Archive for Thursday, February 11, 2010

No shame in getting old

February 11, 2010

I was startled by the repair man’s words. He had finished fixing my front stovetop burner and was getting directions from his supervisor about where to go next.

“Yeah, it was a really, really old stove, but I’m done,” he said.

I thought, “What is he talking about? We just moved into this house when it was newly built.”

And then I did some calculations. We’ve lived here 21 years. Even though, in my calculations, 21 years isn’t that long, I guess it’s a pretty long time for a stove that gets used almost every day of the year. That’s at least 7,665 days, and that particular stove burner often gets used several times a day. I suppose that is pretty old, but not compared to me. After all, I am what can gently be described as a senior citizen or, as one of my friends once overheard and thereafter used to describe herself, “older than dirt.”

I’m not ashamed of being old. We all get there eventually, unless something untoward happens to us, and hopefully I’ll get even older so that I can see my grandchildren grow up.

It’s difficult for most of us to track the passage of time. One day, we are toddlers impatient to grow up and the next, we’re like ancient sea tortoises, slow and weary. The part in between is the time we allot for what can be called “making our mark on the world.” When I think of the dreams and ambitions we all entertain during our formative and young adult years and how those ideas and dreams stack up against the final tally, I can only shake my head in wonder. I never imagined myself in my present form.

Perhaps I never considered getting old or dying when I was a teen or in my twenties or thirties, but gradually it has become a reality. I have lost friends and family, some of whom were much younger than I am. I have learned that one cannot control that inevitable day of passing from this world. It sometimes arrives without warning or regard for one’s personal agenda.

When I was 16, I yearned for pretty clothing, a nice car and other items calculated to make me look like a person to be envied. It wasn’t that I was deprived; it just seemed like there was so much more to be had of the world’s goods. Later, as a young wife and mother, I wanted a big house furnished and decorated with impressive furniture and knickknacks. I thought that I would be happy with the latest in fashion and furnishings. I am sorry to say that I no longer think that. Happiness and success in life is not that simple. It isn’t a matter of who can amass the greatest amount of goods or wield the most power. Once one has the basics, then all the other stuff is just window dressing.

That’s why I am satisfied with such an old stove burner. It may be a little worn looking and lacking in the latest cooking finesse, but, with a little tinkering, it still heats up and does what it is supposed to do under my old cast iron skillet. It gets the job done, and that’s what I want it to do. I don’t know how long it will keep heating up or even if I’ll be around when it quits, but each day it works is fine with me. And that’s how I approach life these days — one day at a time.

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