I’ve Got a Bone to Pick with Getting Older

When I was a kid, I thought virtually all adults were approximately the age of Methuselah. I specifically recall thinking that my kindergarten teacher, Mrs. Cole, who was probably no more than 40, had to be at least 70. While at church every Sunday, I would gaze around the sanctuary, noting all of the geriatrics (this would have been virtually all of the parishioners), and wondering things like “will they be dying soon?”

The other thing I can remember distinctly is that I thought “when I get older, I will never look that old, I will never get fat (like so many of “these people”), I will never wear reading glasses on a chain around my neck”, and so on. I was the epitome of the whole young and immortal thing. I didn’t revel in it, because after all, I had parents and grandparents, all of whom were ancient too, and I very much wanted them to be around for a long time, so it isn’t like I was trying to push these fogeys toward the Old Folks’ Home, I just felt like there were two groups of people — young people like me, and gray hairs. Not much of an in between, although I had older cousins, and I was aware that they had not yet reached AARP age, but they were the exception, and not the rule.

Now that I have passed 50, and need reading glasses (albeit not on a cord around my neck just yet), have pains in joints and my lower back, of course my perspective has changed. I’m not subscribing to that “50 is the new 40” baloney, but my definition of old has changed. Those of you that have occasionally seen me post on Facebook about the “widow dowagers” at my church will understand that it is women like that (and their male counterparts) that are now old. And even they can have a twinkle in their eye pretty regularly, so I know they’re still kicking.

I saw a documentary the other day on Harper Lee. Since she hasn’t given a public interview since 1964, she was not interviewed for this piece either, but her sister was. Her sister, the 99 year-old, still-practicing attorney. She had glasses as thick as a short novel, and was kind of hunched over a little,  and had a distinctly “old” sounding voice, but she seemed fine otherwise. 99! Harper herself, who attended law school at the University of Alabama with my father, and was about a week older than he, is only 87, so we know she has quite a ways to go.

But what are we supposed to do as we get older? How are we supposed to act?

I remember my next door neighbor, a retired judge, but still-practicing attorney, was very dour and serious all the time. He could laugh, and even had a pretty dry wit, but 95% of the time he was as I described him. Had he always been that way? Had he been an overly-serious child? Or had he, at some point along the path of life, decided “it is time to put away childish things”? I don’t know. It isn’t as though I have tried to fend off aging by intentionally acting juvenile. It is simply that it is not my nature to look as though I have just finished penning a brief for an argument before the Supreme Court or prepared to read a eulogy at someone’s funeral.

The other day at church, there was a Mom and her young son sitting in the pew in front of me. The youngster was none too pleased about having to sit in church, and I could relate to that, since I had been dragged to church kicking and screaming a few times when I was about his age. The kid was a fidgeter, just like I had been at his age.

My voice tends to “boom” a little, so during one of the prayers that is read aloud by the congregation, the boy turned around and looked at me, and I just sort of looked down at him and nodded. He didn’t quite know what to make of that, or how he should interpret it. So a few minutes later during another prayer, he turned around and looked at me again. This time I held my hand up for a high-five, but I whispered to him “not a loud one!”. His Mom turned and apologized, and of course I said “oh please don’t worry about it. He’s fine.”

I wondered to myself if that little boy had thought to himself “that guy is as old as Methuselah, but he’s OK!”

But I bet he still thought “won’t be much longer for him…” Ha!

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: