“Can you imagine us
Years from today,
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange
To be seventy.
–Paul Simon, Art Garfunkel
I thought of this song yesterday. I was sitting in a cafe on a break between talks by a visiting speaker on the campus where I work in collegiate ministry. An elderly couple sat down at the next table. She walked with the assistance of a wheeled walker, he with the shuffling gait of older men.
What caught my attention was their conversation. I wasn’t making an effort to overhear them but I caught snatches and what stood out to me was the beauty of the interaction between these two “old friends.” There was none of the bleakness of the “winter” of life that one senses in the Simon and Garfunkel song. There was amusement and quiet laughter at shared jokes and musings about friends. There was a gentleness with each other. No complaining about physical maladies. One had the sense of being in the presence of two people comfortable in their own skins, and at peace with their age and stage of life.
I thought again of the song, which I first heard in my teens when imagining being seventy was indeed “terribly strange.” Not so strange any more when this is less than a decade away. How is it that life passes so swiftly?
All I saw was a “snapshot” of the life of these two old friends. But I found myself thinking, “I want to be like them when I am like them.” Only God knows if my wife and I will live to see these years. But I hope the gentleness and grace and humor I saw in their lives will be true of us. And it occurred to me to wonder if this is what others see now. Old friends.