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Growing old: It's not about wearing purple
bressler color
John Bressler

What is it like to get old? I am not talking about age because I know some folks who seem to be old when they were children. They act as though they are on their last legs, talk about the good old days, twiddle their thumbs and sit on the porch whittling wood. Age doesn't mean looks either. If you have enough money, then you can have facelifts, body reshaping, nose jobs, tummy tucks, and well, use your imagination.

Maybe, just maybe, when I get old — I am now 87 — I will need to wear a sign or ring a bell to warn people that an old man is coming their way.

Some of you may be saying, "I know when people are old. They drive big cars and believe that 20 miles per hour is the speed limit. They do not steer the car. They aim it."

By the way, looking to the near future, I know I will always be the same handsome, daring, devil-may-care guy. I just won't be able to remember it.

Susan Martz or Jenny Joseph wrote, "When I am an old woman, I shall wear purple with a red hat, which doesn't go, and doesn't suit me. I shall spend my pension on brandy, summer gloves, satin sandals and say I have no money for butter. I will run my stick along the public railings, go out in my slippers in the rain and learn to spit. ... Maybe I ought to practice now so people who know me won't be shocked or surprised when I am old and I start to wear purple."

This lady has a handle on aging! She also has a caveat as well. We try so hard to stay young — by whatever means is available — that we aren't ready for what might be the most important stage in life. I enjoyed being a kid, hated being a teenager, love what I am now doing and can't wait to see what happens next. However, I do want to be prepared.

Here is my simple philosophy. Die happy! That's it. Die happy! What I mean is, "Don't wait." Too many say, "I always wanted to visit..., but just didn't. I always wanted to learn a foreign language. I always wanted to play an instrument. I always dreamed about..." The fact is that if something is going to get done, it is up to us to at least try. Of course, it is scary and there are no guarantees. Paris may not be so charming and bungee jumping may not be so exciting. 

My wife, Julie, has such a great outlook on the whole thing. She says, "I don't care if so-and-so didn't like it. I want to see it for myself. I will have made the decision."

What an optimist!

One of these days, my children will drive up and say, "Dad, we'd like to take you for a drive. There is a wonderful place called Home Among the Magnolias we'd like you to see."

I will have a sneaky idea what they have in store for me. At least they are not Eskimos. I was told that Eskimos put their old folks on the ice floes for polar bear food. That may be very good recycling, but not my idea of true retirement.

I am going to try to live to the fullest until I get old. That doesn't mean to climb Mount Everest, swim in shark-infested waters to dive for sunken treasure, but does mean to take reasonable chances, trips and never stop learning new things.

A theological entry, if you will be so kind to allow me this digression. All of my life — I believe — has been a sort of training ground or a kindergarten experience. When I think about it, it has taken a lifetime of trying, failing, learning, forgetting and relearning in order to understand rather than reacting and panicking.

I would like to believe that heaven is not a place of golden slippers, pearly gates and angels playing harps atop a cloud. I would like to believe that I will wake up and be asked to take my seat in a giant classroom filled with wide-eyed folks like me. In will come a Teacher. We will recognize the Teacher right off the bat, who will smile and say to us, "Welcome! I see that all of you have graduated from your preschool, and so you are now ready to learn. Open your books to page one and let us begin. By the way, the field trips are out of this world!"

When I am old, I will most likely not wear purple. I have my own idea what my ensemble will be, and it will be very comfortable.

Thanks, God!

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