Welcome to the website of a retired United Methodist pastor! This corner of the Internet continues nearly fifty years of a weekly column in a church newsletter, on topics ranging from the ridiculous to the sublime. The opinions expressed are the author's and represent no institution, although it is hoped that within these pages you will find a reflection of the Gospel of Jesus Christ, who, in his own borrowed words, insists that we love God with, along with all the rest of what we are, our minds. "Critical" as used in the title does not mean being nasty or grumpy; it means using intellectual faculties in the service of God. Your reactions, rebuttals, comments, and questions can be addressed to: BobHow9846@comcast.net.
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July 1, 2014 - Essays: Christian the Adjective
July 8, 2014 - Essaya: Belgian Beer Bottle and God's Mysterious Ways with Us
August 17, 2014 - Essays: Octogenarian Ignominy
There I was on TV
There I was on TV. In an ad. Well, maybe not me, but
someone of comparable age and same gender. It's late at night. And
as usually happens as night melds into early morning, I find myself getting out
of bed for a small journey to a small nearby room to engage in a common human
activity, more common at 80 than at 18. Behold, a beautiful green light
shines at my destination, guiding me to it. When said human activity is
accomplished I leave the small nearby room only to turn around at a beckoning
red light informing me that I need to replace my steps to close the lid lest
another of a different gender responds to a similar impulse and goes to the
green only to find it red, and maybe moist.
Ah, the wonderful world of octogenarians and the wonderful
appliances modern genius has devised to ease us through the decade to 90 and
Like those delightful jar openers. We have a drawer full
of them. When osteoarthritis makes a serving of bread and butter pickles
akin to the quest for the Holy Grail, I wield my lance, a device shaped
like a fan with sharp teeth and leverage the jar open... that is, if I have
already slammed the top on a tile floor. Picture my request to a young
store clerk to open for me a twist-open bottle of coke, explaining pitifully
that I may be old but once I was a shot-putter.
How about those stair-mounted chair lifts? Back in the
day when I made my home communion rounds, I noted their convenience for
shut-ins, so I'll not make fun of them. But the ads promoting them, they
set me off every time fuming to Barbara about the actors, the way they carry
themselves and speak, oh so very cutesy, like an adorable Grandpa Kettle.
And they're the same age I am! I have told Barbara that if she ever finds
me playing the part of a cutesy old man she should shoot me.
Then there is the unceasing barrage of mailers, to buy the
latest hearing aid, or enter a senior residence. They have been filling my
mail basket since I was 55 and have consumed a forest of trees since then. Yes,
yes, I do ask people more often than I would like to admit to repeat themselves.
And yes, yes, senior housing may someday be in our future; but, for Bob's sake
and heaven's too, can't we be spared a decade more in our own house seeing that
we never owned one until I was 70?
And those TV ad pot-bellied purveyors of reverse mortgages,
who claim this provision for a loan for seniors was inspired by Ronald Reagan
and the financial product doesn't cost a thing. But in Reagan's name current politicians warn about the national debt, that we are
spending our grandchildren's inheritance. Come on, Fred and The Fonz,
which is it, free lunch or immoral spending? Just because I'm in my ninth
decade doesn't mean I've abandoned my mathematical skills and my instinct for
smelling a scam, even if it's legal.
The other day at the doctor's office for my annual check-up
the nurse had me stand on the scale to take my weight and measure my height
(each of which has considerably diminished). The scale was a trifle
wobbly. The nurse ever so gently braced me with her hand. I ever so
gently reached around and removed that hand. Consideration is admirable,
true, true; but sometimes it can be perceived as condescension. Like I
have been heard to exclaim to those who generously seek to help me in my age,
like bending over to pick up the keys I've dropped: "I
may be old, but I'm not weak?"
Ah, well, it's never been easy. Early on in my beginning
as a pastor, some congregants caviled that I was too young. Then the
1960's arrived and the Baby Boomer generation made it painfully clear that
anyone over 30 was as good as dead. Toward the end of my 49th year leading
a church, a few people countered me, when I was facing mandatory retirement and
trying to convince myself the church militant needed me, that for Bob Howard it was time to go.
But traffic lights on the toilet seat? That's an insulting
consideration too far!