Wednesday, July 27, 2016

The Daily Grace In Aging


I pulled my back out.

Not working out.

Not doing yoga.

Not gardening in the yard.

Sadly, it was simply getting up from the couch.

To make matters worse, earlier that day, I had stopped by Goodwill to see what books I might find, as I love to find a bargain and books can be so expensive. And I happened to discover one by a favorite author, Frederick Buechner. Thrilled with my find, I went and got in line to pay. When it was my turn, the young girl behind the register asked, "55 or older?" WHAT????? Did she just ask me what I thought she just asked. Do I really look like I could be 55 or older? The Senior discount? Was she kidding me?  I wanted to demand to see her manager, but I refrained. So that paperback book cost me ninety-nine cents and my ego. And then I pull my back that night just getting up from the couch . . .

It all started the first time someone didn't card me when buying a bottle of wine at the store. I had gotten my license out and the cashier told me, "I don't need to see it," meaning, "I can tell you're old enough." Gone were the days when I could go to Carowinds (a local amusement park) and participate in the guy guessing either your age or weight. I had worn a baseball cap and when the guy guessed that I was a teenager (at the time I was in my twenties), I walked away with a prize and my youthful pride.

When that first piece of mail came from the AARP and my son Benjamin just happened to be the one to bring that mail in. How delightedly he waved it around. In fact, he practically danced a jig waving it about like a flag. Did that mean it was just a brief, momentary span of time before I would start considering wearing Medic Alert so I, too, didn't fall and couldn't get up in my own home without the ability to call for help?

I used to love late night television, but now I find myself at around 8:30 or 9:00 wondering, "Is it time for bed yet?" and checking to see if it's eleven. Sigh. Now I have to DVR any late night program that I want to watch (sorry Jimmy Fallon and James Cordon).

Or having music I grew up with played on the "Lite" station that plays "The Best of the 70's, 80's,  and Today." Having a DJ refer to a song I loved in high school as a "classic." Classic? Nooooo!!! That's for songs from the 60's or 70's. And it doesn't help that Michael Jackson, Prince, and Whitney Houston are all dead. I had albums before the hipsters collected them. The first one I bought from a record store (remember those?) was one by Billy Joel. I had eight tracks (not so hip and you had to like the whole album because there was no rewind or fast forward - you had to listen to all of it!). I made mix-tapes for girlfriends. I had and still have CDs (still prefer those, especially when a hard drive crashes and I lose my downloaded music. I know, I know - the Cloud. I miss when the Cloud were simply those in the sky where you guessed what shape it looked like). I had a record player then a stereo then a boom box before they came out with the Walkman and it was awesome and bulky. I remember juke boxes. First with 45's and then with CDs.  The leader singers (Michael Stipe, Morrissey, Robert Smith, Black Francis, Eddie Vedder) in bands I listened to are now in their 50's and many are approaching their 60's. Yikes!

And no, I don't like hearing that movies like Back to the Future or Ferris Bueller or The Breakfast Club are 30 years old!

It was like cold water when the invitation to my ten year high school reunion came in the mail. Even worse was the twenty-year one. I felt as if the ice had broken and I had plunged into the frozen water to die. Now I've stopped because 1987 seems so long ago. And it feels even more ancient when I tell my sons that we didn't have computers in school, but typewriters. Do most kids even know what that is any more? Or card catalogues at the library? We had to learn the Dewey Decimal System every year in elementary school. Will I now start most of my stories with, "When I was a kid . .  ."?

The fast metabolism I used to have that allowed me to eat whatever I want and not gain weight has long since abandoned me. Now if I so much as look at a cheesecake I gain five pounds. I can no longer buy the sugary cereals with the toys in them for myself. I now actually read the box to see things like how much fiber is in it.

Proverbs 16:31 tells us that, "A gray head is a crown of glory" but I sure didn't feel that way when I saw the first ones popping out of my head. Pluck those bad boys out! No sir! But now there is no way I can pluck them without looking like I have mange.

I find myself going into rooms to get something and then forgetting why I was there.

As a child, I used to think time moved at a sloth's pace and why wouldn't it hurry up so I could be an adult. Now I think, "Why was I soooo stupid??? Why did I ever want to be an adult with adult responsibilities? Paying taxes suck!" Now as the parent to two boys, one who is just two years from college, I long for time to please slow down again. The days go by so slow, but the years so fast. Benjamin, who once looked up to me, is now taller and I have to look up to him - literally. But the positive side to his getting older, is I can have real in-depth conversations with him. We can talk about our faith and our struggles and he will ask me questions about my life and about what I was like and going through at his age.

Yet as I grow older, I am always finding that my focus is shifting greatly. I am driven more by the desire to work towards things that have lasting and valued significance. Abraham Heschel once said, "When I was young, I admired clever people. Now that I am old, I admire kind people." I find the truth in that statement with each passing year. And I want to be one of those kind people. Lessening is the desire to own things and possessions. More is a desire to give away and to have experiences, especially with my family. Underneath my decisions now is a deepening faith and a desire to do that which gives God glory and reveals his love to others through me.

One of the verses in the Bible that I hope to attain is Genesis 25:8 where it says, "Abraham breathed his last and died in a ripe old age, an old man and satisfied with life; and he was gathered to his people." Isn't that wonderful? Life is short and when I come to the end of mine, whenever that is, I want to be "satisfied with life." Don't we all want that? Not filled with regrets about the choices we made or the people we have hurt or the damage we have inflicted on others and the earth. But to be satisfied. The Hebrew word for "satisfied" is "saba," which means sated, filled with enough, saturated, having plenty. Life was abundant in its goodness, in its richness. To be filled with satisfaction. Isn't that awesome? And on top of that, to have gathered around us our "people." Those family and friends who deeply love and care about us. They are there to see us off. Abraham having his people gathered around him at the end was a testament to his life. We all want that. We all desire that. That's why I'm focusing on that now. so that I can strengthen those bonds and to love others more unconditionally and openly.

 Ecclesiastes paints a lovely and vivid picture of growing old, "Your body will grow feeble, your teeth will decay, and your eyesight fail" so that it's almost like a depressing checklist. And, yes, with the latter I am now wearing bi-focals, but I'm not going to view the years to come in those stark and bleak terms. Instead, I'm going to see whatever time I have left as a gift from God to be used for Him, in His service. And, as Madeleine L'Engle once wrote, "The great thing about getting older is that you don't lose all the other ages you've been."





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