Just Watching – March 2019

How about putting our thinking cap on as we take a whack at a quote from CS Lewis that was passed on to me by an old friend Michael Bryan.  Lewis said: “You don’t have a soul.  You are a soul.  You have a body.”

That pretty well captures what I rediscover about myself as I peer at that old-man-me in the mirror each morning.  Am I that guy?  Or am I the very different person that I feel is simultaneously right there inside me?

What stirred all that to the surface is not only my normally restless mind coupled to the Lewis quote but also  quite another book with which I’m wrestling.  It was recently referred to me by Dr. George Heider.  Like many other Seniors and Super Seniors I think he senses that there is large scale change going on in our world as the number of people over 85 years of age zips past the 490,000 mark, still growing as it does!  The book, titled “Aging Thoughtfully” is a 2017 Oxford University Press publication that features essays crafted by Chicago U profs Martha Nussbaum and Saul Levermore on eight of the topics which Senior and Super-Senior face.  It’s meant to make you think and surfaces every bit as many questions as it does answers.  

“Aging Thoughtfully” has been a slow read for me.  That’s not just because of the intellectual capabilities of the authors but because page after page, almost line by line, the two of them make a thoughtful reader face a favorite question of Martin Luther: “What does this mean?”.  That for sure and more.  The book makes me search my soul (ala Lewis), “What does this mean to me?”  The book’s target is more than the head.  It aims for the teaser run-on attached to the book’s title says it contains “…conversations about retirement, romance, wrinkles and regret.”  Do those sound like critical post-65 concerns to you?  It does to me.  Standing here at 90 I have learned that the “aging” component of the books title is a given.  Like it or not I keep aging day by day.  But the “thoughtfully” component of the title is up to the each of us.  

So let me report on how Audie and I are doing in our new abode where Carol Stream, Illinois’ Windsor Park we are aging for sure – thoughtfully more so some days than others.  We have lived here for nearing six months all the while learning new things about senior community living and about ourselves with every passing day. 

Much (most?) of this community’s population can be doctrinally described as Evangelical and/or Reformed and at first blush see things quite differently from folks in Lutheran world in which we came of age.  But socially they are no different from the great people among whom we were raised.  Caring.  Loving.  Sharing.  Open.  Welcoming. 

To begin the vast majority of those who live here with us are either Seniors (those 60-85 years of age) or Super-Senior population segment (those 85 years of age and older).  There are not many Millennials or Boomers living in Windsor Park most of who manage the place, prepare and  serve meals or help with the maintenance needs that people like us can no longer do.  I think that of total population of maybe 600 a significant number are receiving some kind of specialized care.  As much as it can be said the rest care for themselves – with lots of support.

In general, Windsor Park has widows and widowers aplenty. Many are separated by circumstance from family and friends.  They enjoy social contacts and Windsor Manor provides contacts aplenty – as I am sure other facilities do as well.  Whether one is a resident here or not there millions of Seniors and Super-Seniors who have worked their way through all of life’s stages without knowing the Good News God offer them.  It is still true, as Jesus put it, “The fields are white unto harvest.”  Don’t let white hair, wrinkles and walkers fool you into thinking that those who are aging have no need “to hear the Story”.  Remember the CS Lewis quote?  “You don’t have a soul …you are a soul.”  Audie and I are at peace with where we now live because we see Windsor Park as a ministry and we start each day looking around for what God wants us to do – today.  

We know a lot about those whom we have been sent to serve because we are learning a lot about ourselves.   Most of them (us, too) don’t see as well as we once did.  I forgot but now remember how as a kid I would regularly thread a half dozen or so needles for Grandma Steinkamp who loved to sew but couldn’t see or hit the eye of the needle.  And I’m amazed by how many church publications use small type in material they send to us old guys.  They might just as well throw in the trash.  We, of necessity, do. 

Most of us don’t hear well, either.  Look at us when you speak – and don’t lower your voice at the end of sentences.  Be committed to successfully communicate with Seniors and Super Seniors.  “Can’t hear” looks a lot like “Don’t care.”

Everyone has memory lapses, Super-Seniors more so.  ‘Nuf said.  And as we age just walking can become a greater and greater challenge.   Steps?  Ugh!  Even without them walking can be a slow-go.    

Thinking back I recognize that each and every previous generational segment of my past had limitations which I learned to accommodate.  As I “age thoughtfully” I look out for new challenges seeing them as reminders of the lifelong constancy of change. 

I’m the oldest living Mueller male in direct descent going back to the mid-1600s.  That’s nothing to brag about.  To me it means I have a responsibility to my descendants as well as to my peers to pass on what I am learning about thoughtfully aging.  Aging?  For sure.  Thoughtfully?  That remains to be seen.  But in any case, passing experience and wisdom on is what at 90 I am called to do.  I hope doing so will benefit them.  I know it benefits me.

There is still much more I have to learn and will want to share that will come my way as I am “Aging Thoughtfully”.  I mean to pursue whatever that is and I promise to pass it on.

Meanwhile Lent 2019 is about here, my 90th.  Lent means “spring time”.  What an odd name for such a somber season!  No matter the root meaning imbedded in season of Lent is the conviction that Easter and the resurrection it offers is also just around the corner.  “Easter people” of the kind Rich Bimler encourages us to be have no time for denying aging.  Instead we marvel that God has offered Seniors and Super-Seniors a chance to age thoughtfully as the newer Day which the Father has prepared for His own draws nigh.  We wait expectantly.  How about that?