At 68, I find myself discovering there is a sanctuary of thought, reason, humor, thinking, philosophizing, speculation, observation, and a “reference book” of history, when a conversation among seniors takes place.
There’s a paved walking and bike path not far from here. Runs alongside a modest and sturdy river. It’s a beautiful walk. It’s Spring, birds in search of mates fill the air with the audio jewels of birdsong. There are several birch trees to be seen along the path. I’ve loved birch trees since I was a boy. The curved sheets of birch bark, a scent so delicious this boy figured he’d discovered the scent of heaven.
I sometimes walk the path with my friend Abraham. I’m 68. Abraham is 93. We were walking the path recently when we saw a group of five women walking towards us. I’d guess they were in their sixties and seventies. They seemed immersed in conversation.
As they approach, their heads lift from their conversation and they nodded hellos to us. And then, in an instant, as if choreographed by some invisible wave of a wand, faces lit up with smiles, strangers’ eyes met strangers’ eyes in friendship, the seven of us gathered, and a conversation began.
If our average age was 75, then 525 years of life experience were gathered together. Half a millennium plus, of life, in one place. Save for one of the women knowing Abraham, we were strangers. Strangers whose combined memory lived through World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr, Medgar Evers, Malcolm X. Memories of presidents from FDR, Trump, and Eisenhower, to Kennedy, Johnson and Nixon. We all lived through the dark, troubling days of Watergate.
The conversation covered the terrain of the war in Ukraine, pandemic days, the troubled times facing democracy, a threat to all of us. We agreed Abraham Lincoln’s Gettysburg Address memorialized the truth; “[T]hat a government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from this earth.”
More than 500 years of life experience knew this was still true. Each of us knew it. Each of us said so, out loud.
After nearly an hour of conversation, Abraham and I continued our walk, the women theirs. I think all seven would agree that the kind of conversation we all just had are hard to come by. Comes with experience, I’d say.