Still rolling along

May 19, 2008

by Ivan Raconteur

I temporarily abandoned my long-standing policy of avoiding dog-and-pony shows, and attended my niece’s wedding last weekend.

The event was fairly painless, as these things go.

A steady rain prevented the ceremony from taking place in front of the gazebo near the river as planned, but the ballroom in the hotel proved an adequate substitute.

I was (thankfully) not a participant, so I was free to sit back and observe the proceedings.

I could not escape the fact that time continues to roll on. I can still remember the days when the confident young woman in the spotlight was a babe in arms.

I became aware of a nagging sensation that if she had aged this much, there was a chance that I was aging, too.

I pondered this during the frequent breaks during the evening when I adjourned to the deck behind the hotel to get a breath of fresh air and escape the mass of humanity.

As I watched the St. Croix slip quietly past under the Stillwater lift bridge, I was reminded of my youth, when I watched other waters pass under a different lift bridge into Lake Superior.

It seemed a lifetime ago, and a world apart.

It occurred to me that life has a ways of moving on even when we aren’t looking, and things don’t always work out the way we expect them to.

When I was young, I always hoped I would grow up to be like Cary Grant. Through some cruel trick of fate, I ended up more like Lou Grant.

Cary Grant was debonair, sophisticated, and always managed to look like an advert for gracious living.

Lou Grant, the crusty WJM-TV news producer on the Mary Tyler Moore show, was brusque, coarse, and generally looked like something that had been dragged in by a cat after a night of patrolling the alleys of a particularly seedy neighborhood.

Cary Grant exuded confidence and always ended up with the girl.

Lou Grant was also confident, but he tended to scare the girls away.

Cary Grant could cut a rug with the best of them. Lou Grant was not the kind of guy one is likely to find on the dance floor.

My dancing style, such as it is, is rusty from disuse, and is likely to evoke images of a maladroit zombie suffering from St. Vitus’ Dance.

I did not end up like Cary Grant.

I suspect a lot of us, reaching a certain point in our lives, realize that things haven’t turned out quite the way we thought they would.

Maybe the paths we took led in unexpected directions, or maybe we were faced with unforeseen obstacles.

Perhaps we were employed in a job that we thought was secure, only to be downsized or restructured into unemployment, leaving us looking for a new situation.

Maybe we were married, and learned that “til death do us part,” is more a trite suggestion than a guarantee.

Perhaps someone close to us inconveniently died too soon, leaving a void in our life.

Whatever our situation, things change, and we need to be prepared to change with them.

Even when our life temporarily gets hung up on a snag, things around us keep moving, and we eventually will have to follow the current.

Among the wedding guests were some people I hadn’t seen for years.

None of us is going to live forever, but a few of those present seemed prepared to give it the old school try.

It fascinates me to watch people of multiple generations interacting at these events, and to note the subtle change during which the children become the caretakers of those who once took care of them.

Weddings tend to be scenes of unbridled optimism.

One can scarcely blame the young people for this. Most of us, if we are fortunate enough, start out life with an abundance of enthusiasm.

When one is young, the world is full of opportunities, and new adventures await behind every door.

Some young people lean too much on fantasy, and one can see that the cold hand of reality will soon slap the smiles off of their faces.

I have confidence though, in the two who hitched their dreams to the same star that night.

Despite their age, they are grounded, sensible, and not afraid of hard work. Perhaps just as importantly, they have humor and imagination, and are well matched to take on the world together.

They will do all right, these two. Their dreams may change and evolve over the years, but wherever they end up, one believes that they will find a way to make the best of it.

We can’t all be Cary Grant. We may not be princes or princesses, but if we set goals and work toward them, we have a reasonable chance of finding happiness along the way.

In the morning, the rain had stopped, but the sky was still gray, and a stiff breeze was chasing the last of the clouds down the valley.

Bridesmaids, dressed now in sweat pants and sweatshirts, scurried past and dodged puddles as they made their way to their cars carrying dresses in plastic bags and pulling rolling suitcases behind them. Their mission accomplished, they hurried on to their next destination.

Inside the hotel, the catering staff had erased evidence of the wedding, and was bustling about preparing the Mothers Day brunch.

Each time the door opened, the warm aroma of freshly brewed coffee wafted out and mixed with the damp after-the-rain smell of the river.

A wry smile came to my lips when I realized that despite my cynicism, a bit of the optimism of the occasion may have rubbed off on me.

As I looked out across the steel-gray water capped with silver crests, and watched the traffic snaking across the bridge, while the strains of “Moon River” echoed in my mind from the night before, I couldn’t help thinking that it’s not a bad old world.

Time, like the river, keeps on rolling along, but one never knows. The next great adventure may be waiting for us just around the next bend.