One of my favorite maple trees is a couple of blocks down the street. I enjoy watching it slowly turn from green to orange and red. Trees don’t change all at once, but rather gradually move from one season to the next. I have the privilege of living in New England and watching them daily transform then shed their leaves.
I am grateful that age comes on me in the same way. It would be dreadful to have the Dorian Grey experience going from youth to advanced old age in an instant. Instead it comes on little by little, giving me a chance to adapt to the changes. More often than not, my conversations with friends also include mentions of new physical changes. At church a couple of weeks ago I compared my crooked little finger with a parishioner’s crooked wrist, both signs of arthritis. We compare status of our “age appropriate” cataracts and wonder which one of us will have the eye surgery next. The group of us who work with the same trainer at the gym constantly have our exercises “modified” to adjust to our bodies’ quirks.
Millions of Americans are coming into old age since we were born right after the War in the baby boom. After we give up trying to plead that “70 is the new 50” (it isn’t) may we accept the gifts and the losses that come with aging. A.R. Ammons puts it beautifully in his poem on age “In View of the Fact:”
until we die we will remember every single thing, recall every word, love every loss: then we will, as we must, leave it to others to love, love that can grow brighter and deeper till the very end, gaining strength and getting more precious all the way. . . .