Life Flying By

by on March 4, 2011 · 26 comments

in From the Soul, Life Events, Popular

I pause with a picture to just look at my face, the wrinkles, the gray in my beard, the few strands of black in my hair slowly fading away to mere memories of yesterday.

Hey, there are no complaints from me, by the way, considering “It’s better than the alternative” as people are wont to say.

But where was I when I got old? How come I didn’t know? When did life go from despacio to rapido?

Okay, I can see myself in 1938 at the get go, just gurgling and goo-gooing away which leads into talking and there I am crawling and stumbling right before walking, my mind occupied with tall tales and nursery rhymes and the Tooth Fairy becomes a dear friend of mine. The scene seems like a lifetime, interspersed with praying for birthdays and Christmas and Easter which always took an eternity to arrive. I start school which makes days feel as though they would last as long as you’re alive. And I wonder back then if I would ever reach age ten and ever get to junior high. Senior high appears to be as near as the next galaxy in the sky.

The next decade is just as slow as the one before as my voice transitions from tenor to bass and pimples and blackheads battle for space on my face and there’s more than life’s fair share of towels snapped on my behind in the showers after PE and towards the end of this period in my history I’m an ex-high school All-City All-Star All-State hotshot jock who’s two years shy of a BS degree and the father of two, soon to be three. Mercy me. It’s hard to believe I was only twenty. That said, aging still hasn’t entered my mind as I’m way too busy at the time changing diapers and taking mid-semester and final exams and writing term papers and working odd jobs and shooting jump shots and snatching rebounds for the Arizona Wildcats big time in between time.

Twenty to thirty is pretty much spent falling into and digging myself out of a deep black hole, kept alive by turning a bunch of students on to learning who are about eleven years old and doing standup comedy to soothe my soul with no denying that I was laughing to keep from crying.

And then the thirty’s come and I start breathing and picking up the pieces and moving on, no longer trying to make something work that was always wrong. I find another love, a second wife, and create another reality. I’m a vice-principal at age thirty-one, a principal at thirty-three. It’s kind of a “Let it be Lowenbrau” life of contentment and ease. Oh, I think I have it all, life is such a ball.

And then she appears, Nancy, nearly six-feet tall and suddenly I consider something I had never contemplated at all, what I really want in life: Her. Up until she comes along I think all I need is somebody who is nice and who loves me and whom I love back and it’s a fact that I have someone who fits all that. But Nancy and I speak the same language, spiritually, physically, politically, socially; we’re on the same frequency, actually and figuratively. Cosmically if such can be.

To be with her I hurt someone I cared about terribly but what does one do when his soul mate, the one the universe gifts to him, shows up unexpectedly? We evolve into each other’s spouse number three and we have twin girls together by the time I’m forty and at forty-four we bring a son into our family.

And we take delight in and embroider our fitness. We run. We swim. We hike. We play tennis and all kinds of ball. We’re constantly on the go with our beautiful children in tow.

We protest the wars. Ian Smith. Apartheid. Our country’s deeds in Nicaragua and El Salvador. The clubbing of seals. Corporations’ rotten deals… I write and act. She photographs.

I guess I’m too busy and too in love with the very idea of life to notice that I was growing older. The only concern I have on my fortieth birthday is I’m being beaten in tennis by a friend and he has to go home all of a sudden and when we get to his place there’s this big “Surprise!” I enjoy my special day but it takes a while to totally put thoughts of the tennis match away.

My 50th year is celebrated with one of the best parties I’ve ever known as Nancy crafts the nicest gatherings ever thrown. What a night and morning. So full of laughs. Afterwards I take a nice lazy bath and a little nap and now I’m understanding when it all starts going fast because when I wake up I’m sixty, dancing on stage in front of the kids at Cabrillo Elementary, showing them how being old doesn’t mean you can’t get down.

Then I retire at 61, do a couple of plays, a lot of writing, and long walks everyday. My love and I squeeze in a trip to New York City and stand at the top of one of the World Trade Center buildings with one of our twins and then, down the line, we’re off to Chicago to visit the other twin who’s there for an alternative journalism fellowship. Life is nice. Life is hip. In our retirement we see Ray Charles, Elton John, and Etta James, among other musical greats, do their thing and we take in a few flicks: Erin Brockovich, a Beautiful Mind, the Pianist, Juno, Slumdog Millionaire, Precious, featuring a young untrained actor who blows “my” mind, not “our” minds, as Nancy is not with me at this time. It’s like, in the continuum, I stoop over to tie my shoe and when I stand back up my beautiful woman is gone and I’m alone at 72.

Whew! Add it all up and time literally flew. But as I look at this man, me, with all the wrinkles and the gray, I’m looking at a man who has enjoyed the view, a man who’s still ticking, still looking for interesting and exciting things to do. And I know if I’m to make it to 82 or 92 I better not take time to utter a sigh for it will come in the blinking of an eye.

Oops, I just blinked so I guess that’s a lie. Oh, well, it does move one day at a time so I better get cracking as I’ve got a few things to do before this very day goes by.

Aging, anyone? Hold on and enjoy the ride.

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

avatar Becky March 4, 2011 at 1:29 pm

This is so beautiful – for so many reasons.
Each moment, each day – truly a gift.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:11 pm

A gift, indeed.


avatar Joe K in Tucson March 4, 2011 at 1:50 pm

Hey! We’re old. But the sum of Ernie McCray and hopefully some others, like a fine wine, improves with age. Isn’t it cool that our own personal DNA and life experience makes us absolutely unique in our world – it just needs to be tapped more often. But onward and upward with the ride!


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:12 pm

Hold on, amigo.


avatar Monte N March 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm

Thanks to Joe K for forwarding this.

Thanks to you Charles for writing it. I haven’t seen you act but certainly writing is your forte. Hope we all make 82 or at least continue to enjoy getting on in that direction.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:13 pm

I hope to see you, Monte, at our 55th high school reunion next October as we hobnob with a bunch of old ass Badgers!


avatar Lauren March 4, 2011 at 3:20 pm

Dear Ernesto,

What an awesome journey I just took with you! Very cool indeed.

You sure are an …”an old guy trying to feel the vibe”, as you’ve pointed out in another fantastic poetic quip you’ve shared with us.



avatar Pat Knoop March 4, 2011 at 10:02 pm

Hi Ernie,
I truly enjoyed your article. Isn’t it amazing how the person you look at in the mirror daily doesn’t seem to be aging until one day you look at an old photo from 10 years ago and think “Holy Cow” I didn’t know I was getting that old!! It sounds like you are doing well and aging gracefully. Take care and as you said “Enjoy the Ride” cuz it sure beats the alternative.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Well, I don’t know how graceful I’m going it as I seem to be getting clumsier by the day.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:15 pm

Well, I don’t know how graceful I’m doing it as I seem to be getting clumsier by the day.


avatar Danny Morales March 4, 2011 at 10:40 pm

…as a great spirit does on the winds of time. And I feel your wings in passing. Namaste^Ernesto


avatar Lani March 4, 2011 at 11:17 pm

What a great article Ernie . . . I really enjoyed reading it. It reminded of how fast my life is going too (suddenly I’m 40) . . . Where did all the years go? I need to remember to savor each precious moment I spend with my husband, children, and everyone I care about (because sometimes it’s easy to forget).


avatar Jeanie Domko March 5, 2011 at 10:10 am

We are allotted so many days in this life, and although most of us don’t want it to end, there is a far better place to go to if you are a believer. Don’t waste your time here on earth, be generous with your time and money because it only lasts for a little while and it is over.


avatar Shane Finneran March 5, 2011 at 11:20 am

Wow — the honesty in this piece is invigorating, the insights are valuable, and the writing is engaging. Thank you, Ernie.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

De nada.


avatar annagrace March 5, 2011 at 10:03 pm

Ernie- Dylan Thomas wrote the unforgettable line “Time held me green and dying/ Though I sang in my chains like the sea.” We’re working on the “singing'” aren’t we?


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:17 pm

Es verdad.


avatar Linda March 5, 2011 at 10:06 pm

Your version of the aging trip is the one I want to be on. What a ride!


avatar Shirley Robinson Sprinkles March 6, 2011 at 7:25 am

A fantastic piece of writing! These days, when I look in the mirror I see my mother. I always thought I looked just like Dad, but, lo and behold–there’s Mom! I suspect, Ernie, that we all try to outrun the “Grim Reaper” by thrusting ourselves into myriads of activities that seem well beyond our reach. It’s our way of re-inventing ourselves for the times we live in, and stretching to last into the next era.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:19 pm

Isn’t it amazing how sometimes we morph from looking like one parent and then another as we age?


avatar Sarah March 6, 2011 at 10:50 am

Wow. What an honest and insightful piece. I just discovered the OB rag after moving here and the quality of writing is absolutely astounding


avatar Susan Robertson March 6, 2011 at 11:11 am

This is a wonderful article, and I was also born in 1938. While time is speeding by at an unkind and rapid pace, I AM grateful that it isn’t dragging.
What a life you’ve led. I was deeply saddened to read, however, than your wife passed away. I had been in contact with her many years ago, when your twins were about 11.
A cruel loss.
Please keep writing; I also very much enjoyed the ‘gay letter’ you wrote, and have posted both articles to my Facebook page.


avatar Ernie McCray March 7, 2011 at 4:20 pm

The twins are now 33.


avatar Mario R. Gonzales March 7, 2011 at 4:54 pm

Hey Ernie, that, my friend, was a great nerative on a synopsis of your life. Long long way from when you and your friend Thomas Ross saved a little skinny kid from drowning at Estevan park. May God grant you many more years and keep writing I thoroughly enjoy your articles.


avatar Ernie McCray March 8, 2011 at 12:32 pm

Hey, Mario. Good to hear from you. Hope to see you in May so we can see what we can do about the ban on the courses that are so vital for our kids.


avatar Willie J. Horton March 7, 2011 at 6:47 pm

Hi Ernie:
Remember the words of Emerson when he said,” we do not count a man’s years, until he has nothing else to count”.Ernie you are still counting, so relax as you look into the mirror. Age is like love, you cannot hide it.
Willie Horton


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