Old man 2003


Photo By Kim Higman

He was slinking away, going wherever old years go when they die, using his scythe as a cane, when I grabbed him by the beard. “Not so fast,” I said. “You’ve got some explaining to do.” “Lemme go, young fella,” he snapped, his voice gravelly with age. “You can’t stop time. It marches on, you know.” He pulled away, and I had to run to keep up. For an old guy, he was pretty spry. Then again, it was still Dec. 31, 2003; 2004 didn’t officially begin for several more hours.

What do you have to say for yourself? This hasn’t exactly been a banner year—war, depression, AIDS in Africa, global warming, disappearing species, earthquake in Iran.

That’s my fault? I’m just marking time, pal. Don’t blame me for the mess you humans make. Besides, for some people 2003 was a darned good year. The little girl who lives at 65 S. Maypole St. in Cleveland, Ohio, U.S.A. liked it; she got a new bicycle for Christmas. There’s a fellow in Costa Rica who fell in love with—

[Interrupting] It’s all relative, is that what you’re saying?

Of course. Isn’t everything?

But aren’t some years worse than others?

Hard to say. Depends on who’s asking. I just did my job.

Which was?

Keep track of the days. Watch the earth turn and tilt and travel around the sun. Did you know you’re orbiting at 17,000 km per hour? And rotating every 24 hours at 1,000 mph? Feels like standing still. Amazing, huh?

But there was so much suffering in 2003.

Yes, there was. Every year is bad. Every year is good. How was 2003 for you?

Wonderful, actually.

So what are you so pissed off at me for?

I don’t know. I want things to be better.

A worthy desire. Just do what you can. You know the drill. Live simply. Practice loving-kindness. Try not to be selfish. Be mindful of the consequences of your actions. You want to change the world? Start with yourself.

That’s all?

That’s plenty, pal. A lifetime’s worth of work. Hey, speaking of starts, that kid in diapers is going to be here any moment. I gotta go. Good luck, young fella. Oh, and Happy New Year.