Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Gratitude in One Hand, Expectation in the Other

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

Gratitude in One Hand, Expectation in the Other

Article excerpt

We celebrated the life and passing of Sophie; one of our most venerable parishioners. I asked if she was cogent until the end. "Oh, yes. Well, she would sometimes walk into a room and forget why she was there, but otherwise ..."

We buried Sophie on her 97th birthday, which makes her exactly 50 years older than I am. For several years, I, too, have been walking into rooms with great determination only to forget why I'm there. It is not unusual for me to leave my office on the main floor of the rectory, run downstairs to our business office, pause, and then ask if anyone has any idea why I came down there. At least it's exercise.

There are other things I don't like about what is indisputably middle age. Gravity for one. Every time I turn around, another part of my body is going south. And a crown broke, one I've had for 20 years, which the 12-year-old dental hygienist pronounced "pretty old for a crown." And I actually rejected a book at the library because of the size of the print.

I don't much like it that wisdom figures -- priests, doctors, college professors, presidents of the United States -- are my age or younger. I don't like it that I don't understand any of the television shows or care about the characters. Are they really as funny as Mary Tyler Moore? I don't like it that my music is played in elevators. When I was 20, people who were almost 50 were not nearly as cool as I am. They were old people. They had old hair, old shoes and carried old handbags.

Yet they were wise people, not struggling through life as I am, seeking the truth. They had arrived. The other day, looking through some old correspondence, I came across a letter from a mentor whose advice in that letter I took very seriously. I carried that letter around for several years. It was creased, well-read. But, doing the arithmetic, I realize that my mentor was 36 when he wrote that letter! …

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