At our house, my favourite door hangs on the wall. Shabby, five-panelled, cream-coloured. With peeling paint and thirteen knobs. It can’t do what it once did, but what it does now is needed and valuable.
The door came to us older than old; grimy from years of neglect in a friend’s shed. But it had character in spades. For hours, as Butterfly Bean and I scrubbed it and scraped off the largest paint flakes, we imagined its history. Who went in? Who came out? How long did it stand, and on what kind of house? Story by story, we spun out its history. Before the day ended, we’d both grown fond of the door with the crackling paint and the shadowy past.
By the end of the week, the Preacher and I had an unusual headboard. Tall, slightly warped, and a little odd. I loved it, though it creaked when we turned. Moaned when we sat down. Groaned when we stood up. We tolerated its nocturnal chatter for a few years, then replaced it with another. One with less character and far less noise.
But the storied old door seemed part of the family now, so we gave it another chapter as a coat rack. Its last chapter, I thought. For a month, I scoured E-Bay, shouting in glee over my winning bids, shrugging off the losing ones. When I’d purchased enough antique doorknobs to hang the coats of all the grandbeans in our patch – and a few extra for hats and bags – I stopped.
Only a few knobs match, but they fit the character of the door to perfection. Aged. Serviceable. Chipped. Lovely, if you squint sideways. I like the glass pair best, with their ornate cast iron faceplates. As a child I turned knobs just like them whenever I went in or out our front door.
To my delight, the old door surprised me with one more story. Each of its panels make a perfect writing surface for dry erasable markers. On them, the Beans and I have drawn pictures, left messages and penned quotes.
“Ancoro imparo!” I wrote first, Italian for “I’m still learning!” The quote is attributed to Leonardo Da Vinci , then over eighty. Artist, sculptor, engineer, musician, scientist and philosopher. Our ‘notes, quotes and coats’ door reminds me of him – never too old to live a new story.
Too many seniors I know feel dumped behind a proverbial shed, convinced their best stories lay behind them. But the Bible includes many reminders (see Psalm 92:14, for one) that older people have a vital place in society and our churches. Age, while a barrier to some things, creates opportunity for others. Former knowledge can be applied in a new way and experienced, godly wisdom remains a priceless resource.
Feel shelved? Keep an open heart. Be willing to bend. Ask God to direct your next story. And when friends ask what you’re up to now that you’re retired, just say, “Ancoro imparo!”