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  • Writer's pictureLee Weaver

FOUR SCORE AND TEN

FOUR SCORE AND TEN

A Novel (of) Life


The old guy laid there, thinking, dreaming, reminiscing about life and life’s events spread over nine decades. It was a life well lived. Highs and lows? of course; joy and grief, yes; excitement and disappointments, definitely; expectations met, and expectations missed. But now as I approach my 90th birthday, someone remarked (tongue in cheek) “Why don’t you act your age?” I replied, “I don’t know how – I’ve never been this age before.” How do we prepare to be old? In our 30s we are getting settled in our career; in our 40s we are absorbed in job and family; in our 50s and 60s we may think abstractedly about future retirement; in our 70s and 80s we’re constantly trying to keep up with the calendar of medical appointments. Approaching 90 we ask ourselves ‘how did I get here? what about my old friends who didn’t come this far?’ This is tough. I can’t drive; I can’t go out at night; I must always be conscious of finding the nearest bathroom; why don’t we have some way of training to be old?’ Parents teach some things to their children (well, some do, mine did not. I was like a weed instead of grass – I just grew untrained like a weed rather than being nurtured like grass.) But to grow old gracefully – that should a goal for all.


Actually, we do have a “training manual” – the Bible, God’s Word. The Scriptures are quite numerous that tell us of God’s plan for us whom He created.


GOD’S PLAN FOR OUR LENGTH OF LIFE


Psalm 139:16 Our days were all written in the Book of Life before any one of them came to be.

Job 14:5 Our time on earth is brief, the number of our days is already decided by (God). Every man has been allotted a number of days on earth.

Psalm 57:2 I cry out to God Most High, to God Who fulfills His purpose in me.

Psalm 90:12 So teach us to number our days that we may get a heart of wisdom.

Psalm 91:16 I will satisfy you with a long life.

There are more.


To grow old gracefully is best done by honoring the fact that we were created in God’s image, to show His image, His grace, in our daily living. In just over 100 days, if the Lord wills, I will reach Four Score and Ten, 90 years of age. Am I growing old (or perhaps I should ask, have I grown old) gracefully? I have a lot of friends, and more acquaintances, and thousands whose paths I’ve intersected in these decades. I know better than to presume there would be unanimity if that question could be polled; nevertheless, I’ll go to my grave confident that whatever grace I may have exhibited is God’s grace, not my own. I’m also confident that, particularly beginning with my salvation in Christ on Easter Sunday 1957, I was a living example of Psalm 57:2b: “. . . God Who fulfills His purpose for me.”


LIFE’S EVENTS


I was born in the depression-era 1930s, the second child, first son of a lower middle-class family economically, preceded several years by a sister (Evelyn) and followed 13 years later by a brother (Jan). In ways it was almost like three one-child families. But Evelyn, six years older, always looked after me in my childhood. In my young adult life it was Evelyn who taught me the social graces.

Our family was never destitute, but every penny was squeezed until Lincoln hollered! Through much scrimping and saving the house was paid for but there were no extras though Dad had a steady job. Yet somehow, for Christmas (1938) I received a red wagon – a Radio Flyer which was the standard in those times. There were a few children in our neighborhood – I was the youngest and was accepted by all. Twins lived next door, Boyce and Loyce Perry. They were a few years older than I. At that time, we were living on Farr Street in San Angelo.


1938 – my parents and the other older folks are talking about something I know nothing about: Depression, what’s that? It seems to have something to with money and poor people and who knows what else. But it’s Christmas time! and this morning I got up and rushed into the front room to see if there were any gifts. I’m overjoyed to find a brightly shining new red wagon just for me! At five years old who can imagine how that wagon, the only gift I remember, can come to mean so much.


Much later in life I learned the history of the 1920s and 1930s – the Great Depression followed so closely by the Dust Bowl years – years of financial ruin for so many families. The author John Steinbeck has chronicled the huge impact of the Dust Bowl years in his novels, “Grapes of Wrath,” “Cannery Row,” and “Tortilla Flats;” stories of Plains farmers who lost everything and migrated to California looking for work. In retrospect, and curiously, I knew nothing of the wide-spread suffering in my pre-teen years. In 1938 all I knew was my comfortable cocoon of family, my parents and sister, before my brother was born.


1939 – I started first grade school in the Lake View ISD in September, at age 6. Somehow, in the shuffle as the Texas school system went from eleven grades to twelve, I was advanced after three days in second grade, to third. Then, when we moved back into San Angelo I was enrolled in sixth grade in 1943; I finished sixth grade when I was ten years old (finished in May 1944; turned eleven in June). In September 1944 I enrolled in 7th grade at Edison Junior High. I clearly remember April 1945 – I was playing French horn in the junior high band; we were performing a public concert the night FDR died. In September 1947 I entered San Angelo High School, 10th grade, and graduated from 12th grade June 1, 1950; I was 16 years old.


In my adolescence I was never taught anything about life by my parents. The only teaching tool my mother employed was a willow switch – anytime I displeased her the threat was “I’m going to whip you.” The threat was often enough carried through. I don’t recall ever getting a spanking from my Dad. We were a very matriarchal family and he generally left everything to our mother – he never pushed back. My parents never said or taught anything about “the birds and bees.” Anything I learned in that subject was absorbed from overheard conversations among guys at school. The “safe subjects,” the social graces, my sister taught me as I entered my teens.


After graduating from high school at age 16, I had no real firm direction on college; having some friends who were a year behind me, I stayed out a year between high school and college. I started college at San Angelo College in the fall of 1951. (At that time SAC was a two-year college; it later became a four-year university.)


1957 – Called to salvation!

1958 – Graduated from Texas Tech and started my career.


From 1958 forward my life followed the typical trajectory of career and family, but 1972 added a new facet to my life. We were living in Dallas and attended First Baptist Church. We sat in a Bible class taught by Dr. William E. Nix. The Scriptures as taught by Bill prompted a desire to learn more theology, more about God’s presence in “everyday life.” Our commitment to church life eventually led to my being elected to the Board of Trustees at Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary, a defining point in my life. (Bill Nix remains one of my very dear friends to this day!)


My life’s trajectory is on the downward spiral now. With 89+ years of personal history I could go on, but I return to my theme: How to deal with growing old. The mundane things: sight – cataract surgery; heart – get a pacemaker; dizziness – carry a cane; driving – stay off the freeways at night; relationships – always be kind, you never know when you’ll need kindness returned; food – eat what you want, you’ve earned the right; activity – keep your mind occupied (for me, it’s writing blogs and essays). The important thing: God – stay caught up in Scripture reading, prayer and repentance, you may see Him face to face any day now!

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