A Prayer for Old Age

Dearest Heavenly Father–Papa–my life is just as much in Your hands as it’s always been, and I have many things to be thankful for and nothing of a particularly selfish nature to ask You for. Sure, I can think of a few things that would be nice to have, but they’re not the least necessary at this stage of my life. If they were, I feel confident You would provide them.

No, this prayer isn’t about things.

I do have concerns about my future, however. Not my eternal future, of course. I know I’ll be living with You among millions–probably billions–of other Christians when it’s my turn to “move” to Heaven.

At seventy-one, I’m not really very old. Even so, I’m conscious of the fact I’m getting older. I sense it daily. My body is no longer capable of doing things that used to be so simple, and my mind struggles all too frequently trying to remember a familiar word or the name of someone I know well. Those limitations are frightening.

But they’re are all part of aging, and it would be foolish to pray to avoid them. Instead I ask Your help in accepting and living with those limitations.

Lord, You know my greatest desire is to use the talents You’ve given me to serve You and to share the Good News of salvation with other people. You understand my frustrations at not being good at using the spoken word to do that. I’m thankful for the writing skills and musical abilities You’ve blessed me with and the spiritual truths You’ve given me to share with other people.

And the opportunities You’ve given me to share.

I’m thankful I can still participate in the nursing home ministry and share audio and video recordings of some of my songs on my website–and through YouTube. I take great pleasure in having many of my Christian novels published–and in hoping they will bless and entertain numerous readers.

Even so, the time may come when I can no longer sing or play my guitar, and the time may come when I’m no longer able to write. A time may even come when I don’t know who or where I am.

Papa God, I can’t pray “against” aging, but I beg You to keep me spiritually active to the very end. And to keep me so close to You that nothing else matters.

Please use me any way You choose…to the very end. Amen.

Do you have a prayer for old age? How about leaving a comment? 

I’ll be back again next Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

          

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A (Not So) Neighborly Problem

This is a true story, but I’ve changed the name of the person I’m writing about to avoid potential problems. Even though there is no chance she would ever learn about this blog post.

I recently had a visit from a Hanover County deputy. But before I tell you why, let me share the back story.

Elizabeth is ninety-three. She and her adult son–he’s around my age–have lived next door the entire fourteen years I’ve lived here, and–until recently–my relationship with Elizabeth was reasonably pleasant. If I didn’t talk with her often, it was because we didn’t have anything in common, not my lack of interest in her as a person.

Although she has a number of other health issues, her poor hearing, inability to walk easily, and weakening mental powers have proven to be the most frustrating–at least from my perspective.

Kathleen and I have made many efforts to be good neighbors to Elizabeth. I used to drive her to a doctor’s or a lawyer’s appointment from time to time, and Kathleen periodically drove her to the beauty shop. For years, Kathleen called her on Friday afternoons to find out what she needed us to get her at the grocery store that evening. While her needs were small, the extra shopping took time and effort and Elizabeth seemed to appreciate it.

Like many people from her generation, she’s afraid to spend much to make her place safer and more livable. Consequently, taking her food over when we got back from the grocery store required a visit to a less than environmentally pleasant atmosphere. But she needed help–her son doesn’t help as much as he could–and we felt we should continue doing whatever we could.

For years Elizabeth had claimed she heard me singing in the middle of the night or at other times–sometimes when I wasn’t home. But a few months ago, she started complaining to Kathleen that  the songs she heard me singing were critical of her. No amount of protesting on Kathleen’s part–how many times did she assure that poor woman that I did not get up during the night and sing, much less do it loudly enough for Elizabeth to hear next door with her poor hearing?– would convince her that she was hallucinating. Neither did Kathleen’s insistence that I wouldn’t sing bad things about her.

Why in the world would I want to?

Then Elizabeth called to tell Kathleen they couldn’t be friends anymore since Kathleen wasn’t keeping me from singing those nasty songs about her. Although that freed us from helping with the grocery shopping, our concern about her welfare led us to check with social services to see what help might be available for her.

The hallucinations have continued. Elizabeth has left lengthy voice mail on our phone (although not recently) and at the community office complaining about the songs she insists and sincerely believes–that’s the scary part–she hears. She’s called the Sheriff’s office at least three times to complain about me and believes she’s seen me talking to them at least once during the middle of the night.

I have to give the Hanover deputies a great deal of credit for their kindness and patience. Talking with Elizabeth and then with me, they can’t miss seeing that the real problem is senility, although of course they’re not free to express that opinion.

