Most of us who have reached our October Years can appreciate the subtle and often hard-won maturity we've gained over time. That is a reality I try to refllect in my Tanner Chronicles stories. Moreover, I like to think those life-lessons are a part of the person I've become. So why hasn’t that maturity of mine served me better?
The truth of course begins with the sobering fact that, mature or not, at age 77 I can no longer do some of the things I once did. 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. Of necessity, ego satisfaction has ceased to be a competitive exercise. In my more lucid moments I deal with that sad fact by reminding myself that I must accept my limitations and concentrate instead on those things I’m still able to do.
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?
Example #1 -- I told this little story last year, certain that I had learned my lesson and there would never be a reason to repeat it. The fact that I’m back to retell it gives you some idea of how well I listened to my own advice.
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. And why not? 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 some 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 on 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.
Fast-forward a mere two months. August 2013. It’s a bright sunny morning. I’m up on a ladder, painting the house. Suddenly, before I realize what is happening, I’ve fallen four or five feet and kissed the very-hard ground with my shoulder. I’ve recounted the resulting damages elsewhere -- broken ribs, punctured lung, etc. Suffice to say, my learning experience was long and painful. However, if nothing else I would learn that pain is an effective teacher---but only if the student is ready to learn.
Fact is, some of us are slow learners. Why else would I be sitting here, wondering about living life with one good arm and one good leg? Meanwhile we are scheduled to see the doctor today for an update on the newly fractured pelvis and broken arm. Alas, in the course of acting like a forty-five year old, life has sent me another learning moment.
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 good sense 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---straight-forward advice that shouldn’t be hard to follow---except when it’s a good friend or 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. And giving thanks every day for the caring prayers that surround me and the enabling help that Roma and Terry provide. What about you? If you’ve been in that "learning"space, I’d like to hear how you dealt with it. Let me know in a comment below, won’t you? In the meantime, be careful out there in October-land.