Health, smealth. There’s always something, right? You’d think I was getting older, know what I mean? The simple things, like bending over just aren’t so simple any more, if you catch my drift. Oh wait, that’s me drifting over to one side trying to get my foot inside my jeans. And what’s with that third toe? That little jolt, like an electric shock when my feet hit the floor in the morning? Seriously, that toenail that always wants to be in-grown, it’s gone its wayward route and will need rescuing, again.
Rescuing billows of stamina and strength are what’s needed for my friends who wear the badge of diabetes and must be vigilant warriors against the onslaught of their own body’s attack. They fight the battle against sugar as it masquerades, innocent looking; its luscious aromas wafting; its delirium inducing sugar hiding in bread and vegetables, not to mention candies, cakes, pies and donuts. It’s a choice you have to make, if you have any ailment.
Do you want to feel look or do you want to eat that thing you think you can’t live without? Green it’s worse that than. It’s do you want to live by eating the right things bracelets or do you want to lose your toes to gangrene or your eyesight or…? You pick the worst case, because when the body fails F it gets ugly.
Those years you felt invincible, those years you felt unstoppable, those years you craved excitement, those years have flown and left in their wake: reality. The reality of lowered expectations; reality of acceptance of limitations; reality of gratefulness for any movement, any progress, any staunching of the drag of gravity that pulls, moment by moment, towards that dust to dust, towards that ashes to ashes.
On the other hand, if the media is to be believed, you don’t have to grow old, you can wave away those wrinkles, those brown spots, that double chin, those sagging jowls. It only costs money. And what’s money after all? Can’t take it with you, right? While that may make sense for the beautiful people, those stars and celebrities whose persona requires only the best and who have the money it takes to stay beautiful, what about the rest of us? The common folk, the regular people, the average of us who aren’t living on the street by any means, but who have to budget and conserve for the future and can only splurge once in a while? What about us?
Shouldn’t there be a beauty to the art of growing old gracefully? I’ve seen that grace. Think about Mother Theresa. She gave her time, her energy, her life to help the less fortunate and the lines on her face were like a map of her devotion. They grew heavier and deeper and spread until the whole surface was covered.
I saw that grace in my own father, who loved God first and that love spilled out into how he treated my Mother and his kids and grand kids and great and great-great-grand kids – all his progeny. He wasn’t afraid to love us unconditionally and he kept on doing the right thing as he grew old and knew there would be a limit to what he could do and how long he would be here, yet, even as he accepted that old dried age and dying were a part of life, he never gave in either. He counted calories and had a goal runner of where he wanted his weight to stay and up until late dark in his eighty-eighth year, he walked three miles a day, lugged the edger and lawn mower around the yard, climbed ladders and hefted power tools and saw weeded the garden.
What about me? Will I choose to see the value of acceptance balanced against the task of staying fit and on the move? I tell Mother that if she only sits and never moves, her bones will calcify, she’ll be stuck in one position. Easy for me to say, but when I’m in pain as she is, will I keep moving? How long will I buy the best wrinkle creams and do what it takes to keep my hair looking its best?
How can it be that my worth, my value, my importance are tied up in this world when it’s the soul that longs to soar and fly the heights of eternity, free of the shell of wrinkles and pain and limitations? How can I not see that it is life, it is breath that is important and it is the real interior me that is destined for never dying? Not this shell, not my hands with spots here and there and veins that stand up where once they were smooth; not the widows peaks under the hair I pull forward on my face to hide my receding hairline, and the spot above my right ear where the hair is not only turning white, it’s so thin I have to cut it just right to camouflage that increasingly bald spot; and not my funky endocrine system with its thyroid disease, its fatigued adrenals and malfunctioning hormones. These don’t define who I am. They will all fall away and my eyes will for once and ever clearly see the truth.
Then I will sing out in chorus with William Wordsworth: “Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: the soul that rises with us, our life’s star, hath had elsewhere its setting and cometh from afar. Not in entire forgetfulness, and not in utter nakedness, but trailing clouds of glory do we come from God, who is our home.”