Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Stubborn Old People

The topic at the coffee shop was the stubbornness of old people.  The owner’s father, just home from his hip surgery, stubbornly refused help in walking from his children.  Last night, getting up alone to use the bathroom his father fell, and is in the hospital --- again.  “I told him to let us help him, but he’s just a stubborn old man.”
My contributions to the conversation were tales of my mom’s stubbornness, and her refusal to use a walker to help with her unsteady steps, until she too fell --- and never walked again.  And in the period afterward she gave up eating for a period of time, willing to give up life rather than accept that she could no longer walk.  Stubborn!!
As I drove to church and sipped my morning coffee, my heart was opened to a wider view of our conversations: it’s not just walking we are afraid to lose --- and it’s not just old people.  If you’ve never had the hard conversation of having to ask mom or dad to give up their driver’s license because they had become a danger on the road, well, you are blessed.  And how many of us have heard (perhaps often) these words: “What?  What did you say? … No, I don’t need a hearing aid.  If you’d just speak up and stop mumbling I could hear perfectly well.”?  It’s a conversation conducted by many in a yelling tone of voice, to be heard over the booming noise coming from the television set in the background. 
And what of younger people, even children?  How many of us have noticed that our kid’s school grades began dropping and thought it a strange thing, because we were sure they knew their lessons.  Sometimes it took a note from the teacher to get over OUR stubbornness: “I don’t think (Johnnie or Suzie) can see the blackboard.”  And so then we tell the children we think it’s time for glasses --- and then THEY resist; they don’t want to be different from the other children. 
The fact is none of us want to be different, even as we all ARE becoming different.
We resist change.  Why is that?  Losing our sight, or our hearing, or our ability to walk causes most people anxiety.  They are not acting stubborn in resisting the change; truly they are acting normal.  Often change is hard to confront and accept, and in part that is because change is most often gradual.  It’s the   “-ing” part of changing that is the problem.  Change often sneaks up on us, until someone points out that we HAVE changed, and then we resist what they see as obvious.  “Dad, I love you, but you need help walking.”  And then we get angry --- both of us do --- because we think the other person can’t see reality.
But it’s not just changes in our body we resist.  How many winters did you resist getting out those winter gloves?  And how many summers did you resist that first cutting of grass?  And what happened when “the obvious” candidate for president didn’t get elected and we resist others’ saying: “that’s how things are in our country.”  “No,” we respond, “they’re not!  You’re just biased or -phobic, or stubborn.”  But change HAS happened in our country, gradually, and we didn’t notice it until others pointed it out.  And we’re all angry--- over what is.
And what of you the reader and I the writer of these thoughts about reactions to change?  Perhaps we might look at them as some story book tale: “Yes, that happens to some people, but not to me.”  And so we look in the mirror, and we can’t see ourselves as we really are.  We are ALL changing, as our body ages and as our mind takes in new things around us, all of which are changing.  Most of the changes around us are gradual, and we find it hard to see them.  And one of the things that changes gradually and is most hard to see, to accept, and is most hurtful when finally noticed, is a change in relationships.    
Sometimes there is a trigger to make us see ourselves as we really are:  I am alone.  My marriage has fallen apart.  My children don’t love me.  This job sucks.  I don’t know God, and if He exists He doesn’t know me.  As good a person (as we know we are), we find it hard to see and say those things about ourselves, because they’re bad things.  Oh, and if confronted suddenly by someone else, we instinctively resist “their opinion”:  “I am NOT alone; I have lots of friends.  My marriage is okay; we’re just busy sometimes.  My children love me but they’ve got lives to live.  My job is good; it pays well.  And of course:  I’m a good Christian, I go to church each Sunday --- except when something really important comes up.”  (Something more important than God?!)
And especially on that last item, the most important of relationships we SO can’t see ourselves.  But God can.
Do you think He looks at us with an angry face:  “You’re so stubborn; why can’t you see that?”  Or does He look at us as a loving father:  “Those things I want for are for your own good, and because I love you.”  And why do we so often respond, if not verbally then in our heart: “You don’t know me.”
Look more closely in the mirror:  Who doesn’t know who?  Who can’t see the change that has gradually happened in their life, and in their relationship with God --- and not for the better.  And who, in their anger, and frustration, and loneliness, won’t confront something as obvious as the image in the mirror, and won’t talk about it?  And won’t pray about it? 
I’ll tell you who:  just stubborn people.  Period.  The ones who are suffering the most are those who don’t know they are suffering --- or won’t admit it. 
-  - - - - - - - - -
And as these thoughts gelled in my head, I heard Ann Murray’s soft voice begin singing on the radio:
O Lord my God! When I in awesome wonder
Consider all the works Thy hand hath made.
I see the stars, I hear the rolling thunder,
Thy power throughout the universe displayed.

Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!
Then sings my soul, my Saviour God, to Thee:
How great Thou art, how great Thou art!


  1. This was very good. I think, though, that sometimes it's not so much stubbornness as fear, for when we acknowledge something (shortcomings, failures, growing older, reliance on others) it makes a situation all the more real and much harder to deny. The more I think about it, I think fear and stubbornness are cousins. Blessings to you!

  2. Ah, a great insight my dear. I admit this was sort of a rambling of thoughts, which seemed to flow onward, and so I just jotted them down as my mind wandered until I reached what seemed a conclusion, there on the drive and then later in the chapel.

    "The more I think about it," you wrote ---- hmmmmmmmm. I wondered if you might glance at this posting's title when I noticed in my address book calendar (where I mark birthdays) this notation for February 5th: "Bia (La Dolce Vita blog) 47 in '14" Let's see, 47 in '14, and this is three years later .... hmmmm. Checking up on articles on old age, are we? (Happy birthday my friend, and many, many more). :-)