Sunday, June 14, 2020

"The Home Stretch"

Sydney M. Williams

Essay from Essex
“The Home Stretch”
June 14, 2020

This is not about going back. This is about life being ahead of you and you run at it!
Because you never know how far you can run unless you run.”
                                                                                                Attributed to Penny Chenery (1922-2017)
                                                                                                In the film, “Secretariat,” 2010

Using a horse race as a metaphor for life, with its starting gate and finish line, might appear morbid, but that is not the intent. As Benjamin Franklin noted in 1789, there are no certainties other than death and taxes. We are born; we live, and we die. The relevant question is: how much ground do we cover and what do we accomplish in the time allotted? More pertinent, as we come down the home stretch (and something a racehorse never considers), can we look back on our race as fairly run, and did we make time to hug those we love?

To get around the track – to make it onto the home stretch is not assured when the race begins. And we cannot forget that there are those who are loaded into the gate and then denied the opportunity to run when the starting gate opens. The length of the course varies, depending on luck, behavior and genes. Some of us founder, others get bumped, a few break down or become exhausted and retire early. But most of us make it onto the home stretch.

We enter the first turn in our early teens and exit it as independent young adults. The back stretch begins as we leave college, continues on with careers, marriage and our own offspring, who themselves begin their race. During this period, as we gallop along, our children grow and enter their first turn. Our families and jobs, and schools and colleges for our children, consume our time as the furlongs pass. When our children begin their backstretch, we enter our final turn, during which we witness the marriages of our children and the appearance of our first grandchildren.

As we exit the final turn and head for home, we pass through what is sometimes mislabeled the “golden years.” The pace slows but time speeds up. A week, which when we were children felt like a month, has become a year that feels like a week. With the advent of children and grandchildren, our future has enlarged. Lives have been created for which we bear responsibility, and we want to know that they will turn out to be happy ones. But we also recognize, as the song has it, that “the future is not ours to see.”

We should not despair, though. The home stretch is filled with family and friends, some new and some old. We have memories to comfort us, a few regrets but mostly good times remembered. We know we have slowed, but our speed has increased. We pray the pounding hoofs will slow. The seconds, minutes and hours tick by in their regular, inevitable and foreboding way. We cross the finish line, each in our own time and each at our own pace, not with applause and best without tears, but, we hope, with love and appreciation for a race well run.

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