One evening, while feeding my father his nightly bowl of vanilla ice cream, I looked into his wise old face and wondered what went through the mind of a man his age.
“Dad, what’s it like to be 95,” I asked, ready for an inspiring revelation.
“I have no idea,” he answered.
“What do you mean, you have no idea?” I giggled. “Think of all the things you’ve seen in your lifetime. You must have some thoughts about being on your way to 100 years old.
Opening his mouth wide, preparing for his last spoonful of his favorite desert, he continued, “In my mind I’m 21.”
Now, I know, the most important approach to life is in the way we think, feel and react to things, but what about the degradation of the body, the loss of hearing and eyesight, the fact that so much of your independence is stripped from you? And finally, my biggest horror, “Dad, what about all your wrinkles, don’t they get to you?”
Grabbing my hand to help the feeding along, he let out his typical “harrumph” when annoyed with a stupid question and answered, “All that has never bothered me. Vanity is a woman’s thing.”
A WOMAN’S THING?!
Ok, I admit it. Vanity is my middle name. That’s a lesson I learned well from my mother.
In my youth, I was trained that a lady never left the house without her face on. Make-up and hair were just as essential as a cute outfit, and I’m ashamed to say – old habits die hard. To this day, I’m still a slave to my cosmetics.
After handing him his rosary and a quick kiss goodnight, I walked out of his room to reassess my life. I know that youth is not just about chronological age. It’s not whether I’m wrinkle free, can run a marathon or dance until the cows come home. It’s not how sharp my brain is or if I’m still up to the task of critical thinking. It’s about my inner spirit and how old I want to be.
Old ages brings every individual two beautiful things. The first is wisdom. That gift that allows us to see deep into ourselves and treasure the richness of our lives well lived. The second is the ability to let go – of trying to impress others, to release our all self-absorbing worries of image and to let go of the fact that we’re not physically who we once were, but accepting who we are now. Let’s face it, even with several face lifts; we can’t stop the march of time.
I watch my dad eat whatever he wants and enjoy the taste, never worrying about weight gain. He sleeps when he needs it and doesn’t feel guilty. He doesn’t get upset over the things he can’t control and, at the end of the day, he soaks in the love of the family he raised and is ever so proud. I want that –NOW!
While I’m not ready to give up my mirror just yet, and all the lotions and potions that will helpfully retard the advancement of time on my face, I will try to take my dad’s lead and mentally turn back the hands of time. I’ll grab hold of the wisdom imparted so far in my 58 years and be forever be the young age of 35 (that was a good year). My body may not show it, but my joy for living will sing it loud and clear.