Two weeks ago, I turned 70. My hair tells the story. It used to be a luxurious dark brown with red highlights that shone in the sun. Today, it looks like someone poured salt and pepper together on my head. My hairdresser says many women would kill for such "beautiful" hair. I say, when I look in the mirror, my hair shouts back at me, "Old!"
Back in the day (that phrase has a certain ring to it, don't you think?) when I was 5 1/2 (the "half" being important, as I was itching to be 6), my friend and I made a tent in the backyard by slinging a red blanket over a rope tied between two trees. One warm summer afternoon, we lay on the grass inside our tent and compared notes on the "old" people we knew. I thought I knew the oldest, my babysitter being 20.
The years went by, and I became a teenager, impatient to grow up, impatient to make my mark, impatient with oldsters who drove their cars at the pace of molasses and pushed their carts through grocery aisles like tortoises.
I became an improvisational dancer. I moved fast. I leapt high. I juggled two or three jobs at a time to stay alive. When I no longer danced professionally, I still worked at jobs that were demanding of both my physical and creative energies. I thought I would never slow down, never become old and frail with speckled hair. I am not yet hopelessly oldor frail (even though some 5 1/2 year olds might disagree), but I am slowing down. In the last several months I have actually pondered retiring. The idea is growing on me.
A profit and loss analysis may help here:
I still have all my teeth, but I can no longer go up in the air under my own power and come down--gracefully no less--in one piece. However, I woke up this morning.
There is no longer an endless future on the horizon. Probably a blessing. I notice more the gifts of each moment these days.
My family doesn't need me like they used to. (I don't even have aging parents to worry over any more!) But my extended family of church, nation and world has needs I can serve. And maybe I will steal some time with a good book, and just for a moment enjoy the feeling of not being needed in ways I used to be.
I used to dream I could change the world. Now I am sure that if I change just one moment for one person, I am changing the world.
I have choices, and hopefully will, in prayer and age-won consciousness and conscience, choose wisely. I no longer have to go to school, or do what my parents tell me, or be told how to think, pray or vote. Like my small granddaughter proudly said to me one recent morning at the breakfast table, before taking on a new responsibility, "I feel so mature."
There are opportunities out there, and now is the time to seize them. I heard someone play the bowed psaltery the other day. Gorgeous sound! Sure wish I could learn to play, but it's too late! Or, is it? I might live to be 90! I'll call for a catalogue tomorrow.
So now I count myself among those who drive extra carefully. Now I stroll along grocery store aisles. This summer, I am practicing what it might feel like to retire, to be an older person and enjoy it. I stay up as late as I want, get up at the first hint of dawn, and take a nap after lunch. I am teaching myself to crochet, am line dancing with friends, walking, bicycling, reading and writing. I am volunteering in my community. I am practicing accepting my limitations while at the same time increasing my options, and expanding my vision.
Speaking of vision, maybe it's time to take another look into the mirror, behold my speckled crown, and welcome it as a badge of honor for 70 years of life, growth, learning, gratitude, faith, and hope for a tomorrow filled with love and service.
"In your old age, I shall be still the same. When your hair is gray, I shall still support you." (Isaiah 46:4 Jerusalem Bible)
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