By Joe Rector
Last week was Pentecost Sunday. It’s that celebration for when the Holy Spirit descended upon the disciples and they spoke in the languages of all who were gathered. It’s also recognized as the birth of the church.
During that time Peter addressed the crowd that accused the disciples of being drunk. In one section, he says,
“And afterward, I will pour out my Spirit on all people. Your sons and daughters will prophesy, your old men will dream dreams, your young men will see visions.”
It’s a line that he takes from the book of Joel in the Old Testament and one that especially speaks to my generation these days. Somehow, when we weren’t looking, the years piled on us, and before we could blink our eyes, we grew old. Now, I know that today’s 60 is supposed to be the new 40, but when I wake up in the mornings or spend the day completing yard work, my body aches like a man whose just celebrated his 100th birthday.
We baby boomers are now our parents. I can hear my dad, who died at the age of 53, speak about things of his life: jobs security, life insurance, behaving children, and bill paying. He was always so serious, and my grandmother told us after his passing that he always believed he would die at an early age. The thing is that Daddy always seemed old to me. Maybe it was because the demands of his job at the paper mill were so physically demanding; perhaps he worried too much and enjoyed too little. In either case, my dad seemed to be a senior citizen all his life.
Mother also seemed old to me, but in a different way. She had plenty of energy and could outwork any younger person who dared to keep up with her. She was only 48 years old when Daddy died, and the weight on bringing up three boys on her own yoked her with fear and worry. She loved life, but not until she retired did she have much of a chance to enjoy her adult years.
Now my generation has become the oldsters. However, we are blessed with better health care and longer life spans. It gives us several more years on this earth than our parents’ generation. Today, a 65-year-old American man can expect to live to 81.6; if he reaches the age of 85, he can expect to live to see 90. Women live even longer. Our parents weren’t given that many years by those who figure such things.
The thing I do know about our aging is that we have the chance to do more in the years that we have left on this earth. I put in 30 years as a high school English teacher, and I am grateful for that time. It was a good job, but when I retired, I found a second career. With a lot of luck and blessing, papers have allowed me to write. Sometimes that means I’ve created personal columns like this one, and at other times it means I’ve interviewed people to write news and feature stories.
I’ve also published a couple of books and have two more finished and one about a quarter of the way done. Publishing my work is part of my “old man dreaming dreams.” The joy of putting words on paper and having folks read them are things I never thought could happen.
Another dream I’ve had come true is speaking to groups about my writing. Sharing the process of creating those pieces has been a joy. At the same time, I’ve been blessed to speak to groups about the books or about the future and dreaming their dreams. How much more fortunate can one person be?
I sometimes fall into a funk over my age, and in a few short days, my twin brother, my niece, and I will add another year. I’ve decided to keep on dreaming dreams for what the future can offer. It’s a much better way to approach the finish line than being scared about its arrival.