In an interesting post on Reddit, the author recounts a moment he had when he asked his grandpa what it felt like to grow old.
"I asked my grandpa what it felt like to grow old"
We have spent our lives working towards the next step, the next goal, the next stage of life. Often with our heads down and blinders on. Sometimes it's good to pause and see where we've been heading. It's easy to take things forgranted when we're young and don't realize it until we've gotten older.
I asked my grandpa what it felt like to grow old. Grandpa is a man who will deliberate on which part of the newspaper to start with each morning, so I knew my question would take him some time to answer.
I said nothing. I let him gather his thoughts. When I was a boy, Grandpa had once complimented me on this habit. He told me it was good that I asked a question and gave a person silence. And being that any compliment from him was so few and far between, this habit soon became a part of my personality and one that served me well.
Grandpa stared out the window and looked at the empty bird feeder that hung from an overgrown tree next to the pond he built in the spring of 1993. For twenty years, Grandpa filled up the feeder each evening. But he stopped doing it last winter when walking became too difficult for him.
Without ever taking his eyes from the window, he asked me a question:
“Have you ever been in a hot shower when the water ran cold?”
“Have you ever been in a hot shower when the water ran cold?” I told him I had.
“That’s what aging feels like. In the beginning of your life it’s like you’re standing in a hot shower. At first the water is too warm, but you eventually grow used to the heat and begin enjoying it. But you take it for granted when you’re young and think it’s going to be this way forever. Life goes on like this for some time.”
Grandpa looked at me with those eyes that had seen so much change in this world. He smiled and winked at me.
“And if you’re lucky, a few good looking women will join you in the shower from time to time.”
We laughed. He looked out the window and continued on.
“You begin to feel it in your forties and fifties. The water temperature declines just the slightest bit. It’s almost imperceptible, but you know it happened and you know what it means. You try to pretend like you didn’t feel it, but you still turn the faucet up to stay warm. But the water keeps going lukewarm. One day you realize the faucet can’t go any further, and from here on out the temperature begins to drop. And everyday you feel the warmth gradually leaving your body.”
Grandpa cleared his throat and pulled a stained handkerchief from his flannel shirt pocket. He blew his nose, balled up the handkerchief, and put it back in his pocket.
“It’s a rather helpless feeling, truth told. The water is still pleasant, but you know it will soon become cold and there’s nothing you can do about it. This is the point when some people decide to leave the shower on their own terms. They know it's never going to get warmer, so why prolong the inevitable? I was able to stay in because I contented myself recalling the showers of my youth. I lived a good life, but still wish I hadn’t taken my youth for granted. But it’s too late now. No matter how hard I try, I know I’ll never get the hot water back on again.”
He paused for a few moments and kept looking out the window with those eyes that had seen ninety-one years on this Earth. Those eyes that lived through the Great Depression, those eyes that beheld the Pacific Ocean in World War II, those eyes that saw the birth of his three children, five grandchildren, and seven great-grandchildren. He had indeed lived a good life, I thought to myself.
“And that’s what it feels like to grow old.”
-- Reddit post by Anastik
“And that’s what it feels like to grow old.”
My shower is still hot. I'm getting more and more used to it though. Now past the halfway point in my twenties. The point when many are well into the quarter-life crisis discovering our self-identity and where we want to go.
The past 5 years for me have been filled with many mistakes, learnings and growth. I'm not the same person I was last year and that person was not the same person the year earlier. I've learned and grown a lot, but I've also taken a lot forgranted.
I've worked the majority of my college years. It's an understatement. My life was work my college years. And even now it still is. It wasn't uncommon for me to be at the office two or three days without leaving. I worked weekends and nights. I missed out on a lot of opportunities. I took forgranted many friendships, relationships and myself.
A delicate balance
How much do we prepare for the future vs. living in the present? How many mistakes can we make before it's too late?
The constant is we all get older. We have a definite beginning and an end. It's one of the four ultimate concerns of being human: meaning, loneliness, freedom, and mortality.
It's said, "Good judgement comes from experience. Experience comes from bad judgement." We make mistakes. And we learn from them. We hope that we don't repeat mistakes and that they aren't something we can't recover from.
The shower will get colder and you'll always be getting older. That's life. That's being human.