Greetings and Happy February!!
I recently had a birthday. It wasn’t a “big” or milestone birthday, and it wasn’t exciting. In fact, I was nursing a very painful pinched nerve. So I was chair-bound, needed to be escorted to the bathroom, and was doing drugs for pain. Joseph took the week off from work to care for me, and as much as I was glad and grateful that he was with me, I was sad for his clients who were missing their therapeutic massage.
Nobody wants all that on their birthday, right? So I was having myself a little pity party as I watched mindless television and poked around online for something to keep my brain from turning to mush.
As I was reading some local news article, I saw a familar name. It was Paul’s, the older brother of long-ago friends, and a priest. I got to know him one summer when he stayed at the shore house I shared with his sisters. I remember him as a funky guy, unique and a bit whimsical.
As is typical for me when someone crosses my mind, I googled his name. To my surprise, I found him! He’s still around, still active, and doing priest stuff in Philly, including some writing. As I checked out a list of his articles, I saw one that was birthday-appropriate: “I’m old thank God”.
I’m not old. Nothing in me can admit to being old, older, or even getting old. However, since I was admitedly sidelined with pain…on my birthday… I was intrigued by the title. I started reading.
Past vs. Future
In his article, the seventy-something Paul recognized that his age is a gift. Gift? Clearly Paul doesn’t worry about lines and wrinkles or gray hair. But, he made the point that many people never get to his age. Like my younger brother, who died two years ago. OK, point taken.
Paul wrote that, in his mental meanderings, he discovered an age-related shortcoming to his ministry. He explained how, every week before Mass, he thanks the young people who come to church, telling them “you are our future.” He suddenly wondered why he never thanked the older people.
As he thought about it, Paul acknowledged that the older ones “have borne the heat of the day. They are filled with memories and stories.”
Yes, of course, and while younger people represent progress, the older ones enable us to measure that progress. And, Paul wrote, “Young people stand on our shoulders. We should be proud of that. And they should be too.”
When you and I talk to friends of our same age, we talk about the difference between our earlier days and those of our kids and grandkids. For example, for us, marriage was an expected step, followed by a couple children (in that order). Living together was taboo, so if you were doing it, you kept it hidden. Career-wise, most of us had limited options – more than our mothers, but not as many of our daughters. Still, we demanded more (even if we didn’t always get it) while we “did it all” juggling work and home.
Conversely, we see how Gens Y – Z, and Millennials – particularly the women – are much freer and have so many more opportunities than those that were open to us. They can choose to be forever single, not have children, prioritize their careers, demand more equal partnerships in marriage, etc.
Those younger women stand on our shoulders. They walk easily on paths that are only wide open for them because so many of us cleared the way. And we are all better because of we did!
I’m glad Paul’s “I’m Old” musings made me think. They also made me feel better. After all, if it wasn’t for my age, I wouldn’t have the perspective I do. Or enjoy the realization that I surpassed the limited expectations a teenage Annmarie would or could have had. I’ll bet you have a similar experience.
What do you think? Let me know.
I always pay attention to Groundhog Day, not because I think Phil knows what he’s talking about, but because my mom always got such a kick out of it. She would start talking about it at breakfast, announcing Phil’s prognostication, and continued making a big – funny – deal about it at dinner.
A few years ago, Joseph and I stopped in Punxsutawney on our way to Pittsburgh. It was a fun lunch stopover.
A few months later, I booked AJ Dereume on my radio show – and he did not disappoint! AJ is Phil’s handler and, on Groundhog Day, you can see him on TV. He’s the guy in the top-hat holding Phil.
Comments On This Post
Nice one! Made me think.
My shoulders both hurt today. Probably from all those young women standing on them. I’m not old either!
Great article, Annmarie, & thanks for sharing your priest friend’s input about aging gracefully…so true & thought provocative. AND, happy belated birthday & hope you’re feeling better! Best wishes!