By Rene Allen
I read an article in the Wall Street Journal this morning that indicated there are a few areas in which the aging brain can outperform those upstart whippersnapper twenty-and-thirty something brains. Ah-hem, Math and music were a couple. As was chess. And then there was something about making critical life decisions. We older folks do a better job. Conclusion: age really does bring wisdom.
Now, I look in the mirror and well, I can’t hide the wrinkles anymore or that truly abominable swing in my double chin whenever I walk. I have to ask as if there were a choice, is wisdom worth it? I see all those changes I dreaded happen: age-splotchy hands, thick middle, eyelids that suddenly grew thick and droopy, then comfort that funny looking, old lady in the mirror by reminding her how wise she is. “See for yourself,” I tell her. “Without a small fortune there’s not much you can do about your face. You’ll just have to live with it.” Wisely, she nodes and disappears into her day’s work.
There isn’t a choice about getting older. There is one about being wise. I’ve thought about this. Being wise means making experience count.
A couple of months ago, in preparation for my son’s wedding, my husband fixed the bathroom door by the kitchen so it would lock, implying that for the 17 years we have lived in this house, the door didn’t lock. But impressing your son’s future in-laws is a high priority for old and wise parents.
Engineer’s love to fix things. My engineer husband studied the doorknob, ascertained the hole in the door was cut a notch above the actual latch so he cut a new one and suddenly the cats couldn’t come in whenever they wanted, and we had privacy.
The doorknob, however, was an old doorknob. Gradually, the mechanism became sticky, and then it became difficult to open the bathroom door. My son and I learned ways to do it, how to lift, twist and pull all at once. The thought did occur to me that I could get stuck in the bathroom and then what would I do? But I was always able with some conniving to get the door open.
Fast forward to one night last week. Wise, old people go to bed earlier than unwise people. At 9, I turned in, leaving husband and son watching a movie and doing something on the computer. At 3, my usual, haunt-the-house hour like many women my age,I got out of bed and headed to the kitchen for a drink of water. One the way I passed the bathroom with the repaired doorknob. It was making a great deal of noise, a vigorous rattling sound. This was very odd, since the door was closed and the light inside the bathroom turned off.
It occurred to me, forgetful as I am getting, that I hadn’t seen my husband in the bedroom. “Dwight?” I asked, wondering if we had captured a burglar. “Are you in there? Why is the light off?”
“I thought I’d go to sleep until someone could get me out of here. Go get a screwdriver.” Now, I was terribly impressed with this wisdom, to catch a little shut-eye while he waited. But then my husband is very wise, having had many experiences.
Well, you can figure out what happened as well as I can tell you. I found the screwdriver eventually, and just as I was going to stop laughing and work on the doorknob, Dwight tried turning it one more time himself. The door opened. Then, because of his wisdom and experience, he took off the doorknob. Now if you get locked in the bathroom when you’re four, there’s not much you can do except tell your father. But when you are sixty and you are the father, and you have spent the last two hours locked in a bathroom with only one copy of “Sports Illustrated, you take off the lock.
After I stopped laughing, I looked at my own experience. I knew there was a problem with the door, but had thought to take my chances. My husband is two years older than I. What this means is I’m in line for a lot more wisdom. “Get your wrinkles ready,” I told the woman in the mirror. “I can hardly wait.”