other impassioned young listeners, "These are the good old days" - that line being a catchy trailer on her hit song, "Anticipation."

Throughout my earlier years I briefly contemplated the meaning of that simple message on numerous occasions. It wasn't until my 30s, however, that her words affected me in a most profound way.

The year was 1989 and my mom was dying. On one very special night, Haley's Comet was coming by for a rare, fleeting flyover. Confined to her wheelchair with a ravenous case of cancer, Mom asked me to roll her outdoors to witness that transitory celestial wonder.

Side by side outside her modest Chatsworth home, I realized that two monumental events were passing right before me, both of which I would never again see in my lifetime.

Despite the sadness in knowing this truth, I also realized our memory of being together under the stars that glorious evening would forever remain one of our closest mother-daughter moments.

Again, the good old days were redefined in our family when my husband was diagnosed with cancer. It was Christmastime, 1998. One day he was smiling and returning home from a business trip to Brazil. The next, he was in an emergency room with fluid-filled lungs and plummeting platelets.

In between the chaos and heartache that serious illness delivers, we have adopted a renewed appreciation of time and what's really important in life.

Tonight our beloved sons, ages 21 and 15, sat with their dad, a foreign movie buff, to watch one of his best-liked French classics from 1939 - with sub-titles, no less. Before their "old man" got sick, that might have been a tough go for the boys. But now more than ever, they treasure spending time together and observing what their father sees through his seasoned vision.

They "get" that the good old days are upon us.

* * *

Isn't it interesting how infirmity and adversity tend to adjust our expectations and heighten our gratefulness? They also lessen our disappointments over what we don't have - and boost our ability to savor what we do.

Ultimately, the good old days have nothing to do with the inconsequential concerns that trip us up, obscuring our sense of security and well-being.

Have you recognized your good old days?

They're: When you break a nail, gain a pound, fail a test, drop a Waterford goblet, dent the car, and all your lottery numbers come up zero. ... Rainy days when the kids are home with a bug, a pot of soup has just bubbled over on the (formerly clean) stovetop, and the house is littered with fort accouterment. ...

Uncomplicated hours sanctified by the fact that your biggest decision is whether to have tuna or grilled cheese; afternoons when you have the freedom of taking a leisurely drive or unencumbered stroll; evenings when you must ponder whether it'll be Jeopardy or CNN. ... Mornings spent embracing your freshly bathed baby, relishing the fragrance that belongs only to his or her skin. Afternoons when that teething tot develops diarrhea, you've run out of diapers and the car has a dead battery. ...

Days spent planting gardens, shopping for sick friends, being told you look younger than your years (just after you've examined your crows feet in a magnified mirror), going to the doctor with concerns for your health and then getting good news. ...

Nights when intimacy means a 10-minute foot rub between wrestling one wild child into the bathtub and the other one to bed. ...

Sitting at a noisy holiday table with myriad "unique" relatives.

Your fussy mom obsesses over the dryness of the turkey as your comforting dad tells her it's the best bird she's ever made. The odd uncles, the dotty grandmas, the cranky cousins, those silly sisters - these are all the ties that bind (and occasionally choke) but always remind us that we are part of a loving network of mortals.

These are all good old days, because you and your loved ones are alive - and able to endure the joys and challenges together.

* * * * *

From the concert of life, nobody gets a program. (And as Elvis famously said, "You don't come back for an encore.")

Indeed, we just never know what lies ahead. So be grateful and celebrate the status quo - things could get a lot worse.

Count less material perks and more basic blessings. Focus on who brings joy to your life, and that which honestly nurtures your soul.

Repeat, as needed, that ancient Hebrew phrase: "This too shall pass."

Keep in mind that even the worst heartbreaks soften, almost always transforming into valued lessons and tender memories.

Kindness and compassion are the salve of the masses, so spread some around. (Apply liberally, too.) Doctors tell us the best exercise for the heart is love and happiness - therefore, make sure you laugh a lot and spend your kisses.

Finally, remember that time is a finite commodity - the "present" is truly a "gift" after all.

And despite what often seems the contrary, these really are the good old days.

Diana Sevanian is a freelance writer and Santa Clarita resident. Her column reflects her own opinions and not necessarily those of The Signal.


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