Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Birthday Musings

I'm 59 today. Yikes? How did that happen?

I mean, I know how it happened -- I have stayed alive in spite of my propensity for doing stoopid things like turning my tractor over, leaning too far out on the edge of a ladder, using a chainsaw whilst standing in the dump bed of the golf cart, thinking "I'm pretty sure I turned the circuit breaker off" while trying to hook up a new light switch and stuff like that.

When I ask "How did that happen?" I am more thinking about how did I come to be one of the geezers? Am I really not 25 anymore?

Oh, I am reminded that I am not every time I look in the mirror. What little hair there is is mostly white or grey. The wrinkles are deeper every day. The skin not quite as firm as it used to be. At least I still have my teeth -- all original equipment!

But how old I am has really hit home lately. Not that I feel old -- just that, um, I am old. That really occurred to me recently when I was attending one of our tribal meetings (a gathering of Quakers). Quakers United in Publications had invited me to speak at their annual meeting. So off I went to Richmond, Indiana. While I was there, I got to attend the launch of a new book called Spirit Rising: Young Quakers Speak. It is a delightful compendium of young adult Friends (18-35ish) essays, poems, musings, and art.

As part of the launch, the editorial committee of the book and some of the contributors put on a program of worship and readings. It was a wonderful time, but it occurred to me that night, while the young adult Friends were reading their book, that I am at that stage where I am one of the elders. Hokey Smokes!

Seriously, that thought had not really occurred to me.

Like I said, even though I know I am 59, I don't think of myself as "old" (for all my kvetching otherwise). I think of myself as Brent -- a younger sort of guy who still has a lot to learn and a fair amount of energy and enthusiasm for life and its challenges.

But that night I thought I am not here as one of the gang. I am here because I am one of the older voices.

And I thought of some of the "older voices" from my past -- Wil Cooper, Charles Thomas, T. Canby Jones, Elton Trueblood, Virgil Peacock, Leonard Wines, and the list could go on and on. When I was the age of the young Friends in the room that night, these were some of the elders who influenced me in ways that are still felt. And now I am their age.

Now, I do not in any way think I am the theological or spiritual equal of these weighty Friends. No, indeed. But, it has come home that I am their age and NOT that of young Friends. I have passed into a new season of my life and am coming to grips with that.

This was a new and interesting thought for me. And I decided it was good.

I like my age and who I am at this age.

And, if I can sometimes be helpful as an older voice, then all the better.

Happy 59th birthday to me!

-- Brent


Anonymous said...

happy birthday indeed Brent...

Robin M. said...

Clearly, I am behind in my blog reading. But Happy Birthday anyway.

The more I get to know older people (maybe that's the more I resemble older people), the more I get the sense that you never completely stop feeling like the 25 year old you once were.

A few years ago, I had to go to a fancy dress up party for work. Since I only do this once every five years or so, I didn't have anything to wear. In a series of stores, I came to realize that 35 was an awkward age. I was too old for the prom dresses, and too young for mother-of-the-bride dresses. That was one of the big clues that I was officially middle-aged.

Congratulations on reaching your new age and liking it and yourself.