My Dear Sons,
It’s early, but that’s nothing new, I always wake up at three or four a.m. these days with early morning heat flashes. It isn’t a glamorous reason to greet the morning, but it works.
It sets me to thinking. I have no control over it (spare me the hormone pills, they don’t set well) so I just keep something to read on my bedside table, since reading helps me go back to sleep…until the next heat flash. Sometimes I get up and do things, taking advantage of the internal alarm clock, but when I do, mid-morning I hit the wall of exhaustion… So we work with it. One day at a time, some days better than others.
So as I get older I realize there is a profound difference emerging. I control less and less of how my body reacts and bounces back. Like last night, the full moon was such that I could only stare in wonder at the sky. But I noticed that the moon isn’t quite as perfect as it used to be…. things have gotten just so ever slightly more fuzzy around the edges. I have no control over that, it is evidence of my age. I’m not complaining, but it’s hard not to notice and grieve just a little. Most of the time it’s no problem, and I accept and embrace God’s gift of ongoing life and good health, but there are those moments when I have a hint of panic, not because of the symptoms of age, but because of the realization about how little control we have over so much.
In this media saturated culture we constantly note the toll age takes on our appearance. The wrong stuff is important. You can’t go through a grocery check out line without seeing actresses that were once breathtakingly beautiful, rendered almost unrecognizable by all the plastic surgery they get to keep them in the end, not looking like a younger version of themselves, but like somebody else. In spite of their technological and medically aided denial, age changes them too, no matter how much money they have. Who on earth was more stunning than say, Elizabeth Taylor in her youth. But in the end….her personal habits caught up with her and she wore them on her face. But even if she’d been a marathon runner, by the time she hit 50, she’d still look like a 50 year old runner. But she is me. No, I’ve never looked like THAT, and we don’t share any semblance of a lifestyle but what happened to her is happening to me. Having such a unique level of beauty, she had further to fall.
But appearance isn’t what concerns me. It’s the sense of loss of control and independence. It’s being more frail and so more vulnerable. Yesterday I saw in the news where an 82 year old woman in San Francisco was in the wrong place at the wrong time and was physically assaulted and nearly killed. Age teaches me that as it increases, I must rely more and more on the best or worst urges of any person present to be safe. If they decide to be an aggressor, I am not as strong to defend myself as I once was. That is frightening. But that is inevitable.
So today I am asking for your mercy. Growing old gracefully is not automatic, it takes work. I am here and now going to make a commitment, a contract of sorts with you. I want to set an example, because boys, you are aging too. I want never to lose that sense of urgency. To wake up each morning giving thanks to God for the morning. To proceed into the day determined to see what causes wonder. To tell people thank you. To address issues, even when it is difficult, maybe because it is difficult. You aren’t here, so you won’t be seeing it, but your Dad will, and he will benefit from it. I want you to know we won’t sit back on our laurels and get lazy on purpose. We do this because we are Christians, we do this because we are forgiven in Christ, we do this because we want to be the kind of people you can respect, even when you are not looking.
Having you boys was life-changing. I never want to lose the wonder; not only in being part of bringing new life into the world, but in seeing life as a precious investment of time God has entrusted us with, regardless of the more faltering countenance it may bring with it.