I just experienced the horrifying revelation that I am now the same age my father was when he retired. Granted the man retired early, but it simply does not seem possible.
Our parents always seem so much older than we are. Not that my dad was any staid, traditional old man. He was a vibrant traveler, always ready for drinks with a friend. Though my kids remember him as Grandpa, every adult who knew him remembers him as engagingly social, elegant and intellectual. To me the generational gap between us was a solid bulwark, the definition of what life might look like way, way down the road.
Who shortened the road? My parents are no longer here and I suddenly find myself with children grown and gradually flying the nest. I couldn’t be prouder of their success. Yet somehow, internally, I feel much the same as when I was their age. I know I am not the same. I have suffered loss and gained deeper knowledge of myself. I have lived, grown and experienced much in the gap years between our respective ages. But I certainly don’t feel like a different person.
Because I am not. As my Dad was not. It is interesting how age colors our perceptions. Let us lift the age filter from the way we see the world. What is left? A much deeper sense for how we are connected to each other and how experience links us all.
Imagine we as individuals are dishes set upon a table. We are a colorful array of culinary offerings, pleasing to every palate imaginable. Over time recipes for this fare might change. What begins as sweet may harden or grow bitter. Dishes will improve with added spice or mellow with age. If you are set upon the table as a muffin you may be simple corn or you may offer exotic fruit, nuts and toppings. Time and experience provide ingredients. Each recipe carries infinite potential and can evolve into masterpiece or culinary disaster.
Children are people, not less because they are smaller. Old people are simply people, not different or less due to mileage logged. I am not saying that age is irrelevant. Experience flavors who we are. But age should never serve as a barrier to getting to know a person. Age should not define our expectations. We need to learn to look, to savor the unique in every person. Why do we focus on the aging part of the equation rather than looking at the constant experience of what is in each of us?
Yup. I am getting older. So what? There is no reason to be horrified. I am still myself. And my children will someday be where I am now and understand that their age does not define who they are. I was very lucky to have experienced the warmth, humor and elegance of my dad. Knowing him was integral to the person I am. We may all regret the passing of time and mourn that our lives do not seem long enough. But we must appreciate the timeless aspects that impact who we are. My sense of humor, compassion and inner sense of excitement do not age. They simply are.
I am here. I am grateful. I choose to think of myself as appealing to the refined palate. I have my own unique blend of seasonings. I am simple but proud of my place on the table.