Let the birthdays begin! Anna, the first of our trio of 92-year-olds, celebrated her 93rd birthday on Sunday. I asked her how she felt about turning 93. Her response: “I don’t feel like I’m that old. It’s just a number. It doesn’t mean anything. Life is good.”
Carolyn will turn 93 in June, and Marty in July. Then we’ll have a trio of 93-year-olds that we get to assist day-by-day through their later years in life.
As I was thinking about birthdays, I remembered a conversation from forty years ago that several of my twenty-something-year-old friends in Chicago were having. Arden, a newly ordained Reverend, said “I look forward to getting older. Just think of all the wisdom I’ll gain with each year of life.” (Arden grew up to obtain a Ph.D. in theology a few years later, taught at a Christian University, and eventually became the visitation minister of a large Methodist church.)
Now that I’m 65 instead of 25, I kind of agree with Arden. But even better than all the wisdom Mim and I have accumulated over the past 40 years, just think of all the wisdom that resides in our home right now. Taking advantage of that wisdom, I asked Anna what she thought about Arden’s comment. She said, “He’s right. I’m still learning something new every single day.”
How does she still continue to accumulate wisdom day by day?
Every Monday morning she gets up very early, between 5:00 and 6:00, to get ready to go to the East Madison Monona Coalition on Aging (EMMCA) Day Care program for the whole day. There she meets with several other elderly people to work in the kitchen, play games, watch a concert or a movie on a big TV screen, and just plain visit with whoever is there for the day.
On Tuesdays she goes to Deerfield to play Bingo and have lunch with some new friends she has made over the past couple years.
On Wednesdays she goes to Lake Mills for the day for a “Reaching Out Respite” program. Every week is something different there – sometimes they listen to guest speakers, sometimes they sing, sometimes they play games or do exercises. They always have a good time with their friends.
On Thursdays she stays home. She spends most of the day sitting in her chair next to the patio door that goes out to the deck. (In nice weather, she sits on the deck.) From her chair she can watch the birds and other wildlife on our back yard pond and in the adjacent wildlife preserve. She often wonders what the birds are thinking and saying to each other as they fly by the deck. Sitting in that chair is also where she uses her colored pencils to create beautiful pictures.
On Fridays she often goes back to Monona (EMMCA). On the weekends she usually stays home, and her daughter comes to visit for a few hours. As Anna says, “Life is good.”
American author Herman Melville wrote, “To know how to grow old is the master work of wisdom, and one of the most difficult chapters in the great art of living.” Mim and I are so fortunate to be able to learn from all these masters of wisdom that God has dropped into our lives.
Daisaku Ikeda, a Buddhist lay leader in Japan, has summed it up nicely, “The wisdom and experience of older people is a resource of inestimable worth. Recognizing and treasuring the contributions of older people is essential to the long-term flourishing of any society.”
Let the birthdays begin – as we all continue on our journey to wisdom.