There’s the chorus of a song that you haven’t heard in ages and it brings back those days when you were young and conquering the world. You can feel the warm summer breeze of thirty years ago and taste the cold beer and feel the excitement of dusk before a party and all the possibilities it portended. You can recall in your bones that hunger mixed with confidence and that unfettered joy. There were easy laughs with the boys there was the clean shirt and shampooed hair and the trust in yourself that would dissipate with middle age to be replaced by wisdom with tinges of cynicism. But back then there were so few defeats suffered and so much surety that the whole wide world existed just tonight just right now just in this beer and this anticipation and in that girl you were going to meet that tonight.
All that came from that one song and it felt good. There is comfort in nostalgia even as there is sadness in the recognition that that special time is no more and never will come again. You have aged. Young in spirit and healthy you are nonetheless a far older version of that young happy man. Long married with grown children and able and happy to find pleasures in simple ways. You had spent some years trying to go back trying to relive your youth and being frustrated that it was lost. Those places you went are gone and the people who were there have moved, aged and in some cases died. You are lucky that today at least provides comfort and you can still dance and run and love and work and have a partner to laugh and live with.
You hear the chorus again and already that memory has faded a bit. Not what you mentally remember of it but what you emotionally feel. That too has passed. You look outside and see a very pretty young woman walk by. A sigh and a realization that she was who you would have danced with perhaps talked with and maybe even kissed on that long ago Summer night. She could even have been a girl you dated for a time before one or both of you eased or broke away for a respite from romance or to be with another better prospect.
How lucky you feel that one of those beautiful young women from the past — the very one you fell madly in love with — loved you too. That she is the one you spend your days with now. It can be difficult to squarely face the fact that you have been lucky. That there is no room in your life now to complain about bad breaks in life. That and that any misfortune you had was and is far offset by the bounty of good fortune you’ve enjoyed. It can be hard to accept that you got what was coming to you and that it is good. Now you wonder why. Why did life smile so broadly at you and give you so much and why do you still ache for that Summer night of your youth? What is its appeal? How do you accept the simple fact that it is where it belongs in the long past and you are here where you belong in the present. Here. Now.
Today is not always an easy place to live. Especially when you have so many yesterdays and not so many tomorrows. It was far easier to accept today when it felt like it was a starting point rather than a destination.
And what of some other things that Summer night suggests? The beer you guzzled for one. That was likely not the first of the day and would certainly be followed by many many more. Maybe it was a night when you were too drunk to chat up a girl and ended up being helped home and passing out fully clothed on your bed. There was a lot of that too. There were a lot of sotted evenings with slurred words and mysterious behavior that would not be remembered the next morning or ever. What did you say — for example — that one evening to a friend who never spoke to you again? At first you couldn’t understand why you’d been shunned but then you realized it must have been — as the cliche goes — something you said. Exactly what is perhaps best forgotten, the damage you did being bad enough.
You moved out of town only a few weeks later and that friend died of cancer not many years later. But you must remember that in addition to the glories you exalted in the madcap revelries and the soaring heights, you also spent many a morning with a battered body and painful head and empty wallet and plethora of regrets.
You have to remember all that you were or today you are nothing. You must complete the picture. You must love yourself. But this you can only do by accepting all of who you were and are. Accept it enjoy it be it.
A Summer night decades ago as the sun was receding and a breeze cooled a hot day and a beer went down smoothly and you headed for a party….