Yeah, I know, it's a strange blog post title, but read the rest of the blog before you make any preconceived judgments.
I wonder sometimes how it's all going to turn out. When our ten kids have reached the age of independence or semi-independence, how much energy and vitality for life will I have left? It's one of those strange deals in life ... where something so very foundational and valuable -- parenting -- is also one of the most personally draining and challenging processes.
It reminds me of a parishioner in a previous parish. Lillian was ninety-nine years old when I met her for the first time and one hundred four years old when I buried her five years later. She was a most interesting person. Until her dying day she was concerned that her clothing styles reflected "what the young girls are wearing now," and often in her final months she would say, "Whatever you do, don't live as long as I have. It's too long." One of the things I found most interesting is the competitive spirit she and some of her elderly friends shared. On one occasion I overheard a small gaggle of older women conjecturing as to why Lillian had lived longer than anyone they knew. Amongst the ruminations, I heard one shrill voice declare, "Well, you know, of course, that she never had any children. That's what ages most of us!"
I smiled to myself at the time and have thought about those sentiments many times since. What might be the connection between raising (any) children and health? And, in particular, what might be the connection between raising difficult, challenging, special needs children and eventual life outcome? I guess if we're going to die anyway, and that seems pretty certain, we might as well die having done something significant with our lives, but I wonder sometimes how many years special needs kids shave off the life span of their parents.
But, I digress. My point is that I have had the sheer pleasure of meeting many older people who age with such generosity and grace that it makes me less anxious about that prospect for myself. Whether or not my children will be the death of me, or whether the eventual years after their adulthood will give me a sense of gratitude remains to be seen, but I can still choose to live with some joy and some vivacity.
Which brings me to the point at hand, and the title of today's blog. In our community clergy rotate worship responsibilities at areas nursing homes. Today it was my date at Oak Terrace, an assisted living facility. In a facility like this there are older folks who function very indepedently as well as those who are less independent, so one never knows what to expect.
After the worship service, I always stop by each person's chair or wheelchair to greet them and individually shake their hands. Midway through the process, I happened upon an elderly woman with some sparkle in her eyes. As she took my hand in hers she whispered conspiratorily, "Now don't you tell anyone this, but finally we have a good looking man in this place. You're good looking!" Her batting eyelashes met my eyes as I said, "Thank you. We'll keep this our little secret."
So, if after raising special needs children for the duration of my life, I can reach my mid-80's and still recognize an attractive person and have the courage to say so, I guess I will be doing all right!