Pope Francis just declared an annual World Day for Grandparents and the Elderly.
I write this after a long drive to meet the newest addition to our clan, and on the eve of another birthday that adds to my own creds among the codgers and the coffin-dodgers.
The Holy Father’s announcement underscored the importance of intergenerational relationships and pastoral care for the elderly in a world where youth is a highly prized commodity and growing old is only applauded if you can accomplish something age-defying.
Sure, Abraham was 100 when he fathered Isaac. John Goodenough was 97 when he won the Nobel Prize. And at 90, Sister Madonna Buder is the oldest Ironman competitor.
But the majority of the superannuated retire in relative anonymity, cope with chronic health conditions, and worry about loss of independence and financial security.
This is good reason to remember grandparents and the elderly.
That same day, though, should urge us seniors, regardless of age or activity, to take on our biblical roles as the dreamers of Joel, the wise elders of Job, or the gray-haired splendor of Proverbs.
I think of my own grandparents, a shoe repairman on my mother’s side and a railroad brakeman and his farm wife on my father’s.
I loved the time I had with each, but it was far too short, and I was not old enough or smart enough to ask the great questions of their lives before they left.
As the candles get added to my cake, I find there are insights and truths from my life that I need to share with my children’s children.
I want them to know that young or old, here is where I am and here is where I am supposed to be.
This moment, as difficult or temporary as it may be, has a meaning for me.
I want them to know that I didn’t get here alone. The good in my life is not of all my doing and I often fail to appreciate the people without whom it would not be.
I want them to know that there will be many storms in life and, once they are over, you’ll wonder how you made it through them.
You need to keep wondering that until you know.
I want them to know that their happiness depends on how they choose to view the world.
I want them to remember the old words of Hugo of St. Victor: “Love is the eye.”