I knew I was in trouble when I recently needed to move my mother’s new car to a different parking spot in our driveway. She handed me something that resembled a key and then promptly told me I didn’t really need it. “Just push the button. The key only has to be near the car to start it,” she said. I am certain I had a look on my face that resembled, minus the crying, the times when my engineer and math-wiz father tried to explain to me how to solve an algebra or geometry problem as a teenager. So I get into her car, unnaturally lay the key on the passenger seat and push the giant “start” button that I located on the front of the dashboard. Nothing. I move the key to the top of the dash reasoning that it needs to be closer, all the while thinking I’m in an episode of the Jetsons. Nothing again. I try one more time with no success before getting out of the car, going in the house and telling her it’s not starting.
“Did you put your foot on the brake before you pushed the button?” My 26-year-old son chimes in from behind his Macbook. Obviously I hadn’t, probably because I was pushing a button to start a car! Foot on brake, turn key in ignition, car starts. Everyone knows that’s how you start a car, right?
“Oh yeah,” my 70-year-old mother says, “I forgot to tell you that.” I don’t feel so bad now, she forgot something.
Are we really living in the age where we use buttons to starts cars? Shouldn’t I be thinking that this new technology is pretty darn cool? For pete’s sake, I grew up in the generation of the first desktop computer; the generation that came of age with Pong and the first Atari game system. We were the first pre-teens on our block to spend our weekends entering lines and lines of code in DOS that would allow us to play a new game on our family computer; the first video geeks of Phyllis Drive. Our generation was on the cutting edge of technology when monochrome monitors went to VGA. I turned 18 the same month Microsoft Windows came out. In my first years in the workforce, I went from using an IBM Selectric typewriter and 10-key calculator to WordPerfect and Lotus 1-2-3.
When did I become overwhelmed by a start button on a car? When did I become old?
My co-worker and friend Lisa and I were having one of our Monday morning update-on-the-weekend chats and the topic was feeling irrelevant, specifically with our kids. This feeling was confirmed a few days later when we asked a church board member if he ever felt irrelevant and he said, “Oh, I felt like that about 10-11 years ago.” Good, then it wasn’t just us and, guessing his age, we fell exactly where we should on the timeline of irrelevancy.
The days approaching my creaky bone status, I am thinking a lot about how things are changing in our family, and how I’m feeling left back somewhere in that time between their birth and the teen years or what I like to call those “all-knowing” years. You know, the age where you as their parent don’t know squat and they’ve suddenly likened themselves to King Solomon.
In the very near future, Josh will graduate from law school and become a patent attorney. Emily and her husband Chase will make Tim and I grandparents for the first time. Sarah will graduate high school and be off to college. Abby will turn 16 and enter her junior year of high school. As you can see, all different stages within the same generation to try and keep up with. So you can understand how I would be confused about suddenly having to use a button to start an automobile.
Fortunately, I have found through the years of trying to control many things in their lives and mine that I’ve mellowed, because frankly I can’t keep up anymore. All normal I tell myself, but just the same, letting go is difficult. I figure, if we’ve done a decent enough job raising our kids, they will someday come to realize that we do have some scraps of wisdom to share. So I learn to wait, because I know they’ll eventually be back seeking it.
I recently turned a half-century old, the big 5-0, over-the-hill, another person heading into the autumn of their life. Well, at least I hope it’s the autumn. I hope God is just having me rake leaves for a bit instead of shoveling snow.
Perhaps the fruit from our spring will now come in the form of watching our kids make the leap to adulthood, new sons and a daughter we have, and someday will have, to grow our family tree, future grandchildren and great-grandchildren to love and the friends and family who will be alongside us on the journey.
Although I have both benefited and cursed it at times, technology doesn’t seem all that important when looking at the big picture of my life, because “life is too short.” My new phrase these days seems befitting to my current place on the timeline. As the leaves turn their brilliant colors, I heard recently that those colors are always there in the trees. It’s the chlorophyll that makes them green in spring and summer but in the fall or autumn, that chlorophyll drains from the leaves, revealing the colors that were always there.
For those our age, feeling irrelevant and trying to stall the seasons, I’ve noticed that while intellectually we may gain wisdom, physically, the neck and the hands don’t hide anything. Our attempts are in vain. So unless we want to go through our autumn wearing gloves and turtlenecks, enjoy raking the leaves, the colors really are quite beautiful.
Even to your old age and gray hairs I am He, I am He who will sustain you. I have made you and I will carry you; I will sustain you and I will rescue you. – -Isaiah 46:4