The years teach us
“It is very strange that the years teach us patience – that the shorter our time, the greater our capacity for waiting.” ― Elizabeth Taylor (the novelist)
One of the great blessings of having parents who live a long time is the ability to learn from them about how to handle what lies ahead. As my siblings and I are all old enough to be AARP members,* we’ve moved through many of the stages we remember watching our parents negotiate, marveling at how young we feel now compared to how old we once thought adults in this phase of life must be.
The challenges of growing older are slightly different for each person, of course, and everyone differs as to which aspect of aging is most easily handled. But there is little doubt in my mind that one of the most important qualities to have when we pass into the latter half of life is patience. Fortunately, life itself ensures that we will have this quality, if we are blessed to reach our senior years.
I suppose those who can’t learn patience probably are more likely to succumb to accidents, disease, or strokes and heart attacks. It’s as if patience is a sort of screening device. We may as well learn it, because we will need it in ever-increasing measure.
Truthfully, my Daddy always seemed fairly patient to me. My busy and accomplished Mama, not so much. Yet Daddy has grown even more patient over the years, and Mama surprises me at how well she endures (often with a smile or a laugh) things that once would have driven her mad. Looking at them now, I realize two things: one, a long life is a mixed blessing that requires great endurance, and two, I hope Jeff and I are able to find out what it’s like to enjoy that blessing for ourselves, mixed though it inevitably will be.
Those of us facing or enjoying retirement have been, often unconsciously, learning from our elders all of our lives. Most of those lessons have been good ones. I hope we all remember and honor the ones who have made this difficult journey a few years ahead of us, lighting our way with grace, a sense of humor, and the deep conviction that life is good.
*not that any of us actually are AARP members, but just saying…