What I know that I didn’t before
Number your days while there’s still time
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My husband doesn’t like it when I tell people I’m old. Maybe he doesn’t like the idea of being married to an old lady.
In any case, there is little payoff from dropping one’s age, a practice which begins about age 37. Your hearer is expected to say, “You don’t look that old!” but he is looking at you like you’re a self-deceived old geezer. Not a good look. He doesn’t realize that beneath your nonchalant exterior you are terrified and pathetically fishing for reassurance.
The first house I ever lived in, ages 0 to 4, had a nursing home across the street. It may as well have been across the Bering Strait. It had a lovely wraparound porch with rocking chairs on it, and old people rocking on them. I watched from the other side of the chasm. It dawns on me now that they were born within five to 10 years of the end of the Civil War. Wish I had been a precocious child and interviewed them.
Old age was a different country, one I never believed I would visit. Old people were another species, placed on earth for the purpose of rounding out family photos. Between us stretched the shoreless and amorphous landscape of my parents’ 20-somethings to early and late middle-agers. They all looked the same to a child: old.
I was 24 last year. English philosopher Thomas Hobbes (1588-1679) lived to be 91 but called life “nasty, brutish, and short.” Jacob concurred, who lived to be 147: “Few and difficult have been the days of the years of my life” (Genesis 47:9).
This week I sent a letter to Clint Eastwood (who turns 93 on May 31) when I found out his ancestor is William Bradford (1590-1657). It’s a message in a bottle, but I figure that, first, the governor of Plymouth Colony surely prayed for his descendants, and second, the God who guided the Aramean’s random arrow (1 Kings 22:34) is able to guide my gospel letter if He wants to. (Young people, you can google who Clint Eastwood is.)
My counsel to the young is to let the shortness of life inform all your calculations and decisions (Psalm 90:12). Want to forgo marriage in order to advance your career at some company? Fine. But keep in mind that when you’re on your deathbed the HR department is not going to come and hold your hand.
Want to divorce your spouse because you’re not happy? Paul has a better idea: “Are you bound to a wife? Do not seek to be loosed.” Then the reason: “The time is short … the form of this world is passing away” (1 Corinthians 7:27-31). You can bear with any momentary disappointments for the sake of the Big Prize. Besides, many a person has jumped from the frying pan into the fire. We do not see around the bend. God does, and it will be better for the person who does things His way.
Ask good questions before it’s too late. My father died at 98, and now I want to ask him what his father used to say when I was a child on New Year’s Day at family gatherings and he gathered all the uncles privately in a room and they knelt before him and he blessed and said words over them.
Tucker Carlson, 54, faced firing, not old age (though I notice he keeps mentioning his age; see paragraph 2), but he had the same epiphany as I, that we should tell our loved ones every day that we love them.
When I was young, I always wondered how old men could find old women attractive and even be in love with them. I understand it now. As a person born in the ’50s, you want to hang out with someone who remembers soda fountains, drive-in movies and where they were the day JFK was killed and when they first heard the Beatles.
See you on the other side of the chasm.
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