Thursday, May 2, 2013

There was a time when I could---but I can’t

Most of us who have reached the October Years understand the subtle and often hard-won maturity we've gained over time. That is a reality I try to convey in my Tanner Chronicles stories. And I like to think that maturity is part of the person I've become. 

The truth is, mature or not, at age 77 I can’t do some of the things I once did. I generally deal with that sad fact by telling myself that I must accept my limitations and concentrate instead on what I’m still able to do. Perhaps it’s a guy thing---coming to terms with the sad fact that self-esteem is no longer won by doing what I do better than you or someone else does it. Ego satisfaction has ceased to be a competitive exercise. 

After all, you and I have been around the block a time or two, and hopefully we’ve learned a few things along the way. Though our culture may not value the “wisdom of the elders” the way some societies do, I know that I’ve gained a lot of know-how over the years. I’ll bet you have too.

So, why don’t I pay more attention to what I’ve learned?

My son’s request was simple enough. He needed an extra pair of hands taking down a storm window. He’d seen his dad do that a time or two. So when he ran into a two-man job he asked for my help. After all, I knew what to do and how to do it safely. 

True, the window was large---six feet by six feet, and heavy too. But it was my son asking. He needed help. Was I supposed to tell him his old man couldn’t handle that?
Long story short---when I tripped over the limb I should have seen lying there, Terry managed to hold that heavy sheet of glass, wrapped only in a flimsy metal frame, upright. While I grumbled about a bruised hip and scraped knee he gave me time to get back to my feet and do my part. Had he not been able to do that I would have been wearing a sheet of broken glass around my neck.

In the face of that graphic evidence, I am reminded again that our October Years are not about giving up or admitting defeat---but they are a time for being realistic, for having the courage not to attempt what may have been doable once upon a time, but no longer is.

It’s a simple admission I’m talking about. One that shouldn’t be so hard to do---except when it’s your own offspring who is asking for help, or perhaps a grandchild who must hear the distressing news that Grandpa “doesn’t do that any more.” Though I rarely confess that “I can’t,” I am getting better at explaining that “I don’t.”
I guess that means I’m still learning---even at my age. What about you? If you’ve been in that space, I’d like to hear how you dealt with it. Let me know, won’t you?


  1. Good reminders about accepting 'where you're at' -- but I also love the image of your son holding onto that glass and not letting it crash around you. That the role of strength and protection that our kids see in us when they are young is something that they 'pick up' and take on as their own as we age. Not a bad reality that.

  2. Amy -- You're right, of course. Long before we even realize it, we parents are serving as role models for our children. In my case, it makes me think their mother did a really good job.