To Sir, With Love

“It is not true that people stop pursuing dreams because they grow old, they grow old because they stop pursuing dreams.” ― Gabriel García Márquez

Seniors - Green Street Baptist ChurchAt our church, we used to have an early in the morning Sunday worship service. As I would look around, it seemed to be mostly attended by the older generation. Probably difficult for families, especially those with young children to get all ready. They would go to the later second service.

Several years ago I had a jolting experience at this “senior” worship service. A little old man whose hand I was shaking called me “sir.” He wasn’t trying to be funny. He meant it with respect. My shock hit me in the moments afterward when I realized I’m being called “sir” by a senior adult. What had happened to me? I don’t think I was limping or being especially wise. Had I unconsciously drifted into AARP territory?

“It’s paradoxical that the idea of living a long life appeals to everyone, but the idea of getting old doesn’t appeal to anyone.” ― Andy Rooney

The same thing is happening at the checkout counter. The kids, at least those who speak, are calling me “sir” as well. All I’m doing there is complaining about how high the prices are.  Am I becoming the grumpy old man? I’m also being conversational and telling stale jokes. Is that too grandpa?

The Open Road Story - Stetson Stories

As I contemplate all of these jolting experiences, perhaps I’ve contributed to the situation by starting to wear my LBJ Stetson hat. But not in church! Looking in the mirror, am I starting to look less like the dashing young character that inhabits my inner imagination more like my grandfather?

We’re all comrades around here

University faculty are surrounded by people calling them by their official titles. There’s a layer of formality that exists in most classrooms. Although, where I work, almost all of my fellow faculty are the age of my children. For some reason they take great pleasure in referring to me by my first name. Older faculty don’t do that.

So at work, I usually don’t feel old before my time. Until I start talking too much about “the old days.” Another stereotype about the aged?

“At 50, everyone has the face he deserves.” ― George Orwell

I’m teaching classes about society to students who no longer watch television. In my criminology class a few weeks ago, only one student had ever heard of Hannibal Lecter?? Our popular culture experiences are quickly diverging. Each year I feel like I’m drifting further and further away on a rowboat with no paddles.

Jerry Stiller's Greatest Moments on 'Seinfeld' - The RingerAt the movie theater recently, I caught myself yawning. It wasn’t even dark outside yet. Am I becoming like the old guys on TV I keep laughing at?

I’m repeating myself in conversations. Talking way too much to people who are not that interested (including my classes?) Even talking to myself while at home alone. But last week I caught myself talking out loud to myself at the store. A couple of people were giving me that funny look. What keeps me safe is the current practice of having phone conversations out loud – and all we see (maybe) is that AirPod sticking out of the ears. Maybe I can pass as someone who’s “with it”?

“Wisdom is the reward for surviving our own stupidity.” ― Brian Rathbone

Apple AirPods Pro: Secret Tips and Tricks

Think about all those ideas we have in our heads about what it means to get older. All those commercials on TV don’t help. Nothing is out of bounds anymore: adult diapers, hearing aids, hair loss, constipation, even Dr. Rick keeping us from becoming like our parents! Seems like there’s some serious deterioration going on.

The way we think about aging is changing for several reasons:

  1. Baby Boomers are all in their 60’s and 70’s
  2. Our fantastic healthcare has made life so much better for older people
  3. Seniors are much more engaged in their own wellness
  4. Incomes have risen each generation, most people are able to have a second life in retirement instead of having to work “until they drop”

“Keeping up the appearance of having all your marbles is hard work, but important.” ― Sara Gruen

It was only yesterday (that’s how old people think, right?) that we were taking care of my wife’s aging parents. Today, I think about who will be left to take care of me? When my in-laws started to physically decline, it seemed to me that it just happened too quickly. I have friends with aging parents whose decline has not been fast. This is a blessing and a curse. More time to share with family but healthcare concerns expanding. If aging family members live far away, this is another layer of worry. My wife walked around with strain on her brow because her parents were five hours away and she couldn’t be with them spontaneously. She also felt guilty about the burden put on her sisters who did live near. At the same time, she was fighting her own medical crisis. You see? It gets complicated.

Aging is still about relating

Those little old men at church are being welcoming and friendly towards me. Speaking to the young people in the service industry keeps us all human. Hanging on to your aging relatives and not seeing them as a problem to be solved makes life richer for everyone, especially your own kids who are watching.

It always seems to come down to relationships. Your investment in the lives of others produces benefits for layers of people, friends, family, strangers and foes.

Free Stock Photo of row of boats on the beach | Download Free Images and Free Illustrations

I can’t believe that I have to explain what “a rising tide lifts all boats” means to my students. When we give ourselves to others, we are making the larger world a better place in which to live – for so many more than we know.

Stopping the aging process isn’t going to happen. Doing something meaningful today while on the way toward your next birthday can happen. Just think about it.

“Wisdom comes with winters” ― Oscar Wilde


*Pass this blog on to someone else who might be interested

One thought on “To Sir, With Love

  1. In my criminology class a few weeks ago, only one student had ever heard of Hannibal Lecter?? Tell me it isn’t so…….WOW!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s