Weekly Writing Challenge: The Golden Years


 I am just now submitting last week’s Weekly Writing Challenge, which said, in summary, “to explore what age means to you”.

In a mere one year and seven months, I will be as old as the cassette tape.  How old is that you ask?  Well, that would be a half-century, fifty years old, and a milestone.  I have heard it called the youth of old age.  Currently, I am hanging out in the old age of youth.

When I was a mere youngster, I viewed the elderly with wonder.  I could often make them smile with my antics and as I have mentioned before, I coveted attention.  My wrinkly friends were interesting with their silver hair and glasses, and their candy producing pockets.  I remember shrieking with delight as they stole my nose, or tickled my tummy.

Although I was certainly raised to have the utmost respect for my elders and always have outwardly, my thoughts were not as kind as I approached my teen years.  I lost interest in what they had to say and misinterpreted their unsolicited advice as intrusive and somewhat provincial.  I misread love and concern for fault-finding, dismissing their opinions as I would an unwanted suitor.  After all, what could they possibly know about my situation?  I sometimes lacked patience with stories I had heard countless times and became frustrated by their slower gait or by having to repeat myself.

As I faced my own trials in life, I often failed to listen to and learn from those possessing that hard-earned wisdom.  I could have saved myself so much pain and I could have gleaned so much!  But, my story isn’t a new one and I have been on the other end of that kind of stubbornness and know-it-all mentality myself now.

I don’t recall exactly when fresh waves of realization began to hit me regarding the need to learn from those above me in age and wisdom, but it may have been around the time I lost my mother, before she ever reached the 50-year milestone.  Life as I had always known it was forever altered.  The old adage, “you don’t know what you have until it’s gone” resounded in my soul, no longer shrouded by unfamiliarity, but suddenly crystal clear to me.  Her death left me questioning everything and angry that she wouldn’t be here to continue being “Nana” to my 6 year old or the baby I was carrying.

Not too long after her death, I made my peace with God and found solace in His embrace.  As a result, I began to re-think a lot of things.  I noticed the elders of the church and realized their steadfastness, through trial and hardship.   Their examples were an inspiration to me and I began to feel a deep sense of gratitude for their prayers.  No longer were the “stories” taxing my nerves.  I began to appreciate the experience and knowledge their lives had rewarded them with.  My respect and love for them was once again freely given.

Now, as I ponder the approaching “golden years”, I already have a taste of what being older brings.  Some things, like achy joints and not so perfect vision, are annoying to say the least.  But some of the other things, like wisdom and experience and a new found freedom to be just who you are without fear, are priceless.

I am not afraid of death and what is on the other side of life, but if I am transparent, sometimes, I admit, it’s the aging that scares me.  I think I am more afraid of being alive when no “life” remains.  I know many people feel the same way.

My prayer is that for the remainder of my life on this earth, I will be a wise mentor; that I will share faith. hope and love and be a confidante and friend to those younger than I.  I am blessed to have known many wonderful “golden age” people and it’s my turn to press forward, bravely, on the path to being one of them.

Shuffling a little slower now

-Elderly couple comfort each other

-Elderly couple comfort each other (Photo credit: Gordon T Lawson)

They walked out of CVS together, cars impatiently waiting for them to make their way slowly through the crosswalk.  I watched the struggle with empathy, silently imagining what their long history together might have entailed.  They both approached the car and she slowly and carefully got in the passenger side.  He opened the driver’s side car door wincing, as if the mere action of pulling it open caused him pain.  Then, he took his time to gently fold himself down into the seat.  After several minutes, they were on their way.

My eyes see an elderly couple; the lady had white hair and a matching polyester outfit gracing her petite frame, full makeup and glasses and sensible shoes.  She had a plastic bag sporting the store logo in her hand and the contents, 2 boxes of frosted flakes,were visible.  I smiled.  The man was stooped over, bald and moved as though arthritis or some other painful disease was taking its toll on him.  I could see the vexation in his eyes as he struggled to do the small tasks that only a few years ago were likely very easy for him.

As they drove away, their mouths moving in conversation, I began to wonder if they felt as old as they looked.  I wondered if there are things they can no longer do, and if that frustrates them greatly.  I thought about children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren and wondered if they had any of these and if so, did they visit?  Were the boxes of frosted flakes for them or their grandchildren?  Were their lives happy ones or did they face each day with increasing loneliness or fear at what the future holds?

I remember a time, not long ago in the grand scheme of things, when my first thought may have been that they probably shouldn’t even be driving and I may have been one of those impatient drivers in the crosswalk, rushing about.  As I grow older myself, my patience increases and my compassion grows.  I am reminded once again, that life is short.  We need to live out every moment and love the ones God has placed in our lives, to tell them and to show them each and every day.  Life can be stressful and we are all too busy with so many things that don’t really matter.  Can we show more respect, love and appreciation to the elderly in our community?

I know how it can feel like there just aren’t enough hours in the day.  Sometimes you do make the time to reach out and love.  You may call or visit or write, yet, the person on the receiving end doesn’t seem to appreciate it or you feel like it’s never enough.

Whatever the case, do it anyway.  Make a day brighter, help quench the pangs of loneliness.  For you and I, my friends, will be there soon enough.

Mitch Teemley

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