Sunday, January 15, 2012

At Any Age!

"I am a nonagenarian," she beams, testing me, her thick waves of silvered hair glistening in the refracted light as her head beside me bobs in the shallow end of the pool. "When I was your age I could swim like you. I'm Pat. How old are you?" I blink the chlorine out of my eyes and respond, suddenly feeling embarrassed at my sound, "Just a sexagenarian, I fear, ha!" She doesn't miss a beat. "Oh, still a youngster! Well, I can still drive!" Her hands come up out of the water and they drip as she mimes a steering wheel. "And I volunteer at the Victoria Operatic Society; I paint sets! Also, I send my knitting to the poor in Africa, and... I wish that mother would shush her child. Dreadful. In my time children were to be seen and not heard, you know!" I look into her eyes, smile disarmingly, and keep quiet. "Well, I'm Patricia. Pat. Hello...? Ah, Richard. Well, I must do my lap, bye!" And she bobs off in a dog paddle down the length of the pool, taking her bright blue eyes, remarkably young looking face, and vibrant buoyancy with her.

Perhaps I shall never see her again. In the long days of our melding with person upon persons, around whom we can maneuver with nary a nod, we are much like busy ant colonies, trudging in a general direction. Ever noticed how one or two stop for a moment to engage? They appear to pass on some conspiratorial message or other, then scurry on. The meeting between Pat and I, immersed in the fluidity of the moment, was like that. Her message of being engaged in life may well be transcribed as the proverbial 6.6: "Go to the ant, thou sluggard; consider her ways and be wise."

Being. Doing. Progressing. Contributing. We differentiate as we age. My friend with whom I go to the swimming pool is a septuagenarian. He brings his painful leg along. He brings his stoicism and his patience with life too. Sometimes he picks me up; other times I do the driving. His physical posture and evident age now hides his once having been the Principal of a thousand plus strong High School. We see people as they now appear. Who would think that he once tilted his lance at windmills, galloped off into the sunsets? Our 30 year relationship has run the gamut of our separate and together decades. We once lived together. We've been on shared vacations, hikes, done moving days, visited, phone-called, and commiserated. We've been best man at each other's weddings. A friendship is built of moments such as these. And in among these lines and the many moments actually lived are the many times I've taken him for granted too.

When he got into my car I did not ask how his weekend went with the four new dinner guests they'd put together. I forgot. I had my own agenda. I spoke of recently reading Brene Brown's 'Gifts of Imperfection', paradoxically, and we delved into the complexity of being wholehearted; the vulnerability of being fully authentic, and we both articulated the caveat: "Give not your truth that others may trample it." Now, if I didn't say that, then somebody, somewhere, is most likely being quoted. We much depend on reciprocity.

It is in the moment of meeting a new Pat, or an aged friend, or mayhap even a teenager that we deem or are deemed by the other be fit, to be worthy, to be authentic. Yet where our truly realistic life lies, I submit, is in not only what we practically do with ourselves at any given moment, but how we spiritually see ourselves in the swim of life, at any age.

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