Almanac Life: Death, Taxes, and the Passing of Time


“Nothing is certain, except death and taxes” – Benjamin Franklin, 1789.


Recently, a female friend of mine asked me if I had any single male friends who might be worth her while meeting. Her children had both left home, and she was now living alone in a large house. She remarked that she had been out on a few dates but, by and large, they had ended in disaster. I had always sensed within her a slight bitterness that her marriage had ended when her children were very young, and that she was left to pick up the pieces and rear the kids on her own. But now, I detected an aching loneliness. ‘I was so busy bringing up the kids and work that time got away from me,’ she said ruefully, ‘And I’ll never get those years back now.’


A bloke I know, a young father, was recently talking to me about his young pre-school aged son. While obviously chuffed and proud at being a dad, he also bemoaned the fact that he and his partner were constantly tired, and that they had very little time to themselves. ‘I can’t wait until he is older,’ he said. At the risk of being accused of offering advice for which I had not been asked, like a sage I nonetheless felt compelled to advise the man not to wish his son’s life away.


These two conversations had me pondering the concept of time – and how its hurried passage is as inevitable as death and taxes. There is no stopping it. As Jim Croce said in the classic song Time In A Bottle: ‘But there never seems to be enough time/ To do the things you want to do once you find them.’


My three sons, all in their mid-20s, are now much taller men than me. In their own ways, they are dealing with both the pleasures and obstacles which adult life proffers. Occasionally, I will catch myself marvelling at how quickly they seem to be ageing before my eyes. Part of me wants to stop the clock and argue about the unfairness of lives passing by so quickly. And I will wonder what happened to the boys who would run to me in tears, seeking comfort in my arms when they had grazed a knee, fallen off a bike, or some other misfortune had befallen them.


It seems like only yesterday that I was the strongest and bravest protector in their world. I ponder those moments when they would instinctively reach up for my hand when we were about to cross the road. The very last time this occurred – if only I had I known it would never happen again – how I would have savoured that special moment, and maybe held in mine that little hand for a few moments longer.


For who knows where the time goes? – Sandy Denny, 1968


The other day, my wife asked me if I ever paused to consider my mortality. I answered in the affirmative. Don’t we all when we reach a certain age?


Because it all transpired so quickly, my wife and I never really had much time alone together prior to the three babies arriving within three years. We have never regretted it. But now, we are immensely enjoying hours, days, and getaways together in this new phase of our lives, not having to answer to anyone. With shared memories, it is only natural that we reminisce. We talk and laugh about the times which the five of us shared. Yet I will sometimes metaphorically kick myself for not cherishing every moment even more than I did at the time.


In the re-telling of our collective tales, there is forever the hint of yearning for that time which passed by so rapidly. It is almost tangible, this longing, and it exists because we are silently acknowledging the past is another country to which we will never be able to return.



You can read more from Smokie HERE.



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About Darren Dawson

Always North.


  1. Poignant Smoke. A man in deep thought. Love it

    “And then one day you find 10 years have got behind you….” Pink Floyd.

    These years ahead of us are gold Smoke.

  2. I heard a golf podcast recently (surprise) where someone said the outrageously talented but underachieving Rory McIlroy was having his best season since 2014 because “he had an enemy to focus him”. Rory has been the leading player spokesperson against the Saudi LIV golf breakaway tour.
    Made me think what makes now me so focussed and happy in my mid/late 60’s? Concluded I had 2 enemies – gambling (which nearly destroyed me) and time (which will eventually). I try to live with memories but not regrets and make the most of every day/every interaction. Gratitude and opportunity. The classic “carpe diem”.
    Like Smokie I meet a lot of people mired in bitterness and regrets. They may be right about misfortune and unfairness; but I’d rather be happy.
    Mentoring people I’m always trying to sense “do you need consolation or a kick up the bum”? It’s always a bit of both, but I try to gauge from their story how much they’ve been a co-creator in their misfortune. It’s why I don’t buy a lot of identity politics and the social welfare arguments of the Left. It’s just a more comfortable anaesthetic.

