We frequently hear from grandparents who tell us that they forward our columns on to their children — the parents of their grandchildren. With today’s article, we hope it works in reverse. Please, parents, forward this column to the grandparents of your children, because it is them who we are talking to today.
We speak and write mostly to young parents, but almost everyone we hang out with socially is entering the “final fourth” of their life.
This is not some fatalistic or ghoulish observation; it is just a fact.
If you’re 60 or thereabouts, and are going to live a normal life expectancy, you are entering your final fourth.
How do you react to that? How does it make you feel?
Do you get depressed — or excited?
Do you relish the fact and believe that the final fourth can be the best fourth, or do you feel like the game is over and you are sitting on the bench? Are you still in the race or are you being put out to pasture?
Do you fight the clock and the calendar with everything you’ve got and say, “I can still look and act like I did in my 40s and fool everyone, even myself”?
Do you resist and rationalize the whole “final fourth” premise and think something like, “I’m going to live into my 90s so I’m actually just starting my final third?”
Or do you accept and relish this mellower phase of life?
It’s common to think of life in the metaphor of the seasons of the year. Spring is our childhood and youth, summer is our full-warmth career and family, autumn is the rich harvest and winter is the shutting down of everything.
In this context of seasons, the “final fourth” is a bit dark and depressing.
It’s better, and actually more accurate, to think of life in the metaphor of a calendar year with its four quarters. January through March starts off dormant, slow and cold but takes on energy and independence as it melts and buds toward maturity. The second quarter of April through June is a vibrant time of accelerated growth but also of unpredictable weather and uncertainty. The third quarter, from July through September, begins to produce fruit, but there are a lot of hot, tired dog days in there, too, and so many duties and responsibilities that our options are limited and ineffectiveness and frustration often creep in.
Then, beautifully, comes the final fourth of October through December: the cooler air, the vivid colors, the weed-free efficiency of the full harvest, the pleasant, gradual slowing down wherein more seems to get done with less effort, and family and friends seem to buoy and lift us at every turn. It can truly be the quarter of bounty.
And it’s in this final fourth when we get the creative reinvention of Halloween, the deep satisfaction and gratitude of Thanksgiving and the joy and giving of Christmas. We begin to see the results and the final accounting for the full year, and we may receive attractive and sometimes unexpected year-end bonuses.
If we wish for it and if we live for it, the final quarter can complete and cap our lives with the deepest colors, the sharpest contrasts, the best perspectives, the most freedom, the most efficiency, the greatest purpose, and the most purpose, stability and contentment.
In fact, the final fourth can be more fulfilling than the first three-fourths combined.
Richard and Linda Eyre are New York Times best-selling authors who lecture throughout the world on family-related topics. Visit them anytime at www.EyresFreeBooks.com or www.valuesparenting.com. Their latest Deseret Book e-book is “On the Homefront.