“Most people don’t grow up. Most people age. They find parking spaces, honor their credit cards, get married, have children, and call that maturity. What that is, is aging.”
~ Maya Angelou
“The afternoon knows what the morning never suspected.”
~ Robert Frost
I met our oldest grandson ten years ago when he was two years old and I was forty six. His grandmother and I had met a short time before and she warned me ahead of time that he was perfect and that she was not interested in a relationship with anyone who didn’t fit like a welcomed glove with her family. I recall like it was yesterday my anxiety in anticipation of that first meeting. One-by-one I was introduced to her family, and then, finally, I met Joey. We went almost immediately to the backyard where I pulled him around in a little red wagon until I feared my arm would fall off, which would likely have been the end of my efforts to win him over, and his grandmother as well. As providence would have it, about the time I could no longer feel my arms or legs, Joey climbed out of the wagon and scooted over to the Little Tikes swing suspended by yellow ski rope from a frazzled red oak. I hoisted him up into the seat, secured him there, and gave his red plastic cocoon a gentle push. Joey giggled his approval. I slowly relaxed, and began to enjoy the moment as well. He was visibly contented seesawing back and forth in his cozy cockpit, so much so that he fell asleep to the rhythm of the swing. He was out, and I was in.
Joey’s grandmother and I married less than a year later, and as soon as he was comfortable sleeping away from mom and dad we began a Friday night ritual. I would drive in from working out of town and Joey would be waiting for me in our home. Weekends began the same way each week with what we still affectionately call the “sock game.” Joey and I, in turn, would take a running start on shoeless feet and launch ourselves into a slide down our wood floor hallway, measuring our ending mark against the other’s. Occasionally, we added a sleeping bag to the mix as a landing pad for knees and a sled to add distance to our slides. As Joey matured and I aged, he became more proficient at our sock game and I less so. Eventually he outgrew our weekend soirées, and the sock game went the way of Chinese checkers.
For whatever reason, Joey announced early last week that on Friday night we were going to relive his childhood sleepovers and have a rollicking grandfather-grandson night, which began, of course, with the resurrected sock game. Time plays cruel tricks on the body and I quickly remembered that I am not the man I once was, at least when it comes to sliding down a hallway in socks. To be honest, I held my own at first against the twelve-year-old would-be sock Olympian, but when Joey threw the sleeping bag sled into the mix things went south–literally. I hurtled down the hallway and dropped downward toward the nylon sled, but instead of landing on my knees as intended, I plopped backward awkwardly onto my tailbone. To this day I’m unclear as to the Creator’s intent for this piece of human anatomy, but suffice to say it falls far short as a shock absorber. I fell back stunned, surprised at the amount of pain ruminating from my backside, and in the same instance it hit me–an old man should be wiser than to pit himself against a limber youth, at least when it comes to sliding down hallways.
Aging wastes time waiting on dejavue. I am not and cannot be the man I once was. Many endure each day attempting to recover something that was lost; the problem being they can’t determine exactly what it is that’s missing. The key to navigating the incessant flow of years is learning from the past while refusing to repeat it. Wrestling with aging is an unavoidable occupational hazard, but maturity seizes the moment, holds it up to the light of experience, and responds with patient resolve to live better. Aging is a double edged sword–hardened by fatigue & failure, yet softened by wisdom forged from experience. Learn as much as you can from this life; others are watching to see what they may learn from you.
“The righteous flourish like the palm tree, and grow like a cedar in Lebanon. They are planted in the house of the Lord; they flourish in the courts of our God. In old age they still produce fruit; they are always green and full of sap, showing that the Lord is upright; he is my rock, and there is no unrighteousness in him.”
Psalms 92:12-15 | NRSV