I can hear the footsteps on the path, chasing me along the way. As I run, on either side, branches seem to reach out to clutch at me, to cling to me, tear at my hair, and arrest my flight. I narrowly escape their grasp though they slash at me.
Overhead, the almost-black sky lowers threateningly, adding to my sense of haste, my need to fly before my pursuer. My heart is pounding in my chest and roaring in my ears as the thunder resounds around me. My lungs gasp for air, and perspiration pours into my eyes almost like a cataract, as does the rain. I must stay the course, I must continue my escape. I must remain ahead of the one who is running after me.
The wind howls, and behind me, my pursuer shrieks like a banshee. Lashings of rain crash against my old grey head—my old, grey, head. I am, so I have been told, old.
It was just yesterday that I was speaking to someone on the telephone. I was asking for his professional help because it is not just the hellion behind me that follows me, but time itself. He asked my age, and I said ‘Sixty years’, and he told me, ‘you are old.’
If I were an Islay single-malt whiskey (which I could use right about now), I would be pleasantly ‘old’, much sought after, and at great price. If I were a star, a glistening light in the heavens, I would be a mere infant and you would not be able to detect me for thousands of years. At sixty years, I have seen the first man walk on the moon, and mourned the death of great leaders; I have ‘seen pale kings and princes,’ and attended the premiere performances of symphonies. History has grown around me, always adding to the length of its days. Because I am ‘old.’
The screams and cries behind me are closing in. The footsteps are drawing near. I must press on. I must not be caught!
The man assumed because I am old, therefore I am stupid. His tone of voice changed, and he forsook his education to simplify his speech. Because I am ‘old’, I easily recognized his patronizing arrogance and condescension, and yes, I was offended. My impatience with his arrogance was taken for the ignorance of dotage. His presumption to sophistication did not equip him well enough to recognize how offensive he was. He had not seen what I have seen, nor did he have the benefit of time to recognize the difference between attitude and real wisdom. If I am ‘old’, I am old enough to recognize that the wisdom of my years does not amount to much—wise the one who know how wise he is not. The number of questions I have has grown with the passing of the years. I chase the answers, which flee before me.
I don’t deny that age has touched me. Time has bestowed upon me the winter crown of silver hair and a white beard. I am no longer as fleet of foot as I once was. The number of new friends and new experiences dwindles as the count of past relationships and memories grows. People seek me out less frequently, preferring newer, fresher fare. I may not be as young as I think I am, but I also am not as old as you think I am.
The thunder of feet is behind me, approaching. I can almost feel hot breath and the clutch of cold fingers. I must away! Vainly I attempt to increase my pace. Because I am ‘old’, and have the wealth of accumulated experience, I know this much:
If that kid gets home before me in this storm, there won’t be a dry towel in the entire house, and I’ll be soaking wet all afternoon!
Paul TN Chapman
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