On Getting Old

On Getting Old

They were all old people, sitting in a circle in a traditional living room furnished many decades ago. My wife, our infant daughter, and I had been invited for “Vaspa”, tea and a light meal.

My adopted grandfather and grandmother, their cousins and in-laws, were reminiscing about old times. All were suffering from the illnesses of old age: arthritis, cancer, early stages of dementia, the usual litany of very real complaints. And life with its normal or unusual trials had left its scars. It was a reflective, somber group.

Grandfather had had a stroke, and his participation in the conversation was limited, hardly above a whisper, and halting. Everyone accepted the frailties of the other with patience and kindness, and when Grandfather slowly broke into a pause in the story-telling and pain complaints, everyone remained silent and respectful.

“There will come an opportunity when we are in heaven, where John, (who had debilitating arthritis and found it hard to walk), will be jumping for happiness. Erna, (who had been born with brain damage) will be singing beautifully. Katja, (who had dementia) will be leading a choir again. Heinrich, (who was suffering from terminal cancer), you will be teaching again.

And so he went around the room, each person would be young and whole once again. Each of the old and crippled and sick would be in the bloom of young adulthood. We all listened with awe as each person was seen as they all were intended to be when they were young and in the bloom of Spring.

It took a long time for Grandfather’s stories to be haltingly told. Everyone listened carefully, some with hearing aids, everyone looking closely as though lip-reading.

Finally, he came to speak for himself. He has been a lay preacher of some skill, but now bent and drooling, whispering. “And I will again be preaching”.

There was silence in the room, interrupted only by our baby whimpering in the background.

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