He reached the fullness of a long career. Wisdom 4:13
“Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what the hell happened!” This quote from Cora Harvey Armstrong is one of my favorites as I approach another birthday this Saturday. It pretty well summarizes how I feel about reaching 68 years old. (My fingers flinch with denial as I type “68!” They keep wanting to type “38!”)
Every year I try to write a column about aging, not because I want cards, gifts or sympathy, but because I find it amazing. I always thought old age was for other people. I try to soften the blow by choosing to hang out with young adults and old people especially. They both help me stay in denial. Young adults help me forget that I am getting older and old people tell me how young I still am.
If everything goes well, I will be retiring on Oct. 28, 2014. That’s the day that I will reach 70? — the day I can collect my maximum social security payout. However, I am not one to count my chickens before they hatch. I haven’t set up an automatic deposit account yet, because you never know what might happen. My poor mother, who never had a checking account of her own, always dreamed of “drawing social security.” She died of breast cancer when she was 58. As they say, “If you have your health, you have it all.”
You know you are not a “spring chicken” when you have lived through six popes and 11 presidents. You know the “bloom is off the rose” when you have lived in the “old church,” the “new church” and now the “new old church.” You know you are “over the hill” when you speak of the 1980s as “a few years ago,” as I have been prone to do of late.
One of my favorite things to say to shock all those priests-to-be whom I teach over at St. Meinrad Seminary is this: “The first 42 years of priesthood are the hardest. After that it’s all downhill.” They simply cannot wrap their young minds around 42 years of anything.
I do not expect to quit when I retire. What I would like to do is to finish developing my idea for a program at St. Meinrad’s Institute for Priests and Presbyterates, where I now work, for helping newly retired priests be re-tooled to re-enter ministry in new, creative and exciting ways.
More than 50 percent of American priests are scheduled to retire in the next eight years. We simply cannot afford to have 50 percent of our priests quit overnight. That would not be good for you or us. After all, 70 is not as old as it used to be!
I would also like to finish a play I have been working on called “Tuesdays at the Lake.” It’s about five priests on their day off. In it, you will get to hear us talk about you!