He is finally old enough to realise that nothing lasts forever. Or maybe he’s been old enough for a long time now, but he’s just never had the time or luxury to sit still and watch the way time wears out everything.
To be fair, it’s a little like having the patience to watch a river carve a waterfall out of the softest mountain. If the progress is slow, then people who care enough to notice will see that everything has changed; everything is different because even if a tiny part is different, then nothing can ever be exactly the same again.
Oh, how he’s tried rebelling against change when he was young. It’s why he makes promises, why he sets a routine for himself each day, why he carries on the traditions set by what his culture dictates…the list is endless, this list that is more like a tree than a scroll, having roots that anchor it deep into the underground.
He wonders whether he would ever allow himself to set fire to that tree.
Despite human efforts to preserve histories, he’s pretty sure that forgetting comes more naturally to humans than breathing does. And he’s come to realise that nothing lasts forever not because things fade away, or die, or disappear, but because people forget.
These are the thoughts he has when he looks at the faces of his grandchildren and great-grandchildren, and whenever he smiles at them, it is a way he tries to get them to remember him. And when the gaps between his teeth are reflected by those children, he can believe that he’s still young, and can forget that even this won’t last forever.