I look different in my mind than I do in my mirror. My hair is better; I am thinner, and not as wrinkled in my mind.
I am also smarter in my mind than in real life! I have a better sense of humor, more patience, courage, and compassion inside my head. Get me in front of the mirror that real life is, however, and I can’t remember any of the droll observations I thought about. Nor am I so long-suffering, or brave, or kind when put to the pop-quizzes daily life springs upon me. I am my own version of Walter Mitty.1
A dear relative is now residing in the memory care unit; it was not a move she or her husband wanted to make. However it was time. The mirrors in their lives reflected the harsh reality that dementia exhausted their best intentions to care for one another, in sickness and in health. It hasn’t worn out their love for each other, though.
As we visited with her, and the other residents, I wondered how is it that they see themselves – the facility has few mirrors. My prayer is they see themselves as loved in the reflection of their families and care-givers.
My friend Flo Wolfe asked,
Who ever warns us about the difficulties like this? Surely not what Robert Browning wrote in “Rabbi Ben Ezra” when he penned. “Grow old with me, the best is yet to be.”
Old age isn’t always reclining comfortably, reminiscing with our lovers about the good old days over tea and cookies. Lovers often become caregivers 24/7, in situations we could not have imagined when we vowed to love for richer, or poorer, in sickness and in health. No dreams of conquest, bravery, or wit – just the day in day out nightmare of helplessly watching their lovers depart in agonizing confusion.
We have tried to take the sting out of old age by renaming ourselves senior saints, silver saints, or seasoned citizens. But changed names can’t change the realities that come with age, even good things. Long and happy marriages end; healthy minds and bodies give way under the weight of our years, even good ones.
My mother said many times, “Old age isn’t for sissies” and “There is a lot of brass in the golden years.” I thought I knew what she meant – but I am only now realizing that these sayings are short for a reason – their application is unique for each one who grows old.
Today is the day to cherish what we have – we can’t add an hour to our day by worry. But we can thank God for the folks who help us care for our loved ones, and ask Him please to deepen our appreciation of the best that has come growing old together
1 The Secret Life of Walter Mitty
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