Four years ago, I wrote with some fairly measured seriousness about the transcendent experience of finally seeing U2, my favorite band of 30 years, up close. At that moment, I was still living in the relatively immediate shadow of my cancer diagnosis and treatment, and everything was felt and gauged in relation to that life-altering trauma. This past July, I spent another evening with my same heroes, and this felt different, maybe more poignant, for any number (or combination) of reasons.
These words echoed through my head as I hung off the rail by the e stage at Madison Square Garden on an unforgettable summer night: Thank you for growing old with us. I’m not old, and they aren’t either, by many measures. But time and coincidence have not necessarily been kind to us, to one degree or another. Bono, the bionic man. “We have the technology; we can rebuild him.” Up close, those few feet out of reach, I could see the rigidity and change in his body after all it has been through. He is changed, not just by time, but also his own recklessness. Time does strange and sad things to us all. We just don’t always expect to see evidence of it in our imagined immortals, or those at least larger than life. In the end, we are all diminished. Often times in increments, but sometimes through transformative trauma. (I know a bit about this.) If we are lucky, we have the chance to rebuild a little bit, to stem the tide.
So, to them, I say again, thank you for growing old with us. Thank you for allowing your sentimentality and your struggles with your own past to seep through, and touch us all. In the end, there is no difference between your struggles and those of the folks on the other side of that rail – save for the magnitude of the canvas upon which you seek to resolve them. Your gifts, your talents, are out-sized, perhaps mostly because the way in which you so artfully use them to help us all find common ground. It is the same unifying magic that has always marked what you do, but now, with the added, ironic twist of the finite.
You have taken me from the hardest part of my childhood, all the way to motherhood. Perhaps that is why the sense of youth – lost, regained – hit me so hard on that night in July. Why the keening to a long-dead mother felt so raw. We have travelled from revolution, to this evolution – of the heart, of the individual – marching through time.