It Creeps Up

Checking out the possibility of a pass to a film festival, I discovered that I am old enough to get a special “senior” price. When did this happen? Some decades ago (back when the children were shorter than their parents) we had a family picture taken. My father saw it and remarked that it was “a fine picture, son, of your family, and of you, a middle-age man.”
    You never see it coming. Suddenly you’re middle-aged. One couple we knew back then was talking about some other adults at the local swimming lake. She said something, and he corrected her. “We’re older than all of them,” he said.
    And then suddenly you’re a senior and people are offering you discounts.
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    Sometimes they don’t even offer, they give it to you. Maybe ten years ago I was in Guymon, Oklahoma (extra points if you can point to it on the map), getting coffee at McDonald’s. The young fellow told me it would be $1.08. I gave him four quarters, a dime, and three pennies—trying to get rid of change. He pushed the three pennies back to me. At the same time, the arm of an older person reached over him and did something to the cash register. He then said, “It’s 27 cents.” I pushed two pennies back to him.
    The older person had given me a senior price. I appreciated the discount, but wasn’t sure it was worth the cost of being marked out as an old guy. The young fellow thought I couldn’t count change. The older guy just saw me as old.
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    Up in Poughkeepsie (extra points if you can point to it on the map), I was an adjunct in the philosophy and religion department at Marist College. Mid-November I found myself on the sidewalk with the department chairman. “How’s it going?” he asked. I remarked how, in September, the semester seemed to stretch ahead as a very long time, but here it was already almost Thanksgiving and it would soon be over. “Yes,” the philosopher said, “it’s just like life.”
    I didn’t see it coming.
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    We think we have so much ahead of us, and then suddenly it’s over—like, the Psalmist says, the grass: “In the morning it is green and flourishes; in the evening it is dried up and withered.” And a bit later: “The span of our life is seventy years, perhaps in strength even eighty; yet the sum of them is but labor and sorrow, for they pass away quickly and we are gone.”
    That’s Psalm 90. But it’s not a thought to occasion depression, as if nothing we do matters. Rather, it’s a thought to summon us to do such things as do matter! “So teach us to number our days,” he says, “that we may apply our hearts to wisdom.”
    I don’t think you can get a senior discount on wisdom.
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    Out & About. This Sunday, May 6, I am preaching at St. Philip’s Church, Sulphur Springs, Tex. The service is at 10:45, and afterwards I’ll be talking about “Love, Caregiving, Death, and God.”
    A good book—that among other things, speaks of mortality—is Benedict XVI’s Last Testament. I have reviewed it here: https://livingchurch.org/2018/04/27/a-teacher-to-the-end/
    “Friendship: The Final Frontier,” my recent theology lecture, has been posted here: https://incarnation.org/classes/friendship-the-final-frontier-april-22-2018/

Overheard

    A couple of nights ago: two young men, two young women having burgers and beer. One doesn’t intend to overhear their conversation; they’re young, hanging out, maybe they’re couples, maybe not. But then one notices: they’re talking about children. One guy says he wants to have two, because then if the second birth gives twins, you only have three. If you have two and go for three, you might end up with four. One girl says you can’t count on it, she knows a couple that has four children, first they had one, then they had triplets.
    Having overheard that, I couldn’t get back to my theology book, I was so amazed, perhaps even happy. They’re just like I used to be, 40 years ago: poised on the edge of the unknowns of parenthood, ready to leap, trying to maintain some control over the unknown—a vain hope of course, but warming to the overhearing heart. I wanted to say: once you have three, you’re outnumbered. I wanted to pass along the New York wisdom: once you have three, you need two taxis to get anywhere.
    But I really wanted to say: God bless you.
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    The next afternoon, at a common table at Starbucks, working on revisions to a lecture. Three young people are next to me with textbooks and notes quizzing each other. They’re medical students of some sort; nurses, maybe, or premed, but perhaps specialists in pediatric or cardiac. If the patient has such and such, what do you do? They’re memorizing a ton of details; they go through lots of variations and how you change the treatment for each case. Their exam is a couple of weeks away; they’re studying, one picks up, every day until then.
    Once again, I’m impressed. They’re bright and they want to do good work to help people. When they mentioned a neurological drug, I wanted to tell them my wife used to take that. I wanted somehow to be a representative of all their future patients (and their future patients’ families) and say thank you for working so hard to do good to people.
    I really wanted to say: God bless you.
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    Out & About. This weekend I’ll be at All Souls’ Church in Oklahoma City, preaching Saturday, April 28, at 5:30 p.m., and Sunday at 8, 9:15, and 11 a.m.
    The following Sunday, May 6, I am to be the preacher at St. Philip’s Church in Sulphur Springs, Tex., at the 10:45 a.m. service. After the service, I’ll be talking about “Love, Caregiving, Death, and God.”

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The Rev. Canon Dr. Victor Lee Austin is the Theologian-in-Residence for the diocese and is the author of several books including, "Losing Susan: Brain Disease, the Priest's Wife, and the God who Gives and Takes Away."