I have recently entered a new phase of my life. My wife and I are great-grandparents.
I can no longer fool myself into believing that I am in “late middle-age.” Someone once said that, “60 is the new 40.” Well, I am a decade older than that and I neither look nor feel 50. In addition to having the status of being a great-grandfather, I recently shaved off my beard. The face I saw in the mirror, for the first time in 20 years, was not the face I recognized.
In the wee hours of the morning following my shearing, I went to the bathroom. As I walked into the bathroom, I was confronted by a stranger in the darkened room.
I immediately reverted to my training, felt the adrenaline surge, and prepared to attack and defend my home and hearth from this intruder. Fortunately, before I let loose with a punch, I realized I was looking at myself in the mirror. As I said, the face was unrecognizable. The face in the mirror was worn and old.
Many of my “friends” have told me that, without a beard, I look older. What would have been taken as a complement when I was 30 is now not so welcome.
But they are correct. I look older because I am older. However, I am a great-grandfather, for crying out loud. One has to put in a few years to arrive at that stage in life.
I never knew my own great-grandparents, although I have vague memories of an ancient woman in a rocking chair that I believe was my father’s maternal grandmother. But I was very young and the memory is brief and fleeting.
Over the years, I have shared with people that certain responsibilities come with the advancing stages in life:
1. Parents are to train their children and help get them ready for life.
2. Grandparents are to enjoy and, where possible, influence their grandchildren. (I realize that many grandparents have had to raise their grandchildren and I admire them for having to raise two whole generations).
3. Great-grandparents, if they are fortunate enough to see their great-grandchildren born, are to simply enjoy them, watch them, and gain comfort from the fact that their legacy will continue far beyond them.
My wife’s parents are approaching 92 and are in pretty good health. They still live independently and are far more active than most people in their 90s. I am pleased and delighted that they have reached the high level and status of great-great-grandparents. That’s five generations of family on this planet at the same time.
I wish my parents could have lived to become great-grand-grands. I actually just wish they could have lived to see all their grandchildren born. But it was not to be.
My wife and I have lived long enough to see twelve grandchildren (3 boys and 9 girls) and, unless a surprise comes along, I think that will be all.
So, along with the aches, pains, disappointments, and challenges that come with aging, there are delightful benefits that one can only appreciate and obtain by traveling enough rotations around the sun.
It never occurred to me that I would see great-grandchildren. Even when the older grands started getting married. Our oldest grand is 26 and the youngest is 3, soon to be 4. With a bit of luck and divine favor, perhaps even more great-grands will come before we take that final journey.
In any event, I plan, if given the opportunity, to just enjoy them and know that our legacy and the legacy of our parents and our children, will continue far, far beyond any of us. And that is one of the truly positive benefits of growing older. Even if I don’t much care for that old face I see in the mirror.
[David Epps is the Rector of the Cathedral of Christ the King (www.ctk.life). The church is open at 10:00 a.m. on Sundays but is also live streaming at www.ctk.life. He is the bishop of the Diocese of the Mid-South (www.midsouthdiocese.life). He may be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.]