Living in Paradise

Age-Old Questions

Age-Old Questions

No one on our little island cared about how old anyone was until the clinic started dispensing the coronavirus vaccine based on age and Florida residency.

“I heard your husband got his shot. Uh, just how old is he?” I asked a vivacious woman many weeks ago when vaccinations began, and I heard they were injecting 90-year-olds.

“He’s 88,” she said. And giggled. She looks 50 and fabulous, although I’m sure she is, um, older.

“He can’t be 88,” I responded with genuine surprise both at his age and my reaction every time I see him. The fact that I could be attracted to someone who is 88 was a bit shocking to me.

That was at least six weeks ago. Since then, age-checking among islanders has escalated, especially during the short period when the clinic ran out of the vaccine.

“Has the clinic called you yet? I heard they are into the 70s,” an acquaintance inquired recently.

Oh, you think I’m in my 70s and perhaps older than you? “No, but I’m hopeful and will let you know when I get the call,” I said.

Never have so many people who think of themselves as “young” wanted to be “older.”

When I did hear from the clinic yesterday that I was scheduled for a shot today, I dutifully informed all my younger friends and told them their shots should be coming soon.

Once the virus is under control, I can go back to thinking that I’m in my late 30s. I’m hoping I and others can forget how old I really am.

* * *

Among the calls about the vaccine was an unrelated question from a friend of mine from up north. She just had to tell me the story of a man who was expelled from her church. It was surprising to her because she thought of him as likeable and a willing volunteer, and she was troubled by what happened. She wondered if I had an opinion on the situation.

It was a curious tale, but perhaps not surprising given that human nature often trumps the tenets of Christianity. Here’s how it went:

The elderly man was called in out-of-the blue for a conference with the church pastor and was told that another member of the congregation had accused him of being a “philanderer.” A somewhat old-fashioned term, a philanderer is a man who readily or frequently enters into casual sexual relations with women: a womanizer.

He told the pastor he was shocked at such an accusation. He said he was a divorced man who had dated, somewhat infrequently, and had recently been seeing a woman. However, they were no longer together.

Whether or not the man was given the name of his accuser was unknown. It also appeared, my friend said, that the accuser could have been passing on second-hand information.

Several days after the meeting, the man received a brief letter telling him he was never to set foot on church property again. If he did, the church would take legal action against him. My friend noted that the pastor’s letter expelling the member of his flock was less than 50 words and 12 characters over a standard tweet.

“Wow. That was pretty final,” I said to my friend. “What did the man do?”

“No one knows except the people involved, and they aren’t talking,” she said. “But the man is upset and believes he has been wronged.”

I shared the incident with my walking companion as we strolled the beach this morning.

“It feels like the man didn’t get due process,” I said, acknowledging that there must be more to the story. “If he committed a crime, I’m sure the police would have been involved. Apparently, that wasn’t the case.”

My beach-walking buddy also thought it odd. “I’m not a church-goer, but isn’t Christianity about helping people instead of kicking them to the curb?”

We both nodded. The story is scary and a reminder that words do matter no matter what your age – especially today with social media and the #MeToo movement figuring prominently in gossip and character assassination; some merited and some not.

I hate to admit it, but I’m curious about the next episode and the answer to the age-old question: victim or perpetrator?

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