I’ve been contemplating the bittersweetness of change and time and aging lately, brought on in no small measure by watching a new Bon Jovi documentary on Hulu called Thank you, goodnight. Being a huge Bon Jovi fan is a bit of an age-defining attribute in itself, although my son is also a fan and he’s still in his twenties.

In the documentary, Jon Bon Jovi is struggling with impaired vocal chords and wrestling with the decision of whether or not to retire. He tries a plethora of treatments…acupuncture, chiropractic, lasers, all kinds of therapies and exercises…and finally undergoes surgery to try and reconstruct his vocal chords. It remains to be seen if he will recover his uniquely definitive voice.

We all struggle with aging, with the fact that time changes us in ways we can influence but never completely control. Jon says many times throughout the show that he will only tour again if he can get back to 100%, and if he can’t do that, he will find peace in walking away because he doesn’t want to taint his legacy with sub-par late-in-life performances. Yet it seems like he is trying to convince himself of that more than anyone, given how many times he says it. He loves performing, being on stage, and the thought of giving that up is clearly painful.

There’s this part in the documentary when Jon half-jokingly laments about writing “Living on a Prayer” in a key that is impossible for a sixty-year-old to sing. And of course that is because he wrote it when he was twenty, and no twenty-year-old can imagine ever being sixty. I certainly couldn’t. I barely can now, when it’s right around the corner.

I was looking through scrapbooks the other day to gather photos for a memory book for a friend, and as I flipped through twenty-five years of memories, I had this meta experience of how fast time goes. It was like a sequence in a movie where the turning pages signifies the passage of time, and for a minute it felt like time really did move that fast. My babies were babies and now they are men. My friends and I look young and thin and smooth, and not so much anymore. What happened? Oh, yes, time!

A part of me embraces it all. I don’t generally mind getting older. In fact, there are things I love about it…wisdom, acceptance, ease. It’s more that it’s just so hard to believe. Jon Bon Jovi looks like a kid in the early episodes of the series when they are becoming famous because he is a kid. And then all of a sudden he’s not. Ditto when I look in the mirror. Yet part of that other version of him and I still exist somewhere because when I hear “Livin’ on a Prayer,” I am right back in Golding Hall at SUNY Oneonta experiencing something for the first time (it’s not what you might think, but I’m also not going to say…those who know know!).

Another piece of this bittersweet experience is the fact that the full band no longer actually exists. Richie Sambora was a huge part of their success. His voice, his guitar, his writing partnership with Jon. He left the band, and it is a different thing now. I saw them in concert with him and without him, and it was not the same.

Which brings my thoughts to a powerful book I just finished, Tommy Orange’s There There. In one passage, a character has a conversation about a Gertrude Stein quote, and he reflects that “she was talking about how the place where she’d grown up in Oakland had changed so much, that so much development had happened there, that the there of her childhood, the there there, was gone, there was no there there anymore.” This immediately made me think about a recent visit I made to the house where I grew up. I hadn’t been back there since Bon Jovi looked and sounded the way they still do in my mind, circa 1990, mostly because I didn’t want to see it as something different from what it had been. But another part of me wanted to see, so my brother took me, and I hated it. I should have trusted my gut and stayed away. I don’t want the reminder that there is no there there anymore.

And this is how I feel about Jon’s voice. I don’t want to hear him not be able to hit that note in “Livin’ on a Prayer.” I don’t want to see the band without Richie. I still love them and have been listening to their music nonstop for weeks now, but there is a bittersweet sadness in the tarnished version of something that was so spectacularly shiny. Yet as Jon says, “Welcome to wherever you are. This is your life, you made it this far. Welcome, you gotta believe, that right here, right now, you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be.” Well said, Jon. I do believe.