I cannot count the number of hours my two sisters and I spent pretending we were adults as children. From my sister wearing a lace table cloth on her head and marrying the neighbor, to me literally crying as I sent that same neighbor off to war, to playing house with countless crying Cabbage Patch kids babies, we were obsessed with the promised land of adulthood.
Back then, adulthood meant being able to stay up for all of T.G.I.F, as well as the intense 20/20 episodes that followed heavy on its heals. Adulthood meant going to college and getting to be a real-life secretary with corded phones and adding machines. It looked like staying up late and eating whatever you wanted whenever you wanted it.
I think I am legally considered an adult now. Though I have never experienced talking on a corded phone to my best friend while cooking dinner until it was wrapped around me like a straight-jacket, I am in my early thirties, I have a husband of nine years and three kiddos who depend on me. I drive myself to the real grocery store and use real grocery lists and pay real bills. But if I am honest, until recently I haven’t felt much like an adult.
The weight of adulthood has hit me unexpectedly in the past few months. The death of my maternal grandmother, the heart attack of my maternal grandfather and the way Parkinson’s is literally shaking my husband’s parents have been tugging on my heart strings in new places that feel very adult.
As we are entering into a new season of life, caring for caregivers or becoming caregivers ourselves, my eyes have been opened to a whole new set of unsung heroes, those who love the aging with dignity, those who greet the graying with graciousness.
These feel like uncharted waters to me in many ways, so I have been asking questions of those who have gone ahead of me. In our conversations, we always note what a significant season of life this is, yet how very little it is talked or written about. I believe that this is the case because, as a culture, we have largely forgotten the old adage “Age before beauty.”
We have become as obsessed with finding the Fountain of Youth as Ponce de Leon. We have put beauty before age. We have anti-wrinkle creams, spanx, age-reversing surgeries, all because we have forgotten that aging can actually be beautiful.
While this topic is new to my heart, it is not new to humanity. Solomon of old wrote, “The glory of young men is their strength and the honor of old men is their gray hair.”
I have the privilege of watching my parents care for and honoring their parents uniquely. I have the privilege of watching my husband search for the perfect walker for his father online. I have the opportunity before me to greet the graying loved ones around me with the graciousness that their lives deserve.
I long for my kids to see us caring for our graying loved ones, for them to know how to honor the aged and the infirm. I long for them to see us calling their gray-haired grandparents beautiful, not in spite of, but because of their well-earned wrinkles and reading glasses.
We need each other. The aged need our strength, we need their wisdom and perspective. I am not so naive to think that this will be a cake-walk or a stroll in the park. I know this new season of adulthood promises to be heavy and hard. I know decisions will be maddening and our lives will look differently. But I also know God made us for each other.
Lord, give me grace to an adult, one that uses her strength to honor and serve the aging. Thank you for the oh-so-many who have gone before, making daily visits, driving to dozens of doctor’s appointments and simply being good company to those they love.