What's it like to be old?
Have you ever walked by a mirror and caught the reflection of an old person glancing back at you, and then suddenly been struck with a confusing moment as you realize the old person is you? It can be disheartening.
I think I have an embellished vision of myself embedded in my brain - a vision of what I think I should look like. Unfortunately it's a much younger me.
I don't think I'm vain. I just remember seeing myself more as a younger man, and time has changed that reality.
I hope I've still got many years ahead of me, but as I watch our children grow up and have children of their own I find myself wondering, "what's it like to be old?"
I was walking past the post office today as this haunting question resurfaced. I saw a gentleman that must have been in his late 80s. He walked in slow, shuffled steps with the help of a worn, wooden cane. He was wearing those large sunglasses that wrap around your eyes.
I wondered if the letter in his hand was going to a son or daughter he seldom sees. I wondered if his labored walk caused him pain, or if he had anyone at home that would care if he was hurting, or lonely.
As I passed him my mind's eye was swept back to the pages of a history book filled with black and white photos. For a moment I pictured him as a vibrant young man with a rifle in his hands storming the beaches of Normandy in 1944. Perhaps his best friend in the world died that day. I wondered if he cried that night.
I wondered about the sweetheart he married that made his life fuller than he ever could have imagined. I imagined his first car, the birth of his baby girl, his years of toil to provide for his family, the wrinkles he started to notice in his hands and face, the loss of loved ones, the quiet moments alone, and what he felt when he passed by a mirror.
I know I often allow my imagination to run away, but it did make me consider my own mortality and question if I am doing the very best with each day I have left.
I wanted to turn around and thank this man for enduring, no matter what his past.
I also wanted to ask him, "What's it like to be old?"
What do you ponder?
What do you wish for?
What sustains you?
What do you miss the most?
What should we cherish more?
What would you like others to know?
Perhaps you are like this man. If so, might I ask you if you would be willing to share the answers to some of these questions about your yesterdays so I (and others) might be a wiser person tomorrow.
I invite men and women, old and older, to use the comment form below. Or you can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
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