Now that I am staring age 75 in the face I have suddenly come to realize I don’t have to be in charge any longer. It is taking a little time to get used to, but I’m beginning to enjoy a new-found freedom. If I am not in charge then I don’t have to be responsible for the outcome. Right? It sounds good to me.
Over the years there have been rumors floating around our family that I was, or am, a control freak. I would often admit it without shame. I rationalized that if I could control whatever the situation was, then I could control the outcome and, hopefully, it would be to my benefit. This didn’t always set well with my wife and our five children. Nevertheless, it was my way of assuring myself that disaster would not occur as long as I was in charge. On occasions too numerous to mention, I fell short of my goal. Disaster happened, and it was my fault. However, my track record was, I think, better than average.
One of the advantages of being in my elder years is that my age can be a real blessing. My children and grandchildren assume because I am old, I cannot, and should not, do certain things … things I have been doing for three decades or more. Once this reality floated to the top of my reasoning, I realized I had stepped into a wonderful new world and, if I handled it correctly, I could be relieved of chores and responsibilities I had heretofore assumed no one else could do as well as I could.
My first venture into this new way of thinking, occurred when I was ready to put the roof on our new pool house. I knew I could do the job, but the idea of hoisting the heavy bundles of roofing shingles almost two stories above the ground and then keeping them and me from sliding off of the roof, began to invade my sanity. Being in control was good, but not if I fall off of the roof in the process. Fortunately, two of my sons-in-laws sensed my dilemma and offered to do the roofing job for me. There it was … the moment of truth staring me in the face. Could I possibly trust them to do the job as well as I would do it? And, if they did, would I still be in charge? With some reluctance, I settled into my lawn chair with a glass of iced tea and watched the youngsters hoist the shingles to the roof and then climb all over it like they were born for the job. I did feel a little guilty watching them work, while I watched from below. But my guilt was replaced by my new sense of freedom. I congratulated myself for my wisdom. Not being in control could be wonderful.
Since that initial experience of relinquishing control to the younger generation, I have had ample opportunities to verify I was heading in the right direction. I remembered my father, who was in his eighties and almost blind as he tried to do something he could no longer do without difficulty. Finally, he allowed me to perform the chore for him. I was secretly thrilled that he might think I could do it as well as him. This was a new experience for me. Like father like son, I thought. The idea of giving up control to someone else was, I am certain, not easy for him to do. Apparently, the control gene was passing from generation to generation.
Now that we live in the country and, next door to one of our daughters and her family, I am truly blessed. With acres of pastures and woodlands to maintain there are always chores to be done. My son-in-law, I have discovered, is as capable as I am at doing the never-ending list of chores around the place. In addition, my grandchildren are always available to help if needed. They respectfully allow me to mosey around doing that which I am able to do, but when the job seems a little daunting for grandpa, they offer to help … and I let them.
More and more it seems, I sit in my lawn chair with a glass of iced tea and watch the younger generation take charge of things I used to do. The sweetest words I hear at these times are, “Grandpa, let me do that for you.” This is the way it is supposed to be, I think. I just had to give up being in charge.
Ralph Thomas is a Locust Grove resident and the author of Doing Great, but Getting Better and Getting Old Can be Fun. firstname.lastname@example.org