“. . . Lonely but free I’ll be found. . .” (Bob Nolan)

Driftin' along

Driftin’ along



Casablanca is a film lodged in the memories of Americans who were alive in 1942 and for many years after—until the generation for whom black and white movies became unbearable to watch. It has the most incorrectly quoted line in movie history. “Play it,” has become, “Play it again, Sam.” That’s understandable because Rick (Humphrey Bogart) wants Sam to play it again as he played it for Ilsa (Ingrid Bergman).

Anyone who knows a modicum of movie history knows all of that. And still we say, “Play it again, Sam.”

Poor old Rick, trying to recapture a moment. “Play it,” was not enough. He and everyone remembering the movie wants Sam to “play it again.” Play the song, “As Time Goes By.”

This has been the shortest year of my life.

I don’t construct years in my memory by the number of the year (2014) but by my age (69). My birthday is so close to New Year’s Day (January 3) that it’s convenient for me to think the whole of 2014 was the whole of my 70th year. And believe me, this was the shortest year of my life. “As time goes by.”

Apparently that happens when you get to be an old fart. Years don’t pass, they tumble by. I’ve written about the big events of the year. The biggest was my retirement (brought about by decisions other than my own). That engendered reliance on Medicare, my new position as tutor in the Academic Development of Student Athletes center at SMU, and my teaching an ESL class at the Aberg Center for Literacy.

Other stuff, too. In this year that tumbled by.

My use of the word “tumble” comes from the song recorded by the Sons of the Pioneers when I was a year old and continuing in popularity until—until now, if you’re in the right crowd.

See them tumbling down
Pledging their love to the ground
Lonely but free I’ll be found
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

Cares of the past are behind
Nowhere to go but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

I know when night has gone
That a new world’s born at dawn.

I’ll keep rolling along
Deep in my heart is a song
Here on the range I belong
Drifting along with the tumbling tumbleweeds.

I remember hearing it sung in the ‘50s by the local Country Western crooner at the annual fund-raising square dance at the Lake Alice School, out in the sand hills near Scottsbluff, NE. We had friends who went to the school, and my parents always grudgingly dragged us out for the party, which I loved and they tolerated. My dad didn’t like the song because the message of “drifting” was hardly the stuff of the Midwest Christian ethos.

“. . . Nowhere to go but I’ll find Just where the trail will wind. . .”  expresses somewhat the way I feel about my life these days. Yesterday I told a young friend (he’s 62) who’s just taken early retirement that finding out how to live in this new situation is the hardest thing we have ever done. It is.

Empty shelves beginning to appear

Empty shelves beginning to appear

It is, not because we are getting old—let’s not get started on aches and pains—but because we are left with the choice (as another old fart friend put it) between passing the time we have left and living a life worthy of who we are.

When my parents were older than I am now, they determined to see every state and national park in California. That may seem like “passing the time,” but it was far from it. My dad was an Eagle Scout, a camper, a lover of the outdoors all his life, and being in those places of natural beauty was a delight, a spiritual experience for him. It was not “drifting along like a tumbling tumbleweed.”

If I live as long as my dad (which is highly unlikely), I have 26 birthdays left. If I live to be an age that’s logical to think about, I have perhaps 10. Let me tell you how fast those years will tumble by.

If you’re not a certain age, you can’t imagine it. Period. You must not think that by reading poetry or seeing movies or playing video games or by going on cruises or anything else you might do you can begin to figure out how the tumbling by of the years feels.

This is not depressing.

It’s beginning to be exciting. In spite of my arthritic hip. In spite of my propensity to fall. In spite of my compressed ulnar nerve. In spite of my not having a husband. Or even a companion. Or a lover.

It’s exciting because I get to decide how lightly I can hold on. How unencumbered I want to be. I have approximately 400 CDs of (mostly) classical music in boxes ready for giving away. There are many more to box. Why? It’s been two years since I put one of them into a player of some kind and listened to it. When I want to listen to music, I find it online.

I’d rather play music than listen. There’s 500 years of organ music I haven’t played yet. It’s time to get crackin’.

I don’t even want to think about books.

The problem is that we want Sam (or someone) to play it again. And again. And again. All of our lives. Memories are what make us who we are, I suppose. But at 70, I want to make sure that I “play it,” not that I “play it again.”

The Sons of the Pioneers had the ambiguity just about right, I think.

Cares of the past are behind,
Nowhere to go but I’ll find
Just where the trail will wind.

I don’t think I will find where the trail will wind if I have to worry about a closet full of clothes, or a storage bin full of keepsakes, or a head full of ideas and beliefs that weigh me down or keep me from rolling along.

It feels like a fine balancing act—allowing myself to tumble and be headed in the right direction at the same time. The ambiguity of the song is in the line,

I’ll find Just where the trail will wind.

Tumble and find where the trail’s winding at the same time. There’s the trick.

See a CD you want?

See a CD you want?