A dear friend, 6 significant years younger than I, contacted me feeling woebegone.
She’s about to turn forty and she feels lousy. Her eye-sight is suddenly failing, her metabolism is on strike, and her children – all under the age of 8 – think they are smarter than her despite her doctorate degree. She’d envisioned running a research department at a prestigious university by this age, but now she sits in a dingy diner trying to make out the blurry menu and not kick her rugrat crawling around under the table who just said, “those last people had weally good Fwench Fwies.” Sigh.
Since I’m about to turn forty five, I laughed my head off at her. I bought myself the sign above at a fun store in Rockaway Beach. Poor baby. She has no idea that she’s living the best times and that it’s downhill, fast, from there. See dear, we are now officially middle aged! That’s a true fact. Read it again.
It’s funny to me how 60 year-olds think they’re middle aged. Anyone that thinks we are not middle aged, is actually old and in denial about their status unless they think they will live to be 120. Which is not going to happen. Please scoot your walker forward, you’re knocking on geriatric. If you don’t own a walker yet, you can get one at the local senior center for a $5 donation. Go get it. I said, (a little louder, and with hand motions) go get it. You can thank me later. The only exception is my 100 year old resident who frequently observes, with disdain, other residents who are much younger than she, and says, “I hope I don’t act like that when I’m old.” Ha!
Our conversation called to mind these superb words from Ecclesiastes 12.
Remember your Creator
in the days of your youth,
before the days of trouble come
and the years approach when you will say,
“I find no pleasure in them”—
2 before the sun and the light
and the moon and the stars grow dark,
and the clouds return after the rain;
3 when the keepers of the house tremble,
and the strong men stoop,
when the grinders cease because they are few,
and those looking through the windows grow dim;
4 when the doors to the street are closed
and the sound of grinding fades;
when people rise up at the sound of birds,
but all their songs grow faint;
5 when people are afraid of heights
and of dangers in the streets;
when the almond tree blossoms
and the grasshopper drags itself along
and desire no longer is stirred.
Then people go to their eternal home
and mourners go about the streets.
6 Remember him—before the silver cord is severed,
and the golden bowl is broken;
before the pitcher is shattered at the spring,
and the wheel broken at the well,
7 and the dust returns to the ground it came from,
and the spirit returns to God who gave it.
The “keepers of the house” must be our muscles, “the strong men” our bones. The “grinders” are our teeth. By “fear of heights” the inspired writer means the curb. Be grateful that you can hop right up or down from it today, my dear. A time will come when you will pray that a Boy Scout (who might be a girl- don’t try to understand that) is walking by so it takes you 5 instead of 30 minutes to maneuver getting up or down that curb.
Is the silver cord our hair that will all have fallen off or is it our spinal cord whose reflexes will be calcified. Is the golden bowl our once brilliant PhD brain which will lead us to crawl under the table eating the previous occupants Fwench Fwies? Can you picture carrying a full pitcher and a walker, with shaky hands and a stooped back? Forget about it!
The “wheel… broken at the well” tells you there may be water down there but you ain’t getting it. Just about all you do takes too much effort and creates problems of its own. Or is the spilling, broken pitcher at the spring addressing the deficiencies of our bowel and bladder functions? Maybe that refers to the female process while the wheel with its defunct rope refers to the male. How annoying to have a bladder full of liquid, move heaven and earth to get to the bathroom, then dribble three drops of urine and be done? That is until you get back to your power recliner and you gotta go, NOW!
But don’t feel bad about this prognosis. There are numerous upsides to the aging process as your youth disappears, the best of which is you can say whatever you darn well please. I can’t remember the rest. But I do remember a brilliant quip some senior citizen came up with that goes something like:
“I can’t walk, I can barely talk, I can’t screw, I can’t poo, I can’t see, and I can’t hear. Good thing I still have my driver’s license!”
So my advice to you is from Ecclesiastes 11.
7 Light is sweet,
and it pleases the eyes to see the sun.
8 However many years anyone may live,
let them enjoy them all.
But let them remember the days of darkness,
for there will be many.
Everything to come is meaningless.
9 You who are young, be happy while you are young,
and let your heart give you joy in the days of your youth.
Follow the ways of your heart
and whatever your eyes see,
but know that for all these things
God will bring you into judgment.
10 So then, banish anxiety from your heart
and cast off the troubles of your body,
for youth and vigor are meaningless.
Scripture reference from the New International Version