I think of life as a banquet set before us to deliver choices – flavors we enjoy or those we decide we don’t like or want in our lives. The experience of choosing determines who we become as we age.
As children, most choices taste good because we’re hungry to learn and grow and decide for ourselves what we’re willing to eat, what we want in our lives. Parents offer us a selection of food and experiences and we may choose to accept or reject them. As little people, control of selection is not always ours, and usually we eat what is put before us, sometimes under protest. We mostly do as we’re told to earn the satisfaction and goodwill of our parents. Very slowly, control is born and begins to grow as we do.
Then adolescence arrives and we’re still hungry but more selective of what we eat and do. The importance of choice begins to assert itself and we struggle for greater control. The banquet grows to include a wider selection of new flavors, like driving a car, choosing the people and school classes that interest us and eventually being able to vote. Often we eat only what we like, much to the frustration of our parents. But becoming independent and who we want to be is hard work and we relish it. Control is our goal.
The reward is young adulthood, where we finally have a greatly enlarged portion of control and choices. And the banquet doubles in size as we earn new flavors, such as selecting jobs and mates, becoming parents and living in a home of our own. Working for a living can be sweet or sour depending upon our preparation, job selection, hard work and just plain luck. And as young adults, we learn to taste what interests us and accept the consequences of our choices – whatever they may be.
As middle age arrives, we expect to be happy and satisfied with what we’ve chosen to taste. And we begin to hunger for different things, including independent children, the end of college tuitions and the taste of retirement. With learned patience, those things come and we’re hopefully satisfied with the meal we’re still eating.
And finally, dessert arrives! The flavors of retirement, senior living and the free choice to do whatever pleases us make the banquet complete. Careful in our selections, with hard work and luck we’ve eaten a full and healthy meal. We’ve made choices, chewed, swallowed and digested them, and they have enabled us to survive and thrive.
Hopefully, seniorhood is replete with satisfaction. We have eaten what we wanted and needed. And it’s with both amazement and appreciation that we now see our children and grandchildren sitting at life’s banquet making their own choices. In the quiet privacy of our minds and hearts, we encourage each of them to look at what is on the table and decide what they want to taste and whom they want to become – because with careful choices, life can be delicious.
Freelance writer Judy Kramer can be reached by email at [email protected] She is author of “Changing Places: A Journey with My Parents into Their Old Age.”