Monday, March 3, 2008

On Growing Old

When I was a youngster, a person my age would have been considered old. I remember looking at my grandparents and being amazed at how old they were. They were in fact probably younger than I am now at that time. So, when is a person old? How do we know? Is age only a number? This essay seeks to examine some of these questions.

The modern concept is that yesterday’s sixty is really today’s forty. Yesterday’s eighty is today’s sixty. That would mean that as we get older, we are actually getting younger. Does that make any sense?

This is what I know. Recently I was putting my boat away for the winter. In the past this was a simple task that I accomplished with little effort. This time however, I had to have help from my wife. The job took much longer than it should have. We both came away from the experience with pains and pulled muscles. We got the job done but we asked ourselves, “How much longer can we do this? How much longer do we want to do this?”

I have taken note of many other things in my life that have changed. The old saying is that I used to be able to do that all day. Now it takes me all day to do that. I suspect all this is normal. I chide my aging friends that all of us must make concessions to our advancing years.

Growing older beats the alternative to be sure. Physically I can see changes, but mentally I am as young as ever. With each passing day I find myself more curious than ever. I continue to seek knowledge. I want to learn. This doesn’t strike me as traits of an old man.

Another thing I have learned is that there is a penalty for growing older. That penalty is to have to say good-bye to friends and loved ones. People come into our lives and people leave. People whom we knew in years past return to our thoughts and we suffer the pain of losing them to life’s only destination. Our lives are better for having known and loved them. Our memories are rich with thoughts of loved ones past and present. Our memories are a reward of our old age.

I look at my children and grandchildren and know they are my legacy. They are my gift to the world. As a father I am proud. The little ones are bright and inquisitive. They amaze me. They may have great accomplishments to give the world or they may just live out their lives as good citizens. Either way I feel proud as a grandfather as I watch for their latest exploits.

So how shall I spend the rest of the time allotted to me? I choose to continue to try to learn. I choose to try to continue to write and share my thoughts and opinions. I hope some of these writings may benefit a reader somewhere.

When one first lights a candle the flame is small. As the candle burns, the flame grows larger but the candle itself begins to grow smaller. At the end of the candles life, one is left with a wrinkled up mass of wax that doesn’t resemble its original shape or size, but the flame is at its brightest and warmest. Perhaps this is a metaphor for our life.

For me, life is a journey not a destination. I intend that my trip shall continue to be exciting, educational, and rewarding. Humans invented time and time is how some count our years on earth. We can choose to measure our lives by years or months or days or we can measure our lives by how we lived. We can measure our lives by our accomplishments. My fervent hope is that my obituary will read, “His was a life well lived.”

Ron Scarbro February 2008

1 comment:

The Profit Center, Inc. said...

Aging is an entirely different process than "growing old", or so it seems to me.

I, your ever-faithful son-in-law, have noticed some of the very same physical characteristics, but...

Even though I am officially "Middle-aged" as determined by actuarial charts, I only now feel that I'm blossoming as a person.

Like you, my curiosity is unbounded and I think that is a common thread of people who remain vibrant at any age.

But, for myself, I've learned a more important lesson (and due in no small part to yourself and your lovely wife) which is to appreciate what you have, where you are and what you are doing. This, I've found, is a most crucial lesson for happiness.

There are a million and one things that I cannot do; and they are probably growing day-by-day. But what I CAN do is (thankfully) vitally important to a lot of people.

Each day I focus on cultivating my unique gifts and on serving more and more people in better and better ways. This, I've found, is one of the keys to happiness.

Your essays remain, as always, on target and a testament to their namesake... Wisdom For Living.