Hello and good day!
A few weeks back, a friend pointed something out to me.
"I like that you like old people," she said.
"Do I? Do you really think so?" I asked? "Yeah. You write about your interactions with old people a lot. I like them too. I've liked old people ever since I was a little kid," she said.
I've let that marinate and I've concluded that my friend was right.
I do have a special liking for older folks.
However, there is a rub. There's an important nuance that I'll share with my friend next time I see her. In general, I like all kinds of people. Kind of like our legal system, innocent until proven guilty.
I like people by default until they show me why I shouldn't.
As for older people, I view them as a specific class within a more general category. I have a great appreciation for experts.
To be out on a cacao farm with farmers who were born and raised in that environment, discussing the weather, pruning techniques, soil conditions, pests that are coming through, what works and what doesn't, pointing out details that a novice wouldn't notice, is truly a thing of beauty.
I once had two plumbers over for dinner. It didn't occur to me that they were both plumbers when we made the invite. It was an accidental coincidence. When the meal was over, I asked one if he could take a look at our shower. The water wasn't draining correctly.
"I'm a plumber too," said the other one. "That's right. I totally forgot. My apologies," I said.
"Come on," said the first. Both walked upstairs to our second-floor bathroom. The first one climbed into the tub on all fours. The second kneeled down, leaning against the tub's outside rim.
What came next cracked me up.
Both had miniature flashlights in their pockets. They brought them to our dinner party. "You have a flashlight on you?" asked the first. "Of course," said the second.
"Look here," said the first. "I see," said the second. They both leaned in, shining their flashlights. They agreed on the diagnosis and then launched into a 20-minute back and forth on plumbing.I sat down on top of the toilet seat and listened, delighted.
Here is the thing about listening to experts talk. You know that whatever they say, by golly, you can hang your hat on it. Its real. It's not speculation. If they tell you that the ring inside the drain needs more lube, it needs more lube.
There are always plenty of debutantes in the world, masquerading as people who know the truth. They have just enough knowledge to be dangerous.
However, if they haven't spent years and years in the trenches, they don't know the big picture. They don't know how one decision triggers a chain reaction all the way down to the bitter end.
For example, you might look at my kids and think that I know a thing or two about parenting. My kids are pretty good kids. They are smart and talkative and good natured. But truth be told, I really only know with certainty how to raise a decent four-year-old. I've done it three times and learned something new each time.
I know a good way to teach a four-year-old to read. I know a good way to teach a four-year-old to ride a two-wheel bike. Even my ability to bring up a good four-year-old is questionable though, because I don't know how my four-year-old will turn out in the end. Maybe he'll end up being a disaster as an adult and that would belie whatever parenting philosophy I may currently be espousing.
For that reason, I turn to one of my favorite chocolate shop customers for parenting advice. She's 94 and has two daughters, both in their sixties. Now here we have somebody who has seen the whole thing play out.She very clearly favors one daughter over the other, even though she loves them both.
"Who are you buying for?" I ask. "My daughter. She's coming to town," she replies."Which one?" I ask. "The younger one of course. I'd have to bring the older one in to choose for herself. She never lets me make any decisions," she says.
"You like the younger one better, don't you?" I ask. This is a long running joke between us. She slaps my arm and gives me a sly smile. "You know I'm not supposed to choose," she says. Then she looks around, pretending to make sure that nobody is listening in on us. It's all in jest. We're alone in the shop. She waves me down closer. She wants to whisper something to me.
"I do like the younger one better," she says in a low voice.
"I knew it!" I say clapping as we both break into an unfeigned gut laugh.
"It's just that the older one thinks she's smarter than everybody, even her old mom. It's my fault though. We did too much doting on her when she was young, telling her what a big shot intellectual she was because she always got straight A's. I'm still paying for it," she says.
This is the source of my appreciation for older people. They know how the whole thing plays out. They know what they'd do differently based on how things turned out in the long run.
That is something a younger person simply can't give you.
When I get a chance to soak up some hard-earned wisdom, I seldom pass on the opportunity. The most common theme during my conversations with older folks is relationships.
It's rarely about making money.
Sometimes it's about career.
Sometimes it's about travel.
Of course, there are complaints about health.
But it's mostly about parents, kids, friends, and the love of their life.
As such, based on knowledge shared with me by true experts, I'd have to conclude that the quality of one's relationships is what matters most when you look back on the long journey of your life.
Any young whipper snapper who tries to tell me different is a dilettante in my eyes.
Thank you so much for your time today.
I hope that you have a truly blessed day!