Every Old Man is a Confession

 The Summing Up 1


“The Summing Up”


Let me begin by stating that “The Summing Up” is not my title; it’s the title of a work by W. Somerset Maugham which was written as he turned 65 and was intended to do just: sum up some of the things he had learned over the years and speak a bit of what was still to come in his life, which as it turned out, was rather lengthy. He died at age 91 in 1965, just a few years before I read his book for the first time. I read it again several years ago on the occasion of my own 65th year. Given the nature of where I want to go with this blog site, though, it seemed a most appropriate title with which to kick things off.


Regardless of how formal or informal or even casual the process may be, I do think the occasion of the 65th birthday does tend to evoke a certain amount of that sort thing, a looking back at the dreams with which one launched oneself into adulthood those many years ago, some thoughts on lessons learned and lessons missed, of things that might have been, and for the more optimistic among us, a certain amount of peering into the future, perhaps even a plan or two.


It’s a Saturday as I write these lines, which means I was blessed with my wife’s presence at breakfast, although if she should chance to read this, I would immediately amend it with something on the nature of answered prayers causing more tears than those that remain unanswered. It’s because for the last thirty-six years we have done nothing but tease the bejabbers out of each other. When I told her what I was thinking about writing this morning, she went at it again, then I responded, and we ended up as we often do, weak with laughter. But truly, she is a blessing, and the first thought I have whenever I come to add things up.

I cannot say that my life has worked out the way I planned it while I was a high school senior, but I am not at all unhappy with the way things have turned out. What I wanted to do—and did for many years—was write novels, and if I had been successful at that, I would have done nothing else. The years went by, and I found myself making an occasional thing of wood, a process that accelerated when we got our home in 1992. Since then I have remodeled every room of it and am currently at work on the first of several elaborate woodworking projects, the end game, if you will.


The Summing Up 2My wife and I tease each other unmercifully, pretty much from the time we get up to the time we go to bed, but at bottom we are both constantly aware of how very blessed we are to have made the marriage we have. It truly is as harmonious as we tell others it is, which is not to say we don’t occasionally step on each other’s toes. You cannot live with another person in your hip pocket the way we have all these years without an occasional misstep. But whenever we have had one of those, we have simply sat down, discussed what happened, and figured out what we needed to do to make sure it never happens again. We then do whatever we have agreed to do. In all those years we have never had the same discussion twice. As for arguments, I have often said I do not want to argue with her about anything, but I extra especially do not want to argue about nickel-and-dime things. In all those years we have lowered ourselves to arguing no more than half a dozen times.


I hope to discuss some of that in coming months, and also a bit of what I have learned with my reading, because I do firmly believe that one needs to study life. As for the worth of this… I don’t know. I guess we’ll see. One of the novels that has stayed with me over the years is “Man’s Fate” by Andre Malraux. Near the end of it he wrote, “Every old man is a confession, believe me, and if old age is usually so empty it is because the men were themselves empty and had managed to conceal it.” I don’t know if I’m profound or prolix, but I guess we’ll find out!