Sunday, June 06, 2004

How do I know my youth is all spent? 

Well, today I hung out with the elderly. No, I'm not talking about Noodles, even though her birthday is this week and for a few months I will be teasing her mercilessly about being older than I. Rather I'm referring to spending the day down in Tacoma and visiting Noodles' mother, great-aunt and former pastor.

Now I suppose I don't really think of my mother-in-law as elderly. I mean, sure she can order from the senior menu and all, but she's in my parents' generation and I'll always have this mental picture of them as middle-aged. (Just like I'll always have this mental picture of myself as a young geezer.)(Insert rolling eyeball smiley here.) But she has slowed down and has started to need help in getting around and taking care of some business and health things, so I guess I have to admit that she's getting old.

Now Noodles' great-aunt is about 15 years older, so I can think of her as elderly without reservation. She's house bound right now, as recent heart surgery has caused something to go wrong with her legs. We stopped by for a brief visit. If her body is failing her, her mind and spirit are doing just fine. She gave us a hearty welcome and had us laughing throughout our all too brief visit. Her home was a madhouse--as great-grandchildren were running about--and she seemed to love it as she recounted some of their shenanigans.

In contrast, Noodles' former pastor couldn't recount much of anything. He's afflicted with Alzheimer's and is living in a nursing home. He had some trouble speaking, but he welcomed us warmly. I'm pretty sure that he recognized Noodles and her sister, but he also welcomed me, despite the fact that we've only met a handful of times over the years. He also projected an aura of contentment with his situation with nary a hint of bitterness or sorrow. An embodiment of the Bible verse where St. Paul said he had learned to be content in all circumstances.

Y'know, I've heard a lot of people say that they'd rather die before they become infirm. I've had such thoughts myself. But today I was reminded that life is not what one can do, but how one does it. I mean, sure, losing my marbles or the ability to walk would be a bad thing. But the horror of the thought is more a blow to my pride than my happiness. I don't want to have to rely on others to take care of me. I don't want it rubbed in my face that I am not in control of the world around me, much less my own body. But that's the reality--and if the good Lord takes away some of the gifts He's given--c'est la vie. God grant that "in spite of it all, I'll be able to grin."