Thursday, April 16, 2009

Lester's Wisdom

I knew an elderly man named Lester. I'd never met him, but enjoyed his postings on the paperbackswap web site very much. Lester is gone now, but thanks to one of the PBS members, his wisdom lives on. She put together a long list of excerpts from the posts he made in the members forum. In honor of Lester I now share some of these bits of wisdom, humor and life with you.

On aging:
• If I'd known I was going to live this long, I would have 1) saved more money and 2) waited longer to retire the first time.

• I'm about to turn 81. Life just keeps getting better. I don't recall having difficulty with turning 30, 40, 50, although perhaps the cult of youth was not so strong then as it is now.

I do remember when I turned 60 realizing that most of my life was behind me, and making a new resolution to make the best of every day, to find the good in every day. Since then I have been more mindful of my life, more aware of the seasons, nature, the small pleasures life brings, or can bring if you're alert for them.

• I certainly don't expect to receive respect because of my advanced age.
Presents are good, but respect not expected.

• ...and now my great-grandkids are going to school. Wasn't but about 10 minutes ago that I was doing the Blue Bird/ Camp Fire Girl dad thing ... for their grandmothers. Life goes so fast.

• What on earth makes you think that I have started to feel like a grownup?

I know that I have to act like a grownup, but it's an act. Sure, there's some wisdom that comes along with growing older, one hopes, and some perspective, and there ain't much that life can throw at me that it hasn't already thrown at me once already, but if you mean "grownup" to be the person who always knows the right thing to do, the one who can always be in charge, the automatic authority for all matters spiritual and temporal...

...then I guess my certificate of grownupness got lost in the mail.

• One of the benefits of this age is the amount of practice I've had in tuning out what I don't want to hear.

• Now that I'm very old, if I'm sitting on a bench at the mall waiting for my wife to choose between two apparently identical pair of black pumps, beautiful young women sit down beside me and start talking. I was feeling rather studly about it until my wife informed me that they do it because I look "safe." Of all the things I wanted to look like in my young and wild days, safe was never on the list. sigh Looking like Grandpa is not a chick magnet.

• It makes me nuts when I find out that people have protected me from something - in my case, because of my age. Don't want to upset Grandpa, now, do we. Makes me feel like a child, like I'm being discounted. That kind of thing just makes it worse when the truth emerges.

• Yup, old people don't have sex. Everyone knows this. We don't think about it, and we sure as heck don't do it. (eye roll)

• If you live your life with zest and continue to be curious about things, if you have something or someone that you care about, if you have passion about something - even if it's collecting... I don't know ... matchbook covers or something - but have a passion, you will likely never feel old.

Les <-- off to the gym and then will be fixing supper and then take the dog for a walk and then read some before wife comes home from work to enjoy said supper. This morning, I worked at my part-time job and did a couple of hours of volunteer work at the nursing home.

• Honestly, I never thought I'd live so long. I'm grateful to have seen so much and to have been able to love and be loved so much. As the song says, "Life gets mighty precious when there's less of it to waste."

On education:
• I am frequently taken back by the deficiencies in the people's fund of general knowledge. There are people who can't tell you the century of the Civil War, who think George Washington commanded Union troups during the Civil War, who can't pick out names of Presidents from a list given to them, who don't know what H2O is, who - for heaven's sake - if you describe spontaneous generation of living things from non-living matter to them, think it sounds scientifically correct. If it isn't on TV, they don't know it.

And these are not knuckle-draggers, Missing Links. They're average people living average lives.

I remember some of my elderly relatives and their friends being highly upset that my K-12 education did not include Greek and included only 4 years of Latin.

• I don't think you have to be able to recite a recipe from memory, or name all the Presidents in order, or be able to describe the Krebs cycle on demand. But I do think a certain ... awareness of the culture in which you (generic you) live is required in order to live life fully and to understand and put into appropriate context the things you see and hear daily. I think anything else is mental poverty, and sad.

• Some of my grandkids did not have phonics, and those kids to this day don't read as well as their siblings and cousins who were taught phonics. If they come up against a word they don't know, they don't know how to deconstruct it. That's purely anecdotal. They're still all dedicated readers, however, regardless of which way they were taught, which I still think is as much as anything else the result of having all the adults in this family constantly walk around with a finger stuck in a book as a bookmark.

Something we always did was spell words we were using. "That's a horse: h-o-r-s-e" from the time they were babies. "Here's your milk: m-i-l-k." "Time for bed: b-e-d." Some of my kids to this day will do it unconsciously: "Man, it is hot h-o-t today." "Where are my keys k-e-y-s?" It always makes me grin.

• In 1776, a well educated person could have a complete command of science in all its branches, including biology, astronomy, and chemistry; know at least 4 languages, 2 of them dead; be able to recite the names of the emperors of ancient Rome in order; write a 1000 word essay on some abstract concept such as freedom; reel off pages and pages of the Bible and classical Greek poetry and the mediations of Marcus Aurelius from memory; - you get the drift. It was possible to know pretty much everything that there was.

Boy, can we kiss those days goodbye.

• The smartest, wisest, and most successful (in business and in friendships) man I've ever known had 2 years of formal education. He was almost entirely self-taught. I think no matter what your background, you can go on learning and learning and learning as long as you keep your curiosity sharpened and your will strong.

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