Many times I’ve mused on the similarities between the ancient oak tree that stands beside the home of my son in Missouri – and me! I snapped this shot just as the sun was setting a year or so ago. His silhouette exhibits a survivor.
Anyone who has made it to the so-called “Golden Years” has endured the inevitable test of time. They are stronger as a result, perhaps now a bit gnarly, scarred, or weathered looking… Maybe they list to one side or another. But they have endured.
That is how I perceive myself. Well, fortunately I don’t list to a side – yet. My left leg did become a tad bit shorter after I water-skied into a dock and broke it, but I compensate with a 1/2″ lift in my left shoes.
This Grandpa Oak had established himself on a piece of land my son purchased to put their new house on. All the locals referred to it as ANCIENT, spoken as if that descriptive word was in uppercase. The layout of the house and all landscaping plans were designed around that venerable old soul.
HE WAS WORTHY OF RESPECT
During the building of and settling into the new house, the tree was admired but not messed with. One could observe that it had suffered through and conquered diseases. It needed a trim in several areas. But it still appeared so sturdy and resilient that spending money on it right away did not seem a priority.
Missouri is home to some dramatic weather conditions. Winter storms came and caused limbs to seriously sway in all directions. Grandpa Oak endured through lots of bending and twisting, dealing with the whims of the winds as best he could.
One year an ice storm dumped a thick layer of ice atop every physical presence in the region, and a few of his branches gave way to the weight. They broke off and were later cut up for firewood – a helpful donation to the family. Rather than look forlorn at the loss, Grandpa Oak produced new growth. No words of complaint were heard.
One of the seasonal tornadoes headed directly towards the house. The family took shelter in the underground safe room. The house escaped damage, but the ancient oak lost a huge chunk of its upper body. Other trees and plants on the property were torn right out of the ground but that tough old guy clung to life. Over the years it compensated for what was lost with new growth that filled in most of the gap.
One Spring, while everything else was sprouting new growth, the oak seemed to be stalled. The tree doctor prescribed treatment to combat the disease that impeded growing. Next Spring, the ancient oak was back in action, better than ever.
A huge white owl had claimed my son’s property as a major part of his territory, and one of his customary lookout points has always been on the branches of Grandpa Oak. We could see him wisely overseeing things from an upper story bedroom window and from various points around the property. It was fun to think of them as friends; they had a close familiarity and were always there for one other. One day the owl was no longer seen patrolling or perching. He was missing. We think Grandpa Oak drooped his branches for a time, seemingly pining for the loss of his friend. Eventually though he perked back up.
He persevered despite the loss
He provides nurturing shelter to a variety of small birds and squirrels, and many gather in the arms of his branches when caught by a sudden storm. On a typically hot summer day he provides shade for his family to sit on the grass below him. Grandpa Oak can be relied on.
Those of us who attain the status of “Senior Citizen” can be likened to the ancient oak on my son’s property. We’ve weathered storms, suffered illnesses and lost people dear to us. Some of us have battle scars. Some have damaged or lost body parts compensated for in various ways. We’ve formed friendships – some have endured and some have ended. We’ve learned many lessons that can help us guide younger people – if they allow us to. We’ve nurtured many, we’ve loved and been loved. We found ways to survive. We may look different than when we were new to the planet but those physical changes are the marks of growth and inner strength. We’ve learned to bend with most of the storms. We are strong because of our pasts.
I like the analogy of being like an ancient oak. It reminds me of all I’ve experienced, endured and become a better because of. I am a kindred spirit of Grandpa Oak. Many of you probably are, too.
Hopefully we are respected for what we have become. Even if not we can still persevere.