Column

Don’t take me where I don't want to go

It’s the last thing this self-reliant old coot wants to hear.

But it’s in the Bible and Jesus’ disciple, John, documented it for posterity so I give it my attention. I dare not blow it off as I do so many things in life.

Here’s how John quoted Jesus in his gospel (John 21:18): “When you are old you will stretch out your hands, and others will dress you and take you where you don’t want to go.”

Are we talking assisted living and caregivers here?

It may have been spoken by Jesus to Peter and recorded by John, but I have a suspicion it was meant for me … and I can’t accept it. Independence is too intoxicating. Self-sufficiency is an idol of my generation.

John was the youngest of the 12 disciples but lived into his 90s and concluded his career on a Greek island writing the book of Revelation.

More than once he was labeled “the disciple whom Jesus loved.” The older and ornerier Peter undoubtedly took umbrage with that — but it was what it seemed.

Without question John was special. His writing communicated gravitas. He spoke with authority.

So, here’s my complaint: “Dear John, Please don’t take this personally because I mean it in the most solicitous manner possible.

“I don’t like something you’ve written. Yes, I know Revelation is a brain twister for most of us, but I’m not talking about Revelation. I refer to a passage in your gospel attributed to Jesus. The statement is in the Biblical canon, but I have trouble with it.

“I’ve expressed in innumerable petitions that I want my life to go down a proscribed path — one of my choosing, of course — not the one you characterize. I refuse to be clothed by others and carted off to who knows where.

“My apologies if I’ve offended.”

A decade ago sweet Emma, my beautiful then-6-year-old granddaughter, asked me how old I was. I replied 62, and she was stunned. “Oh my gosh, Opa!“ she yelped. “And you’re not dead, yet?”

Mostly not.

I take the majority of my spiritual cues from the Bible, but I also consult extra-Biblical texts like Augustine’s “Confessions,” Blaise Pascal’s “Pensees,” Thomas a Kempis’ “The Imitation of Christ,” and, of course, “The Princess Bride.” In “The Princess Bride,” Miracle Max tells Inigo Montoya: “Your friend here is only mostly dead. There’s a big difference between mostly dead and all dead.”

Is there?

It’s been 10 years since Emma uttered those words. She’s now a junior in high school, student body vice president, an academic superstar and a varsity soccer player. In the past decade, compared to Emma, I’ve been a sloth. My solo accomplishment is reaching 72.

Emma wouldn’t think today of repeating her painfully honest “not dead yet?” rejoinder. As a 16-year-old, she’s much too sophisticated for that.

But, back to John. He smacks me across the face with his verse. I have no authority.

Where do I not want to go? At my age, any doctor’s office. I abhor having my blood pressure checked almost as much as having my tongue depressed or my ribs poked. I’ll gladly suffer the indignity of a root canal over recording blood pressure numbers. And don’t try sneaking up and catching me unawares.

Where do I not want to go? A senior care facility, anywhere. Even if it features line dancing, Saturday samba lessons, afternoon “mock”-tails and a Sunday ice cream social.

Where do I not want to go? Bakersfield.

Where do I not want to go? To watch any film featuring a pride of African lions ganging up on a bumbling wildebeest — it reminds me too much of junior high.

We don’t always get what we want in life. Our choices aren’t only good and bad; sometimes they’re real bad and worse.

I don’t like John’s statement of being dressed by others and taken where I don’t want to go. It denotes weakness.

It is. We control nothing.

Independence is a town in Kansas. God’s my only refuge.

JIM CARNETT, who lives in Costa Mesa, worked for Orange Coast College for 37 years.

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