Three weeks ago my 9-year-old granddaughter performed carols with her school choir at a home for senior citizens.
Her brother, two sisters and parents accompanied her to the performance.
In the car on the way to the concert, she encouraged her 7-year-old sister to be on her best behavior at the "rest home."
"What's a rest home?" the 7-year-old inquired.
"It's where old people live," the 9-year-old replied.
"Oh, is that where old people go to die?" the younger girl asked.
The older sister was aghast:
"No! It's where old people go to rest. And then they die."
I'm not certain my granddaughters fully appreciate that their sainted grandfather, while admittedly on the cusp, is a member of that "rest" generation.
Despite a certain stigma attached to the "golden years," I daresay they can be quite satisfying. With the trappings of career and achievement gracefully set aside, it's a time for reflection and significance. It's also a time for challenges and growth — something I wouldn't necessarily have anticipated a few years ago.
Among many different things, this senior derives joy from watching and listening to young folks sing. Sometimes he even gets a little choked up when that happens.
When I was 30, you couldn't make me cry were you to rip duct tape off my hirsute chest, drive a wire brad through the back of my hand with a staple gun, or dip me in boiling oil. I was hard-bitten. No one ever saw this macho dude cry. No one!
But now, in my 60s, I've become the "waterworks," as my dad used to call it. I'm almost as obnoxious as Rep. John Boehner (R-Ohio) — though, truthfully, a bit more dialed-back. I do "lose it" on cue, however, when jets over-fly the Army-Navy — or any — football game; when sappy movies are screened; and when anything by Tchaikovsky is played.
What's wrong with me? Nothing! I'm 35 years older and hopefully a bit wiser. I've gained an appreciation for the beauty — and brevity — of life.
Earlier this month, my wife, Hedy, and I attended the fourth annual holiday luncheon hosted by the Orange County Chapter of the National Parkinson's Foundation at Hoag Memorial Hospital Presbyterian.
For the third year in a row, the Madrigal Singers of Corona del Mar High School graced the event with a lovely performance of Christmas carols. The 25-member group is under the direction of Val Jamora.
The food and conversation were great, but the fresh-faced high-schoolers "made" the event for most of us.
"We love to perform for this audience," Jamora confided to the luncheon crowd. "You always listen attentively."
We do because these students deserve our support and appreciation, and, frankly, because they remind us a lot of our own kids and grandkids. Wonderful holiday images from years past danced in our heads this year as we watched the Corona del Mar youngsters through slightly misty eyes.
I remember with immense pride watching my own daughters perform publicly as students at Costa Mesa and Estancia high schools.
I even recall the holiday season of 1961, when I was a member of the Costa Mesa High School Chorale, and we performed at the Women's Club on 18th Street, next to Lions Park, in Costa Mesa.
The room was packed and the audience attentive. Perhaps there was someone in that audience that day in her 60s who was as moved as I was earlier this month by the voices of high school youth.
As I performed, I hadn't yet been exposed to the famous tombstone poem. You know the one?: "As you are now, so once was I; as I am now, you soon must be."
I had no reason to reference it in 1961, though some of the ladies in attendance may have done so.
But I chewed on its profundity as I savored the Hoag concert. We're on a journey.
Luke's Christmas narrative reports that Mary "treasured up all of these things, and pondered them in her heart."
With 2011 lurking in the wings, there's much for us to treasure and ponder.
JIM CARNETT lives in Costa Mesa. His column runs Wednesdays.