“The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.” - Andy Rooney
I’ve been pondering western culture’s failure to cherish, care for, and tap the amazing wisdom of elders. Yes, I know we are a culture that worships youth, and our economy is fueled by the belief that your value lies the amount of money you make. But why, when the body slows and an older person’s greatest asset becomes their lifetime of experiences, aren’t we able to downshift with them and ask the questions that plague us all?
How does it feel to grow old?
Do you have any regrets?
Are you afraid to die?
If you could go back and change one thing, what would it be?
What were your happiest and saddest moments?
If you could talk to anyone, who would it be and what would you talk about?
I lost my mother back in 2019, and while I was caring for her we talked about some of these things. I only regret not starting to ask her sooner. We ran out of time before I got to the really big stuff, like why she abruptly abandoned her religion, and why she found it so easy to give to others but not to herself.
What I learned from mom was that it is possible to age without growing old. She viewed her body’s gradual failures as either minor inconveniences or as if they were happening to someone else. She knew, of course, that she’d had heart surgery, her blood sugar was routinely too high, both hips had needed replacing, and her eyesight was giving her trouble. But none of that ever seemed to keep her from taking pleasure in living her life. In addition to a long list of volunteer activities and weekly visits to her blind friend for 22 years, she would call me just to discuss politics, who as driving her nuts at her weekly bridge game, and the latest plot developments in the book we were reading. So, though she didn’t care much for music, I think my mom would love this song. Let’s listen:
Of course, this can be seen as a love song to one person, but what if we expanded the “you” in the phrase, “I was made for you” to include all people? I was made for you - all of you. The songwriter clearly understands that a story needs to be heard and passed on to someone to have meaning. So what if each of us chose one of the lines on our face and told the story behind it? I’ll go first.
The line that always draws my attention and puzzles me is the one across my forehead. It has been there for as long as I can remember (even as a child), and I can remember my grandmother telling me not to frown because it would give me wrinkles!
Now, take a look at your own face. Is there a wrinkle or scar that tells a story about you? We’d love to hear it.
Copyright 2021 by Jena Ball. All Rights Reserved.