These are the little things that remind us that time is creeping by. A bit like an honest look in the mirror, one of those moments when you realize you aren’t in Kansas anymore, that you actually do look your age, and that your age is somewhere in the mid-50s! Who knew?!
And so it was that I set out, just late enough not to turn back, to officiate at a funeral. I was most of the way down the street when I realized I had left my reading glasses at home. I’ve been wearing reading glasses for some time now, close to a decade, but until very recently I could pretty much get by without them in a pinch, particularly if the light in the room was good and I wasn’t too tired. If you use reading glasses yourself, you’ll know what I mean.
But just the last month or so I’ve needed them more and more. Those little blurry things on that page are letters? Good light still helped, but trying to read a menu in a restaurant had become impossible – it essentially looked like a series of ink schmears on yellow paper. Nevertheless, here I was, Rabbi’s Manual in hand, eulogy printed out in 12 point font, and in 15 minutes or so I would be standing in front of a group of mourners, reading from that manual and delivering that eulogy, no reading glasses in sight.
It wasn’t perfect, but in the end it worked out OK. The light was good, and I adjusted the lectern so it was as far away from my eyes as it could possibly be. I had just written the eulogy, so it was fresh in my mind, and that also helped. The truth is I barely need the Rabbi’s Manual. I’ve read those prayers hundreds and hundreds of times, and they are imprinted in my mind. It is pretty much like starting the tape and letting it play. Even so, I’ve seen Bob Weir of the Grateful Dead forget the words to Me and My Uncle, a song he has sung more than a thousand times. He now uses an iPad so the lyrics are always there, just in case. So it is with my Rabbi’s Manual. More of a crutch than a necessity.
And that is the funny thing about it. As a young rabbi, I didn’t need the glasses. Everything was crystal clear, whether near or far. But I sure needed that Rabbi’s Manual. The thought of conducting a service without one would have terrified me twenty years ago. Now it is exactly the opposite. The manual I don’t really need anymore, or at least I know I can get buy without it in a pinch. But I sure need those reading glasses! The more experience I have, the muddier things get. Ah, the wisdom of aging…