Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When You Get to a Certain Age

6/1/2011—I’m 59, and when you get to that age, the classic transitions come or are already here. You are aging. Your parents are dying. Your children are rearing children

My wife and I were flying up to see my new grandson on Sunday and so I was reading two newspapers pretty closely, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the New York Times. Maybe I am experiencing confirmation bias, but there seemed to be a lot of stories about aging parents.

One such story was a book review of A Bittersweet Season, the quasi-memoir by Jane Gross about her experience caring, with her brother, over her mother’s decline. (Her mother died at 88 after assisted living and a nursing home). Another was Sally Kalson’s beautiful essay about her mother’s 90th birthday. (Maybe two is not so much).

Now there are two aspects to attention paid to this kind of aging. There is the sociological. Baby boomers are a big group and their concerns generate a kind of cultural interest. The parents of baby boomers are dying and they themselves are in unmistakable decline. The end is a lot closer than the beginning.

But the other aspect is the spiritual. As life draws to a close, you cannot help but ask what is its point. If God is not a being to return to in death, then what was the point?

Which brings me back to the birth of my grandson. Life renews every year. If it were not for the death of my parents, there would be no room for Emanuel. If it were not for my death, there would be no room for his child. And even if an individual does not reproduce, the truth still applies. The dynamism that is life requires death.

So Disney had it right all along. The point of our lives is to be a part of the great circle of life. The same may even be true of existence. The existence of this universe may require the birth and death of the universe itself.

Our part to play, while we are on the stage, is to care for the future and preserve the best of the past. I have to say that fiscally and environmentally, we are doing a pretty poor job.

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