I am writing this post with mixed emotions....
On the one hand, I feel tremendous sadness in the wake of the death of my uncle, Melvin Simmons, who departed this life early yesterday morning, Monday, March 7, 2011. I feel especially for my cousin Michelle, who in just a few short days, at the age of thirty-seven, will have buried both of her parents. I know that both Uncle Melvin and Aunt Mildred are resting in peace. I also know that God will flood Michelle's heart with the peace that passes human understanding during this time, and in the hard moments that will follow.
On the other hand, I feel an overwhelming sense of joy after having celebrated my mother's sixty-second birthday at dinner on Sunday afternoon. Her birthday was yesterday, Monday, March 7, 2011. After dinner on Sunday, I had made up my mind to blog about my parents and how cute they have become in their older age. At first, I felt funny blogging about my parents, seeing that Michelle had just lost her father. It seemed wrong. But on second thought, after losing uncle Melvin, I recognized that we are not to take the gift of life, and the gift of our parents, for granted. Let me rephrase that and make it personal: I am not ever to take the gift that God has given to me, in the form of my parents John and Lois, for granted. Not ever.
With that in mind, I want to share a moment from Sunday afternoon:
Dad, Mom, hubby and I went to an early dinner at the Bayou in Mount Vernon. Seeing that today is Fat Tuesday, and that this is Mardi Gras season, it was appropriate that we enjoyed some good Louisiana Cajun cuisine for dinner. Plus, mom had mentioned the Bayou several times in the preceding weeks. Anyway, we talked and laughed the whole time. There were moments when the men folk were talking sports while mom and I were laughing about God knows what. After a filling meal, I virtually forced mom to have dessert so that we could surprise her with one lone candle on a slice of pie and two not-so-enthusiastic waiters singing, "Happy Birthday..." The funniest part was when they stopped at her name, because they never got her name! Dad joked about the lack of presence of the other sixty-one candles.
At some point we got to talking about Dad's age and his big birthday coming up. In June I will be thirty-five (brace yourselves) and, in September, Dad will be seventy. At that point, I will be half his age and, at least by the parameters set in Psalm 90, he will have lived a good number of years. If by reason of strength he has some more years, God be praised!
So, with mom's birthday candles and Dad's upcoming monumental birthday, deep down I was thinking about their lives and their mortality. The truth is, we often pay so much attention to the ways in which infants grow into toddlers, toddlers into children, and children into teenagers that we miss the beautiful and strange things that happen when we age past fifty: deeper faith in God and the proliferation of gray hairs; the ability to let things roll of your back while shrinking several inches; a profound sense of humor that comes from having to purchase Polident in bulk from Costco; and the gems of accumulated wisdom to share with family and friends coupled with hearing loss (which could be a blessing, who wants to hear others complain?). On Sunday, I got a good look at my parents and noticed the changes taking place in their lives that signify their age, maturity, and wisdom. I also noticed the markers that signify aging and slow decay.
One such moment was when hubby and I were dropping my parents back at their home. It was pouring raining, and I watched them exit the car with the kind of attention you would give to a six year old exiting a car. I don't say this in a condescending way; I say this with the care of a daughter who loves her parents and would hate to see them get hurt in any way. I watched as they were exiting the car: my father with his short—old-man—gait turning back to see if mom was nearing his side; my mother smiling, stopped over, and shuffling along so not to get her hair wet (older yes, but she is still a black woman in America with a standing hair appointment on Saturdays); and the two of them watching for each other as they made their way into the apartment building. Suddenly a question entered my mind: When did my parents become cute, old people?
When did my parents become cute, old people? I remember my parents, young and spry. I remember my parents thinner and standing a bit taller than they do now. I remember my parents as people of forty and fifty. I remember my parents with black hair, and only black hair, on their heads. I remember my parents (quietly) traversing the terrains of working full-time, familial security, and financial stability. But now the game has changed. My parents are in their sixties and approaching seventy, and they are aging well...cute and old...but doing it with grace while leaning on each other. The game may have changed, my parents may be changing, but I am grateful for their witness and model of what it means to grow older together...
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