Long after his Presidency, Jimmy Carter is reported to have been asked during an interview, “What was the best time or period of your life?” His response was simply, “Now”.
I have said for a long time that each decade of my life was better than the ones before. I honestly would not want to be a teenager again or to even endure the struggles of starting a family and trying to find my place in the world.
I adored the time my children were growing up. Hardly a week goes by that I don’t recall some memory of their childhood. I know they were great kids, and hope that in retrospect they think I was a good Dad.
However, I enjoyed being an adult child with my parents more than being their kid. My Dad used to say I was born old and maybe I was. But many of my fondest memories of him are when he recognized me as a man. I was always his son, but we both treasured the time we were more equals and friends.
While my children haven’t lived at home for over 15 years, I get that same enjoyment from watching them and being around them as adults. Their lives in college, working, and then marriage were so rewarding to watch.
Then, grandchildren came along. As close as I was to my grandparents, I underestimated how much you could love your children’s children. You don’t love them more than your children because at least for me that is not possible. You love them without the pressure of being responsible for them. You have time to savor the moments of their childhood, even if you are not there all the time.
In the next ten days, I will attend Grandparents Day at two of my grandchildren’s schools. I cancelled meetings out of town on both dates because at this stage of my life, this is where I want and even need to be.
You can’t live your life through your grandchildren, no matter how amazing they may be. In this last stage of my life, my wife, Mary Lou is retired. I have not made that leap yet as I have no idea what I would do without work. Her retirement allows her to travel with me. That has drawn us together in ways I don’t think we either expected.
Our horizon is shorter, but more defined. We tackle our bucket list with more enthusiasm and perhaps a sense this is our time together.
My life hasn’t always been a smooth path. Our marriage hasn’t been perfect and our children weren’t always angels. Our business has had more ups and downs than most would expect. I owe more money than my father and grandfather ever owed collectively. Health issues sneak in there along the way to waylay the best laid plans.
One gift I received from both my Mom and my Dad was a good attitude. Trying to look for the best in life helps smooth out those bumps that come along without warning.
I have had a good life, despite the challenges known and unknown to family and friends that have come my way. We all have burdens to bear.
Jimmy Carter is 92 years old. I am 62 years old. At this stage of my life, it is an encouragement and inspiration that we would answer the question the same. Yes, the best time of my life is now.
Dan Ponder can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org