When the deputy came to the door that morning, he asked if I knew why he was here. “My next-door neighbor probably thinks she’s heard me singing nasty songs about her again.” His visit was brief, but as pleasant as it could be under the circumstances. He understood what Elizabeth is unable to understand and accept.

I’ve hesitated to publish this post because I’m not fond of saying anything bad about Elizabeth. Her mental condition isn’t her fault any more than her physical problems, and her hallucinations haven’t created any real problem for Kathleen and me. I’m not sure the community office and the Sheriff’s department would agree, however.

We both feel as sorry for and concerned about Elizabeth as we possibly can. Kathleen and I pray for her at least several times daily. The poor woman is miserable, and–even though I haven’t done and wouldn’t do anything to hurt her–I feel bad that she’s so convinced I have and I do.

I usually ask for comments about my blog posts, but today I have a different request. Would you use the comment space to pray a simple prayer for Elizabeth’s well-being and for God to alleviate the misery her hallucinations are causing?

NOTE: Various people have complained about not being able to find or leave comments. Go all the way to the bottom of this post, beneath my “Best regards, Roger.” On the very bottom line of that last section just above the previous post you’ll see “Leave a Comment” if yours will be the first or “X Comments,” where  X denotes the number of existing comments.

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Remembering My Mother

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Somehow in thinking about what to write about for Mother’s Day, the church’s Family Fishing Day got in the way of something more relevant. But it’s not too late to write about my mother.

As I’ve mentioned sometime or other on this blog, I’m adopted. So I don’t know who my birth mother was or anything about my ancestry. Yes, I get a little curious at times, but at this stage of my life I’m not interested in looking. No need to. As far as I’m concerned, Virginia Williford Bruner was the only mother I needed.

She was–as was customary in that far-distant time–a stay-at-home mom. So she was always available. While my memories of childhood are spotty, I do remember some specific things about her.

She had a number of health issues that limited the housework and other activities she could participate in. Consequently, as a teen I had to do the vacuuming for what seemed like years. I also have a vague recollection of having to take down the Venetian blinds periodically and wash them in the tub. Yuck!

She was a wonderful pianist until her rheumatoid arthritis got so bad she could no longer play. Although she played hymns, too, she was especially fond of the classics. And she would’ve  fully supported piano lessons if I’d been willing to take them. As it was, though, she was fascinated with the fact that I could sit down at the piano and pick some things out.

She was an excellent cook. I remember the cakes with caramel icing (I preferred the chocolate cakes, though). And bacon waffles, made with strips of bacon lying the full width of the waffle. And the cinnamon rolls. Yum! Oh, and gingerbread with a special white “hard sauce.” I’ve never seen or heard of anything like it since.

She taught the Sunday School class I attended as an older teen. She spent hours in preparation and did an excellent job of teaching. She seemed popular with the other class members and I enjoyed being in her class.

Truth be known, I wasn’t as close to either of my parents as many kids are. I’ve long said they reared me to be independent and they succeeded beyond their wildest expectations. When I left home for college and then moved away to teach school, they asked for one letter a week. That was before email and free long distance. I complied with that request, although not always with enthusiasm.

I visited them several times during the school year, mostly on holiday weekends. I occasionally took trips elsewhere on holidays, though, since I didn’t feel overly tied to being where my parents were.

One thing I’ll never cease to be thankful for was Mother’s suggestion that I might enjoy computer programming and her offer to pay for me to take enough classes to make a career change. What a difference that made in my life–especially in my job satisfaction.

She was supportive of my first marriage, even though she didn’t meet Debbie until she and Father went to Illinois for the wedding. In spite of her health problems, she insisted on making the two hundred mile trip with my father when our baby, Beth, died three days after she was born; that was almost four years later. Mother and Debbie probably talked daily for years once we finally ended up living in the same city.

Mother loved our adopted daughter, Kristi, whom she insisted would certainly become a lawyer because she loved to argue so much. Unfortunately, Kristi was so rambunctious as a small child that Mother never felt comfortable having her over without one of us being there. By the time Kristi had calmed down some, my father had died. My mother died a year later.

I got to know my mother better than ever during the final year of her life. Sharing things we talked about then would be too personal to do here, but I became her driver, grocery shopper, and occasional handyman. (Fortunately, she had someone to come in periodically to do the cleaning.) And I was the one to find her dead in bed after what was presumably a massive stroke.

