I am now 65. Ticks me off! I’m not ticked because I’ve lived 65 years of a good life. I’m ticked because that famous catch phrase, “I’ve fallen, and I can’t get up”, now applies to me. It comes from the Life Alert people who sell devices that you wear that will connect you to emergency personnel in the event you fall and hurt yourself while living alone. The inability to get up would leave you helpless until someone found you. But with a life alert watch or pager worn on a string around your neck, you can always access help.
Well, that phrase (I’ve fallen…) has become ensconced in our cultural nomenclature. It has for years been used as a punch line or laugh line. I’ve often used it in my younger days. Funny how it does not seem so funny anymore!
As I headed out for my prayer walk early on my birthday, July 30th, I began to think about how I have forgotten how it feels to be young, hyper energetic, strong, and powerful. I thought of how effortless it used to be to rise up after sitting on the floor or playing with my kids down there. Now, when I get down there to play with my grands, it is not so easy to rise again. As much as I try to stay in shape by exercising on my elliptical every day, it is “elliptical shape” that does not translate well into “Apa getting up from the floor shape”.
I can remember as a boy running full speed to the precipice of a rolling hill on the side yard of our home on old Laura Lane, leaping from that precipice, flying through the air, hitting the ground and going into a roll simultaneously, and popping up and doing it again. It gave me the sense of flight to do that. Just the thought of that hurts today.
I remember when I first started to realize that the decline had already begun. In college, I played offensive guard on my football team. My favorite play was a sweep right or left in which I would “pull” out from the line of scrimmage and lead block for a fullback or halfback around the end. I had just enough “speed” to get out in front of the back and “plow the road” for him. A few years after I graduated, I went back to play in the alumni football game against the current college team. Not a good idea. Seriously, I was never so sore in my life than I was the next few days. But what really convinced me that I was quickly losing my physical competence was when we called my favorite play; sweep around the right end. When the ball was snapped, I pulled out like I had done so many times in college, turned the “corner” around the right end to head upfield… and was stunned when the back carrying the ball (a young man who had graduated just the year before) sped by me like I was standing still. I did not even come close to throwing a block. I remember when he flew by me, I stopped dead in my tracks, put my hands on my hips, and shook my head in disbelief.
Now, I’m 65. I’ve had my left hip replaced twice (necessitated by…wait for it…a football injury my senior year). I have not played in a basketball game since I was 42. There was a time when I could not imagine my life without playing basketball. Now, I cannot imagine life with it. The last season of church softball for me was 2001. I grew up playing hockey and could ice skate like a whirling dervish. Even into my late 40’s, I could skate almost as well as I did in my 20’s. A few years ago, our youth man, Bobby Unis, had a birthday celebration at an ice rink. I strapped on those skates, headed out to the ice, and immediately fell on my behind. I literally crawled off the rink realizing I’d never try that again. Additionally, I have come to notice that the salt bags for the water softener get heavier every time I have to lug them downstairs and fill up the salt tank. Once strong as a bull, it now is more appropriate to describe myself as being “weak as a kitten”. Okay, I exaggerate…perhaps a little.
But you know what… it’s not all bad. At 65 nobody expects me to do the heavy lifting anymore. There is no “ego” anymore (and thus no embarrassment) about not being able to physically do things like I used to. And…and… appreciation and evaluation of me is no longer based in a “diminishing return” of physical ability. Today, the evaluation and appreciation are grounded in something far different, life experience and, hopefully, spiritual growth. Because as Paul says, “For which cause we faint not; but though our outward man perish, yet the inward man is renewed day by day. For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory; While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal” (2 Cor. 4:16-18- KJV).
While I still care for and attempt as best as I can to “preserve” the outward man, the last 45 years have been invested more in “the inward man”. While investment in the “outward man” yields diminishing returns, investment in the “inner man” yields both temporal and eternal dividends. Literally, a person whose outer man is ravaged by weakness and disease, can become stronger and stronger in the inner man. This is where our true investment should lie.
So, I may fall someday and not be able to get up. I may have a hard time getting up from the floor after playing with my grands. I may have aches and pains in places I never knew I had when I was younger. But I can grow stronger and stronger in my inner man until the day I die. I take great comfort and encouragement in that.
Now excuse me… I need to rub some liniment on my aching knees!
Terry (the aged)