At a lunch last week, all gussied up to look pretty, we got a bit philosophical. One sighed, “Oh, if only one could look into the future—the blunders we would avoid!”
But another friend insisted, “Think of the fun we would have missed! It is the not knowing that makes life exciting and the risks worth taking.”
I was almost in agreement until I remembered the lumps and bumps along the way. But I still wonder if it will help to sound the alarm today.
We rustled up our recollections of the admonishments from our elders. “You are too young. He looks like a hoodlum! Your cultures are different. He smokes and drinks! He plays around! No solo dating. First you get married!”
On and on they went. We turned deaf ears, rolled our eyes and dated on the sneak. Regrets come late in the day. You learn.
It is a problem for those of us at a certain age (read: old) to keep our peace when we see someone on the verge of familiar danger. The “been-there-done-that” tune starts playing full blast. We feel we need to step in and give our “two cents’ worth.” Some of us feel duty-bound to give free advice, unsolicited and unwelcome as it may be.
My sister says the wisest thing at our age, when asked for an opinion, is to say “I don’t know.” She has a way of saying it, too. “How should I know? I am old.”
If you offer an opinion, she says, or show that you share a similar experience, you will end up saddled with the responsibility (and blame) for any mishap. Indeed, it does seem wiser to just shut up. I used to always be quick on the draw. Not anymore. Well, not as much.
When does a parent start pulling away? Is there a touch of cowardice in doing this? Has the water become too deep for us?
It has been quite a while since I discovered that the experience of my years on this earth does not entitle me nor equip me to speak up with an opinion. We often thoughtlessly rain on someone’s parade just because it didn’t go too well for us back in the day.
But I didn’t just wake up one day knowing when I should keep quiet. It must have been the many times I saw backs turned and eyes rolled that caused the inevitable detachment.
Whatever it was, it succeeded in muting the voice that once rang loud and clear over my household. Maybe it’s because that household is no longer here?
I will say it again: being a super senior and carrying the scars of many years does not give us license to meddle. It does not earn us the position of judge and jury. On the contrary it urges us, with wisdom, to withhold an opinion and maintain our (all-knowing?) silence.
We must learn, sooner rather than later, that we are now merely spectators watching a familiar scene, or if players still in the tableau of life, no longer with speaking parts.
Said Eugene O’Neill, “The old, like children, talk to themselves, for they have reached that hopeless wisdom of experience which knows that though one were to cry it in the streets to multitudes, or whisper it in the kiss to one’s beloved, the only ears that can ever hear one’s secrets are one’s own!”
American football legend and television sports commentator Frank Gifford died a little over a week ago in his Connecticut home. He died suddenly as he sat watching TV, all dressed up for church.
Frank Gifford was once a running back for the NY Giants, MVP in 1956, is enshrined in the Pro Football Hall of Fame and was an Emmy Award-winning sportscaster.
Gifford’s face and voice were a huge part of my Monday nights once upon a lifetime ago. I was the only one at home who was not a football fan, but we had just one TV set at home and Monday nights were sacred and so I had no choice, and watched, sort of.
I was more a fan of Kathie Lee Gifford, his wife for the last 29 years, who co-hosts the “Today Show” on NBC with the immensely popular Hoda Kotb. Kathie Lee is witty, funny, not too preoccupied with her celebrity, outspoken and warm. I loved her many moons ago on the show “Name That Tune.” My whole family played along.
The funeral for Gifford was very private. His wife says, “We had a party. We played Sinatra all day.”
On her first day back at work on the Today Show, Kathie Lee gave a touching tribute and testimony for her husband.
“He was a man of gratitude whose Christian faith grew even more in his final years. His world got smaller as his God got bigger. He would want you to know that he died in complete peace. He knew every sin he committed was forgiven.”
She told of a trip they took together to the Holy Land a few years ago and how, in the Valley of Elah, they stood on the site where a shepherd boy, David, slew the giant Goliath with one smooth stone from his slingshot.
“Then he acquired a special stone that became his treasured possession.
“Frank would want you to do this: If you see a stone today, pick it up and ask yourself: ‘What is my stone? What is my gift that I can use to make this world a better place?’”
While it is still today, there is time to pick up your stone. And then “spend your life trying to throw it well.”