He had watched construction on the chain restaurant nearest our house—one that he had “grown up” in (when that means visited from time to time since we had moved to the South the summer he had finished first grade). Now that he was older, he even had a couple friends who worked there and he was eager to see the remodeled inside so I picked it, figuring we could grab an unhealthy bite and take a peek at how they had made the old new again (of course, no renovations had been made to what needed it most--the menu). The place was packed with other, equally-curious onlookers and I told Bud to go ahead and order while I got us a seat, but when I scanned the room for a booth there was nothing closely resembling one to be found. I located the only open table and sat down on the incredibly hard red square in a corner which won no votes for comfort from me. The facelift had made the place bright and fresh but the lay out was an impractical design as if the proprietor had hired a clown for an architect. Make that a child clown. (Who wanted a facsimile for a chair? I didn’t care how cool it looked if it wasn’t user friendly.)
“See, at my age, I am done trying things,” the man who had just slid into the newfangled booth (?) next us said. “You never know until it’s too late if you’re gonna like it so it’s not worth it. I am old enough now to say I am not trying anything new anymore.” He spoke loudly and cursed several times so I thought perhaps he had his Bluetooth connected (in the ear facing away from us) because the tone, topic and word choice were highly inappropriate for the six year old who sat with him. Was he really talking to his daughter like that? Filling her head and heart with the foolish notion that it was okay, while alive, mobile and breathing, to say—like he was proud and as if it was wise counsel—that he was done growing, as that is what new endeavors represented? Talk about setting a bad example.
I shook my head in disbelief, upset that he was ruining my lunch and my time with my son by holding forth, talking in concert-volume like school was in session. I cocked my head in the man’s direction when Seamus’ expression asked, What’s going on?
The guy couldn’t have been older than me and was perhaps younger, with a daughter that small (unless this was a second or third marriage & family), but what age was that, exactly, when you got to declare--and make it stick--that you were allergic to change? An aversion to the discomfort and toil that change entails, I understood, but I also knew it was a healthy necessity, nonetheless—and it beat any alternative.
I was beginning to connect the dots here because only yesterday morning at church, we had met a man who was celebrating his ninety-ninth birthday and he was clear eyed and sharp of mind and that night, at an awards ceremony, Steve and I heard the life-story of a ninety-one year old. Was it a coincidence that the day had been bookended by these two remarkable elderly gentlemen whose witnesses encouraged me exponentially? It was like life was spitting out jewels onto the sand at our feet as if to say, the choice was ours and the path to happiness, clearer than imagined.
Perspective is everything, and a positive outlook beats otherwise devastating odds, and when my son is old enough to be on his own and gets to decide what kind of a man he will be, my prayer is that he remembers these diverse examples and chooses the attitude that explores and magnifies life, not diminishes it.