First Time Here: Using Faith to Learn the Ropes of a New Time of Life


This is the first time I have been 64. I have never been this old before. I can hardly believe it. All you 64-year-olds out there will know what I mean.

I notice that people who are 64 (or 74, or 54, or 44) are always going around telling perfect strangers their age. This is not so much to fish for compliments about how good they look (there is that element too) but because they themselves can hardly fathom what has happened to them. How did they get to be here? When? My theory is that they blurt out the number in their genuine amazement, to seek some kind of reassurance from others.

I remember in my 7th-grade classroom looking at a magazine artist rendering of what John, Paul, George, and Ringo would look like at 64. You may recall the Beatles song that goes, “Will you still need me, will you still feed me, when I’m 64?” The predictions were all wrong, of course. They had Paul bald. And they didn’t know that John and George would never make it.

So 64 is a bummer only until you consider the alternative. Old age is a blessing in the Bible: “And Job died, an old man, and full of days” (Job 42:17).

I think young people don’t realize something about old people. Because these water-wet newbies are recent arrivals on the planet, still blinking in the light, and because the rest of us come like a ready-made chess set for them, or like stage furniture of their little play in which they are the central character, they think we have always been old. It’s like that steady-state theory of the cosmos that says the world has always been, and will always be, as it is like now.

I remember being a kid and my grandmother telling me she hated to look in the mirror and see her face. I couldn’t understand what her problem was. For my part I liked the way she looked—all veiny and wrinkled. In fact I insisted on it in my mind. It was right and proper that she should look the romantic part of a Cévennes peasant, in order for my world to be OK. Throw a rocking chair in the deal and so much the better.

Here is another thing I have never been before—the mother to empty-nested children. If you millennials or Gen Xers think it should come naturally to boomers to know how to do this, you are not using your imagination. How much closeness—and how much distance—are we supposed to maintain in our contacts with you? Do not marvel if we stumble.

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Andrée Seu Peterson

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