My father and I were sitting alone on the patio behind our parsonage in Arcola, IL. It was following my end-of-chemo celebration in the church basement. Most folks had gone home, but there was still some family inside the house. Daddy was in a reflective mood.
“Well, I’ve lived a long time,” he said, “and I guess I wasted most of it.”
Today I am almost exactly the same age as Daddy was when he said that.
I understand better now what he was saying. Then, I wanted to fix him. It sounded so forlorn. I wanted to say something to make him feel better.
“Well, at least you had four good children,” I suggested.
He did not seem comforted.
But I do think I understand what Daddy was saying. Yes, I’ve wasted most of my almost-83 years, too. [He lived another 13.]
At earlier ages, it is easy to see all the dead ends we’ve walked down, despite the warning signs, and to say, “Well, I’ve still got time left to get it right.” In our dotage years, we not only lack the time, we lack the energy, and the ambition.
Perhaps the gift of old age is that we finally must accept grace, the way God says--the same way Fred Rogers used to say it to little children in “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” -- “I like you just the way you are.”
That’s when this business of old people entering “a second childhood” really comes in nicely.
John Robert McFarland
“The greatest thing we can do is to let people know that they are loved and capable of love.” Fred Rogers