Age

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

September 6, 2001

 

I  caught a glimpse of myself in the motel bathroom mirror. I was shocked.  For good reasons, I don’t have a full length mirror at home. 

            Who was that stoop-shouldered, pot-bellied and gray-headed old guy before me?  If I had my glasses I could see better.  I didn’t remember growing older.  When did he?

In my 20s and 30s, my profile didn’t change much.  That was the happy by-product of not having a car.  Since I walked or bicycled nearly everywhere, I never had to worry about my weight or exercise. 

            But then in my forties, things changed.  I got more prosperous.   With a reliable car and good rectory cooks, I put on the pounds.

By the time I got to my 50s, middle age and middle class had taken a toll on my middle.

Suddenly, the warranty expired.  Right on schedule, things began to fall apart.

Blotches on my skin turned out to be skin cancer.

I failed the eye exam for my driver’s license.   The doctor graduated me from bifocals to trifocals.  

I was diagnosed with a mild case of M.S.  I began to notice all sorts of aches and pains.  When I get up in the morning I hop around like a man walking on hot coals.  Only after a few minutes of stretching does feeling come back to my left foot.  Then I am ready for strenuous things, like tying my shoes.

My perpetual fatigue was traced to “sleep apnea” (interrupted breathing).  Now I wear a machine that looks like an elephants trunk.  As I sleep, it forces air down my nostrils.  I feel like a deep-sea diver, tethered to a ship. 

At the grocery store, I find myself searching for raisin bran.  I linger around the vitamins.  I read labels on over the counter medicines.  

In my 51st year, I can still call myself “middle aged”, only if I expect to live to be 102.  I am on the downward slope and picking up speed. 

So, am I unhappy about all this?  No, not really. 

Actually, middle age is the happiest time of my life.  It is a grace.

Sure, I’d love the have my teenage body back.  But I wouldn’t want to be a teenager again for all the tea in China.  Who needs all that adolescent angst? 

I don’t want to be a young adult either.  Who wants all those career worries and concerns about love life.  As a priest my social life does not extend much beyond the parish.   My idea of a really good evening now is staying home and getting to sleep before 10 o’clock.

The nice thing about middle age is that basically, we can be comfortable with the person we have become.

I won’t win the Nobel Prize, but I have productive work, good family and friends, and a nice, peaceful place to live.  What else is there?  

For the Christian, there is always a future.  There is always hope.  Even as we let go of our youth, we gain much more in peace, contemplation and acceptance.

Faith has been my greatest gift in handling the aging process.  It has been my longest running companion.  It is faith is what has “brought me safe thus far”.  Even as things continue to fall apart, it is faith that will lead me home.