Rabbi Irwin Wiener, D.D.
As we get older, we start to think about yesterday and maybe yesterday’s yesterday. In fact, our thoughts always focus on what was and not what is. That is, until something happens that makes us realize that today is here, the today that we dreamed about yesterday and maybe even dreaded.
We all have dreams. Some of us dream about what was instead of what is. We do this because the present, in some respects, is very difficult to concentrate on. It contains illness and pain and disappointments. Years ago, we never thought about all these things because we were immortal, impervious to unpleasant expectations.
Now we are at the ebb. The waters of our life are receding. The tide goes out and does not return. The richness of the flow has dried up. We look in the mirror and we see a different person, a person we do not recognize. We see a person who has lost the glow, the spark that ignited a flame of desire and fulfillment.
I am reminded of something I received that was posted on a doctor’s office wall. The author is unknown:
Said the little boy,
“Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man,
“Sometimes I do that too.”
The little boy whispered,
“I sometimes wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
Sadly, the old man nodded and said,
“So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the little boy,
“It seems that grown-ups don’t pay attention to me.”
With that, he felt the warmth of the wrinkled old hand,
“I know what you mean,” said the old man.
A tear and a smile were seen upon each other’s face.
How sad that when we get older, it really is as though we are back once more to our youth. The cycle is never-ending. We start in life being dependent and we somehow find ourselves again relying on others.
There is an old folk saying: Parents once taught their children to talk; today children teach their parents to be quiet. Where is the patience we showed when our children required that of us and now, as we age, deserve the same consideration? No longer are we the wise ones. Now we are the inconvenient ones. No longer are we the givers. Now we are the takers. And there is where we find the resentment.
Yes, age can be daunting and frightening. It can be all these things and more because we understand that life goes on and we are not going to be part of it anymore. But then we should always remember the Psalmist’s admonition to say to God: “Do not forget me, God, until I have shouted of Your strength to the next generation.” (Psalms 71:9)
This should be our concentration – to be grateful for the past, appreciative of the present and ever thankful that we have had a part in determining the future. We have witnessed offense and forgiveness, loneliness and love, pain and compassion, defeat and victory. Who could ask for anything more? We certainly do not want anything less.