I became her friend that final year. And she became mine.

Is there a better way to remember a deceased parent than as a friend?

What about you? Were you close to your mother? Do you have any particular memories you’d like to share in a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

What Do You Associate with Old Age?

Before I go any further, let me hastily explain that I don’t think of myself as being very old. Just older than I’ve ever been before. And younger than I’ll be one second and one minute and one hour from now, assuming I’m still alive then.

Okay, so what do you associate with old age? What about the one obvious answer, the one I just referenced–death and dying? Not most people’s favorite thing to think about. Mine, either.

Not that I’m afraid of being dead. I know where I’ll be then, and will that ever be better than continuing to live on this sin-cursed earth. But like many of you, I’m not fond of the prospect of a lengthy or painful final illness.

Do you associate old age with slowness? Physical slowness–did my father ever poke along as he got older–and mental slowness. Thank goodness he never reached that point until perhaps a few days before his death. And how horrible would it be to suffer through the last part of life with dementia of any kind?

Or do you associate old age with garrulous folks telling the same old stories over and over again and you having to sit there and politely pretend to listen and be interested? I hate to admit it, but that typified my father many years before he reached old age, and it didn’t get any better then. Yet now I wish I could remember many of those stories which–for better or worse–are forever lost.

Or perhaps you think of old folks in an all-too-similar way: as living in the past?

But those are all negative, undesirable old age traits. Don’t we associate anything good with old age?

I’m not sure whether the Bible speaks about those old age-related stereotypes I’ve mentioned, but it’s fascinating to read parts of the Old Testament and learn how many years various familiar (and some unfamiliar) biblical characters lived.

But one thing it does talk about–especially in the book of Proverbs–is something very positive: wisdom. Just out of curiosity I opened my Bible to Proverbs and put my finger down at a random place on the page. Sure enough, Proverbs 30:2-3 says of Agur–I’m not sure who he is, uh, was–“I am the least intelligent of men, and I lack man’s ability to understand. I have not gained wisdom, and I have no knowledge of the Holy One.”

Okay. Maybe not the most helpful passage. And even though most of the references to wisdom in Proverbs speak of it as a desirable quality, I couldn’t find one wisdom verse there that related wisdom and old age.

The Bible refers to wisdom 211 times, however, and I think Job 12:12 is applicable. “Wisdom is with aged men. With long life is understanding.” I feel confident there are others.

If you’re like me, you may question how many old people are appreciably wise. Too often it seems that the advice they’re inclined to offer seems outdated and irrelevant. That’s sad. I don’t think they could’ve attained old age without gaining at least some wisdom and understanding about a few subjects.

Perhaps our unwillingness to listen reveals a lack of wisdom on our parts.

What do you think wisdom is? Do you think of old people as being wise? How about leaving a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Like Father, Like Son

I don’t know how many sons see some of their fathers’ characteristics  in themselves, but I suspect some traits don’t show up until later in life. And when they do, it may take someone else’s observations to make a guy aware of them. Sometimes in ways we’d rather not be like our fathers.

My father was smart. Probably brilliant. He got a law degree from the College of William and Mary and practiced law several years before feeling the call to go back to school, get a seminary degree, and become a Christian minister.

I am reasonably intelligent, although I would never consider myself to be in his league. And I, too, have had multiple careers. Three professional careers prior to my retirement. And now four as a published author. And although I never felt called into the ministry, I share his love for missions and have been on a number of short term mission trips.

He loved reading and owned hundreds of books. Mostly Bibles and theology books of various kinds. I’m not nearly the bookworm he was–in fact, I tend to bog down when I try to read nonfiction–but I have quite a library of novels, many by authors I’ve met through the years.

He had musical talent. He enjoyed singing and participated in a community choir. That was one of his few non-church activities. And if the situation was sufficiently desperate, he could play the piano for hymn singing at the mid-week prayer service. But, the first to admit he was no musician, he did everything he could to avoid doing that. Having heard his piano playing, I understand why.

I seem to have done better in the music department. I’ve been playing guitar for over fifty years, writing my own songs, and singing and playing them. I’ve also been an amateur recording engineer, moving from a four-track analog recorder to an eight-track digital recorder over the years and using drum pads and keyboard sounds in my recordings, even though I would never claim to be a drummer or keyboardist. And I’ve been more outgoing in my desire to share my music with other people

He was no athlete. We were completely alike that way, although I did enjoy backyard baseball as a child. But my enjoyment didn’t make me good at it. I suspect we were pretty equal at preferring indoor activities to outdoors.

