An elderly man meanders through the antique shop. He pauses, his lean hand carefully traces the outline of an aged writing desk, caressing the grain as if it were an old friend. His fingers linger on the dove tail joins, and without seeing, he recognises and appreciates their fine craftsmanship.
He moves on.
He stops near a set of ink wells nestled in an ornate but chipped wooden stand. He lifts it, savouring the distinct smell of the sandalwood, then carefully and with the respect that it deserves, he replaces it.
In this shop, as in any shop filled with items that hold within them the stories of others long ago, this gentleman is at home.
With the age of these antiques comes value. The desk, the ink well set, have with age, become more valuable. So it is with antiques.
And the old man thinks, I started as a brand new piece of work. Now my body reflects the items in this shop.
He moves on.
A glimmer of anticipation lights up his eyes as he sees in front of him an old gentlemen’s chair. Ornately carved. The well worn upholstery showing signs of wear and tear. It too has aged well and with that age also comes value.
Collectors of these fine pieces of craftsmanship know their value, and so they respect them. Age in such pieces almost commands respect.
The elderly man slips into the chair which embraces him like an old friend. His cupped hand rises to his lips as if cradling a Petersen pipe –His eyes close and for a moment, just for a moment he imagines the plumes of tobacco smoke rising slowly seductively from the pipe’s bowl, filling the room with its aromatics.
His thinking continues.
I too am an antique, but have I increased in value with age? Have I, like the pieces around me, become more valuable than when I was in pristine condition? My upholstery is well worn. My body is chipped and marked with age. The grain of my skin cannot belie my age, nor does it try to. I am a rare one, but have I increased in value?
His eyes open. He senses the upholstery holding him close as he sees a small framed picture of an old cutter in full sail, the waves of the ocean breaking against its bow. He turns the print over, wipes away a coating of ancient dust to reveal the artist’s name, a date and the words “Print 3 of 4”. A very limited run indeed, he thought. Its rarity and age combines to define its warranted price.
He carefully replaces the print smiling a smile of a moment of understanding.
Ladies and gentlemen, our population has large numbers entering their golden years which means we also need to enter this antique store. When we do, we need to reflect on how we view age, and if we ourselves are entering that period of delicious freedom that comes with the proximity of death, then it’s time to consider how we view age.
In other words, the issue of growing old needs to be seen from two perspectives. How age is seen, and how age sees itself.
The old man knew the items in the shop, and respected them, and with his respect, came value. As he did, we need also to do. .. to respect what the elderly have to offer. Respect the wealth that lies within each and every person of age. This is what we can do, but what can those who are aged do?
Despite the impact of gravity on those bits of us which are subject to this force (irrespective as to how we try to wrap, pack or stack them). Despite the impact of weathering that may have changed our faces from silk to leather. Despite the impact of uncertainty of stance and stature, despite the fact that you find it more difficult to find elders to respect, know within yourself that you are of value despite these despites.
Ladies and gentlemen, the old man understood when he saw the print of the cutter. This print was one of only 4 – a very limited edition…. and that’s why he smiled, because he realised he too was very much a limited edition.
I also know I am. And while my mother said many times, “Thank God there is only one of you”, – I can comfortably say, “Thank God there is only one of me,” but for a very different reason than my mother’s.
You see, I am unique, and yes, my grain is showing signs of age, and there are a few cracks and chips, but my value comes from in here…because I am and I know I am, very much a Limited Edition. Aren’t we all?