I think Rainer Marie Rilke is the best known author to remind us of this, but most of the time I’m not able to feel this in my bones. I’ve looked behind me and seen that the last ten years did creep up on me. I sigh and wish I was young and free (I wished for this the other day actually). I wish for the days before work and bills and NEEDING to workout and and all that other stuff. Washing dishes. You get the idea.
But we are so young. I think it’s easy to forget this when we surround ourselves with people mostly our own age. Inter-generational relationships help put things in perspective.
I met last night with two professors from Fuller/Biola – Christian anthropologists as it were. I have been looking for some academic mentors because I am teaching a class next semester that I feel totally unprepared for. I sent them some stalkerish emails. I was then invited graciously over to their house for dinner. A colleague of theirs joined us for dinner, along with her daughter. The husband/father of the family is dying of cancer, simultaneously battling Alzheimer’s. It’s maddening -not sure how much longer he will live, and seeing the person they love slip away. I was struck by this paradox sitting at the dinner table: me, married seven weeks. This woman, married to this man for 46 years. She profoundly confessed that she took a vow 46 years ago, “in sickness and in health” and she was committed to him. She’s been reminding him of this lately, which seems to sink deep beneath the Alzheimer’s and strike a chord with the man she fell in love with.
It’s hard to get that from your other struggling 26 (27, 28, 29) year old friends. This isn’t to say that we don’t struggle because God knows we do. We struggle, we bury parents, we bring children into the world, we commit ourselves to another person, we make huge mistakes and little mistakes, we get dialysis, I mean we do all of it. For some reason though, I can feel the newness of the life I am embarking on when I sit at a dinner table with folks reaching the other end of their years, who can look at me with worn eyes, who smile when I tell them of all my worries. It just helps put things in perspective.