There is something strangely satisfying and comforting about Blues music. While the songs could be seen as largely negative they are, instead, just fully revealing and honest slices of a life that is often hard. On the day of my 60th birthday I listened to this, sung by Buddy Guy:
And I done got old
I can’t do the things I used to do
‘Cause I’m an old man
I can’t look like I used to
I can’t walk like I used to
I can’t love like I used to
I was going to buy into the whole done-got-old thing but had a good laugh instead at the truth of his observations. I have gotten old, things don’t work quite like they used to, and I realize I’m on the wrong side of middle age. I’ve got some wrinkles and my assorted joints complain when I walk. ‘Cause I’m an old man.
A few years back I went to a party for a friend turning 50. It was the classic birthday bash with old-age themed décor, gag gifts of walkers and medicines. And birthday cards filled with age-related jokes referencing fine wine and incontinence and funny lines like “with old age comes new skills… you can laugh, cough, sneeze and pee yourself at the same time.” I did not make that up – it’s on a card. The party ultimately turned into an alcohol and dance fueled act of defiance against the inevitability of the downward spiral. And I’m sure they all felt it the next day.
Instead of going there on the occasion of my 60th trip around the sun I decided to look at the wonder-filled existence I have had, maybe relish a few memories of the highs and lows and the person they made me. And you know what I found?
1) I am fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14)
I count four times in my life I should have been dead. I survived cancer as a young teen. Not as horrible a cancer as some but still, untreated it would have ended in my very early demise. I totaled my first car three days after getting my license. In the age before airbags and safety cages, a thin webbed seatbelt kept my face off the steering wheel. As a forty-something I had open-heart surgery to replace an aortic valve gone bad. And just this past year had the valve replaced again as I was in congestive heart failure.
Yet the human body is incredibly resilient & readily repairable and, living in an age of rapidly advancing medical science, we can expect to make it through most problems and mishaps. We are fearfully and wonderfully made, designed to survive what can be a hostile existence.
2) Find a good wife, live a good life (Proverbs 18:22)
I met this wonderful and pretty lady 34 years ago and we decided we could do this thing called marriage. With her patience and goodness our marriage has not only survived but been a hands-up-in-the-air roller coaster ride, full of laughter and screaming and fun and terror. Sometimes all at the same time. But while I have “done got old” I got old with a good one. And when I look into those green eyes all my years melt away. I could easily do another 34 with my good wife.
3) Children are God’s best gift (Psalm 127:3-5)
Some people gain great wealth, some make powerful discoveries, others have amazing adventures. Me? I raised four children. Now, they have made me rich in many ways, I have discovered endless truths and it goes without saying that raising kids is an amazing adventure. While I have indeed gotten old, my reward is to see the fruit of my labor and watch as each makes their way in life. They all four are smart, hard-working, loving, decent human beings. And they pay taxes – so I did my part for the future.
4) I have lived to see my children’s children (Psalm 128:6)
It’s hard to complain about aches and pains, poor vision, wrinkles and gray hair when you have grandchildren. Before my mother left this earth she got to see her offspring to the fourth generation. And you know what? You can’t do that without getting old. It is amazing to watch and wonder as the little ones scramble around. Sure, I also see the pain and trouble they will experience, the challenges they will face, all with the certainty that I won’t be there for their whole lives. But there they are – my children’s children, full of life and with endless possibilities.
5) Been there, done that (Psalm 19:1)
Being raised as an Army brat I had the rare opportunity to see things most never will. I have crossed the ocean by ship and plane. I have climbed to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris, bobbed through the canals of Venice in a gondola, wandered the ruins of ancient castles in Germany. I have seen the extremes of man’s wickedness at the concentration camp in Dachau. But witnessed the beauty of creation in the tulip fields of Holland. All over this great land we call America I have enjoyed God’s creation in rivers and mountains and canyons. And marveled at man’s attempts at creation from Mount Rushmore to the monuments of Washington, D.C. My time on this globe has been spent experiencing as much of it as possible. And now, since I done got old, I hope to have time to see even more.
6) Enjoying life is okay (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
While life is full of work and struggle and pain and disappointment, it is also full of fun and joy and adventure. Plus, good food and wine. Why not enjoy it? There is too much time spent following other people’s ideas for your life. Enjoy what you have, when you have it. God did not put you on this planet to walk around looking like you are sucking a lemon. Turn that thing into lemonade. The really sweet kind. And throw in some chocolate chip cookies for good measure. One thing is certain – you will not live forever in this body so it’s a good plan to make the most of the experience. Live, love, laugh as the sign says. And it is good advice.
7) Do good (Matthew 22:39-40)
I was at the post office the other day to get stamps. I always buy unusual stamps because life is too short for flags and flowers – I like musicians or old pickup trucks or art on my postage. But the place was busy, and the clerk was having none of it – I was actually shocked at the impatience and rudeness on display. Rather than encourage and enjoy my peculiarity she wanted me out of the way. And you know what – who has time for that kind of attitude? It’s a short span we get to hang out here, why fill it with unkindness? There is plenty of hate in the world – we should fill our everyday activity with doing good, being kind, connecting with our fellow travelers on this journey. If you are going to interact with someone, do it with love. And the world will be a better place.
Done got old? Yep, I have. Marriage, children, grandchildren. The places I’ve been, the things I’ve enjoyed. They all happened over time. Without the turn of the calendar page and the incessant sweep of the clock’s hands, I would not have had any of it. I have lived, loved and laughed amid the tears and pain. But on balance life has been a grand and wonderful experience. The joy outweighs the despair, the fun overcomes the pain, the love triumphs over hate.
Maybe I don’t walk like I used to, I certainly don’t look like I used to, perhaps I can’t ‘love’ like I did when I was twenty (TMI?) but I won’t buy in. I done got old – but that’s not worth singing the blues over. I done got old, by living a life worth living.