Column: Another year bites the dust

Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.
Father Mark Goldasich is the pastor of Sacred Heart parish in Tonganoxie. he has been editor of the Leaven since 1989.

by Father Mark Goldasich

Several months ago I met a couple of good friends and parishioners for dinner at The Legends in Kansas City, Kan. I arrived early and, as it was hot, I ordered a cool “adult” beverage to slake my thirst. It was brought without fuss or delay.

When my friends arrived a little later, the same attentive waitress greeted them and asked what they’d like to drink. When they ordered what I was having, a curious thing happened. The server asked to see their IDs to verify that they were of legal age to drink. Apparently used to this routine, my friends gladly showed their IDs and off the waitress went.

Feeling incredibly ancient, I summoned up all of my dignity and told my friends that I, too, had been “carded” by the waitress before they’d arrived.

Skeptically, but politely, they said, “Oh, really?”

“Yes,” I sniffed. “She asked if I had my AARP card handy, so she could give me a senior discount!”

Of course, the waitress didn’t really ask for my AARP card, but I do have one . . . just in case. Yes, aging is on my mind as yet another birthday rolls around for me on Nov. 20.

Naturally, the “aging” e-mails and cards have already started to arrive. One featured bumper stickers with clever sayings like: “I’m not old, I’m just chronologically challenged.” Or “I’m so old, I no longer buy green bananas.” Or “Quit worrying about your health . . . It’ll go away.”

One birthday card noted: It’s that special day when your dear ones gather around say those three little words . . . (inside) “Cake on fire! Cake on fire!”

Seriously though, when you begin to pay attention to it, there’s a lot being written about aging. A few days ago, for example, stories appeared about a British biologist named Aubrey de Grey, who considers aging a disease that can be cured, thus allowing people to live for 1,000 years. He’s the founder of the Methuselah Foundation. Remember Methuselah? He’s mentioned in the Book of Genesis (5:27) as one who lived for 969 years.

De Grey seems to be at odds, though, with a 1999 AARP survey which found that two-thirds of the interviewees did not even want to live to be 100; they said 91 was old enough. In fact, respondents thought that a person was “old” at age 69. Young adults (18-24) said old age starts at 58; those 55 and older said it starts at 74.

I prefer an approach to life suggested by Dave Pelzer. Apparently, he suffered severe abuse as a child at the hands of his mother, who called him “It.” Despite dire predictions from a psychologist as to how he would turn out, today Pelzer is a successful author and Internet radio show host. In an interview in the Oct. 15 Bottom Line newsletter, Pelzer gave some hints on how to overcome adversity, which aging can appear to be.

His suggestions follow common sense: Exercise to de-stress; take at least a little time each day to do something you enjoy; recognize that set-backs are “nothing more than the tolls that must be paid on the road to success”; don’t let fear immobilize you; and “do one thing [right now] to make your life better. Then do something else tomorrow.”

Perhaps the best and most succinct “aging” advice comes from Sister Thea Bowman (1937-1990), a Franciscan Sister of Perpetual Adoration. She was a dynamic teacher, who spent her relatively short life helping people to break down racial and cultural barriers. She was one of the “saints to lean on” highlighted in a book of the same name by Sister Janice McGrane that I mentioned here at the beginning of November. Sister Thea’s philosophy was to “live until you die.”

It sounds so simple, yet how many people die spiritually, intellectually, or emotionally way before they do so physically? While some might be tempted to wait for de Gray to find his cure for aging, I choose instead to thank God each morning for the brand-new day he’s graced me with, and then to live that day balancing time for prayer, laughter, friends, work, study, leisure and rest. Still missing from the list is exercise, but I’m working on it, to be a better steward of this body, mind and soul the Lord has given me.

What I don’t understand, though, is why people say you get more forgetful as you age. How silly!

By the way, that reminds me of a funny story.

Did I ever mention that several months ago I met a couple of good friends and parishioners for dinner at The Legends?

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