We shared a number of other qualities: shortness, baldheadedness, love of classical music, introversion, the bneed for hearing aids, a hatred of telephones… I could go on forev–

Huh? What do you mean I’m rambling just the way he did when he grew older? And telling some of the same stories over and over? You mean I’m like my father in those ways, too? Bite your tongue!

Are you especially like one of your parents? How about sharing in a comment?

~*~

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I’ll be back again on Sunday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

Best regards,
Roger

Which Would Be Worse–Blindness or Deafness?

I’m in pretty good health for a sixty-eight-year-old man who’ll turn sixty-nine in September. Although I have to take four or five different types of medicine just to keep my body in reasonably good working order, I’m probably not by myself on that.

I’ve had cataract surgery on both eyes, but I still have to wear glasses because of astigmatism. But at least my overall vision is better than it’s been in many years. So I’m not anticipating that I’ll ever go blind.

I’d hate to be without my hearing aids, no matter how unsatisfactory they are compared to “natural” hearing. But they are adequate, and I have no reason to anticipate going totally deaf, either.

So why have I chosen a topic like this one?

Perhaps you didn’t notice that I said I couldn’t anticipate going blind or becoming completely deaf. But I can’t say for sure that I won’t. And neither can you. Those things–like so many others in this earthly life–are beyond our control.

Comparing the loss of sight with the loss of hearing is almost like comparing apples and oranges, though. I take both of them for granted–probably equally for granted.

In a way, sight and hearing are two sides of the same coin. With my eyes I see my sweet wife, Kathleen. With my ears I hear her loving words. The same with our grown children and our grandchildren. How could someone easily choose between seeing the people he loves and being able to hear them?

It gets more complicated when I think about my normal activities.

Blindness wouldn’t hinder me from getting around at home once I got used to it, but while Kathleen is still young enough to have to work, I don’t know how I’d even make it to the nearby Sonic drive-in for my daily diet cherry limeade. Much less the various other places I need to go when Kathleen is normally not available.

I could learn to do my novel writing on a computer that’s designed for the blind, but it would take a whale of an adjustment to do things any differently from the way I’m accustomed to doing them now. And Personal Composer, the software I write my original songs down with, would be impossible to use without sight. Not even software that turned audible notes into notes on the page would be adequate.

If I were deaf, however, at least I could get around outside. But how would I communicate with the people I ran into? Even though deafness wouldn’t affect how I write, going to writers conferences and trying to interact with readers except electronically would be useless. Learning sign language at my age wouldn’t be impossible, but it would be a challenge I’d rather not face.

Writing songs and playing guitar around the house and at our church’s weekly nursing home ministry would be impossible without hearing. As would playing bass guitar on the praise team and singing in the church choir. Those are important ministries for me.

Oh, my! And those hundreds of CDs I could no longer listen to. And giving up the challenge of picking out new downloads each month from emusic.com.

Although we don’t watch TV now–we don’t even have rabbit ears on our TV set–we subscribe to Netflix and watch old TV shows. At least closed captioning would be available for some of those.

I suppose deafness would have advantages. Like not having to listen to all of that distracting noise in restaurants. Or the sound of other people’s loud car stereos. Or the grinding of the garbage truck doing its pre-dawn pickup at the Arby’s behind our home. Or any of a million other things I would gladly give up having to listen to.

I know I’m barely skimming the surface of how blindness and deafness would affect me. But if I’m forced to say that my writing is just slightly more important than my music, then blindness would be worse. Honestly, though, I’d hate to have to adjust to either problem.

What are your thoughts on the subject? Please leave a comment.

~*~

I’ll be back again on Wednesday. If you’d like to receive my posts by email, go to “Follow Blog via Email” at the upper right.

“On Aging Gracelessly” is only one of my two blogs. I post lyrics of the Christian songs I’ve written over the last fifty years on  “As I Come Singing.” Check it out HERE if you’re interested.  Free lead sheets (tune, words, and chords) are available for many of them. View the list HERE.

If you enjoy my writing, you’ll find a number of things to read on my website.  Also music to listen to and music-related videos to watch.

My newest novel, The Devil and Pastor Gus, is available online at Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Go HERE for links to those places.
Tentative-Front-Cover
Best regards,
Roger