  3. Look forward to the next beer, Dips.

    Yep, PB, look forward, and don’t look back in anger.

  4. Just terrific Smokie.

    Last night Claire and I saw the Pauls- Kelly and Grabowsky at Her Majesty’s Theatre and reading your piece today made me think about how much of Kelly’s lyrics are about the passage of time and the good and bad which unfold through this. And I re-read your excellent Paul Kelly top 50 post. Having listened to it frequently over the past week I’d now put ‘Petrichor’ in my top 10.

    But it sounds like all five of you are doing well! Excellent.

  5. Smoke excellent – poignant certainly made us all sit back and reflect and I admit re what a moron I was re drinking thank you

  6. Noury Sibaei says

    Smokie as per usual you have captured that moment in life when your Children’s lives are waxing & ours seem to be waning. We have to reinvent our own lives again or start a new chapter. My Son is 42 & it seems like yesterday that he was knee high to a grasshopper. Time waits for no man or women. Well said !

  7. Daryl Schramm says

    You and your followers with their comments have conjoured up many thoughts for me Darren.. I often find myself distracted imagining the time between events of the past, in relation to today. As an example, the mid sixties, early seventies was 20 to 30 years after the end of WW2. 20 to 30 years ago today seems like yesterday to this 66 yo. But the wrinkles of the skin of my hands and sore joints says it wasn’t (yesterday).

  8. Peter Fuller says

    Thank you for these profound observations, Smokie. I appreciate the comments also, which suggest that you’ve touched a chord for so many of us.
    I have twenty more years on the clock than you, and my three sons are in their forties, bringing us the unqualified joys of grandchildren. I’m cautious about pontificating from my own experience which has been largely very happy. I’ve had a more rewarding life in almost all respects than I could have imagined.
    It was particularly touching for me, as I opened the Almanac site for the first time in a couple of days. I wanted to check if there had been any reference to the passing of a treasured Alamanacker, Jan Courtin. Her death notice is in this morning’s Age. I hope to post a tribute to Jan in the next 24 hours (a relatively busy afternoon ahead), but will happily defer to anyone else who knew her better than I did.

  9. Such is Life, Smokie. It often seems days take an eternity to pass, but your life moves on so quickly.

    My age is between yours, & PB’s. It didn’t go the way it should have but I can’t change what’s happened. I’m one of those that PB describes as mired in bitterness and regret. I don’t blame anyone for my demise, nor can I change what happened; didn’t happen. What should have been the best years of my life didn’t happen, so I have huge voids that I think about every day. Working in the health field I’ve become cognisant of my situation, knowing I can’t repair the mess, however my focus is on what remains of my life.

    I have to focus on the present because the present is exactly that, a present. If I /we don’t take it now while it’s here the present disappears for ever. The future: Smokie how better to describe the future than the words on the cover of Combat Rock; THE FUTURE IS UNWRITTEN.

    Keep up the good work Smokie.


  10. Luke Reynolds says

    Been thinking about this piece a lot the past couple of days. So much resonates. I’ve just hit an age where mortality has certainly entered my consciousness. The premature passing of the likes of Warnie, Deano and Andrew Symonds add to those thoughts. While your piece is also a reminder to cherish every moment with your kids, something I like to think I’m doing my best at. Great to catch you at the footy in Apollo Bay yesterday!

  11. roger lowrey says

    Fine piece Smokie.

    As a young lad, our youngest son Patrick used to ask me frequently “daddy can you play with me?”

    One day, it occurred to me there would come a day when he would never ask me that again whereupon I would look back and instantly regret any such opportunity where I had knocked him back – irrespective of what I was doing. From that light bulb moment onwards I never answered “no” again.

    Notwithstanding many other examples of my suboptimal parenting which, possibly, we all probably share, that was one unlikely success story for this little black duck!


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