As the seasons begin to change and leaves take their circuitous path to the ground, I ponder the passage of time. The mirror does not hide the truth; the lines around my eyes have grown deeper. There are tiny furrows in my skin similar to those found embedded in an old 45 record, recording the melody of my life. My face is most certainly changing as time ticks by, just as my attitude about age adjusts to the new realities of my body.
I distinctly remember the toes of my grandmother. The second toe of each foot overlapped its neighboring big toe. I always wondered how she was able to slide her shoes on her feet. In the past year, I’ve discovered the answer to that question; the toes on my left foot have taken a decided turn, fully embracing the DNA legacy she charted for me.
Another reminder of my family history is the pain that announced its arrival this summer, in both knees. Just like my dad and granddad, I find myself consciously considering the distance across a parking lot and assessing the number of stairs to desired destinations. That’s the frustration of this aging process; it reaches out and smacks awareness right into my very being.
Given these frailties, it is a happy surprise to find myself surrounded by handsome, young, adult men that seem to enjoy talking to me. From my eldest stepson, to my hair dresser and the nail technician, to the campus minister, to a young business man I’ve met through my work — each finds an opportunity to talk with me about things of importance to them.
Our discussions vary. One has problems with his children and another is trying to learn time management skills. They discuss their struggles with finances and decisions about whether to take new jobs or stay with the ones they know. My son contemplates marriage, wanting to choose the right partner so they’ll be just as happy as his dad and I.
These smart and delightful young people are seeking answers, checking out their options, and gaining confidence in themselves, just as I did when I was their age. They are maneuvering in a world that is often bewildering, sometimes harsh, and at times, heartless.
It pleases me that my age and those pesky wrinkles don’t seem to bother these nice fellows. I recall how much it meant to me to have the friendship of an adult that wasn’t my mom or dad. It humbles me to know that they are using me, just as I used those special relationships to find my path through unknown or difficult territory.
I have not fully embraced being old just yet. I believe this is simply another season of my life — I now buy nighttime eye cream by the gallon, I’ve found a decent price for the cushions I must wear in my shoes, and I wear a brace on my knee when I need to. These physical reminders of growing older are like the green leaves of summer as they evolve into the brilliant red, yellow, and oranges of fall.
Much like those colorful leaves full of chlorophyll, my life is filled with the radiance of God’s blessings. Rather than worrying about the onset of winter, I pray more and talk less, mindful of my role as the sensible elder.
I am energized by spending time and sharing with these younger adults who come alongside me, searching for their place and their happiness in the world. I like to think the grooves on this old “45” spinning around are creating sweet music; a weathered tune of grace, intended to be shared with others.
“One of the most pressing spiritual needs of our service men and women is to have a sense of rootedness whether at home or in combat, . . . an anchor to hold on to when everything is going to pieces.” Support The Upper Room Chaplains' Ministry.