I don’t know if it is a lack of creativity in the deepest doldrums of winter, but I tend to write a kind of personal State of the Union message about now.
It is another birthday this week. It’s not so big I yell “Stop the count,” but big enough to give me pause.
Age is just a number, they say, but as birthdays get bigger, the questions are weightier.
In my mind and my mid-day body, I am not old, but a forest fire of candles seems to whisper a warning.
At my age, John Wayne hung up his holster for good and Walt Whitman put down his pen for eternity.
The year of my birth, the life expectancy of a newborn male was next year. I’ve made it past three score and ten, so I can now actuarily expect to live to 85. But that is just an average, and we know that no one is average.
An entire industry is designed to mask my mortality and make me feel good about my age.
I can get a hoodie citing my birth year as vintage and boasting “mostly” original parts. Or a drink glass with the sum of my years in bold and the promise of “Aged to Perfection.”
The problem is, I don’t yet feel vintage, and it doesn’t take much of an examination of conscience to realize that, while I may be aging, I am far from perfection.
One of the great boons of my life is that I have always had older friends. They helped me avoid some of the potholes in marriage, parenting and work.
Now they are blazing a trail through the land of the setting sun, marking the dangers and infirmities, but also the infinite grace that comes with age.
They have shown me that it is okay to live with death looking over your shoulder, not as a threat, but a reminder to make every moment count.
They know that, at some point, there will be little time to ask for forgiveness, so they try to avoid the need with more love and kindness.
They have taught me the spiritual wisdom of St. Augustine, who insisted that each day you have to start your relationship with God all over again.
Even when you’re older, yesterday’s faith will not be waiting for you to simply put it on. Each day is different.
I am different each day. God is somewhere in the newness.