Ruminations on getting old
I was chatting with Ann Litts last night. We’re both getting older. We’ve had similar experience in this whole “life after marriage” world. That is, the people you meet while “dating” all seem emotionally broken or at least bent beyond all repair. And yet like her, I’m loving getting old.
The conversation drifted into topics relating to love and relationships and emotional maturity. At one point I said “Ann, we are becoming.” And she said “you sound like the Velveteen Rabbit” and sent me the following quote from the book.
"It doesn’t happen all at once,’ said the Skin Horse. ‘You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t happen often to people who break easily, or have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.” ― Margery Williams Bianco, The Velveteen Rabbit"
I remembered reading that book to my kids when they were little. I’d never made the connection to old age before. But it’s so apt. I mean look at me: no hair, I have to wear glasses now, and the joints! I can look pretty shabby in the morning before I shave too.
But I was loved. By a wonderful woman for over twenty years. By my kids (who hopefully still love me). By family members all over the country.
I have become Real. Or at least I’m well on my way.
This is the very best time of my life. I loved being a husband. I loved being a father. Now I’m a grandfather. And it just keeps getting better and better.
See, as you age, one by one, all the weights are taken off. The kids grow up and move out. The mortgage gets paid off or you realize you’re okay just living in an apartment. You stop needing a new car every couple of years. The responsibilities of life slowly fade away.
All that’s left is love. You can love your kids from afar. Hopefully, you’re not financially responsible for your grandchildren. When you see them you’re free to just love them. And the same goes for all the other people in your life. People stop expecting anything of you. Instead, they’re grateful that you’re still in their life. And you get to return that gratitude. It’s love without limit. And it’s the very best kind of love!
Don’t feel sorry for us older people. We have something you can’t get when you’re young. We have the experience and perspective that can only be informed by a long life filled with love, loss and hope.
My wish is that every one of you has the opportunity to become Real. There’s nothing quite like it.
Thanks for reading.