01/25/2012 02:54 pm ET Updated Mar 26, 2012

Chasing Childhood

Would I want a crystal ball if one existed?

I have very mixed feelings.

If it would give me peace of mind to know how certain situations would turn out, then perhaps. But, what if I didn't relish the outcome? I wouldn't have the power to change it, and I'd lay anxiously in wait.

Would I live differently if my life was predictable?

There are some days that feel "safe," as if I'm almost coasting along, and I take a certain comfort in that. But, really, it's a false sense of security. At any moment, things can go down a different path...for the better.....or for what might feel like the worse. And, it's not just my life. It's the life of those that I love. Things are unpredictable. That's part of the excitement but also the challenge. It's ultimately how you're able to look at it and cope or celebrate.

I look at my 8 year old son and sometimes wonder what the future holds for him. He's growing up at the speed of lightning, and one day I'll be an empty nester and look back on the days of caretaking for him as a mere memory. As tiring as it can be, I know I'll miss him when he goes off to live on his own, but it's as it should be.

I wonder....

What profession will he pursue?

Who and when will he marry (if he decides to walk down the aisle)?

Will he have kids, and how many?

Where will he live?

Will he be happy?

How will he remember me after I'm long gone?

My 92-year-old father recently suffered a series of strokes and after two weeks in the hospital is now in a rehab facility facing a challenging recovery. I drove to his house today to collect his mail, and it was a bittersweet ride. The route is one I have taken for years when I've gone to visit him at home. It felt empty this time knowing he wasn't in his house, nor was his live-in aide. She was visiting with him at the rehab facility.

Part of me wondered if in fact he would return home to live. Would he be best served to reside at a senior facility? Time will tell.

This is one of those crystal ball questions since we don't know he'll progress in rehab. It's way premature to look toward the future, especially to endeavor to make such a big decision. It must feel sad for an elderly person to no longer live in the home where they made a life, raised a family, etc. it's one thing if they choose to move on their own, but to have the decision made for them... by their children... due to their declining health... isn't something that anyone plans for in life. No one knows how they will age and ultimately pass. It's not a thought that most people dwell on...though the notion of passing somehow peacefully is something to aspire to. I've long questioned the notion of suffering and why that happens for some.

I was speaking on the phone with a close, long time friend this week. She had been on the phone with another friend from our single days, and they were rehashing old times. They also got off on chatting about life and marital expectations. Had things turned out for them the way they thought they would? Was marriage and parenthood as they anticipated? Were they happy? Did they know other happy couples? They covered many questions. Each essentially confided that they might have done things differently in their lives.

It got me thinking.

Children are so great at living in the moment. I watch my son play intently on his 3D DS. Or on his computer. Or building with Legos and his treasured Magnatiles. All he is thinking about is what he's doing. He's not projecting about tomorrow. He's loving his tech and toy time and doesn't want it to end. That much he has expressed about the future. He wants to save his favorite toys forever so he has them even as an adult.

I don't blame him. There's something to be said for holding on to the innocence and pure joy of childhood playtime. As an adult, I don't have that enough. Everyone I know is all consumed with life responsibility, and fitting in fun sometimes feels like a lost art. But, then what is life all about if there isn't happiness along with the difficult times? And, even from the challenging times, there are lessons to be learned and growth to be experienced.

While I'm a big fan of personal growth, there are times when it feels like growth isn't all it's cracked up to be. If wisdom comes with age, and aging isn't the easiest, then I'd possibly opt to remain at this stage in life or turn back the clock...though then I'd never know what cool experiences are yet to be lived. And, I want to live as fully as possible.

So, at the end of the day, time marches on. Stopping it in its tracks isn't something any of us can accomplish, but I would like to freeze the fun and/or peaceful times and have them occupy my thoughts as long as possible.

I wish the same for my son as he matures. May he carry the joy of childhood forever in his heart regardless of age.