THE FRENCH POET AND NOVELIST Victor Hugo once said that “when grace is joined with wrinkles, it is adorable. There is an unspeakable dawn in happy old age.” Of course, Victor Hugo never had to learn how to work a PlayStation 4 controller while his 14-year-old son yelled “NONONO, hit the X button and push DOWN on the LEFT stick, DAD!” because I could tell Victor Hugo, from experience, that’s the sort of thing that wipes the unspeakable dawn right out of your happy old age.
You see, as I write this, I am about to turn 50 years old. And 50 isn’t like those other birthdays. At 30, your friends may joke that you’re old, but you’re still closer to “Spring Break” Florida than “pants hiked up to your waist in the all-you-can eat buffet line at the retirement residence” Florida. At 40 you find yourself cheering for every NHL player over 40 no matter who they’ve ruthlessly maimed and gored over the years or, worse still, if they happen to play for Boston. But at 50 – well, at 50 you don’t have any other option but to do the math . . . and maybe a little brief internal screaming.
In days past, the crushing blow of reaching old age would have been cushioned a little bit by the notion that, at last, you would be considered a “wise elder.” The youth would sit at your feet as you regaled them with stories about how you once played the arcade game Galaga four straight hours on a single quarter. Or show them how to rewind a cassette tape with a pencil. Or do the moonwalk.
Alas, the modern world now moves too fast for the elders to pass along their wisdom. In the time it took you to read this, 19,000 YouTube users liked a video of a cat standing on its hind legs, Donald Trump accidentally declared war on Bolivia using Twitter and the Russians finished their dossier on the Facebook habits of your uncle in Brentwood Bay, B.C. And by the time this gets from my computer to the presses at Christian Courier . . . and through the postal service to your door . . . the robots will have already won the uprising and crowned Elon Musk as king.
Even the fact that I’m typing this on my desktop PC and not, say, in a Starbucks on a silver MacBook Air the width of a gluten-free cracker shows just how wholly and pathetically unqualified I am to give my knowledge to the next generation.
On the other hand, there are a few things that I’ve realized as I’ve gotten older that I wish someone had told me sooner. Maybe they’re useful. In no particular order, here are a few of them:
Be kind, always, because there’s a chance you’ll lift someone up who needs it. You will lie about flossing to your dental hygienist and that’s okay – she knows. You’ll probably lose friends along the way – one way or another – and you have to let go. Switch to cooking healthier food sooner – because you’re gonna do it anyway, so you might as well be good at it. Don’t let the behaviour of other Christians make you lose sight of the teachings of Christ. You will always regret your haircut from five years ago, which was a total joke and not nearly as cool as the one you have now. The journey ends the same way for all of us, so we are meant to help each other as much as possible on the way. Sci-fi shows are always better in your memory than when you re-watch them. Get a dog. Take up running. Ask him out or someone else will. Never stop learning. Give back to your community. Keep your heart on your sleeve where people can see it. Get a second dog. Mister Rogers was right about everything and probably a saint. The Eagles were way overrated. Aim to be that one house where everyone always seems to drop in.
And – if your kid is beating you on the PlayStation, just remember – you control the Wi-Fi password.
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