CHRIST IN WINTER: Reflections on Faith for the Years of Winter… ©
OLD JERKS Sat, 3-18-17
“Why didn’t you sit over there?”
That’s what the old guy, even older than I, just snarled at his wife.
We’re in the doctor’s waiting room. There are twenty-two chairs in the room. I am the only other person here. She is an elegant lady with a hearing aid. She came in by herself and sat down in a chair that faces the door from which the nurse will call for her, so that she would see the nurse even though she might not hear her. My guess is that her husband is late because he stopped in the rest room. She is embarrassed that I am witnessing this exchange, even though I’m sitting here typing on my laptop and acting like I don’t see them. She hastens to sit where he is pointing. It is about three feet from the chair she chose.
Maybe he’s normally a nice guy, but he’s in early Alzheimer’s. Maybe he has a brain tumor that is affecting his behavior. Maybe he’s a jerk.
You can be a jerk as easily at eighty as you can at twenty or forty. You can be a witch at any of those ages, too. Old age doesn’t automatically make one nicer, just as it doesn’t automatically make one wiser. St. Augustine said: “The so-called innocence of children is more weakness of limb than purity of spirit.” If he had lived to be old enough, he might also have said: “The so-called wisdom of old people is more slowness of limb than mellowness of soul.”
At each transition time, from one life stage to another, we have the opportunity to redo ourselves. Erik Erikson said that the task of the last stage is “final integrity vs despair.” I think there may be one more stage, the one in which we are face to face with the clock where the hands are about to signal “Time’s up.” One last stage to stop being a jerk.
There are a lot of nasty old people. Maybe they think they have the right, because they are old and don’t feel good, to tell others where to sit. Maybe they have always been mean and nasty and figured they had the right to tell everybody else where to sit, so they are just being consistent. Either way, time is running out. The last stage is leaving town, the stage away from Jerkville. Get on board.
Now that I am old, I don’t tell people where to sit.
I tweet as yooper1721.
I have often extolled my old friend, Walt Wagener, as one who is expert at “blooming where he’s planted.” Once when I did so, Helen said, “I want to bloom BEFORE I’m planted.” So I started writing a book of meditations for old people, sort of like my book for cancer patients. I called it BLOOM BEFORE YOU’RE PLANTED. I was never able to get an agent or publisher to be interested in the idea, though, so I’m now using some of the “chapters” for that book in this blog.