How I want to be when I get old. If I do.

This little incident popped up in my “Memories” today.  It was eight years back, but still valid….

The old man stood at the checker’s station in my grocery store. The line behind him stretched out for a half-dozen people.

He’d bought a few things, but the process of paying for it was taking forever.  He fumbled around in his pocket for his wallet, then struggled with it in search of his debit card, and only with the checker’s help was he able to insert it into the machine and complete the transaction.  In the process, he flirted with the lady behind him, the one just ahead of me, and made friendly comments to anyone else who might be overhearing this.

I was pleased to see both the checker and the customer were patient with him.

When he finished, the man seemed in no hurry to pick up his purchase and move out of the way for the next customer.  He looked at the line forming behind him and muttered something about being 82 years old, as though this were an achievement for which he was being honored.

You will not believe this since I’m writing about it, but I was not impatient with him, and said nothing to anyone.  I did not roll my eyes, did not react, but sent up a quick prayer for the man.

But I was warned.

“There,” everything inside me shouted, “is how you do not want to be when you get old.”

I smile at that.  “When I get old.” I’m only six years behind that fellow. So, am I old yet? And when will I know?  (As I say, it was eight years ago.  I’m now 84, two years past that guy.  Wonder how I’m doing?)

When a local woman was injured in a traffic accident, the newspaper announced “Elderly woman victim of hit and run.”  Elderly?  She was only 76.  But, the writer of that choice morsel of the editor’s art was probably a whipper-snapper the age of my grandchildren.  He/she will learn in time.  If they’re lucky.

Not everyone is blessed to live into these higher numbers. To survive into the sunset years. The golden age.  To “play the back nine,” as Professor Dan Crawford puts it.

Often when I rise to address seniors, I often begin with this–

I’ve driven over from Jackson, Mississippi this morning to congratulate you on the two greatest blessings of your life:  One, you are saved. You are born again, your name is written in the Book of Life. You are going to Heaven. And two…(pause)…you are old.

They will laugh. I will say…

Now, you may not think of that as a blessing, but it is. Most of us have had friends who would have given all they owned to have seen their children grow into adults, to have given their daughter in marriage, to have held their grandbabies in their arms.  And some of us have seen our grandchildren grow into adulthood and get married.  My first great-grandchild was born just a few weeks ago. It doesn’t get any better than that.

But that’s no excuse for expecting the world to congratulate us on having not died.  It wasn’t exactly something we did, but rather something God chose to do for us.

Oh, that day when I got to the checker with my groceries, the clerk–a grandmother herself–said, “That poor old man.  He’s so lonely.” I said, “Lonely?”  “Yes.  He comes in here every day and buys something just to have someone to talk with.”

Okay now.

If I had my choice, which of course I may not, I would choose in my old age not to be lonely, not to get in people’s way, not to be senile, not to flirt with younger women, and not to expect people to be impressed that I haven’t died yet.

But, if the Lord chooses–the choice is always His, of course–not to grant those desires of my heart, I would hope He will surround me with patient people, generous friends, kind workers, and indulgent neighbors.

God bless that old man.  If I see him again, I’ll try to be aware and kind to him.

But I’m going to do all I can not to be him.

I hope that’s not unkind.

I’m remembering a bumper sticker from our years in the Carolinas.  “When I get old, I’m going to retire and move up north and drive slowly in the left lane.”

Maybe it’s a universal thing, I don’t know.

I pray the Lord will grant me a sense of humor in my sunset years, then give me special wisdom on when to rein it in as well as when to turn it loose and let it all hang out. As I say, I’m only 84.  But I hope to be a senior citizen some day.

Pray I’ll do it right.

Today, I drove four hours round trip to go to the funeral of a seminary classmate of mine. Dr. J. Roy McComb was just one month older than me.  His wife said he had Alzheimer’s for the past year or two.

The preacher today was Dr. Gene Henderson, another longtime friend.  We are all children of 1940. J. Roy was born in February, I arrived in March, and I think Gene came along that summer.

How was it decided that J. Roy would be the first to go and only after a bout with Alzheimer’s?  How was the decision made that Gene and I would still be active and still preaching. In fact, Gene remarried just 10 days ago, so he is a long way away from hanging it up.  Me too, I hope.

But none of us will live forever.  Not on this earth, we won’t.  Our days are numbered.  But don’t get so uppidity, young people. So are yours!

Scripture says, “Lord, teach us to number our days that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.” Like that? It’s Psalm 90:12.

2 thoughts on “How I want to be when I get old. If I do.

  1. You’re doing great, my dear friend, no matter the age you keep on serving the LORD with a schedule younger people would be pressed to match!
    Thanks so much for your love, visits and prayers. The first visitor from FBC this evening was Molly Jane Carpenter and she saw your work from way across the room and exclaimed “There’ something from Joe Mckeever”. She was the early arrival of more than twenty mostly FBC choir members that crammed around our piano and living room and made beautiful music singing hymns. We were blessed! ‘Hope you and Bertha are doing well. I’ve moved up from a wheelchair to a walker and making good progress… answered prayer!
    Thanks so much for your support and prayers.
    Bob (and Lou)

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