I’m not doing this aging thing at all well. I don’t mind getting old, I just hate looking old and feeling old. In my mind’s eye I continue to look as I did 6 or 7 years ago–and then I catch a random glimpse of my reflection in a window and I think, “It’s all over.” Just a couple years ago women age-35ish used to routinely flirt with me and now they hold the door and address me as “sir.” But what I really hate is some young guy patronizing me with “well, young fellow…” I know they’re trying to be nice but I wanna smack the snot out of them. If were a brute like my uncle, Unk, I probably would. He was 6-4 and 275 and on his most benign days still managed to look menacing. Nobody patronized him when he was my age. It’s probably a good thing I’m not as big as Unk. I’d probably be in jail.
Arthritis is a bitch. Still, there are days when I feel as good as I ever have. But that’s an illusion that’s gone the next morning when I slowly unfold myself from sleep. Sometimes I feel great until I try getting up. But one of the good things about aging is that if you’re truly awake (and many aren’t) you know things that young people don’t. Sometimes they think you’re really brilliant but you’ve just picked up all sorts of semi-relevant junque thru living life and reading the newspapers–and when they’re my age they’ll likely know as much and probably more. And their children will say to them, “What’s a newspaper?”
March 2012, is a month of anniversaries: tomorrow 3/30 is the 25th anniversary of my divorce being final in 1987. My friend Barbara (my witness) and I showed up in Judge Kirkland’s office promptly at 10:00 at the court-house in Sanford. He remembered me from having testified in a couple of custody and abuse cases. We made small talk while we waited a few minutes for my wife to show–but she didn’t. We signed the papers, he pronounced the marriage over, and then Barbara and I went and had breakfast. I don’t recall feeling anything except a mild sense of relief.
Earlier this month (3/6) was the 40th anniversary of my wife and I meeting in 1972. She was a cocktail waitress at the Back Door in Winter Park at the edge of the Rollins campus. I was in Florida on vacation looking for a job and I went to the Back Door accompanied by a date. My wife to be was an unusually attentive waitress. When she came to the table to ask if we needed another drink she would stand behind Lynn and make eye contact with me. When it comes to things like this I’m not the sharpest knife in the drawer, but in this instance I knew that the eye contact was a seduction of sorts. In a few days Lynn and I returned to Illinois. But I couldn’t get this waitress with the great legs and green eyes out of my thoughts. I write about our holy introduction and five-year courtship in a whimsical essay on my website: “Pioneer Obit – The Little Satellite That Could.” It’s about time, my life and the first man-made object to escape from the solar system–and it’s also a chapter in my book DiosPsyTrek: But God Had a Better Idea.
Numbers and Time
I recall reading somewhere, perhaps in Dane Rudhyar’s book on the astrology of personality, that those of my birth sign, Capricorn, tended to be obsessed with time. I certainly have been. But I’ve come to believe (along with Einstein) that the passage of time is an illusion–that in fact past, present and future exist all at once. When you believe everything is happening all at once it gives you a different perspective on things. For example, the Kingdom of Heaven becomes not some place or some time in the future but another dimension amidst us now.
I wouldn’t exactly call it a gift but I can remember dates and numbers from my life better than about anybody I know. I remember things like phone numbers, birth dates and other numbers that I’ve lived–okay, so it’s probably OCD. But I believe there is a reality in numbers and the pseudo-science of numerology that we barely understand. The Bible is chock full of numeric symbolism. There is also the gematria of the Kabbalah. Gematria is the assigning of numeric values to the letters of the Hebrew alphabet. I think the ancient Hebrews understood that there was perfection in YHWH’s creation and that they could somehow apprehend His reality thru solving the mystery in numbers and the symmetry in geometric ratios.
BTW, today 3/29, is the birthdate of my old girlfriend Laura. She was truly one of the finest, most loving people I’ve ever known. We dated for a little over a year in 1988-89, and I’m certain God put her in my life to help me heal from the emotionally abusive marriage. After we broke up we remained friends. She died of a brain tumor on 11/24/91. She was only 42. That particular November felt like the nadir of the upside down arc that is my life. Besides Laura dying, I was troubled by a host of nagging issues. I kept having the image of me putting a gun in my mouth and blowing my head off. Eventually the persistence of this image scared me to the point of getting down on my knees and praying.
When I start dwelling overly much on my age I think about some older dudes the Lord has graciously brought into my life over the past few years. I know they were put there to give me hope. I’ve written several blogs about my 92-y.o. neighbor, Angelo. But first there was the indomitable 80 y.o Stanley Spiegle who I served with in the Red Cross in Texas after hurricanes Rita and Katrina in October of ’05. Stanley is a retired psychologist who lives in Santa Fe. He flew to Houston to spend two weeks sleeping on a cot in a county exhibition hall and counseling trauma survivors. He and Angelo are both WW II veterans of the AAF–Stanley, a B-17 navigator and Angelo a B-24 ball-turret gunner.
The following summer ’06, I had the pleasure of going on a mission trip to Barcelona. One of my fellow missioners was 79-y.o Jack Terman. We spent two weeks supporting an outreach ministry of Kasr el-Dobara church in Cairo working with Muslim immigrants to Spain. He seemed to handle the rigors of a stretched comfort zone better than I. Jack is a retired engineer. In the understated way of mid-westerners of his era he mentioned that his first trip to Europe was with the U.S. Army in 1945. Jack, Stanley, Angelo–members of the greatest generation and imhop men amongst men.
And then there was another old dude on the trip to Scotland last summer. A group from Celebrate Recovery (CR) stayed in a Teen Challenge drug-rehab for 10 days. Our goal was to teach them the CR model. I figured I’d be far and away the senior member in our group of twelve missioners, but no, Ralph LaVigne had me beat by almost a full decade–lookin’ great at 78. His witness for the Lord and to a life of sobriety was powerful for the lads at Sunnybrae to hear. He was a valuable addition to our team.
Having a bipolar heritage I’ve experienced first-hand the power of natural rhythms and cycles. I’m not so convinced of the validity of the cycles in astrology but nevertheless I find them interesting. Dane Rudhyar believed that our lives are played out in cycles of four and seven– proceeding thru four cycles of seven years and seven cycles of four years (28 years), and that our earthly journey and our destiny was completed at age 84 by living thru three 28-year cycles. Eighty-four is the number of years it takes the planet Uranus to circuit the sun. It takes just under 30-years for my ruling planet Saturn to circuit the sun. Thirty years ago I used to be deeply into all that New Age stuff–now, not so much.
I think I always wanted to be a “Christian” when I grew up. But it just takes a long time for some people to become who they really are. It also explains why I was consumed by anxiety and a nameless dread during the 23 years that I wandered thru agnosticism, Taoism and new age silliness. Anyway, I’d like to think that the strange journey I’ve had is part of God’s plan to touch people in ways that more conventional lives don’t. I know was looking for God, but apparently in all the wrong places. Jesus was knocking on the door of my heart but for 23 long years I wasn’t answering.
Now, I don’t like calling myself a Christian so much. Christians have kind of gotten a bad name. Also, it kind of messes with the secularist’s heads when you say to them you’re not a Christian, and then add “I prefer Jesus-follower.” That’s what He said to Peter, “Follow thou me.”