February 12, 2022
Dear sixteen-year-old Lorie,
You’ve been listening repeatedly to Simon and Garfunkel’s new album, Bookends. Indeed, you know all the words. While the nation laughs along with the “coo, coo, ca-choo” of “Mrs. Robinson,” you are haunted by the lyrics of the song, “Old Friends” instead. Something reverberates in you as they sing, “How terribly strange to be seventy.”
You will be amazed how suddenly fifty-four years will pass and you will arrive at that strange age. That’s where I find myself today. As I look to the past and to the future, I have a few things to tell you. First, previews of coming attractions. Next, three tips for handling it all.
This is your life:
I know you, girlfriend. All you want is to be a mom. Indeed, you often chat with God, “If You can just let me know that at some point I will have kids, I can relax and enjoy my life.”
I also know you hate school, but you are a good student. Therefore, you feel compelled to go to college. You will do that. You will get a degree in education. Your rationale is this: On the off chance your someday husband should die young, you will have something to fall back on. You do not plan to have a career though. Never, ever, uh-uh.
And then you will get married! And have three amazing kids!
But then you will get divorced, which was not in the plan.
And then you will have a career! I know this is a ridiculous outcome for a born-to-be homemaker, but it is true nonetheless.
Twenty-eight years and ten grandchildren later, you will stand where I stand today. You will be seventy-years-old and proud of yourself for handling all the unexpected twists and turns in life. Three philosophies will get you to this stage.
The wise words of Mom and Dad:
Mom had two common rejoinders to life. She said, “never a dull moment,” and/or “it’s always something.” The boring nature of these comments belie the multitude of horrible life experiences they covered over. They remind us not to get too excited no matter how terrible the moment.
Then there was Dad. You’ll see that in later life, he had a blood disorder which required transfusions galore over a dozen years. He never complained. Instead, he said, “Everyone has something. This is mine.”
My extrapolation is this: If you didn’t have whatever problem you have, you’d have a different one. So calmly accept the one you’ve got. On a daily basis, you’re learning how to deal with your never-dull moments. Keep it up!
Meanwhile, an old prayer from Rosh Hashana will help you understand life’s problems:
This prayer/poem was written by Rabbi Alvin Fine. It will reverberate in your soul as much as the Simon and Garfunkel lyrics. It begins this way:
“Birth is a beginning
And death a destination,
And life is a journey…”
One of the stages of the journey is that we go from “defeat to defeat to defeat” until we finally learn that these problems don’t really matter. Victory lies solely in making the journey. We have to keep on keeping on.
And this song will set you on the right kind of path:
Mom and Dad loved this song which means you will too. Their cantor sang it to Mom during a hospital visit when she was dying. After that, Dad couldn’t say the name of the song without a catch in his voice. You will feel the same way. But beyond that, the song lyrics will speak to you. Written by Debbie Friedman, the song is called Mi Shebeirach. It is a prayer for healing and renewal, and it contains this enlightening line: “Help us find the courage to make our lives a blessing.”
Thus, we are reminded that the journey has to be meaningful, honorable, and worthy of our best selves. We have to use our talents to make a contribution to the world in some way large or small.
And oh yes, as surely as Dad was wise in reminding us we will all have problems, so is it important to know that we all have talents. One of yours is the courage to live this kind of life.
OK then, here’s what you need to do:
Now that you know all of this, Little Lor, do what you promise in your chats with God, relax and enjoy life! And I, at the terribly strange age of seventy, will try to do the same.
Hey Little Lor – and other readers – want to know what’s new with Big Lor? A YouTube channel! I hope you will check it out.