Allie and I celebrated the new year with a walk in the woods to the south of our house. The area is part of a designated wildlife corridor crossed with trails. We met no one and thus had some time together in the quiet we enjoy here. She walked right by my side, a companion of 13 years matched to my almost 73.
I don’t walk on trails with as much confidence as I used to. Rocks and roots must noticed and avoided. I don’t leave on a walk without my cell phone. Allie has much more grace with this than I, and more spring in her step.
Doesn’t mean I wasn’t enjoying the experience. It just involves a bit more.
My project this year is to explore the concept and experience of what that “bit more” is and might be. I want to start a conversation (with myself if no one else) that’s more than small talk I would also like to avoid “organ recitals,” the recap of medical history that admittedly builds friendships and gives us a sense that maybe our diagnoses are not that worrisome.
Since we live in a culture that doesn’t value being old, what does the word “elder” mean from the perspective of one who qualifies? Now that I’m not defined by the work I used to do, where am I? To quote Joan Chittester:
“For the sake of our happiness and mental health, we must also answer the question: What am I when I am not what I used to do? And does anybody really care? And what does that have to do with growing into God?”*
*Chittister, Joan. The Gift of Years: Growing Older Gracefully, Blue Bridge, 2008, p 8.