I visited a hospital twice this week: first to see the newborn son of my handyman and then to sing to my ninety year-old, dear friend as he drew his last breaths. Odd as it may seem to the reader, both were joyous events. The first because I glimpsed the future in the face of that baby boy as his teary mother cradled him close. The second because I reflected on all of the lives touched and forever changed by my friend of 35 years. His life literally made others sing and both the Oak Ridge Boys and Vince Gill sang at his funeral.
If you’ve read my previous musings, you know that I value age and all the baggage it bears. The elderly have had their past while the young are still figuring out how to make it. The beauty is they need each other: having young people in their lives keeps the elderly hopeful; having older people in their lives keeps the young mindful.
As a kid being raised by my grandmother, I was forced into being around all those wrinkled, arthritic, slow-moving creatures. Some were fascinating, like the crony of my great-grandmother who had a talking Myna bird. Others just gave me the creeps. All of them were full of yarns about the days gone by. Their stories warned me where not to go in my own life, but they also gave me glimpses of where to seek joy on roads that I had not yet taken. I figure if I’m really lucky, my own journey will last as long as theirs. So I listen and watch. They are me, someday.
The poet, May Sarton, wrote this about aging: “The trouble is, old age is not interesting until one gets there. It is a foreign country with an unknown language to the young and even to the middle-aged.” So, I am learning the ‘language’ as I go in hopes of discovering what lies for us all. . .beyond the bend.
Here’s the thing: I love learning from the young about new music, dances, technology and lingo. However, If I were given the choice to hear one final, favorite melody in my life, I would not choose some current song downloaded on my iPod. I would ask to hear Chopin played on a Steinway grand by well-seasoned hands. That would be bliss.